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“Is ‘Baptism’ By ‘FIRE’ As Painful As it Sounds? For Some, It Just May Be! We Call Them Martyrs” – Luke 3:15-16,21-22†


  the-Baptism-of-Jesus

“The Baptism of the Lord”

 

. table_of_contentsToday’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:

 

Postures and Gestures at Mass: Catholic Calisthenics

So, why all the exercising at Mass: genuflect, kneel, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, bow, kneel, sit, stand, and finally, genuflect?  Wow, I’m tired just writing the sentence!  Well, in the celebration of Mass we are to raise our hearts, thoughts and voices to God.  Being creatures composed of “body” as well as 00000000000000063560“spirit”, our “prayers” are not confined to solely our thoughts, hearts and voices; it is also expressed by our bodies as well.  When our bodies participate in praying – – we truly and fully pray with our “whole person” – – as the embodied spirits God created us to be.  This engagement of our whole being in prayer helps us to pray with greater attention

During Mass we assume different postures: standing, kneeling, sitting, and make a variety of gestures.  These postures and gestures are far from being merely ceremonial in nature.  They truly have profound meaning, and can certainly enhance our personal participation in Mass.  In fact, these actions ARE the way in which we engage our entire self, body and soul, in the prayer that we know as “Mass”.  Each posture underlines and reinforces the meaning of the action in which we are taking part during that specific moment in our worship.  

Standing is a sign of respect and honor, so we stand as the celebrant who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly.  This posture, from the earliest days of the Church, has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above.  When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us.  By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift.  We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord, and the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, the sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible with Christ who, now gloriously risen from the dead, is the cause of our salvation.

The posture of kneeling signified penance in the early Church: the awareness of sin casts us to the ground!  So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter Season when the prevailing spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving.  In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify the homage of a vassal to his lord, and more recently 00000000000000063360this posture has come to signify adoration.  It is for this reason that the bishops of this country have chosen the posture of kneeling for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.  

Sitting is the posture of listening and meditation, so the congregation sits for the pre-Gospel readings and may also sit for the period of meditation following Communion.

Gestures too involve our bodies in prayer.  The most familiar of these is the Sign of the Cross with which we begin Mass and with which, in the form of a blessing, the Mass concludes.  Because it was by his death on the cross that Christ redeemed humankind, we trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips and hearts at the beginning of the Gospel.  But there are other gestures that intensify our prayer at Mass.  During the Confiteor the action of striking our breasts at the words through my own fault can strengthen my awareness that my sin is my fault.  

In the Creed we are invited to bow at the words which commemorate the Incarnation: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.  This gesture signifies our profound respect and gratitude to Christ who, though God, did not hesitate to come among us as a human being, sharing our human condition in order to save us from sin and restore us to friendship with God.  This gratitude is expressed with even greater solemnity on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord and on Christmas when we genuflect at these words.

The Our Father is followed by the Exchange of Peace, the gesture through which we express a prayerful greeting of peace, that we are at peace, not enmity, with others.  This exchange is symbolic.  The persons near me with whom I share the peace signify for me, as I do for them, the broader community of the Church and all humankind.

Finally, with the new General Instruction for the Roman Mass (GIRM), we are asked to make a sign of reverence, to be determined by the bishops of each country or region, before receiving Communion standing.  The bishops of this country have determined that the sign which we will give before Communion is to be a bow, a gesture through which we express our reverence and give honor to Christ who comes to us as our spiritual food.

In addition to serving as a vehicle for the prayer of beings composed of body and spirit, the postures and gestures in which we engage at Mass have another very important function.  The Church sees in these common postures and gestures both a symbol of the unity of those who have come together to worship AND a means of fostering that unity.  We are not free to change these postures to suit our own individual piety, for the Church makes it clear that our unity of posture and gesture is an expression of our participation in the one Body formed by the baptized with Christ, our head.  When we stand, kneel, sit, bow and sign ourselves in common action, we given unambiguous witness that we are indeed the Body of Christ, united in heart, mind and spirit.

http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/resources-bulletins3.shtml

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

 Luke03v15to17&21to22_2010

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is baptized by John.  What is the difference between John’s and Jesus’ Baptisms?

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(NAB Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, l “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.  21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord”.  In today’s the other Gospel accounts of Je040111_ssus’ baptism, we hear “John the Baptist” address, and correct the confusion of the people who thought that he might be the “Messiah”.  In his response, John contrasts the baptism that he performs with that of the Baptism which Jesus inaugurates – – with water AND the Holy Spirit.  The type of Baptism that John performed during his ministry mission was not yet a full Christian Baptism.  Instead, it was the preliminary foundation for the Christian Baptism of, through, and in Jesus Christ – – through which OUR sins are forgiven AND the gift of the Holy Spirit are received.

The baptism of Jesus is reported in each of the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke (but not in John’s).  Noticeably, the three Synoptic Gospels report the same event is quite rare and revelational. 

Both Mark and Luke report the story from Jesus’ perspective, with “the voice from heaven” addressed to Him.  However, Matthew’s Gospel has instead “the voice from heavenspLOI-Voice-of-Godeaking to everyone.  Also, in Luke, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus during His time of “prayer” – – after His “baptism”.  Through His Gospel today, you will notice Luke shows Jesus to be a person of prayer who withdraws regularly from the crowds AND His disciples as well, in order to pray to His heavenly Father privately.  Jesus goes on to teach His follows “HOW” to pray.

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Today’s reading begins with the people at the scene of the event wondering and questions whether JJohn_the_Baptist%20imageohn the Baptist may actually be the promised “Savior-Messiah”:

“Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15). 

And so, John knew their questions, and he responded to their inquiries by saying:

I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is comingI am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandalsHe will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). 

Luke even reiterates John the Baptist’s response in his other book, “The Acts of the Apostles”:

“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 am?  I am not He.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet’” (Acts 13:24-25).

So, what does John mean by saying about Jesus:Through_Water_and_Fire_MAIN

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Well, John is stating that he only gives a “baptism with water” representing repentance.  Jesus, however, will “baptize with the Holy Spirit AND with fire”.  From the point of view of the early [1st Century] Catholic-Christian Community, the “Holy Spirit and fire” was understood as a representation of the “fire” poured out from the Holy Spirit in the desert, in the Temple, and finally, in the upper room at the time of Pentecost (the Jewish remembrance  of the “fire” and brimstone on Mt. Sinai):

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

There are two core symbolisms in these four verses from the above passage from Acts (Acts 2:1-4); I’ll cburning_bushomment on both.  I’ll start with “fire”.  Fire” in biblical times was associated with God and with His action in the world AND , His personal presence in the lives of His people during their exodus, and during His enduring personal presence in the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) of the Temple.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of “fire”, such as in the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (cf., Exodus 3:2). 

The figure of “fire” was also used to represent His holiness (cf., Deuteronomy 4:24), His protective presence (cf., 2 Kings 6:17), God’s glory (cf., Ezekiel 1:4, 13), His wrath against sin (cf., Isaiah 66:15-16), and His righteous judgment (cf., Zechariah 13:9),.  

So, writers of the New Testament books were inspired by the Holy Spirit to use “fire” to represent the actions of the Holy Spirit – – Himself (cf., Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3).  God’s “fire” both purifies and cleanses; and it inspires a reverent fear of God – – and a reverence for His “Word”.  

The second core symbol is the “strong driving wind”.  The sound of the “strong driving wind” heralded a “new action of God” in His history of, and plan for, the salvation of all the human race.  tonguesThe “tongues as of fire” symbolizes the presence of God initiating again – – renewing – – His covenant on Mount Sinai:

Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had come down upon it in fire.  The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently” (Exodus 19:18).

At Pentecost, the “Holy Spirit” acts upon the Apostles, preparing them to “proclaim” the spirit-of-pentecost-the_t_nvNEW covenant, with its unique gift from the Holy Spirit, “to speak in different tongues”.  This gift of “speaking in tongues” is a grace of ecstatic prayer – – in praise of God.  This gift of the Holy Spirit is appreciated (cf., in Acts 2:6, 11) through a speaking in foreign languages, and thus symbolizing the worldwide mission of the Catholic Church.

However, as part of John the Baptist’s preaching, the “Holy Spirit and fire”, he is relating them to their Jewish Scripture references about their “purifying” and “refining” natures:

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

 “But who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand firm when he appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lye.  He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malichi 3:2–3).

So, as a quick summary of the differences and representations between Jbaptism_of_jesusohn the Baptist’s and Jesus Christ’s Baptism’s is that the “water baptism” of John the Baptist will be followed by either an “immersion” of the repentant in the “cleansing power” of the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) – – OR, an “immersion” of the “unrepentant” in the devastating fiery wrath of God at their final judgment.  

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Today’s event in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the heavenly message identifying Jesus as God the Father’s “Son” – – AND, through a reference by “Isaiah”, as being the “Servant of Yahweh”:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; He shall bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1).

Three other passages have also popularly been called “Servant of the Lord” verses (cf., Matthew 49:1–7; 5pbwu-servant0:4–11; 52:13–53:12).  Ultimately however, the description of the “mission” of the “servant” has been applied ONLY to Jesus Christ:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.  And in his name the Gentiles will hope (Matthew 12:18–21).

I can’t help but think of the Passion narratives when thinking of Jesus as the “sent” “Servant”.  Jesus proclaimed the “Word”; He never was contentious or cried out; He was struck many times with reeds; and He brought justice into our world.  WOW!!  With all this (plus many other connecting verses from Holy Scripture), who can deny the divine “Servant-hood” of the man, Jesus Christ!!

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Through the life-giving “baptism with water and the Holy Spirit”, Jesus has been, and is still creating a NEW people of God, both Jew AND Gentile alike.  In doing so, Jesus identifies Himself with the pebranch2ople of Israel by submitting to John’s “baptism of repentanceAND in His bearing, on their behalf, and OURS, the burden of God’s decisive judgment:

“He [John the Baptist] went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sinsAfter all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:3, 21).  

In His humble submission to John’s “baptism”, we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” found in His ge0274ruesomely bloody death upon the Holy Cross of Redemptive Salvation.  Jesus’ “baptism” signifies His acceptance to, and the beginning of, His earthly mission as God’s “suffering Servant”.  Jesus allowed Himself to be numbered among sinners, and to die as one, without being one!!  Jesus submitted Himself entirely to His Father’s will of redeeming His human creatures, Jews and Gentiles alike.  Out of love, Jesus consented to this “baptism” of death – reflections on Christ - crucifixion– “baptism” by “fire” – – for the remission of OUR sins. So, please realize, understand, and know the JOY of trust and submission Jesus had to His heavenly Father, God, even to that of a known death in His name, a Martyrdom of Salvation.   

At the Jordan River, in the desert of Sinai, in the wilderness of Judea, “Israel’s” Sonship with God is to be renewed through JesuthCAW7PLKLs’ “baptism”.  And, the “descent of the “Holy Spirit” on Jesus Christ anoints Him for His public ministry:

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD … Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations … The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners … in their every affliction.  It was not an envoy or a messenger, but his presence that saved them.  Because of his love and pity the LORD redeemed them, Lifting them up and carrying them all the days of old (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; 63:9).

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Luke regularly presents Jesus “at prayer” during important points in His public ministry:

  • ·        Here, in today’s reading, at His baptism; jesus-at-prayer
  • ·        Jesus’ choosing of the Twelve (cf., Luke 6:12);
  • ·        Before asking His disciples “Who do the people say that I am?”, and “Who do you say that I am?”(cf., Luke 9:18);
  • ·        On the Mountain of the Transfiguration (cf., Luke 9:28);
  • ·        When teaching His disciples to pray (cf., Luke 11:1);
  • ·        During the Last Supper (cf., Luke 22:32);
  • ·        In the garden on the Mount of Olives (cf., Luke 22:41); and finally,
  • ·        On the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation (cf., Luke 23:46).

A uniqueness found in Luke’s Gospel, and not in any other Gospel, is Jesus praying immediately following His Baptism:

“After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21). 

Jesus’ actions and prayers are answered in a unique, intimate, very personal – – AND often times PUBLIC – – ways:

Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a doveAnd a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22)

The Father proclaimed His entire delight in His “Son”, speaking audibly for all present to hear.  The HLOI-Voice-of-Godoly Spirit was also present as He “anointed” Jesus for His public ministry beginning on that day – – as He rose from the waters of the Jordan River.   

Jesus’ Greek brethren publically were aware of a previous declaration of God, through David, concerning not only David himself, but also of the future “King of the Jews”, revealed as God’s “Servant Son”, today “begotten” by God the Father:

“I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:7).

God the Father acknowledges Jesus as His divinely unique Son, the object of His love.  His expressing of His delight in, approval of, Jesus Christ is the assurance that He, Jesus, will fulfill His messianic mission of redemption and salvation – – for ALL people – – Jew and Gentile alike!!

Luke goes on to write:Desceding Dove b_w

The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). 

The “dove” is a symbol of the NEW creation in the flood, talked about in Genesis, and well-known in Jesus’ community of “Israel”:

“He [Noah] released a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth” (Genesis 8:8);

“Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like birds, like doves, from the land of Assyria; And I will resettle them in their homes, oracle of the LORD” (Hosea 11:11).

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T. summarize titlehe “baptism” of Jesus is considered a “manifestation” of God in Jesus HIMSELF – – another “epiphany.”  Today, on this last day of the Christmas Season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ true relationship to God the Father.  The “son” (little “s”) of Mary and Joseph is also God’s OWN “Son” (big “S”)!!  

Jesus came to give us the “fire” of His Spirit so that we may radiate the JOY and truth of His Gospel to a world desperately needing God’s lightpenti and truth.  His “Word” has power to change and transform our lives, making us “flaming lights” pointing others to Jesus Christ.  We are called to follow Jesus in His public ministry of teaching, healing, and loving.  We are also called to oppose unjust and violent powers in the world today.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ in all of our endeavors.  Let Jesus Christ’s power, grace, and love burn brightly in your life!  Ask Him to “fill” – – “fulfill” – – you with His Holy Spirit.  As we follow Jesus into the Catholic Church’s Season of “Ordinary Time”, identify what needs to be “filled” – – “fulfilled” – – in your life, and in others.  Amen; Amen!!  (“Selahi”, which means “Take breath, relax, rejoice, and saver what you just read – – the truth.)

In today’s Gospel, notice that all three “persons” of the Holy Trinity are manifested:  God the Father in the voice, th1983254601_3cd17489a9_oe Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and Jesus the Son in the one being “Baptized” and “Anointed” for His unique public ministry.  

Luke is communicating to us the crucial information about the true identity of Jesus Christ.  In verses following today’s reading, Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to thbrazzers-adam-evee first person of creation, Adam, who is also identified as the “son of God” (cf., Luke 3:23-38).  We – – the children of Adam and Eve – – are again made children of God – – made NEW – – through Jesus’ Baptism.

Examine Jesus’ humility in today’s Gospel reading.  Ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude of humility in your own heart.  As you do so, “heaven will open” for you as well.  The Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to renew and refashion each of us th2012-LT-Theme-Wallpaper-1600x900rough His Holy Spirit, AND also to anoint us for OUR special and unique mission – – as His ambassadors.  The Lord wants His love and truth to shine through us so that others may see the goodness and truth of God’s message of Redemptive Salvation.  Ask Jesus Christ to “fill” you with His Holy Spirit, allowing YOU to radiate the JOY of His Gospel to ALL those around you.

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Every. conclusion person has a unique identity which is defined by their behaviors, attitudes, and expectations governing their daily lives and existence.  Each aspect of our identity is influenced by our personal history; eaidentity_52205ch expression is unique within him/her self.  In today’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus’ behavior, attitudes, and expectations were governed by His identity as God’s beloved Son.  In our personal “Baptism”, we were made from above, were made true, and are made children of this very same heavenly Father.  So, your individual identity – – as a living member of the “family of God”, and as a “brother or sister” of Jesus – – also shapes your own daily life and existence.  Think about this!  Selahi!!

Identify some of the expectations and behaviors that govern your life by answering the following question: “What are some of the things that make your life unique?”  Once you know the answer, once it is revealed to you, celebrate these things about your life.  How does this identity as a member of the family of God govern and shape your life?  Conclude today’s reflection with a prayer that we ALL will remain faithful to our baptismal identity as children of God and as brothers or sisters of Jesus Christ.  Amen!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Our Father

 

Our Father,
Who art in Heaven, pray-lord-teach-us-to-pray-e1347301783151
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

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“Wow, It’s Raining ‘Justice’ and ‘Salvation’ Out There; AND It Is SOooo Heavenly!” – Luke 7:18b-23†


            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   687 – St Sergius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope, succeeding Conon
†   1124 – Chancellor Haimeric selects pope (Lamberto becomes Honorius II)
†   1945 – John J “Cardinal” O’Connor, ordained as a priest
†   1952 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Orientales Ecclesias
†   1996 – Deaath of Gerald Moverley, priest, at age 74
†   1996 – Death of Guiseppe Dossetti, politician/priest, at age 83

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 Franciscans are heralds of peace and reconciliation.

 

“In his Admonitions, Francis explained that “those people are truly peacemakers who, regardless of what they suffer in this world, preserve peace of spirit and body out of love of our Lord Jesus Christ” (#15). His greeting to all, still repeated by Franciscans today, was “Pax et bonum,” “peace and all good.”  Franciscans are called to build peace in their personal lives and in society.  As mentioned above, such a lifestyle involves an attitude of active non-violence.”

“Let Franciscans love one another, as the Lord says: This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.  Let them express the love they have for one another by their deeds.”  Earlier Rule, Chapter XI

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Today’s reflection is about today’s first reading at Mass; God’s “Decree” to His “Chosen” People.

 

 

6c I am the LORD, there is no other; 7 I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things.  8 Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.  Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the LORD, have created this. 

18 For thus says the LORD, The creator of the heavens, who is God, The designer and maker of the earth who established it, Not creating it to be a waste, but designing it to be lived in: I am the LORD, and there is no other.  Who announced this from the beginning and foretold it from of old? Was it not I, the LORD, besides whom there is no other God? There is no just and saving God but me. 

22 Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!  23 By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear, 24 Saying, “Only in the LORD are just deeds and power. Before him in shame shall come all who vent their anger against him.  25 In the LORD shall be the vindication and the glory of all the descendants of Israel.”  (NAB Isaiah 45: 6c-8, 18, 21b-25)

 

Since I wrote about today’s Gospel reading this past Sunday, I have instead chosen to reflect on today’s first reading of the Mass.  The great prophet, Isaiah, is often referred to by Jesus Himself throughout His ministry.  Isaiah offered an immense amount of wisdom, love of God, and prophesies in his words of hope and trust.  I though, struggle at times with understanding Isaiah’s verses at more than just a cursory level.  Hopefully, I have accomplished relating my thoughts on these verses without too many “Blunders.”  But hey, what is the name of my blog site after all?!

Most Scholars believe the book of Isaiah was actually written by two different people, 150 years apart.  Today’s first reading was written by the “Second” (Deutero-) Isaiah.  And, it was probably written during the Jewish Babylonian captivity.  There are even some disputes and discussions among scholars that chapters 56-66 of Isaiah were written by a “Third” (Trito-) “Isaiah.”

The first part of today’s reading is a poem of “firsts and lasts,” “beginnings and ends,” “alphas and omegas.”  It is classified by bible scholars as a “servant song,” wherein the servant is the beloved and chosen “One” of Yahweh; with a mission.  To paraphrase: the servant is “the chosen ‘ONE’ sent by God for a specific mission.”  Hmm; Who does that sound like to you?!

In verse seven (7), a strange comment is made: “create woe.”  God is not “stirring the pot!”  (A talent I excel at, at times.)  God is permitting evil for the sake of a greater good.  Although God is said to be the author of both good and evil, evil should not be perceived as our notion of an arrogant and overconfident monster boastfully moving callously throughout the world. (Wow that was descriptive!)  God allows evil via His permissive will, just as He allows us to experience, receive, and offer evil via our free-will.  Several Old Testament books prophesizes such evil for the Israelites:

Amos 3:6: “If the trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened? If evil befalls a city, has not the LORD caused it?

Amos 4:13: “You shall go out through the breached walls each by the most direct way, and you shall be cast into the mire, says the LORD.”

Isaiah 10:5-20 writes about Israel being an “impious nation”.  In this case God uses Assyria merely to punish, but not to destroy His “chosen” people.

 Finally, in Judges 2:6-3:6, the Israelites offend God by choosing to serve the “Baals”.

Somehow, the “servant” that this particular reading is relating to, is to be sent by God with the intent to accomplish God’s will and plan for Israel.  Many centuries later, we discover His entry into humanity, through the new “Eve”, and the new “Ark”: the Blessed Virgin, Mary. 

The Vulgate is the late fourth (4th) century bible as translated by Saint Jerome, from the original Hebrew and Greek, into Latin.  It is known as the “commonly used translation” for all other bibles.  The Vulgate Bible, in due course, became the definitive and only official Latin version of the Bible in the Roman Catholic Church.  Jerome’s Latin translation is well known in the Advent hymn used during Mass and in the Divine Office: “Rorate coeli desuper.  This “hymn” expresses the world’s longing for the coming of Christ:

“Mystic dew from heaven
Unto earth is given:
Break, O earth, a Saviour yield —
Fairest flower of the field”.

Saint Jerome’s interpretation (instead of the NAB used today) actually gives a more precise messianic sense in verse eight (8) by using proper names in writing “just one” and “savior” instead of the NAB’s “justice” and “salvation.”   For many reasons, including this example, I actually prefer the Douay-Rheims Bible (the English translation of the Latin Vulgate) over other translations, except for the original Greek of the New Testament.  (You know you’re a “Bible Geek” when you take courses in the “Kenoi” (ancient Greek of the Bible) Greek.

Historically, verse eight (8) is also a prayer or hymn used to bring to a close the anointing ceremony for Cyrus (the Great; c. 600 BC – 530 BC.)  This prayer song urgently begs, implores, God to bring salvation out of their (the Jewish people) exile and captivity in Babylon. 

God always listens to His people.  In Isaiah 11:1 it says, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”  Historically, after the Babylonian Exile there existed only a “stump” of the Davidic line remaining.  From this stump arose the “new shoot”, the messianic King – – Jesus Christ!  In Isaiah 55:10-11, it is written:

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”

Verse eighteen (18) [and 21b-25] is part of “The Lord’s Decree” (Verses 14 through 25).  It is in a hymnic style echoing with participles (verbs used to form complex tenses, and may also be used as an adjective) that are cut off with “victorious” acclamations.

God is stating that He made the earth NOT to “waste” it, but to live in it fruitfully and reasonably with each other.  God has to be an active member of the “Franciscan Action Network” (FAN), whose mission, in part, is to make aware how NOT to waste earthly resources.  God is also stating that there is NO OTHER god than He!  Our heavenly and almighty Father gives an allusion to the beginning of creation, when the earth was a waste and void – in verse eighteen (18), and as He did in Genesis:

The earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)

The same Hebrew word, “tohu”, is used in both passages just mentioned (Isaiah 45:18 and Genesis 1:2).  The further allusion God is making here is to Palestine, which God wishes again to be inhabited by the returning exiles.  Why did it actually takes till the major conflict and war, in 1968 Israel, and still is being fought over till this day?

In verse twenty-five (25), God’s chosen people, Israel, is being summoned away from the false Babylonian gods, and who never anticipated the future collapse of their own cities, as prophesized.  When God foretold the future through his prophets, He set in motion the means and plan of fulfillment (salvation).  This is overtly implied in the phrase “survivors from among the Gentiles.”  In Isaiah 10:21-22, it is written:

“A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.  For though your people, O Israel, were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return; their destruction is decreed as overwhelming justice demands.”

For me, “remnant” is a difficult word and principle to define in this particular case, for “remnant” is not to be decided numerically as God’s prophets were never impressed by externals; or by an interior state of lowliness for the prophets were too realistic in their mission.  The word “remnant”, in this case very likely meant the involvement in destruction – – with only a few survivors.  The survivors became the hope for the future; and out of whom God reconstituted a “new” Israel.  The word “remnant” goes much further though.  It declared that God is not only the source of all life, but also the “ONE” who brings this life out of lowly origins, and an attitude of faith.  Evidence can be found elsewhere in Old Testament Holy Scripture:

 “Thus says the LORD: As the shepherd snatches from the mouth of the lion a pair of legs or the tip of an ear of his sheep, So the Israelites who dwell in Samaria shall escape with the corner of a couch or a piece of a cot.” (Amos 3:12)

Hate evil and love good, and let justice prevail at the gate; then it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will have pity on the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:15)

 “But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD.” (Zephaniah 3:12)

 “And take from his mouth his bloody meat, and his abominations from between his teeth: He also shall become a remnant for our God, and shall be like a family in Judah, and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.” (Zechariah 9:7)

Verse twenty-three (23), – – “By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear” – – inspired an early Christian hymn to Jesus.  Philippians 2:10-11 declares:

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Interestingly, inserted in this particular verse from Philippians is a reference to the “three levels” of the universe, according to ancient thought: heaven, earth, and under the earth. 

Philippians is not the only New Testament book referring to today’s first reading of the Mass.  Romans 14:11 also announces:

For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’

In verses 22-25, God says, “ends of the earth” meaning the descendants of Jacob/Israel.  It directs the poem or hymn to the “chosen people” of God.  But, it must not be read as a call to or for a “universal salvation” of all the Jewish people!”  Rather, today’s reading refers to Israelites scattered throughout the Babylonian empire and that have already surrendered to apostasy (the renunciation of a religious or political belief or allegiance).  The fulfillment of prophecy, and of Israel’s finest hopes, is to be found onlyin the Lord.

 

The 23rd Psalm

 

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures:
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul:
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’ sake.

Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For You are with me;
Your  rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Mary Frances Schervier (1819-1876)

 

This woman who once wanted to become a Trappistine nun was instead led by God to establish a community of sisters who care for the sick and aged in the United States and throughout the world.

Born into a distinguished family in Aachen (then ruled by Prussia but formerly Aix-la-Chapelle, France), Frances ran the household after her mother’s death and established a reputation for generosity to the poor. In 1844 she became a Secular Franciscan. The next year she and four companions established a religious community devoted to caring for the poor. In 1851 the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis (a variant of the original name) were approved by the local bishop; the community soon spread. The first U.S. foundation was made in 1858.

Mother Frances visited the United States in 1863 and helped her sisters nurse soldiers wounded in the Civil War. She visited the United States again in 1868. When Philip Hoever was establishing the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis, she encouraged him.

When Mother Frances died, there were 2,500 members of her community worldwide. The number has kept growing. They are still engaged in operating hospitals and homes for the aged. Mother Mary Frances was beatified in 1974.

Comment:

The sick, the poor and the aged are constantly in danger of being considered “useless” members of society and therefore ignored—or worse. Women and men motivated by the ideals of Mother Frances are needed if the God-given dignity and destiny of all people are to be respected.

Quote:

In 1868, Mother Frances wrote to all her sisters, reminding them of Jesus’ words: “You are my friends if you do what I command you…. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another” (John 15:14,17)

She continued: “If we do this faithfully and zealously, we will experience the truth of the words of our father St. Francis who says that love lightens all difficulties and sweetens all bitterness. We will likewise partake of the blessing which St. Francis promised to all his children, both present and future, after having admonished them to love one another even as he had loved them and continues to love them.”

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)

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

 

15.     Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

 

 

 

16.     Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.

“Well Done, My Son“ – Phil. 2:6-11†


Today’s second reading is my reflection material.  I was not sure why I picked it, but I did.  I thought, at most, I could write maybe four or five sentences.  So I asked God to help me, and then prayed to Him and to Mary, my heavenly Queen and mother.  When the Holy Spirit hits you, he can hit hard!!  I honestly believe this is one of the best reflections I have ever had.  What a way to start Holy Week!
  

Today is “Palm Sunday.”  Mass was super, and the kids did not complain at all.
  

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ relationship with God.

Palm Sunday

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.
  

Today’s Meditation:

  

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.  Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father.  (NAB Phil. 2:6-11)
  

To me, this particular part of the second reading for today had a lot of verbal tongue twists.  Unless read slowly, and intentionally, this reading could be fairly confusing.  Basically, for me, I read it as, “Jesus did not believe equality with God could be achieved, as God is so superior to us sinners.  Jesus came as a poor, lowly laborer that was humble and obedient.  Jesus was obedient to God regardless of what was asked for Him to do: an unconditionally obedience.  God loved Jesus; and all believers will grow to love Him as they love God in heaven.  All will declare Him our Lord, Jesus Christ!”

In the first part of these bible verses, the subject of every verb is Jesus Christ; and in the last verses, the subject is God. It has a rhythmic quality with a general pattern of Jesus Christ first being humiliated, by being crucified; and then exalted by all creation as divine.

There is an obvious reference to Jesus’ pre-existence noted, and to certain aspects of divinity that He gave up, to serve in human form.  Taking the form of a “slave,” and coming in human likeness is a statement of faith for us Christians.  For us to believe in Jesus as totally divine AND totally human is a hard concept to grasp.  No one can be 200% of themselves.  No one, of sane mind, can be two actual people in one body.  Schizophrenia is the condition when one thinks they are two people.  Jesus did not THINK He was two people; He knew He was human and divine!      

 The name “Lord,” reveals the true nature of Jesus.  Jesus is the “Incarnate Word” of God.  Let’s go back to Genesis:  “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God.”  Jesus, being the incarnate WORD, places Jesus with God from the beginning.     

Are you starting to feel like you’re watching a ping-pong game: BOING, BOING, and BOING?  What came first, the chicken or the egg?  Let me use water to explain this basic tenet of Catholicism.  H2O is water, regardless of its state in nature: fluid, ice, or steam.  God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have all, ALWAYS, existed!  Three separate forms of one God!

A reference to the three levels in the universe, according to ancient belief, is address in this reading as well.  Every knee in heaven, on earth, and under the earth will bend at just a mention of the name “Jesus Christ.”  And every tongue will declare that Jesus, the Christ (Messiah), is “Lord” of heaven and earth since the beginning, and forever!

“God, you are my heavenly Father.  Lord Jesus, I love you with all my heart and soul.  I wish to follow in your footsteps forever.  May the Holy Spirit reside in me all my days, and guide me in your love always.  Amen.”
  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Venturino of Bergamo
   

Dominican preacher and missionary crusader. A native of Bergamo, Italy, he joined the Dominicans in 1319 and soon distinguished himself as a brilliant preacher, attracting huge crowds throughout northern Italy. Pleased with his ability to reach large numbers of believers, he announced in 1335 his intention to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. When Pope Benedict XII (r. 1334-1342) learned of the pilgrimage, he feared Venturino might be planning to crown himself pope, and so forbade the friar to proceed. This decree was joined by one issued by the Dominicans themselves at the Chapter in London (1335). Ignorant of these bans, Venturino proceeded to Rome and then to Avignon where he was arrested and imprisoned until 1343. He is also known for helping to organize a crusade, at the behest of Pope Clement VI (r. 1342-1352), against the Turks who were then menacing Europe.  Feast day is March 28.

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
  

Prologue to Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule, Chapter 1:
   

… Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and Holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.  

 Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father saying: …