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“Bible History: 103! How Well Do You Know Your Bible Rulers and Prophets?!” – Luke 3:1-6†


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2nd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Quote of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer

 

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D. pencilan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

 

The Real and TRUE Santa Claus

 

Santa Claus is also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and simply “Santa”.  Santa Claus is also known as “de Kerstman” in Dutch (“the Christmas man”), and “Père Noël” (“Father Christmas”) in French. 64680_535815893112792_1263747424_n He is a figure with legendary, mythical, historical, and folkloric origins.  In many western cultures, he brings gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24. 

As you see in the picture of “Santa”, he is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man – – sometimes with spectacles – – wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and.  This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” along with caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast’s depiction.  This image has been maintained and reinforced in contemporary society through song, radio, television, children’s books, and films.

However, that is not the TRUE “Santa Claus”!! 

The modern “Santa” was derived from the Dutch figure of “Sinterklaas”, which, in turn, is partly based on hagiographical (reverent or saintly) tales concerning the historical figure of a Christian Bishop and gift giver: “Saint Nicholas”.  Greek Orthodox and Byzantine Christian folklore has a nearly identical story, attributed to Saint Basil of Caesarea.  Basil’s feast day, on January 1, is considered the time of exchanging gifts in Greece.

Saint Nicholas of Myra” is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of “Sinterklaas”.  He was a 4th cSaint_Nicholasentury Greek Christian Bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia (now in Turkey).  Bishop Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, and, in particular, presenting three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. 

Nicholas was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity.  In the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Germany, he is still usually portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes.  “Saint” Nicholas is the patron saint of many diverse groups including archers, sailors, children, and pawnbrokers.   He is also the patron saint for two major metropolitan cities, Amsterdam and Moscow.

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Saint Nicholas (“Sinterklaas“, often called “De Goede Sint” – – “The Good Saint”) is depicted as an elderly, stately, and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard.  He wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop’s alb and sometimes red sinterklaasstole, dons a red miter, and holds a gold-colored crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top.  He traditionally rides a white horse.  His feast, on December 6th, came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts, and is still called “St. Nicholas Day”.  Saint Nicholas is believed to ride his white horse over the rooftops at night, delivering gifts through the chimney to the well-behaved children, while the naughty children risk being caught by Saint Nicholas’s aides who carry jute bags and willow canes for that specific purpose.

Later, in another location, older images of the “gift-giver” from both church history and folklore – – notably “St Nicholas” and “Sinterklaas” – – merged with the British character “Father Christmas”.  This merger produced a character known to Britons and Americans as “Santa Claus”.  As an example, in Washington Irving’s “History of New York” (1809), “Sinterklaas” was Americanized into “Santa Claus” (a name first used in the American press in 1773); however, this image portrays Santa Claus without  his bishop’s apparel (Can you guess why?!).  So, in Great Briton and the United States, Santa Claus was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat.  Washington Irving’s book was a satire of the Dutch culture of New York of his era; and much of this satirical portrait is his joking invention.

With all this information in mind, let’s not forget the REAL HERO of the CHRISTinMASS Season:

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(Information from Wikipedia)

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Quote of the Day:

 

“John the Baptist was supposed to point the way to the Christ.  He was just the voice, not the Messiah.  So everybody’s ‘calling’ has dignity to it – – and God seems to know better than we do what is in us that needs to be called forth.” ~  James Green 

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist preaches repentance, baptizing in the region of the Jordan.  Ready to get wet?

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(NAB Luke 3:1-6)  1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.  3 He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

This Sunday and next, our Gospel readings invite us to consider John the Baptist’s relationship to Jesus.  John the Baptist is part of the tradition of the great prophets, preaching repentance* and reform* to the people of Israel.  To affirm this, Luke purposely quotes – – at length – – from the prophet Isaiah.

**       (The process or “repentance”, and the beginning of “reform”, is a four stage, step-by-step, process:

1)    Acknowledging faults and endeavors to give a lesser good, or something harmful – – IS SIN!
2)    Confessing what you did (or DO), and what you are not happy about.
3)    Believing in God’s IMMEDIATE mercy and forgiveness.
4)     Receiving – – through faith – – the confidence’s in God’s faithfulness to forgive.)

The Synoptic Gospels – – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – – attest to the importance of the baptism of Jesus by John in Jesus’ pJohn_the_Baptist%20imagereparation for His earthly mission.  However, only in the Gospel of Luke, do we see the connection between these two men, Jesus and John, related to their births. The first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel contain the “Infancy Narrative”, relating each of their births.  

In today’s Gospel reading, John the Baptist is presented as THE preeminent prophetic figure who bridges the time before Christ the Messiah Savior, to the first prophet who prepares the pencil-pusher-564x272way for the expected Jewish Messiah, who John the Baptist knew to be Jesus Christ in His saving and redemptive ministry of salvation, not only to the Jews, but also to the whole world.

Just as Luke’s Gospel began with a long sentence (cf., Luke 1:1–4), so too does this opening verse of this section:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1–2).   

Here, Luke reveals the “calling” of John the Baptist in the form of an Old Testament prophetic calling:

“…the Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert(Luke 3:2)’

This calling of John extends and amplifies similar verses, from the same “prophet” of Old, when Luke reports:

A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his pathsEvery valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made lowThe winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’” (Luke 3:4-6).

250px-Isaiah_(Bible_Card)This prophet, which John the Baptist is amplifying, is Isaiah:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; the rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5).

In doing so, Luke presents his theme of the “universality of salvation”, which he announced in an earlier chapter – – in the words of Simeon:

My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:30–32). 

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Luke relates the story of “salvation history” to events in contemporary world history of Jesus’ time.  He is connecting his “salvation’ narrative with the current events happening right in front of their eyes, portraying Jesus in the light of tsistinehese prophetic events.  There is a cornucopia of historic information given solely in the first sentence of today’s reading:

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1-2). 

This one sentence, two bible verses, has seven items of historical and prophetical significance for discussion.  They are underlined above and I will discuss each one individually.

(1) “Tiberius Caesar” (born Tiberius Claudius Nero in 42 B.C.) succeeded Augustus as emperor of ALL Roman territories in 1steve11/people25/134 A.D., and reigned until his death in 37 A.D.   Therefore, his “fifteenth year of reign”, depending on the method of calculating his first regal year, would have fallen somewhere between 27 A.D. and 29 A.D.  Tiberius was one of Rome’s greatest generals.  However, he is remembered as a dark, reclusive, and somber ruler.  A renowned Roman person of influence, “Pliny the Elder”, describes Tiberius as a “tristissimus hominum”, “the gloomiest of men” (Pliny the Elder, “Natural Histories” XXVIII.5.23).   Eventually, Tiberius exiled himself from Rome and left his governments administration largely in the hands of his unscrupulous “Praetorian Prefects”.  Caligula, Tiberius’ grand-nephew and adopted grandson, succeeded the emperor upon his death in 37 A.D.

(2) “Pontius Pilate” , mentioned next, was the “prefect” of Judea from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D.  The Jewish historian “Josephus” describes Pontius Pilate as a “greedy and ruthless prefect” who had little regard for the local Jewish PilatePicpopulation and their religious practices.  Luke describes Pontius Pilate’s sacrileges behavior:

At that time some people who were present there told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices” (see Luke 13:1).

The slaughter of the Galileans by Pilate is reported much later in Luke’ Gospel.  However, Josephus reports that such a slaughter would be in keeping with the “character and personality” of Pontius Pilate.  Pilate even disrupted a religious gathering of Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, slaughtering the participants (Antiquities 18, 4, 1 #86–87).  On another occasion, Pilate killed many Jews who had opposed him when he appropriated money from the Temple treasury in order to build an aqueduct in Jerusalem (Jewish War 2, 9, 4 #175–77; Antiquities 18, 3, 2 #60–62).

(3) Next in descending order of royal importance is “Herod Antipas”, the son of Herod the Great.  Antipas ruled over Galiherodantipaslee and Perea from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D.  His official title, “Tetrarch”, literally means, “Ruler of a quarter”.  It came to designate any subordinate prince of the Roman Empire.  

We are now half-way through the first sentence from today’s Gospel.   A huge sum of political/societal/historical information has been given; and there is still more to come.  We need to remember that, when reading Holy Scripture, we should do so while keeping the following four principles in mind:

  • The social and historical circumstances;
  • The relationship between allegorical truths (Parables and other stories) and literal truths;
  • The past and present theological beliefs, their influence on faith’s perspective; and,
  • Application, how this reading applies to me and you NOW, today, – – and in the future.

So, let’s mosey on to the fourth person mentioned in this first verse of today’s Gospel:

(4) “Philip” was a son of “Herod the Great”, as was Herod Antipas.  His birth name was Philip “ben” (son of) Herod.  The Herod family line was partially Jewish.  As a “Tetrarch” over a large portion of territory – – to the north and east of the 552758Sea of Galilee – – from 4 B.C. to 34 A.D., Philip had a bad reputation.   

He married “Salome”, who was a member of the Herodian dynasty, as he was.  Thus, Salome was his niece.  She will become more well-known in connection with the execution of John the Baptist (cf., Matthew 14:3-11).

It is known that Philip the Tetrarch rebuilt the city of Caesarea Philippi, calling it by his own name to distinguish it from the Caesarea on the sea-coast, which was the seat of the Roman government.  He died in the year 34 A.D. (only one year after Jesus’ Crucifixion and death).

(5) “Lysanias” is an aloof character in history and in the Bible.  Nothing is truly known about him other than He is believed to have been Tetrarch of “Abilene”, a territory somewhere northwest of Damascus.

After situating the call of John the Baptist in the time of the “civil rulers” of Jesus’ era, Luke now goes on to mention the “religious leadership” of this same time period.

(6) “Annas and Caiaphas” were the “high priests” at the time of Jesus’ public ministry.  “Annas” had been high priest frhigh priestsom 6 A.D. to 15 A.D.  After being deposed by the Romans in the year 15 A.D., Annas was succeeded by various members of his family and eventually by his son-in-law, “Caiaphas”, who was the Jewish high priest from 18 A.D. – 36 A.D.  Luke refers to “Annas” as “high priest” at Jesus’ time of public ministry, possibly because of the continuing influence of Annas or because the title continued to be used for the past-high priest’s.  According to John’s Gospel:

The band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas firstHe was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.  It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people” (John 18:12-14). 

We finally get to the seventh – – and main character – – of this first verse, “John the Baptist”.  He is the true predecessor and herald of Jesus Christ. This is the one about whom scripture says: john-baptist-001

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you” (Luke 7:27).

John the Baptist was God’s chosen transitional figure, inaugurating the period of “the fulfillment of prophecy and promise”:

“The child [John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80).

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The last aspect I wish to discuss in regard to this lengthy first verse is about “the Word” coming to John:

The Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:2).

Luke, among the other New Testament writers, is alone in linking the preaching of John the Baptist as a true “calling” from God the Father.  Therefore, Luke is thereby identifying John with the prophets of Jewish Holy Scripture – – our Old Testament – – whose own individual ministries also began with very similar calls.  Luke amplifies John the Baptists calling however.  In later verses from Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist will be described, by Jesus Himself, as “more than a prophet”:

“Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I [Jesus] tell you, and more than a prophet (Luke 7:26).

Wow!! Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, his brother Tetrarch Philip, Tetrarch Lysanias, High Priests Annas agods-redemptive-plan1nd Caiaphas, along with John the Baptist are all truly historically correct people.  All had important roles in the salvation mission of Jesus Christ among His Jewish Brethren AND His Roman neighbors.  Some roles were more pronounced and more important than others.  Some roles were to be truly cruel and callous in fact, but they ALL hold a place in the historically REAL redemptive mystery of Christ dying in order to save us from Adam’s and Eve’s sins.

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Let’s go on with the rest on today’s story (which will not be as long as the first part).  John travelled throughout ALL of Jordan, acting out and living out his special mission:02advientoC2

He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3).

John knew his role in Christ’s plan; he knew he would be the predecessor to herald – – to proclaim – – the messiah’s coming, with an enthusiasm and excitement only he could harbor and exhibit.  Also, he knew his mission of baptizing and preaching forgiveness made him a strong focus and religious figure in his 1st century society.  John probably also knew the religious authorities would recognize the prophets meaning of his beginning at the “Upper Jordan River”.  This is the exact location where Joshua led the Jews out of the desert, across the Jordan River, into the Promised Land, thus initiating a new phase of prophecy and promise “fulfilled” (cf., Joshua, Chapters 3 and 4)!  Moreover, with pious humility, John the Baptist still knew God’s royal role was NOT for him, but for the one coming AFTER him:

“John heralded His {Jesus} coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I amI am not He.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet’” (Acts 13:24-25);

What did John the Baptist mean by his preaching of repentance and forgiveness?  Well, I believe he was (and still is) calling for a change of heart and conduct in one’s life – – a “true” conversion.  He is insisting that everyone continuously turn from a life of rebellion to that of obedience towards God the Father – – on a daily, even hourly basis!! 

John, being a strongly pious Jew, was very familiar the expectations found in Jewish apocalyptic writings: God’s kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  This was also THE expectation shared by John the Baptist.  

JohPrepareTheWayn the Baptist (and Luke) were well-versed in Prophetic literature, especially those of Isaiah:

As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths”’” (Luke 3:4).

This verse from Luke, in today’s reading, is nearly identical to a verse found in the Book of Isaiah:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORDMake straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3–5).

Isaiah is actually describing the return, to Jerusalem, of the Jewish exiles from Babylonian captivity.  The language used by the prophet Isaiah is figurative, describing the route the ex-exiles will take home.  In this allegorical description,captivity “the Lord” leads them, so their route lies straight across the wilderness rather than along the well-watered routes usually followed from Mesopotamia to Israel.  Luke, in his Gospel, parallels this allegory, symbolizing his verses to represent the witness of John the Baptizer and his mission to that of Jesus’ redemptive mission of salvation for ALL.  John is leading the Jewish faithful across the dangerous wilderness, both physically and spiritually, to that of the true Savior Messiah of Israel, Jesus Christ.

John’s Gospel, unlike Luke, even goes so far as to not only imply this mission, but also to say it desertwww_washington_edunewsroomdirectly:

“He [John the Baptist] said: ‘I am “the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’”’” (John 1:23).

The last two verses continue this allegorical, symbolic, description which Luke is borrowing from Isaiah:

Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:5-6).

Again, Luke’s words are nearly identical to Isaiah’s:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3–5).

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I. summarize titlen today’s Gospel we note Luke’s attention to political and historical details.  Luke shows that “salvation” is for all people and is situated in world events.  Therefore, Luke lists the political and religious leaders at the time of John the Baptist’s appearance in the desert.  “Salvation”, for Luke (and me), is understood as God’s encroaching into this political and social history, and working Salvation2intimately from within this historical background.

John the Baptist stood at a pivotal juncture in the history of God’s dealing with His “chosen” people.  He was responsible for bridging the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets whose mission was to point the way to the Messiah Savior.  He is also the first of the New Testament “witnesses” AND “martyrs”.  John was a “prophet” – – a “called spokesman” – – for God Himself, and was the preeminent “Servant of the Word”, Jesus Christ – – the true “Word” of God who became flesh for our sake and for our salvation (cf., John 1:1).  

John the Baptist’s preaching of the coming of the Lord is a key theme of our present Advent season.  As John’s message prepreparepared the way for Jesus, we too are called to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming.  We respond to John’s message by repentance and reform in our daily lives (hopefully).  We, as John the Baptist was, are also “called” to be “prophets” of Christ, announcing and witnessing by our personal and public lives the coming of the Lord, just as John did in his life.

We know that during the Advent season, we celebrate the promise of fulfillment in the coming of Emmanuel (“God-with-us”) manifested in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ AND in His return in glory at His second coming (the Parousia).  We see so much around us – – and within us – – contradicting the “selfless love” of the infant Jesus Christ.  We see so much in this world contradicting the authority of the Universal “Christ the King”.  At the same time, we also want so very much to experience the “fullness of this fulfillment” – – Christ Himself – – and to see the salvation of God the Father as well.

Let’s joyfully remember the Apostle Paul’s faith, and how it can encourage us: t_1cb51300-5993-11e1-bb75-053d1da00004

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Although we cannot achieve this completion on our own, we can join in Paul’s prayer:

That your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (Philipians1:9-11)

May our EVERY thought, word, and deed “witness” to Jesus Christ as we prepare for Christmas and for ALL times.  Let’s keep Christ in Christmas – – CHRISTinMASS!!

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Durin. conclusiong the season of Advent, we choose to add many activities to our schedules in order to prepare for our Christmas celebration.  John the Baptist reminds us that our “repentance” is another way in which we can and SHOULD prepare for the Lord’s coming – – as significant and substantially a vital part of our celebration for each and every Christmas Season.  Parish communities often offer a communal celebration of the prioritiesSacrament of Reconciliation during the Advent season.  You can choose to participate in the communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or you can seek out this Sacrament on an individual basis.  Whichever you choose – – DO IT – – please!!!

Reflect on how John the Baptist called upon the people to prepare the way of the Lord through repentance.  On a nightly (or daily) basis, in a peaceful and prayerful area (perhaps near the Advent wreath), pray silently, asking God to forgive your sins.  Then, finish by praying your own version of the “Act of Contrition”.  (If you do not know one, you can use to old “tried and true” version below. 

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Act of Contrition

 

“My God377983_10150459373288643_96426468642_8348446_1692711191_n, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy.  Amen.”

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“Do You Say ‘Yes’ To Your Faith, Or, Do You Say ‘Possibly’?!” – John 6:60-69†


21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

  Today’s Content:

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Quote of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Two years ago FAN (Franciscan Action Network) introduced the “F.R.A.N.C.I.S. Commitment to Civility in Discourse”.  I encourage each of you to take this commitment.  Send it to all your friends and ask them to take it.  Also, along with yourself, ask your friends to send it to candidates for local, state, and federal offices, and consider sending it to the media as well.

The F.R.A.N.C.I.S Commitment to Civility in Discourse

Take a quiet moment in prayer and then recite the following out loud or to yourself.  Each verb begins with a letter which, when taken together, spells out the name FRANCIS:

Commit to:

    • FACILITATE a forum for difficult discourse and acknowledge that all dialogue can lead to new insight and mutual understanding.
    • RESPECT the dignity of all people, especially the dignity of those who hold an opposing view.
    • AUDIT one’s self and utilize terms or a vocabulary of faith to unite or reconcile rather than divide conflicting positions.
    • NEUTRALIZE inflamed conversations by presuming that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith.
    • COLLABORATE with others and recognize that all human engagement is an opportunity to promote peace.
    • IDENTIFY common ground such as similar values or concerns and utilize this as a foundation to build upon.
    • SUPPORT efforts to clean up the provocative language by calling policymakers to their sense of personal integrity.

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There will be no reflection blog next Sunday September 2nd.  Sorry, but I will be actively involved in some family business which I cannot reschedule.

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Quote of the Day:

I am not moved by what I see. I am moved only by what I believe.” ~ Smith Wigglesworth, “Ever Increasing Faith”, Pentecostal Classics

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Today’s reflection: Simon Peter confesses his faith by saying Jesus alone has the “Words” of the eternal life.  What do you TRULY say about your faith?  Is it hot, cold, or lukewarm?

(NAB John 6:60-69) 60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”  61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?  62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  64 But there are some of you who do not believe.”  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.  65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”  66 As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.  67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

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Gospel Reflection:

For our Gospel today we hear the conclusion of John’s sixth chapter, known as the “Bread of Life” discourse.  In the preceding verses proclaimed in the Mass over the past few weeks, we have heard Jesus explain that He is “the Bread of Life”, given so that those who believe may come to share His eternal life (cf., John 6:47-48).  Today’s reading follows the miracle in which Jesus feeds more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish (cf., John 6:11-13).  This particular reading is about how “hard” it is to be a disciple of Christ.  My question: What is SO hard about following Christ?  Well, possibly because the “hard” in today’s reading is the audience “hearing” Jesus talking about what they perceive as cannibalism, the most serious heresy for any Jewish person.  Many in the “crowd” consider His “Words” as blasphemy.  Thus, John’s Gospel describes the crowd as “murmuring”, unable to accept Jesus’ “Words” as literally true.  Influenced by the crowd’s response, Jesus turns to His disciples, asking a question:

Does this shock you?” (John 6:61)

Jesus’ “Words” certainly shocked a good portion of His followers.  This leads to the challenge for the usually outspoken Simon Peter to declare his faith and understanding of “who” Jesus truly is: the Holy Son of God! 

Why do many of us (including some Catholics) find it easy to accept the claims which Jesus made in today’s Gospel, and others find it so “hard” to accept?  Some accept Jesus when it was (is) easy to see Him doing great works, but not when it was (is) difficult to accept His “Word” that HE is the true Son of God sent down from God the Father as Moses had prophesized.  Many are attracted to Jesus solely because He offers something irresistible: a visible sign of God the Father’s mercy and love which Jesus demonstrated (and still demonstrates today) through His supernatural works of healing and freeing us from evil through the mystery of the Eucharistic grace. 

After witnessing everything transpired during Jesus’ public ministry, I cannot believe that some of Jesus’ disciples – – His devoted followers – – were still not convinced about His divinity and true nature.  Decades later, there STILL were some in his own faith community finding it difficult to accept Jesus.  This is the reason John zeroed-in on this portion of his Gospel.  The issue here is the importance of faith as a divine gift which enables us to see and believe Jesus as what He says He truly is!

Just as the larger crowd (the 5000) struggled with Jesus’ teaching, many “disciples” present in today’s story somehow also cannot accept Jesus’ “Words”.  Jesus knows about their murmuring and responds by acknowledging their unbelief.  At the same time, Jesus reveals that only those drawn by God the Father will choose to believe in and follow Jesus to the end.  John’s Gospel reports here that many of those who had been Jesus’ disciples “murmured” and ceased to follow Him at this point in His public ministry.  The number of people following Jesus then dwindled from a crowd of more than 5,000 to possibly only 12 men and a few women and children.   It is to these Twelve men (Apostles) to whom Jesus now turns His attention; asking:

Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67).

Jesus saying this provided John the opportunity, through Simon Peter, the central, essential statement of faith, the core essence of our Catholic faith.  In essence, Jesus was asking if their faith was full and true, or if their faith had conditions attached to it.  Like most politicians today, some of whom are members of the Christian religion, and even the Catholic faith, they (and we) are siding with the majority are favorite stance instead of the morally correct position on serious issues, especially “life” issues: i.e., abortion, euthanasia, health and medical care, immigration, and so on.    So, you can see I believe Jesus’ question is being asked of ALL Catholics and other Christians – – universally.  (That means you, dear readers – – and me as well!)

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The question, “Do you also want to leave?”, is meant to inspire our declaration of faith in Jesus then, as the Holy “One” now, as His supernatural real presence in the Holy Eucharist. 

To me, this text makes me think that Jesus could be giving us an insight to His supernatural AND natural true union in the Holy Eucharist today.  My question: Is Jesus not only giving us His dual-nature union of body and blood (plus His soul and divinity) in the Holy Eucharist, but also the path we are to take on our journey to His kingdom?  I am drawn to what was written by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.  So, too, it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being,’ the last Adam[Jesus Christ] a life-giving spirit.  But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritualThe first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.  As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.  Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one (1 Corinthians 15:44–49).

The last Adam, Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:21–22) has become a life-giving spirit, a life-principle transcendent, spiritually different from the natural soul of the first Adam.  Furthermore, the “last Adam”, “Jesus the Christ”, is not just alive, but, life-giving – – a truly divine source of a real, everlasting life for others indeed.

So, in today’s reading, Jesus states:

The words I have spoken to you are spirit AND life” (John 6:63). 

By saying, “spirit and life”, Jesus is declaring that HIS “bread of life” – – the “RISEN HIMSELF” – – IS the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  WOW indeed!!!

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Many stumbled on their spiritual path when Jesus made claims which only God can make.  Jesus claimed to be “the bread of heaven” – – the very life of God – – given to us freely as the spiritual food to sustain us on our journey to the promised land of heaven.  Jesus’ discourse on “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” (cf., John 6:51-59) not only caused many of His followers to feel offended, but also pointed to – – pre-figured – – the “Last Supper”.  

Jesus did not leave any middle ground for those listening to Him.  They could either accept, that is believe His “Word” as divine and fully true, or they could reject it as the claim of an imposter.  It seems there is no “in-between”; forcing one to be either “hot” in faith, or “cold”.  A “lukewarm” faith is as unacceptable and as deadly as a “cold” faith:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelations 3:15-16).

Even the “Twelve” of His closest disciples (the Apostles) admitted His “Words” on “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” was a “hard saying” to understand (but not to believe).  Jesus promises His disciples (then and still now) nothing less than the full and complete blessing of eternal life along with a fully complete union with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus assures His disciples (then and now) that it is His (and our) heavenly Father who invites and gives the grace to follow Him – – even when it comes to the “hard sayings”.  

Jesus knew some would not only reject Him and His “Word”, but would also be offended.  Through this offended “spirit”, these people would eventually betray Jesus to His enemies.  After all, Jesus always knew that there would be those who would not believe Him, plotting to destroy Him as agents of evil:

“‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray Him” (John 6:64).

 Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus would again reiterate His prior knowledge of betrayal by others:

For he [Jesus] knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, ‘Not all of you are clean’” (John 13:11).

I cannot even fathom how someone who witnessed Jesus’ public ministry, and believed in Him at one time, could now NOT believe any longer.  Everything Jesus had promised had been fulfilled (so far), yet some still could not believe.  They saw, yet they were still blinded.  Humans can be a stupid bunch at times!!

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Jesus warned all who could hear Him:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:44).

Even with this stern yet loving warning, many of Jesus’ disciples had lost heart and returned to their former ways of life:

As a result of this, many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66). 

Was this abandonment because they could not comprehend what Jesus was truly saying when He talked about eating the true body and blood of Christ?  Or, did they leave due to an underling fear of their families and other Jews shunning them for following a man going against Jewish food laws?

Thankfully, those who stayed (and us), know a few things, however.  We know that the Holy Eucharist is a gift – – a grace – – from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  We know the Holy Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ – – transubstantiated.  And, from today’s reading, we know Jesus did not chase after anyone who left Him; giving further proof the Holy Eucharist IS the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, to be shared with all who believe!!

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Simon Peter responds to Jesus’ question about whether those “Twelve” closest to Him will also leave:

Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Simon Peter’s response reminds me of the reports of Peter’s confession of faith in the Synoptic Gospels (cf., Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20).  Peter announces, on behalf of all the Twelve, that they have come to believe all Jesus has taught about Himself:

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

Jesus is truly the “One” sent from God the Father, and in whom they (and we) have found the true path to eternal life.  Each of the four Gospels has declared this statement of faith:

Simon Peter said, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” (Matthew 16:16);

“[A man with an unclean spirit] cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’” (Mark 1:24);

Ha!  What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34);

“She [Martha] said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.  I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’” (John 11:27).

Sometimes, you definitely CAN believe what you read!!

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Today’s conclusion of John’s “Bread of Life” discourse focuses on a intimately personal faith in a life of Christian discipleship.  Each person must make his or her own judgment about who Jesus is in their own life.  In doing so, we determine the way of our life, our personal path, which we will follow to eternity.  God’s grace invites each of us – – personally – – to be a disciple of Jesus.  However, each of us must also respond to the grace of God by confessing a full and true belief in Jesus Christ being truly the “One” sent from God the Father for our redemption and salvation.   This absolute, non-conditional, faith then commits us to the righteous path of life, leading us to eternal life in a heavenly paradise.

Real faith is not blind or uninformed; faith seeks understanding and is ACTIVE – – always at work in our lives.  This is why God the Father imparts to us the help and comfort of the Holy Paraclete – – the Holy Spirit – – to enlighten the eyes of our mind and soul to understand His truth and wisdom:

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him.  May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones” (Ephesians 1:17-18).

Jesus offers His life-giving “Word” and “spirit” to those who truly and fully believe in Him, obeying His “Word” without ANY conditions.  Simon Peter’s profession of faith and loyalty was based on a personal relationship with Jesus!  His belief was not simply based on what he knew about Jesus, but in knowing that when Jesus spoke, God spoke(!); when Jesus acted, God acted!  (PERIOD!!!) . . .

Through the personal grace (gift) of faith, Simon Peter came to understand Jesus as the true Messiah Savior, the Holy “One” of God the Father.  Simon Peter believed in the “Words” Jesus spoke, because he accepted Jesus as the Son of God and therefore Savior of the world.  “Faith” is a personal response to God’s revelation of Himself to each of us.  “Faith” is the key to understanding and experiencing God’s action and work in our own personal lives.  Ask the Lord to increase your faith so you may grow in your relationship with Him and in the knowledge of His unlimited love for you.

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At baptism, we (or our parents) promised to believe (or teach) all articles of the faith.  In the example of Simon Peter, we learn each person must also make his or her own profession of faith in Jesus as the one sent by God the Father to save us.  As we matured in the faith, we learned, accepted, and believed (and still believe) Jesus Christ IS the “Word” of eternal life.  We also chose to follow the way of Christian discipleship at some point in our adult life, and hopefully still choose the same today.

Think about the promises made at your baptism (even if by someone else on your behalf).  What is the importance of this promise made by you then and now?  How are you trying to honor this commitment in your daily lives?  Please pray that you continue to grow in your faith, always remembering Jesus is the true “One” sent by God the Father – – who alone – – has the “Words” of eternal life.  

Promises are decisions; and we make numerous small decisions every day (and a few significantly important ones) which determine the course of our (and others) lives.  Being a parent, I have recently been reminded (with brutal honesty) that young people can hardly wait to be free of their parent’s – – to make their own choices.  We, as adults, learn (sometimes painfully) that certain decisions have consequences so serious that they should not be made lightly.  Just as some disciples in today’s reading did then, some people still today find it easier to give their decision-making responsibilities over to another: i.e., someone in the household, a politician, a religious leader, and so on.  In today’s first reading at Mass (from Joshua’s 24th chapter), Joshua doesn’t mince words:

“… decide today whom you will serve …” (Joshua 24:15).

Do NOT put off to another day, but decide now, today, about your faith.  Remember, Joshua’s people, reminded of all God had done for them, decided to:

 … serve the Lord, for He is our God (Joshua 24:18b).

Today’s Gospel account opened with Jesus’ disciples murmuring:

This saying is hard …” (John. 6:60).

Hard”, without a doubt – – and Jesus knew it is “hard”.   His “good news” – – the “Word” – – is not for lukewarm, fair-weather, or timid followers.  Because of this “hard saying” in today’s reading, many of Jesus’ followers became disillusioned and left Him.  The decision of the “Twelve” to stay with Jesus was NOT made because they had no other choice – – all of them had homes and families to whom they could have returned – – but was made because Jesus had “the words of eternal life“.  They were convinced and knew without any conditions that Jesus was truly the “Holy ‘One’ sent from God the Father.”

Many of Jesus’ “Words” are not easy to hear; they actually are quite challenging to one’s faith-life.  It is difficult to “love your enemies”, “lose your life for His sake”, and so on.  Like Simon Peter, those who follow Jesus Christ today, do so out of love for this Holy “One” who has the “Words” of eternal life, even though some “Words” are very “hard” and challenging indeed: yet, they are all trustworthy and BELIEVEABLE!

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Reflection Prayer: 

“O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.  Amen”

(Collect Prayer for the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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“Those Who Do Not Believe Develop Heart and Soul ‘Murmurs’!” – John 6:41-51†


 

Nineteenth Sunday in OrdinaryTime

Today’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Joke of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

This next Wednesday, August 15th, is the “Feast of the Assumption of Our Mother Mary”.  Each year for the past 6 years, on this date, I have completed my preparations and renewing my “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”.  This devotion was created by St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and takes 33 days of preparation by means of prayer, reading, meditation, reflections, and personal promises – – a true “metanoia” (conversion process)!  (But then again, each and every day, I try to convert myself to God’s will, even if ever so slightly.)  Each time I have completed this particular devotion, the experience and journey itself seems to “taste “a little sweeter.  I’ll take this as a good sign to continue this yearly practice.

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There will no Reflection next Sunday, August 18th.  I will be on my yearly Franciscan (OFS) Retreat at King’s House in Belleville, IL.  Our OFS Region (about 100 Secular Franciscans) will get together there for the weekend to celebrate, learn, rejoice, pray, contemplate, and enjoy each other in community.  It is truly an awesome, up-lifting, powerful, and exciting time for me, both personally and spiritually.

Anytime spent with friends, family, and God – – all rolled into one experience – – is a true grace from God Himself.  Amen, Amen, Amen!!!

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 Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus responds to the murmurs of the crowd, who wonders what He means when He says, He “came down from heaven”.  What are your “murmurs” towards Jesus?

 (NAB John 6:41-51) 41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42 and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.  44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  45 It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.  46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.  47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  48 I am the bread of life.  49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On this Sunday, we continue to read from the “Bread of Life discourse” found in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.  We have been reading from this chapter for the past two Sundays and will continue to read from it for another two.  (Since I have grown to love John’s unique multi-dimensional viewpoint of Jesus Christ, one month of solely John’s Gospel (at the Sunday Mass) is totally awesome.).  Last week, the crowd with whom Jesus had been dealing for two liturgical weeks now asked Him for a sign which would show that He truly came from God. (So, He’s not a magician or con-artist).  Jesus replied by saying that “HE” is “THE” sign ANDthe bread of life” truly sent by God!

Today’s Gospel begins with a report that the Jews (the crowd) are “murmuring” about Jesus’ claim regarding His identity.  After all, they knew Jesus’ family (Mary and Joseph). So, they could not comprehend what Jesus meant when He said that He “came down from heaven” (John 6:41).  Jesus responds to the crowds request by saying, “Only those who are chosen by God will recognize Him” (John 6:44) as the one sent by God; this is (and will be) a recurring theme in John’s Gospel.  WOW!  Reflect on the fact that God chooses those who will have faith in Jesus. (And He always chooses those who wish to follow Him – – to come to Him!!)

In the verses which follow in today’s reading, Jesus talks more about His unique unity, His personal union, with God the Father.  He is the “One” who has seen God the Father and, therefore, truly and fully knows God the Father, and as His Father.  (But let me ask: “Was He the ONLY one?” The answer will come a little later.)  Those who listen to God – – and HEAR Him and BELIEVE (John 6:47)- – will recognize Jesus as being the “One” sent from God the Father Himself.  Those who believe this will have eternal life according to Jesus’ proclamation.  

Jesus will conclude today’s reading with the essential principle of our Eucharistic theology – – the Source and Summit of our Catholic Faith – – Jesus, “the bread of life”, will share ETERNAL life to those who believe Him!!  Jesus promises that His “bread of lifewill bring ETERNAL life to those who come to, and partake of it.  Jesus also prophetically tells us “the bread of life” will be “His own flesh, given for the life of the world” (John 6:51).  The flesh Jesus is referring to is the reality of His “Risen” self to a new life.

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In Capernaum (the location of today’s reading), Jesus is rejected solely because His origins are known to the people there.  By their “murmuring” (John 6:41), Jesus’ audience (the crowd who followed Him to Capernaum from Bethsaida) behaved like the Israelites of the Exodus, while lingering in the desert.  If you recall, their own “murmuring” provoked the gifts of water and manna being delivered to them from God the Father:

As the people grumbled against Moses, saying, What are we to drink?’ he cried out to the LORD, who pointed out to him a piece of wood.  When he threw it into the water, the water became fresh.” (Exodus 15:24-25);

Here in the wilderness the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. … in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, when he hears your grumbling against him.  But who are we that you should grumble against us? …[God says] I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, and then you will know that I, the LORD, am your God.” (Exodus 16:2,7,12).

This crowd’s “murmuring” was an example of the unbelief as prophesied in Isaiah and the Psalms:

But when the LORD has brought to an end all his work on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, I will punish the utterance of the king of Assyria’s proud heart, and the boastfulness of his haughty eyes.” (Isaiah 10:12);

Next they despised the beautiful land; they did not believe the promiseIn their tents they complained; they did not heed the voice of the LORD (Psalm 106:24-25).

Familiarity with His family and societal background led them to regard Him as pretentious and boastful in His claim.  They saw Jesus as a person they felt they knew completely and intimately; yet they were truly blind.

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Jesus’ command to “stop murmuring” (John 6:43) is followed by a short series of sayings.  The next two verses of today’s reading reiterate that only those “drawn by God” will believe in Jesus:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6:44-45) 

John is demonstrating the claim that God Himself is responsible for the faith of those who believe in Jesus.  There is NO knowledge of God the Father apart from Jesus:

Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46).

John is repeating Holy Scripture, reminding his readers of verses found in both Exodus and earlier in his own Gospel:

But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20);

No one has ever seen God.  The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1:18);

This belief reflects the Jewish tradition: to see God meant instant death!!   However, this belief is contradicted by others who DIDsee God”, yet live:

To the LORD who spoke to her [Hagar] she gave a name, saying, ‘You are God who sees me’; she meant, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after he saw me?’” (Genesis 16:13);

Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘because I have seen God face to face,’ he said, ‘yet my life has been spared.’” (Genesis 32:31).

In seeing Jesus Christ, this crowd truly SAW God.  Yet, we see the Holy Eucharist; we are also truly witnessing the Risen “God” is being revealed to us in a unique visible and spiritual (supernatural) way.  “Seeing”, and partaking of God in the Holy Eucharist, does not bring death, but everlasting life through Jesus Christ!!  “Seeing” is believing in and partaking of – – participating in – – God’s communion (co-union)!  This “seeing” God by faith does not bring death but everlasting life through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Jesus concludes His series of sayings with this final affirmation:

 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47) 

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The following “final” verse from today’s reading is an extremely powerful revelation:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51),

At the end of this sixth chapter of his Gospel, John will shift his Gospel from the topic of Jesus as “the revealer of God the Father” – – to Jesus as the “living bread” which He Himself gives to us as a gift, revealing to us the grace, which we have learned to call “the Holy Eucharist”. 

Here follows is the next portion of John’s sixth chapter.  The verses which immediately follow today’s reading are also the verses for next week’s Gospel reading at Mass:

“The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’  Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.’  These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.” (John 6:52-59)

These verses definitely say, and identify, the “Holy Eucharist” to me!  Does it to you?

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In today’s reading, we hear Jesus say again, as He did in last week’s Gospel, that “HE” is “the bread of life” (John 6:48).  We also hear Jesus adding that HE is “the living bread” (John 6:51).  Both of these statements help us understand better the gift Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist.  We celebrate this special and unique gift (grace) of Jesus each time we gather for Mass.  We, as Catholics, truly and fully believe that receiving the “Risen” Jesus in the Eucharist will lead us to our eternal life in the paradise of heaven, with our Trinitarian God.  (His “bread” is truly divine – – truly “heavenly”!!)

Today’s Gospel draws our attention to the faith in Jesus’ real, true, full, and Risen presence in the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus IS then, truly and fully “the bread of life”.  He gives us His Body and Blood as “the living bread” so that we may have eternal life.  When we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, with the proper attitude, our lives reflect the reality that our communion – – our unique union – – with the divine Jesus Christ Himself, is truly preparing us to see the way to reach His kingdom.  Our Holy Eucharist leads us to live as His people of promise, confident we will one day share the fullness of life with, and united to, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit!!  (Not a bad deal for us sinners!!)

The crowd in today’s story despised Jesus because they thought they knew who He was – – understanding Him to be an uneducated laborer from a rural “Hick” town called Nazareth.  They regarded His mother, Mary, and His “foster” father, Joseph as ordinary people with no particular distinction to their name or identity.  Their collective thoughts were: “How could such a common man claim to be God’s spokesman?”

This crowd surrounding Jesus became even more offended when Jesus claimed something only God could claim.  His claim which He revealed to them is that He is the very source of life who comes from God the Father, and who lasts forever and ever (John 6:51).

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I am sure we all make the same mistake as did the crowd in today’s Gospel.  We sometimes (maybe even oftentimes) refuse to listen to others solely because we think they are inferior to us?  (No humility in thinking such thoughts, is there?  NOT!!!!)   We can miss what God may wish to speak to us through others, especially when He speaks through these “inferior beings”.  We can miss what God says to us, if we despise and spurn the “instrument” God chooses to work through.  John states that the Jews from today’s reading “murmured” at Jesus.  They listened to Him, but with a critical spirit rather than “hearing” Him with faith, with an open ear, and with an earnest desire to learn and believe what God the Father wanted (and still wants) to speak to them (and us) – – through His Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  There are many different ways people can choose to listen to others: with an attitude of superiority, with indifference, or with a teachable spirit, wishing to learn, believe, grow, and ultimately, to be transformed.  Let me ask: With what “way” do you listen to God’s “Word”?

God is offering His people an abundant life; yet, we can miss out on this unique gift.  What is “the bread of life” which Jesus offers us?  When Jesus offers us a true life, He brings us into a new relationship with God the Father – – a relationship of trust, love, and obedience.  Jesus offers us a true, abundant, ever-sustaining life – – lasting forever and ever.  Jesus offers us a life of enduring love, fellowship, communion, and union with the “One” who made us “in love” to be uniquely united with Him forever and ever!!  

Think about your hope that one day you will share eternal life with God in heaven.  This “hope” can transform the way you (and we) live out our daily experiences and lives.  We are called to BE people “of hope”; we are taught to believe in God’s promises and to have confident “hope” that we will experience the fulfillment of those promises in our daily lives.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises us this gift of eternal life in and through the Eucharist.  Jesus taught us that those who listen to God know that He had been (and is still) sent by God the Father – – for the life of the world – – and for ALL creation.  Jesus is fulfilling His promise to us through His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Jesus Christ gave (and still gives) us the gift of HIMSELF in the Holy Eucharist – – in His Body and Blood – – given so we may have, and grow in, eternal life with Him.  Ask God to increase your faith in His true and full presence present in each morsel of the Holy Eucharist, and each sip of the cup of salvation, which we experience with all our senses.  (Doesn’t smell fishy to me at all!!)

There is NOTHING to “murmur” about when it comes to God the Father’s Salvation plan FOR US!!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Peace Prayer

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I
may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.”

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“Is There Anything To Eat?; This Past Weekend Has Been A Trying One For Me!” – Luke 24:35-48†


 

Third Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Today in Catholic History
  • ·        Joke of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer
  • ·        Catholic Apologetics
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I wish to extend a SUPER happy birthday Pope Benedict XVI and Mother Angelica.  To Octogenarians who are still young in heart ans faith.

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Today in Catholic History:     

 

†   296 – Death of Pope Caius (or Gaius)
†   536 – Death of Agapitus I, Italian Pope (535-36),
†   536 – Death of Pope Agapetus I
†   1073 – Pope Alexander II buried/Ildebrando chosen as Pope Gregory VII
†   1164 – Raynald of Dassel names Guido di Crema as anti-pope Paschalis III
†   1610 – Birth of Alexander VIII, [Pietro Ottoboni], Italy, lawyer/Pope (1689-91)
†   1994 – Death of D. Nauta, theologist/church historian/lawyer, at age 96

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus appears to His disciples [again] and shares a meal with them.

 

(NAB Luke 24:35-48) 35 Then the two [men on the road to Emmaus] recounted [to the disciples hiding in Jerusalem] what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  36 While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  37 But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  38 Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”  40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  41 While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  42 They gave him a piece of baked fish;43 he took it and ate it in front of them.  44 He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On the third Sunday of Easter, we continue to hear Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances to His disciples following His Resurrection.  Luke’s Gospel, like each of the other Gospels (cf., Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–15; John 20:19–23), focuses on Jesus appearing to His disciples in Jerusalem and their commissioning for their future ministry.  Luke goes further in having the risen Jesus appear to two men traveling back to their home, probably in or near Emmaus.  These two men, no longer blinded to the risen Christ hurried back to Jerusalem, sought out Jesus’ disciples, and told them of their experience.

Jesus then (as in any good mystery story) miraculously and suddenly appears before all those assembled in this “faith-filled” hiding space.  Standing amongst them, Jesus lovingly states:

Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36).

Their response to Jesus, per today’s reading, was one of “startling terror”, thinking “they were seeing a ghost”!  These are the VERY FIRST words Jesus says to His disciples AFTER they had abandoned Him to His accusers, torturers, and crucifiers.  His first words were one of “peace” and not “What happened to you?” or “Where were you?” or “You abandoned me, why?”

I am sure Jesus’ disciples felt like they had betrayed Him, and knew and felt that they should have had a royal “chewing out” from Jesus, at a minimum.  However, Jesus is God, who is pure love, and responded with a pure love for His disciples.  How relieved and gratified were these startled, terrified men to know Jesus Christ not only DID rise from the dead, but also wished only “peace” for them personally – – AND for all that believed in Him.

Peace be with you.” was a most appropriate greeting for a loving Jesus Christ.  The disciples truly had the experience and shock of the death of someone they loved, and feared for their own safety and lives as well.  “Peace” is what they needed more than anything else.  Along with this greeting of “Peace”, Jesus gave another grace, another gift: “forgiveness”. The inherent linking of “peace” and “forgiveness” is quietly made in the final verses of today’s reading.

They thought they were seeing a “ghost”; yet the figure before them is not a “ghost”.  Jesus invites them to experience His resurrected body with their senses, to look and to touch.  The figure standing before them is truly flesh and bone, still bearing the marks of His crucifixion.  Although the disciples cannot forget His suffering and death, “peace” begins to take root in their hearts, with their fears and turmoil turning to feelings of joy and amazement instead.

Jesus was NO “ghost”!!  He is STILL as human NOWTODAY – as He was on that day, and on the day he was crucified.  He is the physical (and scriptural) proof that there truly is a “life after death” (physical death anyhow).  He IS NOT just a divine memory; AND we are disciples of the LIVING Jesus, not just disciples of our memory of Him!

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The disciples last saw Jesus as a weak and beaten man, who died – – as a human – – on the cross in a most humiliating and torturous way.  Jesus seemed to be “powerless” over the events leading to His ultimate death.  He certainly did not meet the expectations of who the Messiah was to be per Jewish tradition.  If He WAS the Messiah, why did He allow this to happen to Him?  Why would He allow Himself to be as humiliated and embarrassed as He was?

As further proof of His identity and of His resurrected body, Jesus eats with His disciples.  The disciples have known Jesus best through the meals which He has shared with them.  Descriptions of these meals are a defining element of Luke’s Gospel.  By eating with his disciples after his Resurrection, Jesus recalls all these meals, and most importantly, he recalls the Last Supper.

Luke’s report of this Last Supper and the meals which Jesus shared with them after His Resurrection unveils for us the uniquely important significance of the Holy Eucharist.  Having shared a meal with His disciples, Jesus Christ now uncovers for them the significance of what was written about Him in the Scriptures.  Our celebration of the Mass is ALSO an encounter with Jesus – – in fact, the same uniquely important encounter as the disciples!!  So, we encounter Him, this same Jesus, through the Liturgy of the Word and the Sacrament of the Eucharist which is literally the Sacrament of Thanksgiving.  As Jesus commissioned His disciples to be witnesses to what Holy Scriptures foretold, OUR celebration of the Eucharist ALSO commissions US today.  Like the first disciples, we too are sent to announce the “good news” of Jesus Christ, truly risen from the grave.

With His appearance to them, and eating with them, the disciples were given a grace and gift of a revelation in their individual and communal faiths.  They were now able to believe more fully because they had seen the proof of Jesus’ new resurrected life, which they came to understand Jesus’ victory, thus overcoming sin, Satan, and death!

Luke is the only evangelist to mention Jesus’ eating with His disciples.  Jesus didn’t come solely to be seen, to be touched, or to be heard; He came and ate with His disciples just as He did the night of His arrest.  Jesus, still today, does not wish to be simply seen and heard, He wants to converse with each of us; He wants to share a meal with each of us – – personally, uniquely, and intimately – – ALWAYS!!

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We are like the Apostles, especially Matthew; we don’t usually believe unless we see with our own eyes.  The Gospels attest to the true reality of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.  Jesus goes to great lengths to prove to His disciples that He is no mere ghost or illusion – – no trick of the eye.  He shows them the marks of His crucifixion, explaining how Holy Scripture foretold His suffering death AND rising.  (Please read 1 Peter 1:10-12.  It has a “glorious” connection to this last sentence.)  

Jerome, an early church bible scholar, comments:

As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them … Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (From a letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)

Jesus, on the Holy Cross, is one of the central aspects of the Gospels, but it DOESN’T JUST STOP there!  Through His death on the cross, Jesus truly defeated our enemies – death, sin, and Satan; and won mercy & pardon for our sin.  Jesus’ cross then, is the bridge to heaven and the way to paradise.  So, the way to glory IS through the cross.

When the disciples saw the “Risen” Lord, they did not react to Him with “joy”; they reacted with “startle” and “fear”!  After all, how can a death lead to life?  How can a cross lead to glory?  Well, only Jesus Christ could reveal to us the “joy” and “glory” of enduring suffering with faith to a new life.  He gives each of us the power to overcome the fear, worry, and even despair caused by sin, Satan, and death.  Just as the first disciples were commissioned to bring the “good news” of salvation to ALL the peoples of ALL the nations, both Jew and Gentile alike, so we too are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to all among whom we live – – EVERYWHERE and at ALL times.  

Have you truly witnessed to the “joy” of the Gospels personally?  Do you truly witness to the “joy” of the Gospels to those around you?  As the Franciscans say, do you take the:

“Gospel to life and the life to Gospel”?

Hmm, is this something to think about for you?

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To conclude, Catholic Christian life is sustained by God’s “Word” in Holy Scripture and by Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.  We are especially sustained in our faith through our attendance and PARTICIPATION at our weekly (and hopefully daily) celebration of Mass.  Today’s Gospel should remind us that Holy Scripture and the Eucharist are given to us so that OUR words and deeds of bearing witness to Christ might be strengthened.

Jesus came to His followers, not the inverse (other way around) – – AND He Still does today and will in the future!!  Jesus took (and still takes) the initiative in overcoming sin, Satan, and death with us!  Jesus provided (and still provides) His reassurance and promise of everlasting life!  Jesus comes to us in the Holy Eucharist and through the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through each of us personally, intimately, and uniquely.  All we have to do is to receive Him, to allow Him to dwell in us, and to let Him work through us each and every day.  Really, all we have to do is simply to BELIEVE and to be His WITNESS in today’s society!!  How?  Well, as Saint Francis said to his brother friars:

“Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

This week, think about the importance of memories and the importance of the meals you have shared together with family and friends, and will share in the future.  Both, these memories and the anticipation of future meals, will strengthen the love you share for ALL involved.  In a similar way, our Catholic Christian life is also strengthened by sharing God’s Word (memories) and the Eucharist (meal) at Mass.  Recall the “mission” which Jesus gave to His disciples after their shared meal in today’s reading.  The Holy Eucharist also sends us to be Christ’s witnesses in the world today.  Pray that you, and each of us, will be strengthened by God’s “Word”, and by Jesus’ “presence” in the Holy Eucharist in order to be more faithful “witnesses” to our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Tantum Ergo 

Saint Thomas Aquinas

“With heads bowed let us now worship a sacrament so great;
And let the old teaching give way to the new;
Let faith reinforce our belief where the senses cannot.

To the Father and the Son let there be praise and jubilation,
Salvation, honor, virtue, and also blessing;
To the Holy Spirit let there be equal praise.  Amen.”

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Catholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Honor Due to the Virgin Mary

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

***

“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.  For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name’” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 23 & 24 of 26:

23.  Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule.  The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living.  The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue.  Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

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24.  To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups.  It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity.  The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

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“Happy Birth Day To Jesus Christ!” – John 1:1-18†


The Nativity of the Lord
(CHRISTinMASS)—
Mass During the Day

 Today’s Content:

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Joke of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • Catholic Apologetics
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Merry
CHRISTinMASS

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Today in Catholic History:    

†  1 AD – First Christmas, according to calendar maker Dionysus Exigus.
†  795 – Death of Adrian I, Italian Pope (772-95)
†  800 – Pope Leo III crowns Charles the Great (Charlemagne), Roman emperor
†  1046 – Pope Clemens VI crowns Henry III Roman Catholic-German emperor
†  1048 – Parliament of Worms: Emperor Henry III names his cousin count Bruno van Egisheim/Dagsburg as Pope Leo IX
†  1130 – Anti-pope Anacletus II crowns Roger II the Norman, king of Sicily
†  1156 – Peter the Venerable, Benedictine abbot of Cluny (b. c. 1092)
†  1223 – St. Francis of Assisi assembles the first Nativity scene.
†  1717 – Birth of Pius VI, [Giovanni A Braschi], Italy, Pope (1775-99)
†  1775 – Pope Pius VI publishes encyclical on the problems of the pontificate
†  1916 –  Death of St. Albert Chmielowski, Polish Catholic saint (b. 1845)
†  1955 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical on sacred music & popular music

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about John’s announcement that, in and through Jesus Christ, the “Word” became flesh and dwelt (dwells) among us.

 

(NAB John 1:1-18) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 He was in the beginning with God.  3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; 5 the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  6 A man named John was sent from God.  7 He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  8 He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  10 He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.  11 He came to what was his own, but his own peopledid not accept him.  12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.  14 And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.  15John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, 17 because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God,who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On this Christmas Feast Day, four Masses are celebrated; they are the vigil Mass, the Midnight Mass, the morning Mass and the Mass during the day.  Each is given its own set of readings to help us contemplate aspects of Christ’s birth.  The Gospel for the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve is taken from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew.  The Mass at midnight proclaims the birth of Jesus using the Luke’s Gospel.  The Mass at dawn on Christmas morning continues Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth through the shepherds’ visit to the infant Jesus.  The Mass during the day is from John.  However, in each of these Gospel readings, we hear different portions of the Infancy Narratives with which we are familiar.

The Gospel reading for the Christmas Mass during the day is taken from the beginning of John’s Gospel.  This reading is not an infancy narrative like those found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Instead, John’s Gospel begins at “the beginning”, and presents the “Creation story” as the basis for announcing Jesus’ Incarnation.  This is the subject matter of my reflection today.

 

John’s prologue (introduction) states the main themes of his Gospel: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate “Logos” (the “Word” of God) who reveals and brings to light God the Father.  The essence of John’s Gospel today (John 1:15, 1011, 14) is poetic in structure, with short phrases linked by a “stair step parallelism,” in which the last word of one phrase becomes the first word of the next.  Here’s an example:

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

This single verse, in its “stair step” design, the Holy Spirit invites us to view Jesus’ birth from God the Father’s perspective.  Each of the Gospels makes clear that Jesus’ birth was the result of God the Father’s initiative.  However, John’s Gospel also highlights that His incarnate birth was His own divine intention from the very beginning as well – – from the very first moment of Creation.  Notice that from this single verse, in this stair step form, theologians have discovered a great very deal of theology, philosophy, and poetic form.  Also notice that John begins his testimony with the very first words of the Old Testament:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … (Genesis 1:1).

Genesis 1:1 AND John 1:1 are intentional parallels in content, chapter, and verse.  SO COOL!!

 

I find the verb, “was”, following the phrase “In the beginning”, in today’s reading, extremely interesting and deeply theological.  This verb (“was”) is used three times with three different meanings in just this one verse:

First, existence (subsistence, being, life, reality, way of life);
Second, relationship (association, connection, and affiliation);
and,
Third, predication (something affirmed, rather than identification or recognition).

 

The “Word” (the meaning of the Greek word, “logos”) is a term combining three specific aspects:

1) God’s dynamic, creative word (as found in Genesis);
2) Personified preexistent “wisdom” as the instrument of God’s creative practical counsel (such as is found in Proverbs);
And,
3) The ultimate intelligibility (meaningfulness) of reality (from Hellenistic [Greek] philosophy).

The term “Logos” (“Word”) is borrowed from a concept found in both Jewish and Greek thought.  “With God” is a prepositional phrase connoting both a relationship and a communication with an other: OUR Father expressing Himself (His “Word”) in heaven, on Earth, and within each of us.  In Greek (Hellenistic) thought, the “logos” was understood as an intermediary between God and humanity.   In Jewish thought, this phrase also describes God the Father taking “action”, such as in the Creation story.  John, and others in the early Church, adopted this active language to describe God’s incarnation in Jesus (his “Word” becoming flesh).  The term (logos) was then used to express the mystery of a Trinitarian faith as one God in three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).  The “Word” – – “Logos” – – was to be equated with the Second Person, Jesus Christ Himself.  John describes Jesus as God’s creative, life-giving and light-giving “Word” which has come to earth in human form.  Jesus is the wisdom and power of God the Father, who created the world and sustains it; and who assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in, with, and through Himself.  

Jesus became truly man while remaining truly God:

What he was, he remained, and what he was not he assumed.” (from an early church antiphon used during Morning Prayer). 

The “’Word’ of God” was a common expression among the Jewish people.  God’s “Word” in the Old Testament is truly an active, creative, and dynamic “Word”.  Many Old Testament examples extol His presence WORKING in, with, and through His creations:

By the LORD’s word the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6);

He sends forth his commands to the earth; His word runs swiftly(Psalm 147:15);

“God of my ancestors, Lord of mercy, you who have made all things by your word” (Wisdom 9:1);

 “Is not my word like fire — oracle of the LORD — like a hammer shattering rock?” (Jeremiah 23:29).

Finally, God’s word is also equated with His wisdom:

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, established the heavens by understanding.” (Proverbs 3:19).

In addition, the Book of Wisdom describes “wisdom” as God’s eternal, creative, and illuminating power.  Both “Word” and “wisdom” are seen as one and the same:

For when peaceful stillness encompassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, your all-powerful word from heaven’s royal throne leapt into the doomed land, fierce warrior bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree, and alighted, and filled every place with death,** and touched heaven, while standing upon the earth.” (Wisdom 18:14-16).

** I believe this really refers to Jesus’ life-producing death, and His Resurrection enabling Him to “touch heaven, while standing upon the earth.”  

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Verse six of John’s reading today is:

“ A man named John was sent from God.  ” (John 1:6).

John talks about John the Baptist, who was sent – – just as Jesus was “sent” – for a divine mission.  After this reading, other references to John the Baptist in John’s Gospel will go on to emphasize the differences between John the Baptist and Jesus, as well as John the Baptist’s subordinate role to Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist “came for testimony”.  John the evangelist’s testimony portrays Jesus Christ as if on trial throughout His entire ministry.  John’s theme is Jesus, in His entire ministry, testifying to the acting out in the actions of John the Baptist, the freeing of Samaritan woman, His acting out the Jewish Scriptures and the works of the “Messiah”, the desire of the crowds following Him, the bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and even upon us.

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Let’s go on to another verse: 

He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” (John 1:11).

What do we think is meant by this verse?  “What was his own, but his own people” literally means “His own property/possession” (meaning ALL Israel), “His own people” (the Israelites).  So, reading it this way, it says.”He came to Israel, but the Israelites did not accept Him.”

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Verse 14 is another inspired sequence of ideas expressing a great deal of theology, philosophy, and poetry:

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

The ‘Word’ became flesh” indicates the “whole person”.  John used this phrase in today’s reading to refute a “docetic” tendency which was a first century heresy asserting that Jesus was not fully human.  The Apostles’ complete belief is expressed in the following verses:

This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God” (1 John 4:2),

And,

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7).

So, the phrase “come in the flesh, coming in the flesh” meant for John that Jesus of Nazareth was truly and fully human.

 

The second idea expressed by John, “made His dwelling among us”, literally means to “pitch His tent or tabernacle” in the very midst of us.  God’s presence was the tabernacle or tent of meeting in the desert described in the Old Testament; the place of God’s personal presence among His people:

They are to make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst.  According to all that I show you regarding the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of its furnishings, so you are to make it.” (Exodus 25:89).

Today, the “Incarnate Word” – – JESUS CHRIST – – is the NEW mode of God’s personal presence within, and among His people.  

 

John’s third idea is expressed in the single “Word”, “Glory”.  Glory” is God the Father’s visible manifestation of magnificence and splendor in power.  His “Glory” filled the tabernacle:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34).

And, His Glory also filled the temple at another time:

When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:1011).

God’s “glory” is now centered in His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  The phrase, “the Father’s only Son” not only means “Only One” but also includes a filial (child to parent) relationship with God the Father. 

If we are going to behold the “glory” of God we will do it through Jesus Christ:

 “Jesus became the partaker of our humanity so we could be partakers of His divinity” (2 Peter 1:4).

The “Logos” (the “Word”) is thus “only SonAND God, but NOT Father/God.

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Verse 15:

John testified to him and cried out, saying, ‘This was he of whom I said, “The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me”’” (John 1:15)

is interposed between John 1:14 and John 1:16 in order to link His incarnation and ministry to “His Grace”, surpassing the grace given to the Israelites. Thus, through Jesus Christ, His grace (and His Father’s) becomes visible and available for ALL peoples, ALL nations.  John the Baptist thought so highly of the human/divine Jesus that He even said in today’s reading:

He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” (John 1:30)

Jesus’ coming initiates “grace in place of grace”.  What verse 16 signifies is a fulfillment of the Old Covenant (cf., Jeremiah 31:31-34, in which God promises a new covenant.)  John recognizes that Jesus Christ brought truth and grace of God’s promises to Jeremiah in His very own person:

“While the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17).

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In this “prologue” (beginning introduction) of John’s Gospel, the main themes of his Gospel are introduced and presented in dualities: light/darkness, truth/falsehood, life/death, and belief/unbelief.  

We also see in John’s prologue a unique aspect of his Gospel; the theme of “testimony”.  John the Baptist was sent by God to testify about Jesus, the light.  Others in John’s Gospel will also offer testimony about Jesus.  We are invited to accept and believe this testimony, which bears witnesses to Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God.  But even more directly, Jesus’ own actions and words will themselves testify to His identity with God the Father as God’s “Incarnate Word”.

Thinking about Jesus’ birth in these dual theological and worldly terms seems particularly appropriate as we celebrate the feast of Christmas in the “darkness” of winter.  At this time, nature itself seems to be suggestive to us of our darkness through sin.  Into this darkness – – in the midst of our sinfulness – – God comes to dwell among us in the human AND divine Son, Jesus Christ.  John’s Gospel reminds us that, through Jesus’ Incarnation, God saves us from the darkness of sin and makes us His special, chosen children.

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To summarize, every Christmas we celebrate the greatest of “mysteries”: God becoming flesh and dwelling among us.  We call this mystery the “Incarnation” (the word means “to take on flesh”), and it changes everything and every one of us.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that we can also look upon the Nativity from God the Father’s perspective, better appreciating the significance of His Incarnation.  The mystery we proclaim at Christmas is one of God – – the very God who created all things from nothing and who is light Himself – – taking on OUR humanity in order to transform and save us from the darkness of sin.  Through His birth among us, we see the face of God and become His own children.  This awesome mystery is one we surely should adore, and not just at the end of the year, but each and every day.

As you look at your Nativity set, think about how familiar you are with this beautiful scene.  Recall the details of Jesus’ birth from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Realize and understand that the Gospel of John invites us to consider Jesus’ birth from a different perspective, God the Father’s.

Today’s reading reminds me (and hopefully you) that the image we see in our Nativity set is a remarkable sight, event, and experience.  God the Father made Himself at home with us by sending His “Word”, taking on flesh and becoming a human being in the person of Jesus Christ.  Reflect on some of the events from today’s Gospel reading which happened – – for our sake – – because Jesus came to dwell among us: Light overcame darkness; truth revealed falsehood; life conquered death; and belief replaced unbelief.  We can see God’s “glory” in Jesus; and believing, we become as children of God because, through our faith in Him, we have become like Him, children of His Father.  

Please thank God for this mystery of the Incarnation and the salvation that we received, solely because Jesus was born among us.

MERRY CHRISTinMASS!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Glory Be to the Father

(Doxology)

“Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Faith and Works, Part 1

 “‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew. 7:21) RSV.

“Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew. 7:21) KJV.

 

“Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46) RSV.

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46) KJV.

 

 “For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans. 2:6-8) RSV

“Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. (Romans. 2:6-8) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord

On this day the Church focuses especially on the newborn Child, God become human, who embodies for us all the hope and peace we seek.  We need no other special saint today to lead us to Christ in the manger, although his mother Mary and Joseph, caring for his foster-Son, help round out the scene.

But if we were to select a patron for today, perhaps it might be appropriate for us to imagine an anonymous shepherd, summoned to the birthplace by a wondrous and even disturbing vision in the night, a summons from an angelic choir, promising peace and goodwill.  A shepherd willing to seek out something that might just be too unbelievable to chase after, and yet compelling enough to leave behind the flocks in the field and search for a mystery.

On the day of the Lord’s birth, let’s let an unnamed, “un-celebrity” at the edge of the crowd model for us the way to discover Christ in our own hearts—somewhere between skepticism and wonder, between mystery and faith.  And, like Mary and the shepherds, let us treasure that discovery in our hearts.

Comment: The precise dating in this passage sounds like a textbook on creationism.  If we focus on the time frame, however, we miss the point.  It lays out the story of a love affair: creation, the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the rise of Israel under David.  It climaxes with the birth of Jesus.  From the beginning, some scholars insist, God intended to enter the world as one of us, the beloved people.  Praise God!

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Virtues and Poverty

(Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

Why did Saint Francis call poverty a royal virtue?

In reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where is poverty described or listed as a virtue?  And, what does this tell us?

Which virtues were the special gifts given to you at your Confirmation? … At your Baptism?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 25 & 26 of 26:

25.  Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

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26.  As a concrete sign of communion and co- responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.

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“Now Where Did I Put Those Darn Keys Anyhow?!” – Matthew 16:13-20†


 

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I will be going on my yearly Regional SFO (Secular Franciscan Order) Retreat for the St. Clare Region this weekend.  That is why I am posting this retreat a couple of days early.  Please pray for all of our intentions, for great weather, and for a time of spiritual renewal for all at the retreat, and at home.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1153 – Death of Bernard of Clairvaux, French theologian (b. 1090)
†   1567 – Birth of Francois de Sales, French bishop of Geneva/writer/saint
†   1760 – The church (later, a Cathedral) of “Our Lady of Candlemas of Mayagüez (Puerto Rico)” is founded, establishing the basis for the founding of the city.

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

“A Christian is a keyhole through which other folk see God.” ~ Robert E. Gibson

 

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Today’s reflection is about Simon Peter acknowledging Jesus as “the Christ”, and is given the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

(NAB Matthew 16:13-20) 13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his Apostles, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  20 Then he strictly ordered his Apostles to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

It is important to read today’s Gospel and next week’s Gospel (Jesus’ speaking of His future Passion, and rebuking of Peter) as two parts of a single story, for these readings are pivotal points in Matthew’s Gospel.  Today, we hear Jesus Christ name Simon Peter as the “rock” (No, not the wrestler or movie star) upon which He [Jesus] will build His Catholic Church.  Next Sunday, we will hear Jesus call Simon Peter “Satan” when he reacts negatively to Jesus’ foretelling of His Passion and death at the hands of others.

 In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks His Apostles what people are actually saying about His identity.  They indicate that most people believe that Jesus is a “prophet” of Israel, like John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.  With this answer from His cherished and close followers of nearly three years, Jesus asks who THEY believe that He is.  Simon Peter answers this probing question for the group: identifying Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.

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Matthew significantly modifies Mark’s affirmation of Jesus as “Messiah”, made by Peter as “spokesman” for the other Apostles.  Simon Peter’s affirmation is reported in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Mark 8:27–29; Luke 9:18–20):

Jesus and His Apostles set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way He asked His Apostles, ‘Who do people say that I am?’  They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.’  And He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter said to Him in reply, ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:27–29);

And,

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the Apostles were with him, He asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’  They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”’  Then He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter said in reply, ‘The Messiah of God.’” (Luke 9:18–20).

Peter’s affirmation is an pronouncement of Jesus being both “Messiah” and “Son of the living God” (verse16).  Jesus’ response, drawn chiefly from material distinctive to Matthew, attributes Peter’s affirmation to a divine revelation granted solely to him (verse 17), and makes him the “rock” on which Jesus Christ will build His Catholic (Universal) Church (verse 18).  Peter also realizes that he will be the Apostle whose authority (and his successors) in the church – – on earth – – will be (and continues to be) confirmed in heaven by God (verse 19).

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Caesarea Philippi was an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon.  Today, the city is no longer inhabited, but is an archaeological site located within the present Golan Heights.  Caesarea Philippi is situated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the territory was ruled by Philip in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Philip was a son of Herod the Great, who was “tetrarch” from 4 B.C. until his death in A.D. 34.  When Herod died, his territory was divided among three of his surviving sons, Archelaus who received half of it, Herod Antipas who became ruler of Galilee and Perea, and Philip who became ruler of northern Transjordan.  Philip rebuilt the town of Paneas (where the legend of the mythical “Pan” originated), naming it Caesarea in honor of the emperor, and Philippi (“of Philip”) to distinguish it from the seaport in Samaria that was also called Caesarea.  

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Jesus tests his Apostles with a crucial question: Who do men say that I am and who do you say that I am?  After all, He was widely recognized in Israel as a mighty man of God, even being compared with the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.

Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”(verse 13).  What a direct question to ask to the men who had accompanied Jesus for nearly three years.  Although the question in Matthew differs from Mark’s parallel verse:

 “Jesus and His Apostles set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked His Apostles, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” (Mk 8:27),

the meaning is the same in both Gospels: Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man (verse 15).

 

Their first response was, “John the Baptist”.  Why?  Well, let us look at how John the Baptist was seen by the 1st century Jews, along with prophesies foretold in the Old Testament:

This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” (Matthew 14:2);

And,

“You are destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of parents toward their children, and to re-establish the tribes of Israel.” (Sirach 48:10).

 

The expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread.  Most Jews believed John the Baptist was the returned “Elijah”.  Some believe Jesus was yet another John the Baptist or Elijah, continuing the work of re-establishing the tribes of Israel, and preparing people for the coming “Messiah”.

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Jesus repeats the question.  Peter, always quick to respond, exclaimed that Jesus was the “Christ”, “the Son of the living God”:

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

The addition of this exalted title to Peter’s affirmation (and not found in Mark’s Gospel) eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title “Messiah” connected to Jesus Christ.  

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In verse 17 of today’s reading, Jesus says to Simon Peter:

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and bloodhas not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Matthew16:17).

Two profound statements are pronounced by Jesus in this one verse.  I have chosen to separate these two statements with a hyphen in the above verse.

Flesh and blood” is a Semitic expression – – (a group of languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Maltese, and Amharic) – – for human beings, especially in regards to weakness.  We know Jesus spoke, or at least had a working knowledge of Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic, (along with Greek as well), and He understood the significance of this particular phrase very well.  (I don’t believe He ever said anything without a purpose and ever-current meaning.)

Jesus also said immediately after the above phrase, “Has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father”.  Simon Peter’s faith is spoken of – – by Jesus Christ Himself – – as NOT developing through human means, but instead, through a divine revelation from God the Father.  No mortal human could have revealed to Simon Peter this divine revelation about Jesus Christ; but only God the Father. 

Simon Peter’s revelation about Jesus is similar to St. Paul’s (Apostle to the Gentiles) description of his dramatic revelation and recognition of whom Jesus Christ “truly” was:

But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, l so that I might proclaim Him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:15–16).

The weakness of our human frailties and iniquities prevents us from truly realizing the divinity of Jesus Christ, without divine assistance.  Only through the Holy Spirit emitting from God the Father can we find the “true” Jesus Christ dwelling inside each of us, His creations.

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What happens next is probably one of the greatest things to happen to the Catholic Church: its foundation is set firmly on earth!!  This foundation is created by the following words of Jesus, spoken directly to Simon Peter:

You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).

Jesus then confers on Peter authority to govern the church that Jesus would build, a church that no powers would ever defeat. (For me, this last sentence is a proclamation and statement of hope and trust for us all.)

 

Jesus plays on Peter’s name which is the same word for “rock” in both Aramaic and Greek.  To call someone a “rock” is one of the greatest of compliments to be given for first century Palestinians.  You may not know that there was a saying at the time of Jesus that when God saw Abraham, He exclaimed: “I have discovered a rock to found the world upon“.  And, through Abraham, God established a nation for Himself.

The Aramaic word “kepa’” means “rock”, and transliterated into Greek as “Kephas (or Cephas)”.   Kephas is the name by which Simon Peter is called by St. Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians:

“… Paul or Apollos or Kephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you.” (1 Corinthians 3:22);

Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Kephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5);

He appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:5);

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Kephas and remained with him for fifteen days.” (Galatians 1:18);

And,

When they recognized the grace bestowed upon me, James and Kephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars …” (Galatians 2:9, 11, 14);

The only exception to Paul using the word, “Kephas”, is in Galatians 2:7–8:

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter to the circumcised, for the one who worked in Peter for an apostolate to the circumcised worked also in me for the Gentiles…” (Galatians 2:7-8)

 John instead chooses a separate word; it being “Petros” (“Peter”):

Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (John 1:42).

The accepted Aramaic of Jesus’ statement is, in English, “You are the Rock (Kepa) and upon this rock (kepa) I will build my church.”  The original Greek text probably indicates the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun “petros”, and the feminine noun “petra” (rock) may be simply due to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as a proper name for a male.  Although these two words (Petros and Petra) were generally used with slightly different degrees, they were also commonly used interchangeably for the word, “rock.”  

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Simon Peter is the “rock” the Catholic Church will be built upon.  Verse 18 is the first occurrence in the Gospels for the word “church”.  This word (in the original Greek: “ekklēsia”) occurs in the Gospels only here and later in Matthew:

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18: 17).

There are several possibilities for an Aramaic origin for this word, “church”.  Jesus’ “church” means the community that He will gather, and, like a building, will have Simon Peter as its strong and solid, well-placed, everlasting foundation.  The function of Simon Peter consists in his being the definitive witness to Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”, the “Son of the living God” (verse 16).  

 

Finally, I come to the last specific phrase quoted in verse 18: “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”.  The “netherworld” (in Greek, meaning “Hades”, the abode of the dead) is believed to be a walled city whose gates will not converge upon the Universal (Catholic) “church” of Jesus Christ, at the time of Matthew writing his Gospel in the late first century.  This “netherworld” will not be overcome by the power of death (Satan), but will be kept submissive to, and by, the power of the “true” Trinitarian God.

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Jesus Christ gives Simon Peter a special authority, symbolic “keys” to the “Kingdom of Heaven”.  Simon Peter will play an important role in the early Christian community as a spokesperson and “church” leader, the first Pope of the Catholic Church.

The image of the keys, “The keys to the kingdom of heaven” (verse 19), is probably drawn from Isaiah 22:15–25 wherein Eliakim is made successor to Shebnah as master of the palace.  He is given “the key of the house of David” for which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts”:

I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open” (Isaiah 22:22).

Today’s reading uses very similar words:

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

There are many instances in Jewish literature of a “binding-loosing” imagery.  Of the several meanings given for this metaphor, two may be of special importance in regards to this Gospel: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The promise of “the keys” is given SOLELY to Peter (and his successors); not to any of the other Apostles present there on that day.  Interestingly, all the Apostles are given the power of binding and loosing later in Matthew:

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

However, the context of this verse just mentioned above hints that only the power of excommunication is intended.  “The keys” are those to the kingdom of heaven and Peter’s authority in the “church” on earth, and confirmed in heaven.  Jesus’ giving to Simon Peter “the keys” shows an important and intimate connection between the “true” “church” on earth and the “kingdom of heaven”.

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Matthew makes Jesus explicit about a strong and absolute prohibition of telling others of Him being the “true” “Messiah”.  This episode, reflected on today, is the turning point in Jesus’ public earthly ministry.  Jesus acknowledges His identification freely to His Apostles, but, I believe, prohibits them from making His messianic office known to others – – by them – – in order to avoid confusing the “true” “Messiah” with unclear, imprecise, and contemporary ideas on the nature of whom and what the Messiah was believed to be, per traditional first century Palestinian Jewish beliefs.

Popular opinions at the time of Jesus regarded Him as a “prophet” like John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. The Apostles by contrast believed – – and KNEW – – Him to be the “true” “Messiah”.  

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In summary, Simon Peter’s recognition of Jesus’ identity is attributed to a divine revelation by God – – a grace.  This “gift” of the Holy Spirit will contrast sharply with Jesus’ rebuke of him (Simon Peter) in next week’s Gospel.  Next week, when Simon Peter rejects Jesus’ prediction of His passion and horrific death, he is said to no longer be thinking as God does, but as humans do.  How often are we given a “gift”, only to lose it?  How often do we each lose our faith and trust in God?  I believe this loss of faith is much more prevalent than the lines at Sacrament of Reconciliation show!!

Peter, in this Gospel is being credited as the strong base, the foundation, for the Catholic Church; a special privilege granted to him – – alone among the Apostles – – because of his recognition of Jesus’ identity.  He becomes the first Pope in a non-broken line in the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church continues to this day to be grounded in the faith, love, and trust that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

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In conclusion, today’s Gospel reminds us that the Catholic Church is built on the strong and unbreakable foundation of faith, trust, and love in Jesus Christ.  Simon Peter announces the heart and soul of our faith: Jesus Christ is God’s only Son, who came to deliver from our sins, and into the arms of His heavenly Father.  The “church” family, the domestic church, still has this same belief and faith as its foundation.

Think of people whose faith has helped you to be a member of the Catholic Church.  Think about what you have learned from “leaders” in our Church today.  What role did Simon Peter play in the early Christian community?  What can we learn from Simon Peter, and his “profession of faith” about Jesus’ nature?  

Through faith, Simon Peter grasped who Jesus Christ truly was.  Simon Peter was the first Apostle to recognize Jesus as the “Anointed One” (the Messiah and Christ), and the only “Son of God”.  The New Testament describes the “church” as a spiritual house or temple, with each member joined together as “living stones”:

“Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into rocks or spiritual stones.  Lord, please let me be a tiny pebble skipping forever along the sea of your grace, hope, and love for me.

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Faith

 

“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

When the priest invites us to share in the Lord’s Supper, we now say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  With the new Missal, we will respond:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

The use of “under my roof” is a reference to the Gospel passage where the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant but says he is not worthy for Jesus to enter his house (Luke 7:6).  The other change is “my soul” instead of “I”, which focuses more clearly on the spiritual dimension of the healing we seek.

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Pius X (1835-1914)  [And a Secular Franciscan]

 

Pope Pius X is perhaps best remembered for his encouragement of the frequent reception of Holy Communion, especially by children.

The second of 10 children in a poor Italian family, Joseph Sarto became Pius X at 68, one of the 20th century’s greatest popes.

Ever mindful of his humble origin, he stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.”  He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court.  “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend.  To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices.  They lead me around surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemani.”

Interested in politics, he encouraged Italian Catholics to become more politically involved.  One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of governments to interfere by veto in papal elections—a practice that reduced the freedom of the conclave which had elected him.

In 1905, when France renounced its agreement with the Holy See and threatened confiscation of Church property if governmental control of Church affairs were not granted, Pius X courageously rejected the demand.

While he did not author a famous social encyclical as his predecessor had done, he denounced the ill treatment of indigenous peoples on the plantations of Peru, sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake and sheltered refugees at his own expense.

On the 11th anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War I.  Pius had foreseen it, but it killed him.  “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me.  I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.”  He died a few weeks after the war began.  He was canonized in 1954.

Comment:

His humble background was no obstacle in relating to a personal God and to people whom he loved genuinely.  He gained his strength, his gentleness and warmth for people from the source of all gifts, the Spirit of Jesus.  In contrast, we often feel embarrassed by our backgrounds.  Shame makes us prefer to remain aloof from people whom we perceive as superior.  If we are in a superior position, on the other hand, we often ignore simpler people.  Yet we, too, have to help “restore all things in Christ,” especially the wounded people of God.

Quote:

Describing Pius X, a historian wrote that he was “a man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world and the hardships of life, and in the greatness of his heart wanted to comfort everyone.”

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

SFO Fraternity Life

 

In what ways does a fraternity show “family spirit” on the part of the members?   How is this “spirit” manifested regularly?

Do your monthly meetings become a means of spiritual nourishment in the Franciscan (SFO) way?   Why, or why not?   What needs to be added to your meetings, if anything?

How do you make my judgments when it comes to elections in your fraternity?

Why are there term-limits?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 21 & 22 of 26:

 

21.  On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.

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22.  The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.



“Is Catholic ‘Communion’ sanctioned with ‘PETA’?!” – John 6:51-58 †


 

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote or Joke of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

This weekend, I will be away at my fourth “ACTS” retreat weekend.  This is my third experience being “on team”: presenting the retreat to others.  ACTS is an acronym meaning: Adoration, Community, Theology, & Service.  With many retreat experiences under my belt, I honestly believe the ACTS Retreat movement is the most “Spirit Filled” encounter I have undergone.  I offer to each of you a personal invitation, if one ever becomes available in your area.  You can more information on the ACTS Retreat movement at the following website:

http://www.actsmissions.org/

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   684 – St Benedict II begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1409 – Council of Pisa selects Petros Philargi as 3rd Pope: Alexander V
†   1870 – Christmas is declared a federal holiday in the United States
†   1936 – Birth of Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal
†   1967 – Pope Paul VI names 27 new cardinals
†   1975 – Death of St. Josemaría Escrivá, Spanish Catholic priest (b. 1902)

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

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Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus saying, “I am the living bread.”

 

 (NAB John 6:51-58) 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  58 This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

 

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This Sunday we celebrate a second solemnity at this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.  Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  (Last week’s was the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity.)  This day was once called Corpus Christi (Latin for “Body of Christ”) in the Catholic Church.  In the revised Lectionary the name of this solemnity, “Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ”, is expanded to more completely reflect our unique and true Eucharistic theology.

 

Today’s reading is taken from the Gospel according to John.  The reading relates a discourse between Jesus and a crowd of Jews.  Today’s discourse comes shortly after the miracle of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  In John’s Gospel, “miracles” are identified and mentioned as “signs” through which people come to believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God.  These signs are always followed by a dialogue, or discourse, that interprets and explains the miracle (“sign”).

In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves is said to have occurred near the time of Passover.  Jesus chose the time of the Jewish Feast of Passover to fulfill what He had announced at Capernaum:

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  So they said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’  Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.’” (John 6:32-35)

In doing this, John links it to the Exodus story and God’s saving action toward the Israelites.  Even the representation of Jesus coming from heaven as a life giving bread is a manifestation and revelation of the “manna” stories of the Old Testament Exodus stories.

The recollection of the manna in the wilderness evokes to the Israelite people that they live – – not by earthly bread alone – – but by the “bread” of the Word of God:

“He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.  (Deuteronomy 8:3)

In the Old Covenant (Old Testament), bread and wine were offered in a Eucharistic (thanksgiving) sacrifice as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to God the Creator as being the true life giver and the true giver of life’s nourishment.  Melchizedek, both a priest and king, offered a sacrifice of bread and wine, as Christ also will:  

“Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words … “. (Genesis 14:18);

And,

Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings and ‘blessed him.’  And Abraham apportioned to him ‘a tenth of everything.’  His name first means righteous king, and he was also ‘king of Salem,’ that is, king of peace.  Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.  See how great he is to whom the patriarch ‘Abraham (indeed) gave a tenth’ of his spoils.”  (Hebrews 7:1-4).

 

Melchizedek’s offering foreshadowed the offering made by Jesus Christ, our high priest and king in the “new” covenant of God’s everlasting kingdom.

“It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.  But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creationBut this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 7:26; 9:11; 10:12).

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Having seen Jesus multiply the loaves and fishes, the crowd pursued him, perhaps to seek more food, but I believe also to look for other signs (miracles).  Jesus told the crowd that “He is the bread of life”.  He explains that just as God gave the Israelites manna to sustain them in the desert, so now God has sent “new manna” giving eternal life.  It is in this context that Jesus repeats those same words and tells all again (both then and now) that He is TRULY the living bread that came down from heaven.

At the last supper when Jesus blessed the cup of wine, he gave it to his disciples saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”:

This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28).

Jesus, in blessing the cup of wine at the “last supper” was pointing to the sacrifice He was about to make on the cross, shedding His blood for us, pouring Himself out and giving Himself to us as a sacrificial atonement for our sins, and the sins of the world.  Jesus made Himself an offering and sacrifice; a gift that was (and is) truly pleasing to God the Father.  He “offered himself without blemish to God”

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14). 

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After witnessing the life and miracles of Jesus Christ, why did many Jewish followers get so upset?  Some even asked:

How can this man give us (His) flesh to eat?” (John 6:52)

Many left disappointed in Jesus’ words about eating flesh and drinking blood.  Probably because both are prohibited by Jewish law. 

“Many of His disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’  As a result of this, many (of) His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.” (John 6:60, 66)

These individuals choose to return to their old lives, instead of “the Jewish sin” of consuming the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  They took the words on an absolutely literal basis!  These poor souls believed they had to actually eat the skin of Jesus.  They envisioned acts of cannibalism.

This literal concept of “cannibalism” is revolting, even to me.  But yet, we are eating the actual body and blood of our divine Jesus Christ at every Mass in the Catholic Church.  I am not being hypocritical in any way.  To non-Catholics (and even some Catholics), this concept of “transubstantiation” is hard to understand.  The bread (host) and wine does not change physically, or even molecularly; yet both change “substantially” into the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Non-believers (including most Protestants) don’t understand or believe in this concept of “transubstantiation.”  How wrong they were (and are).  I will hope to offer proof in this reflection.

Jesus said to His disciples:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6:53)

Another Amen, amen – – “YO, LISTEN TO ME” – – moment for the people He is talking to and teaching.  He goes on to say:

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6:54)

Notice that Jesus did not say “eat a representation or simulation of my body.”  He also did not say “reminder of my body… ”.  Jesus said in no uncertain terms:

“… EATS my flesh and DRINKS my blood …” (John 6:54)

Jesus goes on to declare that only through Him, can one obtain salvation.  Only through Jesus Christ can we obtain the grace to overcome our sins and iniquities.  Only through Jesus can we obtain the grace of eternal life in paradise with the Holy Family, the angels, the Saints, and the entire celestial court.

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The verb “eat” used in verse 54 of today’s reading is not the classical Greek verb used for human eating, but rather that of animal eating.  A proper translation for this verb would be instead:

To “munch” and “gnaw.”  

John may have purposely used this verb in order to emphasize the true reality of the flesh and blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist (Body and Blood).  However, this same verb eventually did evolve to become the ordinary verb in Greek to mean “eat.”  

I believe John’s reference to the word “eat” is for the “Bread” of the Eucharist used in the celebration of the Mass.  Further proof is in verse 56:

“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink..” (John 6:55) 

Did you notice that the word “eats” is plural?  Hmm, one may eat the “flesh” of Jesus multiple times!!  I love that as a Catholic Christian, I can do as Jesus Christ specifically wanted His follows to do: to come to Him daily.  In participating in the Holy Eucharistic celebration, I bring Him in me AND me in Him.  

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:56)

And, I can encounter this celebratory event DAILY!!  I can renew my love for Him, and dedicate myself to Him anew each day.  WOW!!  The Franciscans call this daily conversion:

“United by their vocation as ‘brothers and sisters of penance’ and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls ‘conversion.’  Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.” (Rule #7 of the Secu;lar Franciscan Order)

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Saying “the living Father” (verse 57), Jesus is referring to the “living bread” of the Holy Eucharist.  The little pad or morsel of dead flour becomes, – – through the grace and action of the Holy Spirit, – – the living body of Jesus Christ sent to give life to all who believe in and consumes (“eats”) it.

In a way, it is the true bread that came down from heaven in the form of Jesus Christ, and unlike our ancestors who ate the bread of life, “manna,” (cf., Exodus 16:12-36) in the desert, and still died.  Whoever eats Jesus’ “bread” will live forever.

“This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  (John 6:58)

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Jesus’ words were not well understood by the crowd; they argued that He was not from heaven but only born of human parents: Mary and Joseph (and not from God’s).  The crowd also had trouble understanding how Jesus could give them His flesh to “eat”.  He tells them that when they eat His flesh and drink His blood, they will remain forever connected to Him in a very intimate and personal way.  

Jesus’ words may be difficult words for some to hear, yet, they are important words because they seek to show us our intimate connection with Him.

 This is the “mystery” at the center of our unique and true Eucharistic theology.  In the elements of bread and wine, Jesus’ Body and Blood are truly present.  When we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, Jesus Himself comes to dwell within us and us in Him.  This “communion”, this personal and intimate contact with the Lord Jesus Christ makes us one body, brings us eternal life, and sends us forth to be Christ’s Body in the world.

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Our faith teaches us that when we gather to celebrate Mass, Jesus is present to us.  The bread and wine truly becomes the Body and Blood of Christ.  This is what we mean by the word “transubstantiation”.  Jesus truly makes himself present to all who receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

 

Do you have memories of your First Holy Communion?  Reflect on what Jesus meant when He called Himself the “living bread”.  Recall that every time we receive the Holy Eucharist, Jesus, Himself, keeps the promise He made in today’s Gospel:

Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  (John 6:58)

 

Jesus’ passing over to His Father by His death, resurrection, and ascension – the new Passover – is anticipated in the Last Supper and still celebrated in the Holy Eucharist, thus fulfilling the Jewish Passover and anticipating a final Passover of the Catholic Church in the glory of God’s eternal kingdom.  When the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to eat His flesh and drink His blood, He also invited us to take His life into the very center of our being.  The “life” He offers is the very life of God Himself.  I think I am hungry for some bread; How ‘bout you?

 

Jesus, I believe

 

“Jesus, I believe in the true body and blood of our Holy Eucharist. You gave up your life for us, and continue to give us life through the Holy Eucharist, and the actions of the Holy Spirit.  I love you forever.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

A second option for the “penitential rite” (the “Confiteor” being the first option) has been revised.  This second form had been little used in recent years.  The second option is presently:

Lord, we have sinned against you:|
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your mercy and love.
And grant us your salvation.

May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.

 

It will now read as follows:

The priest says, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.”
The people respond, “For we have sinned against you.
Then the priest says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,”
and the people respond, “And grant us your salvation.”

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer (1902-1975)

 

An estimated 300,000 people filled St. Peter’s Square on October 6, 2002, for the canonization of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei. His canonization came only 27 years after his death, one of the shortest waiting periods in Church history.

Opus Dei, which means Work of God, emphasizes that men and women can become holy by performing their daily duties with a Christian spirit. In his homily, Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of every believer following God’s will, as had the newly sainted founder of Opus Dei. “The Lord has a plan for each one of us. Saints cannot even conceive of themselves outside of God’s plan: They live only to fulfill it.”

Born in Barbastro, Spain, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer sensed early in life that he had a vocation to the priesthood. Following his ordination in 1925, he briefly ministered in a rural parish. He moved to Madrid, where he obtained a doctorate in law. At the same time Father Escriva was beginning to envision a movement that would offer ordinary people help in seeking holiness through their everyday activities. It was officially founded in 1928.

As Opus Dei grew, Father Escriva continued his studies and his priestly work among the poor and sick. During the Civil War in Spain he had to exercise his ministry secretly and move from place to place. Only after the war did he return to Madrid and complete his doctoral studies. He later moved to Rome and obtained a doctorate in theology. Pope Pius XII named him an honorary prelate and a consultor to two Vatican congregations. All the while, Opus Dei grew in size and influence.

When Msgr. Escriva died in 1975, Opus Dei could be found in dozens of places around the globe. Today its membership includes approximately 83,000 laypersons and 1,800 priests in 60 countries. It is a “personal prelature,” a special jurisdictional entity within the Church.

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Creation & Ecology

 

What is the result when some individuals accumulate large amounts of wealth created from this world’s resources at our disposal, when at the same time there are other humans suffering a lack of the basic needs means to live humanely?

What balance is required in order to be Franciscan in regards to ecology issues?

Are all creatures of equal value — the inanimate, the plants, animals, human?  How does the Church prioritize them?

In SFO Rule #18, what is meant by “the Franciscan concept of universal kinship”?

What means do I use to show reverence for all creation?

What is the moral error in the economic principle that indicates the price of an item should be set by “what the market will bear”? (cf., CCC p.2424)

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 25 & 26 of 26:

25.  Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

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26.  As a concrete sign of communion and co- responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.