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♫“Mary, did you know …?♫ – – She Certainly Did Indeed Know!!” – Luke 1:39-45†


 

4thSunday 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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. pencilDan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Nativity Scene

The nativity scene (also known as a crèche, manger scene, or crib) is a depiction of the birth of JeNativity-Scenesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Nativity scenes display figures representing the infant Jesus, His mother Mary, and His Step-father Joseph.  Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, the Magi, and angels may be displayed near the manger in a barn (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals.  A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, as well as the camels belonging to the Magi.  (The symbolism of the animals of the crèche will be covered later)

A nativity scene takes its inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Luke’s narrative describes an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who then visit the humble site where Jesus is found lying in a manger, a trough for cattle feed (cf., Luke 2:8-20).  Matthew’s narrative tells of “wise men” (in Greek: “magoi”) who follow a star to the house where Jesus dwelt, thus indicating that the “Magi” found Jesus some time later (within two years after Jesus’ birth), rather than on the exact day of His birth (cf., Matthew.2:1-23).  Matthew’s account does not mention the angels and shepherds, while Luke’s narrative is silent on the Magi and the star.  The Magi and the angels are often displayed in a nativity scene with the Holy Family and the shepherds although there is no scriptural basis for their presence (cf., Luke 2:7-17).

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 (and a “living” one at that) intending thereby to cultivate the worship of Christ after being inspired by his 220px-Giotto_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_-13-_-_Institution_of_the_Crib_at_Grecciorecent visit to the Holy Land where he had been shown Jesus’ traditional birthplace.  Francis wanted to place an emphasis for Christmas being more on the “worship of Christ” than upon the secular materialism and gift giving as the priority. 

Acted out in a cave near Greccio, Italy, St. Francis’ nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles.  Pope Honorius III gave his blessing to the exhibit.  Such “nativity” performances became hugely popular and spread throughout all of Christendom.  The scene’s popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes. 

Within a hundred years of St. Francis’ act of piety and faith, every Catholic Church in Italy was 5_free_christmas_wallpaper_nativity_sceneexpected to have a nativity scene at Christmastime.  Eventually, figurines replaced the living human and animal participants.  Over time, static scenes grew to elaborate affairs with richly robed figurines placed in intricate landscape settings. 

The scene’s popularity inspired much reproduction and replication in Catholic countries throughout the world.  In the early modern period (1500 – 1700), sculpted cribs were set up in Catholic Church’s and homes, often exported from Italy.  By the end of the 1800’s, nativity scenes became popular beyond Catholic settings, and many versions of various sizes – – and in various materials such as terracotta, paper, wood, wax, and ivory – – were marketed, often with a “stable-style” backdrop setting.  In some Catholic countries still today, the nativity scene is more popular than the Christmas tree.

Animals in nativity scenes

A donkey (or ass) and an ox typically appear in nativity scenes.  Besides the necessity of animals for a manger, there is a biblical reference to Isaiah:

An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger; but Israel does not know, my people has not understood” (Isaiah 1:3).

The Gospels, however, do not mention an ox and donkey – – or any other animal – – with Jesus in the “manger”.  XMAS11-nativity-set-2-3

The ox traditionally represents “patience”, the “nation of Israel”, and the Old Testament “sacrificial worship”.  The ass represents “humility”, “readiness to serve”, and “Gentiles”.

The ox and the ass, as well as other animals, became well-entrenched as part of the nativity scene tradition.  Other animals introduced to nativity scenes – – over time and societal culture – – include camels, sheep, and even elephants.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things.  From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone.  From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God.” ~ Pope John Paul II

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Today’s reflection: Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.  How beautiful are YOUR words (prayers) to Mary?

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(NAB Luke 1:39-45)  39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lordshould come to me? 44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today is the last Sunday before Christmas.  Our Gospel reading this day prepares us to witness Christ’s birth.  We are shown in this reading “how” Jesus was recognized as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, even before His AdventWreathbirth.  Today’s Gospel turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist – – to events preceding John’s birth.  The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are reported only in Luke’s Gospel.  In reporting this event, Luke connects the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, thus establishing John’s early relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.

Today’s Gospel recalls Mary’s “actions” after the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the Archangel, “Gabriel”.  Mary travels to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who is also six months pregnant.  Elizabeth greets Mary with a true and full recognition of the “roles” that they, and their unborn children, will play in God the Father’s redemptive plan for salvation.  If we continue to read the verses following today’s reading, in Luke’s Gospel, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth’s greeting with her own beautiful song of praise, the “Magnificat”.  Both women – – Mary and Elizabeth – – recall, repeat, and endorse God’s past history of showing favor upon the people of Israel, testified to in their individual “songs of faith and praise”.

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Mary, in the early stages of her pregnancy, is in a hurry to see Elizabeth.  Mary is taking Jesus – – the “Good News”mary goes to elizabeth, the “Word” Incarnate – – to her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth – – a few days’ journey away.  Why?  I don’t believe she is motivated by a personal human fear of her pregnancy and subsequent labor & delivery, and of the fear of caring for and nurturing her soon-to-be newborn infant “king”.  However, she is a young teenager (most believe around age 14), and being pregnant is pretty overwhelming experience for ANYONE, much less a child-woman.  

Mary knows that she needs calming and wise guidance in her life.  She is probably eager and excited to see Elizabeth, and to learn from her.  This whole experience can’t help but be exciting, for both women.   Mary, in travelling to Elizabeth, will certainly help in the delivering and care of Elizabeth’s newborn, just prior to experiencing a similar event herself. 

Mary enters Elizabeth’s home, and greets Elizabeth.  The instant Elizabeth hears the pregnant-virginal Mary, Elizabeth becomes “filled with the Holy Spirit”:1-eisbacher

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit out in a loud voice (Luke 1:41).

In a charismatic moment – – talking through the divine influence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within her – – Elizabeth spontaneously erupts with a beautiful bouquet of words – – a song – – directed at Mary:

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joyBlessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45).

luke1_42_blessed_art_thou_among_women_postcard-p239058946011173125baanr_400Why is Mary “blessed”?  The word “blessed” [“makarios” in Greek] literally means “happiness” or “beatitude”.  It describes a kind of JOY which is serene, untouchable, self-contained, and independent from chance or changing circumstances of life.  

Mary is “blessed” because she heard the “Word” of God and responded to this “Word” with the gift of her WHOLE being and life!!  We too have hear the “Word” of God and are invited to join with Christ in HIS complete and total offering to God the Father as well.  Are you responding? 

In Luke, even before His birth, Jesus is identified – – as the true Lord of God’s “chosen people”.  Both Mary and Elizabeth are carrying children of destiny – – then, in the future, and forever and ever.  Kind words of love and praise are exchanged between these two women.  Together, their children, Jesus and John the Baptist, will praise God and bless each other as well – – through THEIR words and actions. 

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Elizabeth, the wife of a Temple high-priest, knew Jewish scripture well; probably better than most women of that time.  She was familiar with the verses from Deuteronomy and from the prophetess, Judith:724

Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks!” (Deuteronomy 28:4);

“Then Uzziah said to her [Judith], ‘Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies’” (Judith 13:18).

By reporting that Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you who believed”, Luke is portraying Mary as a true “believer”.  MBeliever_ary’s faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Elizabeth’s husband):

“Now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” (Luke 1:20).

Mary’s role as a true “believer” – – in Luke’s infancy narrative (Chapter 2) – – should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believedafter the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as found at the beginning of the book, the “Acts of the Apostles”:

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Mary “believed” – – from the beginning – – and never wavered!!  Can any of us claim this fact as true in our own lives?  I know I can’t – – but I definitely know and BELIEVE it is true now!! 

These few words from today’s Gospel, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45) truly characterizes Mary’s whole, entire, life.  Later in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus will VirginMary2say:

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21).

In Cana, at a wedding feast, she asks her son to intervene when the wine supply ran short.  Even though Jesus never promises to do anything, she says:

Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5)

Finally, at the Holy Cross, though she did not – – could not – – understand why Jesus, her beloved son, was being Virgin-Mary-Desktop-Backgroundtreated in such a way, she remained (and remains still) the ever-faithful disciple, staying by His side when nearly all others abandon Jesus at His greatest time of need.

Mary truly – – and fully – – “believed!!  Mary was in the thick of human life with Jesus; yet, she was “one-of-us” as well!!    She is THE model for each of us in our individual lives.  Hmm, when I believe as Mary does, I will be blessed indeed!!

To be “chosen” by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow when she said, “your will be done”.  Howe51TERX4XTRL__SL160_ver, her joy was not diminished by her sorrow – – because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and in His promises.  God gives us too, a supernatural JOY, enabling us to witness to any sorrow or pain: a JOY neither life nor death can take away.  

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The . summarize titleHoly Spirit helps reveal Jesus’ identity as the saving “God” to those who believe.  Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and “sings” to Mary her praise – – because Mary bears the promised Lord Savior, the true Messiah.  We “sing” thesehailmary-1 words of praise to Mary when we pray the “Hail Mary”.  Even John the Baptist – – the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb – – is said to recognize the presence of the Lord, showing signs of his own “voiceless” song of praise, by leaping for JOY in Elizabeth’s womb.

I sometimes feel just as Elizabeth felt when Mary arrived to her home with the unborn Lord: a total awe that our heavenly Mother AND – – Jesus Himself – – would come TO me, and to stay WITH me!  It’s is challenging for why-me1me to believe that Mary, and the Trinitarian God, can love me – – a SINNER – – with a love more than I can ever imagine!  How can this happen TO ME; I do not deserve this type and amount of love?!! 

Like Elizabeth in today’s Gospel reading, I feel honored, surprised, and in total awe with what is happening in my faith life.  However, I know that it is by God’s grace that I get everything I need in this life – – His forgiveness, an awareness, love, knowledge, and the tools and abilities I need to do good works for HIM.  Everything I possess, obtain, experience, and produce in life is a blessed gift – – a grace – – from, and to, God Himself.

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It is appropri. conclusionate in this Advent season for each of us to consider the “role” of Mary in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  Elizabeth describes Mary as the “first disciple” – – as the one who “believed” God’s “Word”, as told to her, “would be fulfilled”.  Mary’s faith enabled arc_magnificather to recognize the work of God throughout, and within, her people’s history AND in her own personal life.  Her willingness and openness to God’s “Word” and “action” in her life, allowed God to work in and through her so that salvation might come to everyone – – FOREVER!!  Because Mary abandoned her “SELF” to God as His instrument, she becomes (and is) a pure and true model and symbol of the Catholic “Universal” Church still today.  May we each be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan for salvation, allowing God to work in, with, and through each us to bring others to His redemptive salvation!

In the coming together of Mary and Elizabeth, as described in today’s Gospel, we can learn that other’s can help us recognize 00000000000000066193God’s presence and action in our own lives.  The young and pregnant Mary traveled to her cousin, Elizabeth, because Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a divine sign that everything said to Mary, by the Archangel Gabriel, would truly happen.  Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her (and ALL Israel’s) Lord in view of the fact that her unborn child, John the Baptist, leapt at the sound of Mary’s greeting.  Elizabeth and Mary rejoiced together at the wonderful things God was doing in their lives.  They each sang songs of praise; they were truly ReJOYSing!!  We too are “blessed” when we have people who help us recognize God’s “Word” and “action” in our lives.  We can be, and are, God’s instrument for others among us, Re-JOY-Sing in God’s plan for us.

Think about the times you helped others, or when other’s helped 2809861_300you, in some way.  We actually need the help of others in order to recognize God’s presence and action in our own lives.  After all, we are a “COMMUNITY OF FAITH”!!  Pray that as we share our faith with others (this is called “evangelization”), we may help others recognize God’s presence and action in their own lives.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary,
Full of Grace, Mother-Mary-and-Angel-02
The Lord is with the you.
Blessed art you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/mary3.htm#ixzz2FQ8t95t0

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“Jesus Defines the Word ‘IS’ AT His Last ‘Feast’!” – Mark 14:12-16, 22-26†


The Solemnity of the Most Holy
Body and Blood of Christ

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

There will not be a Reflection Blog next week as I will be on an “ACTS Retreat” Weekend with Christ and my fellow Bothers in Christ from my home parish in Hazelwood, Missouri; along with a few great men from Chicago, Illinois who are trying to bring the ACTS Retreat format to their area.  Please keep all of us in your prayers as I will be keeping you in my prayers.

I personally make two three-day retreats a year: one an ACTS format retreat and the other a Franciscan Regional Retreat.  On top of this, I make several one-day personal or small group retreats throughout the year.  I truly love spending time separated from this “materialistic” world, totally and completely tuned-in to God’s world instead.  For me, it’s a little bit of heaven.

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Today, the second Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate a second week of solemnities as well.  We have now returned to “Ordinary Time” in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church.  Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  At one time, this day was called Corpus Christi, the Latin words for “the Body of Christ.”  In the most recent revision of our liturgical rites, the name for this day has been expanded to be a more complete reflection of our Eucharistic theology.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1190 – Third Crusade: Frederick I Barbarossa drowns in the Sally River while leading an army to Jerusalem.
†   1538 – Catholic German monarchy signs League of Neurenberg
†   1539 – Council of Trent: Paul III sends out letters to his bishops, delaying the Council due to war  and the difficulty bishops had had traveling to Venice.
†   1632 –Birth of Esprit Fléchier, French writer and bishop (d. 1710)
†   1637 – Birth of Jacques Marquette, French Jesuit missionary and explorer (d. 1675)
†   1688 – Birth of James III Edward, Old Pretender, recognized as King of Britain by Pope
†   2001 – Pope John Paul II canonizes Lebanon’s first female saint Saint Rafqa
†   2010 – Death of Metropolitan Basil Schott, Archbishop of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh (b. 1939)

(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:

“I do not know how we can live a spiritual life that bears great fruit (including having our prayers answered) unless we are feeding on the life that God intended us to feed on.  The Eucharist is essential for our life.  It is food for the soul; it is food for life eternal.” ~ Sr. Ann Shields, “Pray and Never Lose Heart“, Servant Books

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Today’s reflection: Jesus shares His Last Supper with His disciples.

 

(NAB Mark 14:12-16, 22-26) 12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  13 He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.  Follow him.  14 Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’  15 Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.  Make the preparations for us there.”  16 The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.  22 While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.”  23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.  25 Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”  26 Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

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Gospel Reflection:

Our reading today is the account of the “Last Supper” as found in Mark’s Gospel.  It begins with the instructions Jesus gave to His disciples in order to prepare the Passover celebration approaching rapidly.  Mark then goes on to give a brief, yet accurate, account of the “Last Supper”.  However, our reading today omits the middle verses about Jesus’ predicting His betrayal by one of His disciples, we soon learn to be Judas Iscariot.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us the specific time period of the event:

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb …” (Mark 14:12).

The connection between these two events – – the festival of “Passover” and the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” – – are reflected in several books of the Old Testament (cf., Exodus 12:3–20, 34:18; Leviticus 23:4–8; Numbers 9:2–14, 28:16–17; and, Deuteronomy 16:1–8).

Mark’s Gospel describes Jesus’ “Last Supper”, celebrated with His disciples, as occurring during the Jewish feast of Passover.  The Passover meal, still today, includes many ritually important elements, such as unleavened bread, lamb, and bitter herbs.  Each food item recalls an aspect related to the Israelite Exodus event, with the instructions for the preparation of the meal carefully prescribed in Mosaic Law.  It is a significant, central, and crucial obligation of the Jewish faithful to celebrate the Passover meal, even still today, giving thanks to God for His deliverance and protection.

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The “Passover” festival commemorated the Israelite’s redemption from slavery and their departure from Egypt by night while led by Moses.  This festival began at sundown, after the Passover lamb was sacrificed in the temple in the afternoon of the “fourteenth day of the month of Nisan” **.  FYI, Passover, as all Jewish religious holidays, begins at Sundown. 

The Passover supper is on the same evening, and thus is associated with the eating of “unleavened bread”.  The “Feast of the Unleavened Bread”, itself was continued through “Nisan 21” **.  This particular Jewish “Feast” is a reminder of the hardships and haste placed upon the Israelites surrounding their “Exodus” departure.  

Through both the dual “festival” and “feast”, praise and thanks to God for His magnificent goodness in the past are combined with a hope of their future salvation through His grace.

Bible Scholars have placed the exact date of Jesus’ “Last Supper” as “Nisan 14” **, a date on the Hebrew Calendar (still in use today).

** Nisan (or Nissan) is the first month of the ecclesiastical year and the seventh month (eighth, in leap year) of the civil year, on the Hebrew calendar.  The name of the month is Babylonian.  In the Torah it is called the month of the Aviv, referring to the month in which barley was ripe.  Being a spring month of 30 days, Nisan usually falls on the Gregorian calendar between March and April.  

The first verse of today’s reading, besides giving us a definitive date of Jesus’ Passover meals, opens with Jesus’ disciples asking for directions from Him:

His [Jesus’] disciples said to Him, ‘Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” (Mark 14:12) 

I am certain Jesus’ response bewildered His much loved disciples and friends:

Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.   Follow him.” (Mark 14:13)

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A “man carrying a jar of water” is a strange sort of oddity for the Jewish society of the first century.   Only women carried jars at this time of history in Israel.  Perhaps His words were a prearranged signal from Jesus to follows of His in the City of Jerusalem itself; a signal to get prepared for His arrival.  So, in order to understand this point better, I went back to the original Greek version of the Bible to see the actual words used, with their word-to-word translations:

kai {AND} apostellei {HE SENDS FORTH} duotwn {TWO} maqhtwn  autou {OF HIS DISCIPLES,} kai {AND} legei  {SAYS} autoiV {TO THEM,} upagete  {GO} eiV {INTO} thn  {THE} polin  {CITY,} kai {AND} apanthsei {WILL MEET} umin {YOU} anqrwpoV {MAN – meaning a human being, NOT GENDER} keramion {A PITCHER} udatoV {OF WATER} bastazwn {CARRYING;} akolouqhsate  {FOLLOW} autw {MAN – meaning a human being, NOT GENDER }

The Greek word actually used here, “anqrwpoV, implies simply a person and not necessarily a male.  I believe this verse, along with the next, gives a strong credence to a signal for a pre-arraigned meeting place needing to be readied:

“Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’” (Mark 14:13). 

(My dear Watson, this sounds like a “James Bond 007” thriller starting to act out!  Wait, I’m mixing spy stories up, aren’t I!)

They did as they were told, and found exactly what Jesus said they would find.  This unknown “water-carrying man” showed Jesus’ emissaries a “large upper room” (verse 15), already furnished and ready for use.  So, they prepared for the Passover celebration feast:

“The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.” (Mark 14:16)

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Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what He had announced earlier at Capernaum – – giving His disciples “the LIVING bread”, His body and His blood:

 “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.”  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.’” (John 6:51-58).

Jesus’ passing over to His Father by His death and resurrection – – the “new” Passover – – is anticipated in the “Last Supper” and celebrated in the Eucharist or “Lord’s Supper”, fulfilling the “Jewish Passover” and anticipating the “final Passover” of the church in the glory of God’s kingdom.  (Say this sentence three times fast.)  The “oldLIVES in the “new, and the “new” FULFILLS the “old.

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Mark seems to have purposely omitted many elements found in the Jewish Passover meal.  Instead he describes only those elements he believed to be most essential to revealing the true essence of the Christian Eucharist: Jesus taking the bread, blessing the bread, breaking the bread, and sharing the bread with His disciples.  This bread He now shares IS transubstantiated*** into Jesus’ own body.  Comparable words and actions follow as Jesus shares the chalice (cup) with His disciples.  Those who drink from the chalice are invited to share in a “NEW” covenant, sealed by Jesus’ own blood.  Mark, through the Eucharist, looks forward to the Kingdom of God which Jesus inaugurates at the “Last Supper” celebration.

*** “Transubstantiate” is an intransitive verb in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrine meaning  to undergo a change in substance from bread and wine to the body and blood of Jesus Christ during Communion

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We now skip forward to the actual Passover Celebration – – the “Last Supper”.  This Gospel reading shows the clear-cut and specific time Jesus instituted the “Sacrament of the Eucharist”:

“He [Jesus] took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this IS my body.’  Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  He said to them, ‘This is MY blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many’” (Mark 14: 22-24). 

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, shows that Jesus’ words continued to live on in the celebration of the ”Mass”, and still continues to this day:

 “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This IS my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup IS the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” (1 Corinthians 11:23–25).

The actions and words of Jesus expressed within the framework of the Passover meal conveys God’s “chosen” people towards a “NEW” covenant through Jesus’ selfless sacrifice of Himself.  How?; through the offering of His body and blood in anticipation of His passion and death just a few short hours later.  His “blood of the covenant” alludes to the Old Covenant story of the Exodus:

“Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and, rising early in the morning, he built at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve sacred stones for the twelve tribes of Israel.  Then, having sent young men of the Israelites to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls as communion offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar.  Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, ‘All that the LORD has said, we will hear and do.’  Then he took the blood and splashed it on the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.’” (Exodus 24:4–8).

Jesus, through His actions and words is signifying the NEW community that His sacrifice will bring into being on earth and in heaven.  His “blood” is the “seat of life”, and when placed on the altar (transubstantiated), “makes atonement”:

“Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is the blood, as the seat of life, that makes atonement.” (Leviticus 17:11).

Jesus’ blood “will be shed for many” (verse 24) is a participle denoting an event “future” to the “Last Supper”.  Jesus knew His Father’s will and plan, and He was willing to surrender Himself for the salvation and redemption of His flock.

The word “many” (verse 24) in today’s reading does not mean some are excluded.  Instead, the word “many” in this case is a “Semitism” (a custom, tradition, and characteristic of Semitic people – primarily Jewish and Arab peoples) designating the combined group who will share and benefit from the service of the “ONE”!!  Thus, “many” in this particular instance is equivalent to “ALL”.  Wait, how can “many” mean “all”?!  The meaning, significance, and substance of both words can be vicarious to interpret into present day English; in Hellenistic Greek, it is difficult to distinguish between the two words.  Many words in the Greek Bible do not translate well into our present day English easily.

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Jesus begins verse 25 with a word never before used as the opening word of a sentence – – until Jesus did (and did many times) – – “AMEN”:

Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). 

You see, any time the word “Amen” started a sentence in Holy Scripture, it was ALWAYS said by Jesus Himself.  These initial or beginning “Amen’s” are truly unparalleled, otherwise unknown, in Hebrew literature.  “Amen” at the beginning of a sentence does not refer to the words of a previous speaker.  Instead, Jesus deliberately used this particular word in introducing a new thought, a new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom.  He is deliberately indicating that whatever He says next is true, and will occur.  AWESOMELY WOW!!

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Today’s reading from Mark concludes with Jesus and His disciples “singing a hymn” before leaving for the “Mount of Olives”:

Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26)

My understanding is that it was a custom to sing a “hymn of thanksgiving” at the conclusion of the Passover meal.   Bible footnotes point to five specific “hymns” or “Psalms”: Psalms 114–118.  Psalm 114 is a hymn celebrating Israel’s escape from Egypt, journey through the wilderness, and entry into the promised land; and the miracles of nature that bore witness to God’s presence in their midst.  Psalm 115 is a hymn to the glory of Israel’s God.  Psalm 116 is a thanksgiving hymn responding to the Jewish people’s divine rescue from mortal danger and near despair.  Psalm 117, being the shortest hymn, calls on the nations to acknowledge God’s supremacy.  Finally, Psalm 118 is a thanksgiving hymn usually used in a procession into the Temple boundaries.

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In summary, the Gospel for today reminds us to the awesome fact that the Eucharist is a memorial of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Holy Cross – – for US!!  We, as pious and faithful Catholics, truly and fully believe that Jesus Christ IS truly and fully present in the elements (aka, “accidents”) of bread and wine, transubstantiated into His glorified and perfect body and blood.  Each time we celebrate this precious Sacrament of the Catholic Church, we are preparing for God’s Kingdom. The Second Vatican Council has taught us that this celebration IS THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT of the Catholic Christian’s life. 

The supernatural food of the Holy Eucharist is healing for both body and soul, and gives strength for our personal journey towards heaven.  The Holy Eucharist offers healing, pardon, comfort, and rest for your soul.  The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist IS an intimate union with Christ Himself.  I firmly believe, when consuming His precious body and blood, we are perfected (oh, so temporarily), and experience a true heaven on earth, united with Christ completely and fully!!  Now that is truly AWESOME indeed!!

When the Lord Jesus commands His disciples (including us) to eat His flesh and drink His blood, He invites us to take His life into the very center of our being:

 “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 (John 6:53).

The life which Jesus offers is the very life of God Himself.  Jesus’ death on the cross, His gift to us of His body and blood – – in the Eucharist, and His promise to eat and drink again with His disciples when the kingdom of God comes – – in all its fullness – – are inseparably connected.  

Jesus instructed His disciples to “do this in remembrance of me”.  These words establish every “Lord’s Supper” or Eucharist as a “remembrance” of Jesus’ atoning death, His resurrection, and His promise to return again:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Within hours of Jesus’ “Last Supper” and the institution of the “Sacrament of the Eucharist”, He is put to death.  Yet, what a joyful result came from such a gruesome death as Jesus experience!  We gained an inheritance; an inheritance of “union” with a truly loving and living God.  And, there seems to be a further secret in all of this as well (my dear Watson).  The secret is that God’s inheritance for us is more immediate and present than we could ever dream.  Yet, we often forsake God’s gift to us – – Himself – – as only a “consolation prize” of solace and comfort for when we die, not while we are living.

Guess what?!  We can experience our inheritance, our communion with God – – and ALL His creation – – again and again during this life.  We experience our inheritance in a central way through, with, and in, the Eucharist.  The Blessed Sacrament is a celebration and thanksgiving of Christ’s self-offering and the covenant between the human and the divine life.  A “Sacrament” effects what it signifies: the Eucharist, at the same time, effects and signifies a communion (a co-union).  It effects and signifies our participation in Jesus Christ’s death-conquering activity to bring about an everlastingly and joyful life.  WOW!!!  The Eucharist itself moves us to becoming a “sacrament” (little “s”) as well – – showing Christ’s presence and power in the world.  Watson, that’s a TRIPLE WOW for us to celebrate!!

Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper joyfully anticipates the final day when the Lord Jesus will feast anew with His disciples in His promised heavenly feast.  

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In conclusion, Think about some of the things that are required to prepare for a family/friend holiday meal: choosing the menu, preparing the shopping list, and assigning duties for cooking, setting the table, preparing decorations, leading the prayers, and cleaning up during and afterwards.  (Wow!! A lot to do for sure.)

Did you notice how Jesus instructed His disciples to prepare for their Passover meal in this reading? (Answer: by having a trust in Him.)  As ALL meals require some kind of planning and preparation, so too does our Sunday (and weekday) Eucharistic celebrations requires planning.  So, what might you do to better prepare for our celebration of the Eucharist? Examples should include prayer, reading the scriptures of the mass PRIOR to mass, being attentive, and participating in mass.  Choose one or more ideas and begin to implement them in your life.  Pray for God’s help in making your celebration of the Eucharist the highlight of your week – – AS IT SHOULD BE ALWAYS!!

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Reflection Prayer:

Behold the Lamb of God

“the Agnus Dei”

“Behold the Lamb of God,
behold Him who takes
away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called
to the supper of the Lamb.  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

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works?  Can his faith save him?” (James 2:14) RSV.

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?  Can faith save him?” (James 2:14) KJV.

**

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17)RSV.

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret of Scotland

St. Margaret was Queen of Scotland’s father, Edward Atheling, was the Saxon heir to the throne of England, and her mother was a German princess, the descendant of Emperors.  Like the strong woman of the Gospel, the practice of Catholic virtues made her still more illustrious.  After the Norman Conquest, many members of the English nobility, including Margaret, found refuge in the court of Malcolm III of Scotland.  In 1070 Malcolm married Margaret and made her Queen of Scotland.

Margaret impressed the Scottish court both with her knowledge of continental customs and also with her piety.  For the love of God she imposed upon herself severe mortifications, leaving aside the superfluous and often even the necessary.  She influenced her husband and son to govern better and introduced Catholic customs, manners and ceremony to the Scottish court.  She raised her sons in great piety and one, David, was later canonized.  Above all she excelled in her zealous charity for her neighbor.  She was called “the mother of orphans” and “the bursar for the poor of Jesus Christ.”

In 1093, after six months of great physical suffering, she delivered her soul to God in Edinburgh.  The sanctity of her life and the numerous miracles she worked both in her life and after her death made her famous worldwide.

In 1673 Pope Clement X named her the patroness of Scotland, over which she had reigned for almost a quarter century.

http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j077sdMargaret4-10.htm

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 10 & 11 of 26:

10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life.  Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

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11.  Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.

 

 

 

“Jesus, Take Me, The Barren Branch, And Allow Me To Be Made Glorified And Cherished Grapes In Your Kingdom!” – John 15:1-8†


Fifth 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
  • ·        A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the OFS Rule 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Great news!!!  The PepsiCo Boycott is finally OVER!!  Per “LifeNews.com”, “Pepsi Stops Using Aborted Fetal Cell Lines to Test Flavors”.  After months of pro-life protests and opposition, PepsiCo has indicated it will alter its contract with biotech firm Senomyx Inc., which uses cells from a babies killed in an abortion to provide “materials” in conducting flavor testing. 

 “We are grateful to PepsiCo and especially to all those who sent a loud and clear message to the management of this company. It’s incumbent upon us to closely monitor the situation to be sure that PepsiCo remains true to their word.  There are moral cell lines Senomyx can and should be using — not just for PepsiCo research but for all their customers.”

We are ALL strongly encouraged to take one more important step: write to PepsiCo and thank them — and then go buy your favorite Pepsi products to celebrate.

Contact Pepsico:
Jamie Caulfield, Sr. VP
PepsiCo, Inc.
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
(914) 253-2000
Email form:
http://cr.pepsi.com/usen/pepsiusen.cfm?time=5189878

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Today in Catholic History:

†   973 – Birth of Henry II, Roman Catholic German king (1002)/emperor (1014-1024)
†   1312 – Pope Clement V closes Council of Vienna (Was the fifteenth Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church that met between 1311 and 1312 in Vienne.  Its principal act was to withdraw papal support for the Knights Templar)
†   1501 – Birth of Marcellus II, [Marcello Cervini], Italy, humanist/Pope (1555, 22 days)
†   1527 – Spanish and German troops sack Rome; some consider this the end of the Renaissance. 147 Swiss Guards, including their commander, died fighting the forces of Charles V during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Pope Clement VII to escape into Castel Sant’Angelo.
†   1536 – King Henry VIII, orders translated [KJV] Bibles be placed in every church
†   1542 – Francis Xavier reached Old Goa, the capital of Portuguese India at the time.
†   1574 – Birth of Pope Innocent X (d. 1655)
†   1638 – Death of Cornelius Jansen, (was Catholic bishop of Ypres (Belgium) and the father of a theological movement known as Jansenism) (b. 1585)
†   1708 – Death of François de Laval, first bishop of New France (The first Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec) (b. 1623)
†   1830 – Birth of Guido Gezelle, Flemish priest/poet
†   1962 – St. Martín de Porres is canonized by Pope John XXIII.
†   1975 – Death of József Mindszenty, Hungarian Catholic Cardinal (b. 1892)
†   2001 – During a trip to Syria, Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to enter a mosque.
†   Feast/Memorials: Saint Justus; Saint Lucius of Cyrene; Saint Justus; Saint Dominic Savio, patron saint of studying youth; Saint Evodius of Antioch; Saint Gerard of Lunel; Saint Henryk Kaczorowski; Saint Petronax of Monte Cassino; Saint Theodotus; St George’s Day — Ðurdevdan (Serbian), Gergyovden (Bulgarian), Giorgoba (Georgian)

(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 teaches He is the vine and His disciples are the branches.

 

(NAB John 15:1-8) 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  4 Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  5 I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  6 Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is the middle part of Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper, and is the beginning of a fairly long monologue (15:1–16:4) on Jesus’ union with His disciples.  We need to remember, John tells the story of Jesus’ Last Supper differently from the other Evangelists.  In his Gospel, the Last Supper begins with Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.  Jesus then provides them with a series of instructions we call the Last Supper discourse or Jesus’ farewell discourse.  In these chapters of John’s Gospel, Jesus instructs His followers, His disciples, about the importance of following His example of love and service, about the gift they will receive when Jesus sends them the Holy Spirit, and about their relationship with Jesus and with the world.  The Last Supper discourse concludes with Jesus’ prayer for his disciples (cf., John, Chapter 17).

Today, Jesus speaks about His relationship to His disciples.  In His symbolism of the “vine and the branches”, Jesus is referencing passages from the Old Testament.  In the “Hebrew Scriptures” (the OT), Israel is the vineyard, and “Yahweh” Himself watches over and cares for the vineyard.  One of the primary themes of John’s Gospel is to show Jesus to be the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

Today’s long discourse (15:1–16:4) focuses on Jesus’ union with His disciples.  Jesus’ “Words”, a monologue, goes beyond the immediate crisis of Jesus’ departure: He will still be present with them, even after His physical departure. 

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The first part of this discourse, John 10:1–5, resembles a parable in that he likens Jesus to something they would immediately recognize and understand.  They have seen vineyards in their experiences, and knew they would possibly recognize this imagery from the prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah 5:1–7 is his prophesy entitled, “The Song of the Prophesy”.  Please read this inspired and inspiring prophesy, especially the last verse:

The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed!  for justice, but hark, the outcry!” (Isaiah 5:7) 

And, a similar vineyard is also described in Matthews Gospel (cf., Matthew 21:33–46), “The Parable of the Tenants”.  (Have you read it yet?  If not, why not do so now.)  Interesting enough, King David and the Prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea, also uses this special image of the vine and vineyard:

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out nations and planted it.  You cleared out what was before it; it took deep root and filled the land.  The mountains were covered by its shadow, the cedars of God by its branches.  It sent out its boughs as far as the sea, its shoots as far as the river.  Why have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?  The boar from the forest strips the vine; the beast of the field feeds upon it.  Turn back again, God of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Visit this vine, the stock your right hand has planted, and the son whom you made strong for yourself.  Those who would burn or cut it down— may they perish at your rebuke” (Psalm 80:9–17);

I had planted you as a choice vine, all pedigreed stock; How could you turn out so obnoxious to me, a spurious vine?” (Jeremiah 2:21);

Son of man, what makes the wood of the vine Better than the wood of branches found on the trees in the forest?” (Ezekiel 15:2);

Your mother was like a leafy vineplanted by water, Fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water.” (Ezekiel 19:10);

And finally,

Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth.  The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built; the more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up.” (Hosea 10:1)?

My question is this: “Is Jesus using this image of the vine for a “special” purpose?”  So, what is that purpose?

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The identification of the vine as the “Son of Man” in Psalm 80, and Wisdom’s description of herself as a vine in Sirach, are further backgrounds for portrayal of Jesus by the figure of the vine and Israel as the branches:

“Turn back again, God of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Visit this vine, the stock your right hand has planted, and the son whom you made strong for yourself.” (Psalm 80:15-16);

I bud forth delights like a vine; my blossoms are glorious and rich fruit.” (Sirach 24:17).

“The fruit of the vine” symbolism, as described in today’s reading, may have a secondary symbolism for the Holy Eucharistic.  (I believe so, do you?)  Remember what Mark reports in his Gospel:

“Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25).

“The fruit of the vine” is a STRONG reference to the blood of Christ – – that is why the Catholic Church proclaims, “body, blood, soul, and divinity” as the core of OUR faith in Jesus being BOTH God and man).

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Verse three of this Gospel refers to God’s “Word”:

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” (John 15:3).

John uses the word, “Word”, to relate its true meaning of this “word” as being revealed at the very beginning of his Gospel:

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

In the above verse, “In the beginning” is a phrase found the very first words of the first book of the Old Testament (cf., Genesis 1:1).  John uses the verb “was” three times, with three different meanings, in this verse: existence, relationship, and affirmation of identity.  

The “Word” (in Greek: logos) is a term combining God’s dynamic, creative word (as found in Genesis), His personified pre-existent Wisdom as the instrument of God’s creative activity (as found in Proverbs), and the ultimate intelligibility of true reality (as found in Hellenistic [Greek] philosophy).

The phrase “with God” comes from a Greek preposition (“meta”) indicating a communication with, and being in the presence of, another.   And, finally, “was God” signifies an affirmation of identify.

However, what does Jesus mean by saying:

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you” (John 15:3)?

I think it means: His disciples are saved, nurtured, and given extreme care by hearing God’s “Word”.  The effect of hearing God’s “Word” is to cause Jesus’ disciples to GROW, to be more productive in His kingdom, and giving each of us, through hearing His “Word”, the opportunity to become a pristine fruit (with pristine seeds) in His kingdom as well.  Later on, John will write:

Jesus said to him, ‘Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.’” (John 13:10).

Both “Pruned” and “Bathed” seems to suggest a symbolic reference to baptism for the first century Jewish Catholics.  Through the Sacraments – – especially Baptism, Confirmation, and Reconciliation – – we STILL become the pruned, pristine, fruit and seeds of His kingdom growing yet today.

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The above “Joke of the Day” section refers to verse six about the “withering branch” and being “thrown into a fire”.  I believe Jesus is referring to two specific verses of the Old Testament in regards to the imagery of vine, both from Ezekiel:

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD: Like vine wood among forest trees, which I have given as fuel for fire, so I will give the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  I will set my face against them: Although they have escaped the fire, the fire will still devour them; you shall know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them.” (Ezekiel 15:6–7);

The second reference:

Your mother was like a leafy vine planted by water, Fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water.  One strong branch grew into a royal scepter.  So tall it towered among the clouds, conspicuous in height, with dense foliage.  But she was torn out in fury and flung to the ground; The east wind withered her up, her fruit was plucked away; Her strongest branch dried up, fire devoured it.  Now she is planted in a wilderness, in a dry, parched land.  Fire flashed from her branch, and devoured her shoots; Now she does not have a strong branch, a royal scepter!  This is a lamentation and serves as a lamentation.” (Ezekiel 19:10–14).

In the Old Testament reading, the “vine” is Judah; the “one strong branch” is the Davidic king.  In the above readings from Ezekiel, the allegory describes the deportation of the Davidic dynasty to Babylon and laments the destruction of the house of David.  From Ezekiel’s perspective, the arrogance of Judah’s kings lead to this tragedy. 

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The image of the vine was a rich one for the Jews since the land of Israel was covered with numerous vineyards.  Jesus is using the “vine” to mean ALL people of ALL nations, especially Israel.  The “one strong branch” is Jesus Himself.  Jesus is leading (and still leads) all who believe in Him on a new Exodus to a great feast in the paradise of Heaven.  Jesus is rebuilding a New Jerusalem in Himself and in each and every one of us.  How great is this to be part of the “City of God”!!

When Jesus calls Himself the “true vine”, He makes it clear no one can claim their spiritual inheritance through association with a particular people or bloodline (ie. the Jewish people).  Rather, it is only through Jesus Christ AND one’s faith in Him and His mission that someone can become “grafted” into the true “vineyard” of the Lord.

Jesus teaches His disciples that His relationship with them will not end after His death; He will remain with them always!  This new and unique unity between Jesus and His followers, His disciples, is the foundation and source of their (and OUR) ability to continue to do the work which He began.  Similarly, Jesus’ presence with each of us – – through the Grace of the Holy Spirit – – enables each of us, individually and personally, to continue the work of love and reconciliation which He began.

Jesus offers true life, an abundant life coming from God the Father and resulting in great fruitfulness for the true disciple.  How does the vine become fruitful?  The vine must be carefully pruned, eliminating the waste, before it can bear “good fruit”.  Vines characteristically have two kinds of branches — those which bear fruit and those which don’t.  The non-bearing branches must be carefully pruned back in order for the vine to conserve its strength for bearing good fruit.  Jesus used this image, well known to all in first-century Israel, to describe the kind of life He produces in those who are united with Him through faith:

 “… the fruit of ‘righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit’(Romans 14:17).

 Jesus says there can be no fruit in our lives “apart from Him”.  The “fruit” He speaks about allegorically here is the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).

While the vine became a symbol of Israel as a nation, it also was used in Holy Scriptures as a sign of an unhealthy falling apart of the family, the nation, their religion, and their relationship with God.  Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of Israel as a vineyard which “yielded wild grapes” (cf., Isaiah 5:1-7): those choosing not to follow Christ, choosing to live a “worldly” life, will be “branches” surely “cut off”, “dried”, and “used as fuel”.  Sounds pretty ominous to me! (There’s a message in there somewhere!)

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There is a simple truth in today’s reading.  Each one of us is either “fruit-bearing” or “non-fruit-bearing”.  There is NO in-between, NO straddling the fence, on God’s “vine”.  The nurturing and care of healthy fruit requires drastic pruning – – in our own personal and public lives, as well as in God’s kingdom!!  Jesus promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in Him and allow Him to nurture, care for, and feed us!!  So, get out the pruning shears and help God make you a great GRAPE!!

For those of us who remain faithful to God’s “word”, we will be given all we need, according to His will.   John even mentioned this same notion in his last chapter:

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13);

And, also in his first epistle:

 “We have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us(1 John 5:14).

Matthew and Mark also talk about God giving His faithful all we ask for, according to His will:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7);

Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours” (Mark 11:24);

Simply believe, ask, trust, hope, love, and receive!  Your prayers will be answered; maybe not the way you want, but according to His will and plan for you.

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We “glorify” God the Father by living a true and faith-filled life, with Him always present in what we do, say, and believe.  Our “Words’, our “actions”, and our “decisions” are as important today, as they were with Jesus’, two millennia ago!

Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16);

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).

How well do YOU glorify God?  Does He shine in your life?  Or, is He a dull and tarnished notion of days past?  Even if so, it is never too late to get the polish out and start “buffing” away the tarnish on your heart out, making room for His heart to shine instead.

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To summarize, Jesus taught His disciples about the importance of “the word”.  Just as Jesus will remain in His disciples, so too will His (and His Father’s) “Word”.  We come to know Jesus through the Holy Scriptures – – the “true, full, and living ‘Word’ of God”.  Our commitment to be Jesus Christ’s true followers and disciples is sustained through God’s eternal “Word”.  This commitment is strengthened, nurtured, and more fulfilled, by our life of prayer, and fed and cultivated by frequent receiving of the Holy Eucharist.  Through the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Himself, physical and spiritually dwells personally and intimately in each of us, remaining with each of us, and transforming each of us so that we might bear much fruit in His name.  Amen, Amen, Amen!!

We observe many people who act in ways which show their personal commitment to serve their neighbor with a true love Jesus displayed (and still displays), required (and still requires) from each of us, Catholics, other Christians, and even non-Christians to care for the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and give alms to the poor.  These decisions and actions become acts of Christian discipleship when they are motivated by our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.  Whatever the immediate results of this “worldly” act, Jesus promises us that these actions will bear much fruit, in His kingdom, when we do them in His name.

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To conclude, the goal of our life of prayer is to increase our awareness that Jesus lives with each of us in a personal, intimate, unique, and loving way – – ALWAYS!  It is much more than a simple dialogue with God.  Prayer is a lifting of our minds and hearts TO the Triune God so that the Triune God might dwell and act IN, WITH, and THROUGH each of us in a personal, intimate, unique, and loving way!  The summit of our prayer life – – our personal and public “communion” with the true and physically present Jesus Christ – – is in the Holy Eucharist.  Through this Blessed Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ, we receive Jesus Himself, AND He remains with us.  Our prayer life, AND our personal, unique, and intimate union with Jesus, will naturally lead each of us to “fruit-full service” to others.  (How ‘bout them grapes!)

Jesus talked about His relationship to His disciples using the “vine” and the “branches” as symbols.   Think about the ways in which we are invited to “relate” to Jesus as His disciples in today’s secularized and materialistic world – – prayer, Holy Scripture, Holy Eucharist, and so on.  When we do these things, Jesus promises to remain with us AND to lead us to serve others in a good, effective, way.  Take some time to pray, asking the Holy Spirit to help you continue to be attentive and always open to Jesus as He works in, with, and through our lives today.  Let’s MAKE ROOM FOR GOD in our lives – – ALWAYS!!

I think I’ll get a glass of great wine now!  Thank you.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

A Prayer About Making Room For God

 

“Most Precious Lord Jesus, Gentle And Wonderful God, Truly Awesome And Ever-present Holy Spirit, Precious Lord Jesus, I love you.  Do not let me be arrogant.  Show me what life is like for the weak.  Help me reach out to help the weak to be stronger.  Never let me boast about the cravings of my heart.  Never let me bless or benefit the greedy.  Never let me make fun of your flock.  Turn my eyes upon you.  Place within me a seeking heart to find you.

Above all, help me always have room for you within my thoughts.  Every hour I take refuge in you.  Wickedness and sinfulness lurk in the shadows ready to devour me.  The more upright I try to be, the more arrows are set against the bows of the wicked to slay me.  When the foundations of my life are being destroyed, help me cling to you and cling to your old rugged cross.  When the foundations of my life are being destroyed, help me make room in my heart and life for your love and grace.  All these things I humbly pray in the name of my most Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, my Mighty God, and my Ever-present Holy Spirit upon whom I can rely.  Amen”

http://www.findthepower.com/PrayerPages/PrayerPagesMakeRoomForGod.htm

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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, Laying 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.

Scripture and Tradition

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2) RSV.

“ Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2) KJV.

**

Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us” (2 Timothy 1:13-14) RSV.

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (2 Timothy 1:13-14) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Gerard of Lunel (13th century)

Gerard, born into a noble family in southern France, showed an early inclination to piety—so much so that he received the habit of the Third  Order of St. Francis at the age of five.  When he was 18, Gerard and his brother, Effrenaud, hid themselves in a cave on the banks of a river and began two years of living as hermits.  Both brothers then decided to go on a pilgrimage, in part to discourage the many visitors to the hermitage who had heard of their reputation for holiness.  Making their way to Rome on foot, they spent two years there, visiting its many famous churches and shrines.

They intended to continue to Jerusalem, but Gerard collapsed on the way.  While his brother went to seek help, he left Gerard in a simple cottage near Montesanto, Italy, but Gerard expired before his brother’s return.

Many miracles are said to have taken place at Gerard’s tomb, making it a favorite place of pilgrimage.  People who were afflicted with headaches or subject to epilepsy experienced special relief through his intercession.  The city of Montesanto has long venerated Blessed Gerard as its principal patron.  He is sometimes known as Gery, Gerius or Roger of Lunel.

Comment: Gerard didn’t have much success in reaching his goals, including his hope to visit the holy places in Jerusalem where Jesus walked.  However disappointed he may have been by all these setbacks, Gerard nonetheless managed to walk in Jesus’ footsteps throughout his life.

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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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 6 & 7 of 26:

06.  They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

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07.  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.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

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“Dying Is The Easy Part. The “New Life” Is the Hard Part!” – John 12:20-33†


Fifth Week of Lent

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
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

We are already in the fifth week of Lent already.  Just a little bit longer till Easter Sunday and celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Birth.  Easter doesn’t end on April 8th.  Easter Sunday is followed by a fifty-day period called Eastertide or the Easter Season, ending with Pentecost Sunday, May 27th

Easter Sunday follows Holy Week.  Easter also follows the third and final day of the “Paschal Triduum”.  The Paschal Triduum is also called the Holy Triduum or Easter Triduum, and begins the evening of Holy Thursday, and ends the evening of Easter Day. It commemorates the heart of our faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

More about the Paschal Triduum will be discussed in next week’s blog.

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Today in Catholic History:

    708 – Constantine begins his reign as Catholic Pope
    
752 – Death of Pope-elect Stephen (died before taking office)
    
1297 – Birth of Arnost of Pardubice, Archbishop of Prague (d. 1364)
    
1347 – Birth of Catherine of Siena, Italian saint (d. 1380)
    
1409 – The Council of Pisa opens.
    
1571 – Catholic Italian businessman Roberto Ridolfi leaves England
    
1593 – Birth of Jean de Brébeuf, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
    
1634 – Lord Baltimore founded Catholic colony of Maryland
    
1655 – Protestants take control of the Catholic colony of Maryland at the Battle of the Severn.
    
1847 – Pope Pius IX publishes encyclical “On aid for Ireland”
    
1917 – The Georgian Orthodox Church restores its autocephaly abolished by Imperial Russia in 1811.
    
1939 – Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli becomes Pope Pius XII.
    
1954 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Sacra virginitas” (On consecrated virginity)
    
1991 – Death of Marcel Lefebvre, French Catholic prelate (b. 1905)
    
1995 – Death of Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest, dies at 73
    Feasts/Memorials: March 25th is typically celebrated as the day of the Annunciation so long as it does not fall on a Sunday, during Holy Week, or Easter Week; Saint Dysmas, the ‘Good Thief’; Saint Humbert  

(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 teaching His disciples about the way in which He will be glorified by God, and a voice from heaven is heard to affirm this teaching.

(NAB John 12:20-33) 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast.  21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.  25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.  26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.  The Father will honor whoever serves me.  27 “I am troublednow.  Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”  29 The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.  31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world  will be driven out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from John (Probably my most favorite of the Gospel writers).  Chapter 12 of John’s Gospel is a preparation for the “Passion” narrative to soon follow.  Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), a truly important “sign” (and miracle) in John’s Gospel.  The miracle involving Lazarus inspired many Jews and Gentiles alike to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  

The “Lazarus” event also marks the turning point in Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish authorities.  John’s Gospel relates to us how the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish judicial, ecclesiastical, and administrative council in ancient Jerusalem) met after Lazarus’ resurrection, creating plans to kill Jesus, whom threatens their materialistic way of life.  This 12th chapter of John has Jesus previously being “anointed” at Bethany, and then entering Jerusalem “in triumph”.  We also see allegorical evidence of the significance of the raising of Lazarus in today’s incident.  Keep in mind, John reported crowds gathering to “see” Lazarus in Chapter 11:

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother” (John 11:19).

These “many Jews” became witnesses to the “glory” of Jesus’ divine being though Lazarus’ being resurrected.

Today’s Gospel Reading is about the coming of Jesus’ hour.  This announcement of “glorification” by death is a revelation of “the whole world” going after Jesus Christ.

So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after Him.” (John 12:19)

There is much hidden, and needing to be explained and discussed, in today’s reading, so grab a cup of coffee and find a comfortable seat.

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In verse 20, the word “Greeks” was not used in a nationalistic sense, those who came from Greece itself.  They were probably simple Gentile proselytes (new converts) to Judaism;

So the Jews said to one another, ‘Where is He going that we will not find Him?  Surely He is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks to teach the Greeks, is He?” (John 7:35).

In the next two verses (12:21–22), “Philip went and told Andrew …”, we see an approach made through Jesus’ Disciples who had distinctly Greek names.  Could this suggest that access to Jesus was mediated to the Greek world through His disciples?  Philip and Andrew were from Bethsaida (which means “house of fishing”) in the most northern part of Galilee:

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.” (John 1:44);

(Trivia time: Galileans were mostly bilingual.)

These men who were “new” to the Jewish religion asked Philip:

  “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” (John 12:21)

The word “see” seems to mean “have an interview with Jesus”, and not just merely observing Him.  Why?

Well, it may be that following His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus predicted His suffering, death, and Resurrection.  He also prepared His disciples to believe in the “salvation” that His death would accomplish, allowing them (and us) entry into God’s Kingdom, the paradise of heaven.  

Using the image of “the grain of wheat”, Jesus presented the idea that His dying would be beneficial for those believing in Him.  He also taught disciples that they must follow His example of personal sacrifice.  This theme of “personal sacrifice” will be repeated in John’s account of the “Last Supper” when Jesus washes the feet of His disciples (John 13) as an example of how they must serve one another:

Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” (John 13:8).

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Jesus’ response to these new converts to Judaism (verse 23) suggests that only after His Crucifixion could the Gospel – – His WORD – – encompass Jew and Gentile alike; ALL nations and ALL peoples.

Jesus described His approaching death on the cross as His “hour of glory”:

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (John 12:23).

He would then be “lifted up from the earth” and would “draw all men to himself”:

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32).

Jesus saw His death on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation as a triumph over the powers of sin and darkness: Satan, Sin, and Evil.  Jesus illustrated an image of the “grain of wheat” to those hearing in order to show how this principle of dying to live truly works in God’s kingdom.  Seeds cannot produce new life by themselves.  They must first be planted in the soil, and DIE, before they can grow, then “producing much fruit”.  

Some may still ask: what is the spiritual comparison Jesus is conveying to His audience (then and now)?  Is this simply a veiled reference to His own impending death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead? … Or, is Jesus imparting to us another kind of “death and rebirth” for His disciples?  I believe Jesus had BOTH meanings in mind.  Jesus’ obedience to God’s plan for OUR salvation by His death on the cross obtains for each of us – – individually and intimately – – a freedom and “new” life in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ death on the Holy Cross truly frees us from the tyranny and destruction of sin and death (both physical and spiritual), and shows us the way of (and to) perfect love for God, each other, and ourselves.

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You know, I have come to learn that when Jesus says “Amen, Amen” (Verse 24), He is going to say something profound and usually mind (and soul) bending.  In today’s Gospel, He says:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24)

This verse reveals a profound truth: through His death, Jesus Christ will be accessible to ALL who seek Him and believe in Him.  (I cannot repeat this enough!)

But what does Jesus mean by His saying, “it remains just a grain of wheat” (verse 24).  I believe this particular saying is found all through Synoptic Scripture.  The wheat dying and then “producing much fruit” symbolizes that through His death, Jesus will be accessible to all:

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39);

“ For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25);

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35);

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”  (Luke 9:24);

And finally,

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” (Luke 17:33).

John however adds the phrases “in this world and for eternal life”.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (John 12:25).

I love John’s Poetic nature of writing.  His additions truly make Holy Scripture JUMP to life in my mind, heart, and soul.

In these multiple verses from the Synoptic and John’s Gospels, “His life” (verse 25) is a translation of the Greek word “psyche”, referring to a person’s natural life; and not meaning “soul”.  Hebrew anthropology (the study of humankind culture and development) did not imagine a “body versus soul” dualism (two distinct parts or aspects, which are often opposites) in the way familiar to us.  For first century Hebrew, the Body and soul were intertwined.

With this little fact in mind, what does it mean to “die” to oneself?  For me, it means that what is in opposition to God’s will and plan for each of us must be crucified, put to death.  God gives us an extraordinary gift, a grace to say “YES” to His will and plan; to reject whatever is in opposition to His loving plan for our lives.  

Jesus also promises we will “produce much fruit” for Him, IF we choose to deny ourselves for His sake.  In today’s reading, Jesus used powerful words to describe the kind of self-denial He wanted from His disciples.  

Using this powerful speech I just mentioned, what did He mean when by saying one must “hate” himself?  (I hate the word hate!)  Jesus says nothing should get in the way of our preferring Him or with the will and plan of our “glorious” Father in heaven.  Our hope is not in an earth-based, materialistic world, but rather one of a heaven-bound hope.  St. Paul reminds us that:

What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 15:42) RSV.

Do you hope and trust in the Lord, and follow joyfully on the path He has chosen for you to follow?  Are you truly following in Jesus’ example in ALL you do and say?  I, at least, try!!  I hope and pray that you do as well!   

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Let us continue on with John’s Gospel reading.  In verse 27, Jesus states, “I am troubled”!  Jesus is perhaps giving a foretelling of what He will endure later: agony at Gethsemane:

I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” (John 6:38);

Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its scabbard.  Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (John 18:11).

Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews of Jesus’ troubles in a very direct way:

“In the days when he was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.  Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered” (Hebrew 5:7–8).

This final section of today’s Gospel should be read as John’s parallel to the “agony in the garden”.  Unlike the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John does not record Jesus’ anguished prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, prior to His arrest.  It is interesting and comforting that Jesus gives a confident response to the question He raises when asking God to save Him from His impending death.

What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27-28)

After announcing His conviction of “glorifying” His (and our) Father’s name IS the reason, the purpose that He came, a voice from heaven speaks, as if in answer to Jesus’ prayer:

Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again.’” (John 12:28).

This “voice”, like the one heard at Jesus’ baptism and at Jesus’ Transfiguration – – both reported in the Synoptic Gospels, but not in John’s Gospel – – affirms that God the Father welcomes the sacrifice Jesus will make on behalf of each of US – – PERSONALLY!!  In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches this “voice” was sent for the sake of those who would believe in Him.

At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the “Ruler of this world”.  Surprising for some, it is not God; it is instead Satan.  Remember, though God is everywhere, He is not “OF” this world, but is IN this world to save us.  Remember, there are no worldly items in paradise.  You can either be of this world, or of His kingdom, but not both:

My [Jesus’] kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”(John 18:36)

Satan and his angels (a “third of the stars”), were “thrown to earth”:

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon (Satan).  The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels (the “third of the stars” – – the “fallen” angels) were thrown down with it.” (Revelations 4:7-9)

They had “free will”, as we do, and chose to turn their back on God.  For such a choice, they were barred from everlasting paradise.

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In today’s Gospel, we “hear” Jesus speak about the “worldly” framework against which we are to understand His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Through His death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ conquered Satan, “the ruler of this world” (verse 31).  In this way the “world” is judged, yet, the judgment is NOT necessarily one of condemnation.  Instead, through Jesus’ dying and rising from the dead on third day, “salvation” is lovingly and “gloriously” brought to the world for OUR sake.

If we want to experience the “new” life Jesus offers, then the outer shell of our old, sinful nature must be broken, rejected, and put to death.  In Baptism our “old nature”, enslaved by the darkness of sin, is buried with Jesus Christ.  We then rise as a “new creation”, also in Jesus Christ.  This process of death to the “old sinful self” is both a one-time event such as in our personal baptism, and a continuous – – daily and on-going – – cycle in which God buries us more deeply into Jesus’ death to sin, so we might rise anew and bear more fruit for God.  This concept is my impression of the Franciscan notion of “Daily Conversion”.  WOW, have you realized yet that there is a great, and on-going, paradox presented to us today: “death leads to life”.  When we “die” to OUR – – individual, sinful, and “worldly” – – selves, we “rise”, with Christ through the Holy Spirit, to brand new and more fulfilling life in Jesus Christ.  Again, WOW!!

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To conclude, our lives are often balancing acts in which we “prioritize” and attend to a variety of sometimes overwhelming and competing needs.  In time, most of us learn the value of putting others’ needs ahead of our own when necessary.  We also learn that when we make personal sacrifices to serve others, we gain so much more than we may have lost.  In these times, we are living up to what Jesus asks of us: to follow His example of personal sacrifice.  

Reflect on how important it is to you to gladly serve one another, especially those you do not know or personally like.  Consider the last time someone asked for help.  What was your response?  Did you “cheerfully” try to honor their request, or, did you ask, “Why me?”  How do you think Jesus would want us to respond when someone asks for help?  Realize “the help” may not be the “help” the requester wanted; it may be helping in a way they NEED instead.  Make a commitment for the next week (or more) to try to respond cheerfully to requests for help.  Ask for God’s help with this commitment; He WILL respond in a way which may surprise you!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

“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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 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.

The “Papacy”

“‘Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32) RSV.

“’Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) KJV.

***

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (John 1:42) RSV.

He brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone. (John 1:42) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The feast of the Annunciation, now recognized as a solemnity, goes back to the fourth or fifth century.  Its central focus is the Incarnation: God has become one of us.  From all eternity God had decided that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity should become human.  Now, as Luke 1:26-38 tells us, the decision is being realized.  The God-Man embraces all humanity, indeed all creation, to bring it to God in one great act of love.  Because human beings have rejected God, Jesus will accept a life of suffering and an agonizing death: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Mary has an important role to play in God’s plan.  From all eternity God destined her to be the mother of Jesus and closely related to him in the creation and redemption of the world.  We could say that God’s decrees of creation and redemption are joined in the decree of Incarnation.  Because Mary is God’s instrument in the Incarnation, she has a role to play with Jesus in creation and redemption.  It is a God-given role.  It is God’s grace from beginning to end.  Mary becomes the eminent figure she is only by God’s grace.  She is the empty space where God could act. Everything she is she owes to the Trinity.

She is the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined.  She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38).

Together with Jesus, the privileged and graced Mary is the link between heaven and earth.  She is the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the possibilities of human existence.  She received into her lowliness the infinite love of God.  She shows how an ordinary human being can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life.  She exemplifies what the Church and every member of the Church is meant to become.  She is the ultimate product of the creative and redemptive power of God.  She manifests what the Incarnation is meant to accomplish for all of us.

Comment:

Sometimes spiritual writers are accused of putting Mary on a pedestal and thereby discouraging ordinary humans from imitating her.  Perhaps such an observation is misguided.  God did put Mary on a pedestal and has put all human beings on a pedestal.  We have scarcely begun to realize the magnificence of divine grace, the wonder of God’s freely given love.  The marvel of Mary—even in the midst of her very ordinary life—is God’s shout to us to wake up to the marvelous creatures that we all are by divine design.

Quote:

“Enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendor of an entirely unique holiness, the virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28).  To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38).  Thus the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly and impeded by no sin to God’s saving will, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

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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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.

“What A Tangled ‘Vine” We Weave When We Try To Deceive!” – Matthew 21:33-43†


 

Twenty-Seventh 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:

  

Prayer Intentions of Pope Benedict XVI for October, 2011

General Intention:

That the terminally ill may be supported by their faith in God and the love of their brothers and sisters.

Missionary Intention:

That the celebration of World Mission Day may foster in the People of God a passion for evangelization with the willingness to support the missions with prayer and economic aid for the poorest Churches. 

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 I can’t believe it has already been exactly five years ago today (2006) that five school girls were murdered by Charles Carl Roberts in a hostage/shooting event at an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.  Charles Roberts committed suicide after killing the girls.

Ironically, today is also an “International Day of Non-Violence”, commemorating the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948).

When will violence among God’s creations end?!

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1187 – Siege of Jerusalem: Saladin captures Jerusalem after 88 years of Crusader rule.
†   1264 – Death of Urbanus IV, [Jacques Pantaleon], French Pope (1261-64)
†   1538 – Birth of Saint Charles Borromeo, Italian cardinal/saint (d. 1584)
†   1833 – Birth of Rev. William Corby, American Catholic priest (d. 1897)
†   1928 – The “Prelature of the Holy Cross and the Work of God”, commonly known as Opus Dei, was founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá.
†   1931 – Pope Pius XI publishes encyclical on economic crisis

(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:

 

 

The country clubs, the cars, the boats, – – your assets – – may be ample, but the best inheritance you can leave your kids is a good example. ~ Barry Spilchuk

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable of the “Wicked Tenants”.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 21:33-43) 33 “Hear another parable.  There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.  Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.  34 When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.  35 But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned.  36 Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’  39 They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  40 What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”  41 They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’?  43 Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

  

Today’s Gospel follows last Sunday’s Gospel in which Jesus was questioned by Jewish religious leaders about the source of his teaching authority. After refusing to answer their questions, Jesus tells the parable of “the two sons”.  He then criticizes the priests and elders for their lack of belief in John the Baptist’s message.  See last week’s reflection for more on this Gospel reading.

 In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to the priests and elders with a different parable on justice.  In this parable, the landowner leases his vineyard to “tenants” and sends his servants to collect the portion of the harvest the tenants owe to him.  Several times the “servants” are sent to collect payment.  Each time, they are beaten and/or killed by the tenants.  Finally, the landowner sends his “son” to collect his rent.  The tenants, believing that they will inherit the vineyard if the landowner dies without an heir, plot together and kill the landowner’s son.

After telling today’s parable, Jesus questions the chief priests and elders about what the landowner will do to the wicked tenants.  They all agree that the landowner should kill the “wicked tenants” and give the land to “new tenants” who will pay the rent.  (That’s “eviction” at its extreme!)

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In telling the parable, Jesus is clearly drawing upon the prophecy found in Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-7), which is also purposely today’s first reading because of its strong connection with the Gospel reading.  Isaiah’s prophecy about the vineyard and bloodshed is one which the priests and elders would have known well, and even taught in the Temple regularly.

Jesus doesn’t, therefore, have to explain the symbolism of the parable; the Pharisees and elders would have understood the symbolism already:

  1. 1.     the “vineyard” represents “Israel”,
  2. 2.     the “landowner” represents “God”,
  3. 3.     the “servants” represents “the prophets”, and
  4. 4.     the “bad tenants” represents “the religious leaders”. 

Yet, Jesus continues to explain the meaning of the parable for His audience: the “kingdom of God” will be taken from the “unbelieving” (as “judged” by the Temple leaders and the Jewish society as a whole) and given to the “faithful” people of Judah.  The climactic moment in these “justice” parables is when the chief priests and elders inadvertently condemn “themselves” in answering Jesus’ question.

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The hills of Galilee were alive with the sounds of music, and were lined with numerous vineyards.  It was quite common for the land owners to rent out their land to “tenants” and to expect regular payment of a portion of produce harvested.  Many did so because they could also make a lot of money easily by collecting high rent from their renters.  Their riches and status in life allowed them to travel and own homes in various other places. (Sounds exactly like today’s wealthy class.)  

In this parable there is a close correspondence between the details of the parable and the situation it is meant to illustrate: the dealings of God with His people.  Because of the heavy symbolic representations (allegory), some bible scholars think this parable does not originate with Jesus Christ, but represents the theology of the later first-century Catholic Church.  This scholarly belief also applies to Mark’s parallel parable (Mark 12: 2-10).  However, the symbolism in Matthew’s version goes further.  

There are bible scholars, however, who believe, that while many of the symbolic elements are derived from to church sources, they have been added to a parable originated and spoken by Jesus Himself (and this is my belief as well).  This view is supported by the apocryphal “Gospel of Thomas”, in which less symbolism is found:

“A person owned a vineyard and rented it to some farmers, so they could work it and he could collect its crop from them.  He sent his slave so the farmers would give him the vineyard’s crop.  They grabbed him, beat him, and almost killed him, and the slave returned and told his master.  His master said, ‘Perhaps he didn’t know them.’  He sent another slave, and the farmers beat that one as well.  Then the master sent his son and said, ‘Perhaps they’ll show my son some respect.’  Because the farmers knew that he was the heir to the vineyard, they grabbed him and killed him.  Anyone here with two ears had better listen!” (Gospel of Thomas, 65)

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Jesus’ parable was unsettling to some of His audience.  Why did the Pharisees and elders in particular, feel offended at Jesus’ message?  Perhaps it is because Jesus’ parable contained both a prophetic message AND a warning to the religious community and its religious leaders.   Centuries earlier, Isaiah spoke of the “house of Israel” as “the vineyard of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:7).  Isaiah warned his people that their unfaithfulness would yield bad fruit (loss of freedom, and captivity by others) – – if they did not repent and change.  Jesus’ listeners understood this parable as a “healthy reminder” that God the Father will, in due time, rid the “bad fruit” from the “harvest”, putting an end to all rebellion.

 

In the very first verse, Jesus is preaching a “prophetic” parable.  Isaiah, many centuries preceding Jesus Christ, talked of a “vineyard with watchtower and bloodshed”:

Now let me sing of my friend, my beloved’s song about his vineyard.  My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; Within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press.  Then he waited for the crop of grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes.” (Isaiah 5:1–2);

 The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed!  for justice, but hark, the outcry! (Isaiah 5:7)

I find it interesting that Isaiah defines the vineyard as “the house of Israel, the people of Judah”, the Jewish people.

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In today’s parable, Matthew relates two episodes of sending multiple servants, as compared to Mark’s three episodes of a single servant, in his parallel parable:

At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.  But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.  Again he sent them another servant.  And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully.  He sent yet another whom they killed. (Mark 12:2–5a)

Mark continues by sending “many others”:

“So, too,[he sent] many others; some they beat, others they killed.” (Mark 12: 5b).

These “servants” stand for the prophets sent by God to Israel as referenced by the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah.  Though, not explicitly declared in this parable, Matthew later says the following concerning the prophets and the Jewish Peoples attitude:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!” (Matthew 23:37)

I don’t think these are very comforting words for those “unwilling” to change their heart toward Jesus’ teachings.

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Verse 34 of today’s reading talks about “obtaining his produce”.  This is very similar to what Mark relates in his parallel parable:

“At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.” (Mark 12:2)

The “produce” is the good works demanded by God.  His claim to the “produce” is the full amount of good works, to Him, and to ALL His creations.

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How many of you wonder what was meant by the “tenants” (and their negative attitude and evil intentions) in today’s parable:

Let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.”  (Matthew 21:38)

Well, I learned that if a Jewish landowner died without an heir, the “tenants” of his land would have final “quick claim” on it. 

Thus, the tenants in today’s parable obviously and dramatically take advantage of the existing law and the landowner’s patience (and perceived weakness).  Yet, they drastically underestimated the character of their landowner.  They put themselves under a severely just judgment of losing their responsibilities and their own lives when they decided to kill the last messenger, the son of the landowner:

“They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” (Matthew 21:39)

Mark’s parallel parable has that the “son” is not only killed, but also that his corpse is then thrown out of the vineyard:

“So they seized him [the heir] and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.” (Mark 12:8)

The difference, as related in Matthew’s version (the son’s death occurred outside the walls of Jerusalem), may be derived from the first-century Jewish Catholic Church’s strong belief that Jesus Christ suffered and died OUTSIDE the walls of Jerusalem, as also depicted in John’s Gospel and a later letter to the Hebrews:

Carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.” John 19:17;

Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the gate, to consecrate the people by his own blood. (Hebrew 13:12).

 

Matthew goes so far as naming the “religious leaders”: the Pharisees and chief priests in His Gospel.  Clearly this shows the extreme tension mounting between Jesus Christ and the Jewish religious leaders who thought Jesus’ ministry and message was dangerous (at least, to them).  Matthew’s Gospel was written about 40 years after Jesus’ death and accurately reflects the conflicts and tensions found in the Jewish-Catholic Christian community.  Disagreement and dissention in the “Church” was prevalent even in the first-century; definitely not a new phenomenon. 

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What does Jesus’ parable tell us about God and the way he deals with His people? First, it tells us of God’s generosity and trust.  The first-century “vineyard” was usually well equipped with everything the “tenants needed”.  The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of those tenants, trusting in them.  Likewise, God trusts us enough to give us freedom to live life as we choose.  This freedom reveals and highlights the importance of free will.  This parable also tells us of God’s patience and justice.  Not once, but many times does the land owner not only forgive the tenants their “debts”, but also implores them to be honest and do what is right and just.  From this, we understand that God the Father also forgives us our debts, when we approach Him and ask for His mercy, and implores us to return to right living, producing good fruits and good work.  And, He does this even many, many, many times!!

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In Matthew’s version, Jesus then asks the question:

What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” (Matthew 21:40)

The people present, listening to Jesus, answered His question.  (It’s really a “no-brainer.”)  Matthew has the listeners – – the Temple leaders and elders – – answer the question: 

He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” (Matthew 21:31).

In saying this, they condemn themselves.

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In his version, Matthew further adds the landowner hires “other tenants”.  Matthew has Jesus adding God’s management decisions to send other honorable tenants, who will give the landowner the produce at the proper times: when it is at its most mature, most sweet, and most fruitful.  God will also “harvest” us at our most mature, most sweet, and most fruitful spiritually! – – By this, Jesus is declaring that God’s will works through every difficulty to ensure a reaping of a great harvest of honorable sons and daughters, filled with the spirit of integrity an honesty.

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The second to last verse from today’s reading (about the cornerstone) reminds me of Psalm 118:

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:22–23)

This particular psalm was used in the early Catholic Church as the prophecy of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Both Luke and Peter wrote about this cornerstone, first mentioned in the Old Testament:

He is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.’” (Acts 4:11);

And,

“Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (1 Peter 2:7)

The “original” parable (see Mark and Gospel of Thomas mentioned earlier) ended at Matthew 21:39:

“They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” (Matthew 21:39)

However, Matthew thought necessary to complete the parable by referencing Jesus’ vindication by God:

“Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”  (Matthew 21:43)

This final verse from the Gospel reading (verse 43) is only found in Matthew.  In this final verse, Matthew says, “kingdom of God”, instead of his usual, “kingdom of heaven”.  I believe Matthew’s said “God” instead of “heaven” to indicate it came from his own local church traditional, making it more applicable to his first-century, predominantly Jewish, Catholic (Universal) Church.  

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The very last words spoken in the Gospel today are, “a people that will produce its fruit”.  The people who “will produce fruit”(many riches), are the Israelites AND the Gentiles together, as the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ on earth!!  So, what are these fruits, these riches?  They are NOT material items.  Material (only) riches can be an obstacle to entering God’s kingdom, obstacles which cannot be overcome with our human power and will.  Notice, you can’t take “it” (material riches) with you into God’s eternal paradise!  Comparing our “need” for earthly and material processions to entering heaven reminds me of an earlier verse from Matthew:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’” (Matthew 19:23–24)

Comparing of our entering heaven, with the impossibility of a camel passing through the eye of a needle, is an interesting allegory and image.  The “eye of a needle”, in reality, was an actual short or narrow gate in the wall of Jerusalem.  This smaller gate was opened after the main gate was closed at night (and staffed by TSA agents).  A camel (after taking off its shoes, belt, and emptying its pockets) could only pass through this smaller gate, only if it stooped down low, and had all its baggage removed.  A camel could only go through with NO material processions (and after a total body search and x-ray).

We come into this world naked, bare, and procession-less; and we leave this world in nearly the exact same way.  The only difference is that we also take with us (attached to our souls) the results of graces, sins, and iniquities we have “harvested” in life.  Let me ask, how shiny and well maintained is your soul?  

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Jesus, in this parable, hints and foretells both His death and His ultimate triumph over death and sin.  He knew He would be rejected by His own people and be killed.  Still, He also knew He would prevail in the end (please read Psalm 22).  After His rejection would come His glory – – the glory of resurrection and the glory of the ascension – – to the right hand of His (and our) Father in heaven.

Jesus continues to bless His people today with the gift of His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  He promises that we will bear much fruit, many graces, if we abide in Him and remain faithful to Him as found in John’s Gospel:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:1-11).

He entrusts to each and every one of us His gifts, His grace.  He gives each of us a particular mission to do in His “vineyard” – – the “body of Christ” – – the Catholic Church.  He promises that our labor, especially what we do for Him and for His creations, will not be in vain – – if we persevere with faith, love, and hope till the end:

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”(1 Corinthians 15:58).

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Do you know “the rules” – – personal, profession, relational, and spiritual – – and follow them consistently?  Even the most conscientious among us need sometimes to be reminded of the rules and their importance every now and then.  How we respond to such reminders and “adjustments” reveals our “true” character in oneself and in society.  In today’s Gospel Jesus reproaches the religious leaders and elders for their failure to heed God’s messengers, the prophets.  At this moment, you have an opportunity to consider how you respond to those who are God’s messengers, those who are calling us to adjust our paths in life, and to return to the path leading to our Lord Jesus Christ, the path of faith, of living hope, and of abiding love.

What are some of God’s “rules” that we must follow?  There is a rule book for the Catholic faith: the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”.   Have you ever read one?  Have you ever seen one?  Get one, and become informed.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the importance of listening to God’s “word”.  Our Trinitarian God speaks to us in many ways: through Holy Scripture, through the Sacraments (God’s word in action), through our Church traditions and teachings, and through modern-day prophets and visionaries (those Church approved).  We should be attentive and receptive to God’s “word” – – to us – – through these various “messengers”?

How do we respond to God’s messengers today?  How should we respond to God’s messengers today?  Pray that you will always pay attention to God’s messengers and follow God’s ways.   Let’s start with the “Act of Contrition” for the times when we have not listened to God’s word.

We can (and probably should) expect trials and difficulties as we labor for our Lord Jesus Christ, in doing our daily responsibilities.  We should even expect persecution from those who directly and indirectly oppose God’s kingdom on earth – – JESUS DID!.  I believe this is happening “right now” in our secularized and polarized society.  Being a true, practicing Catholic is not politically correct in the present United States of America!

Just remember, in the end, we will see triumph in, through, and with Jesus Christ.  Question: Do you labor for, – – work for, – – search for, Jesus Christ – – in all endeavors – – with a joyful hope and confidence in His (and YOURS) ultimate victory?  (GO team “God”, GO team “God”!!  Rah, Rah, Rah, God Is Mine!  God is Fine! God is Divine! God is “the vine”!  God is Thine!)

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

 

Act of Contrition

  

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.  Amen.”

 From: http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers

  

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 big change occurs in the text of the “Creed” (Our “Profession of Faith”).  The first obvious change is with the very first word.  Currently we begin with “We believe.” The new, revised text has “I believe” instead of “We”.

Another noticeable change comes in the tenth line, regarding the Son’s divinity.  We currently say Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  The new text will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.”  

Consubstantial is not really a translation.  In reality, It is a transliteration—the same Latin word, spelled in English— of the Latin “consubstantialis”, which literally means “one in being.”  Translation versus transliteration is not the point.  The point is that Jesus is God, one with the Father, co-equal and co-eternal.

A third noticeable change occurs in how we speak of Christ’s human nature.  We currently say, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” The new text will now say, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

Incarnate means “made flesh.” So, using the term here reminds us that he was human from the moment of His conception and not just at His birth. 

There are several other minor changes in the text of the “Creed” (new version is shown below).  It will certainly take us some time to commit the new version to memory, and to be able to profess it together easily.  

The new missal also allows the option of using the “Apostles’ Creed” instead of this version of the “Nicene Creed”, especially during Lent and Easter.  The “Apostles’ Creed” is another ancient Christian creed, long used by Roman Catholics in our baptismal promises and at the beginning of the Rosary. 

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

(Based on the original Latin versions from the Councils
of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (AD 381).

 

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

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

  

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Feast of the Guardian Angels

 

Perhaps no aspect of Catholic piety is as comforting to parents as the belief that an angel protects their little ones from dangers real and imagined.  Yet guardian angels are not just for children.  Their role is to represent individuals before God, to watch over them always, to aid their prayer and to present their souls to God at death.

The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it.  Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Devotion to the angels began to develop with the birth of the monastic tradition. St. Benedict (July 11) gave it impetus and Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20), the great 12th-century reformer, was such an eloquent spokesman for the guardian angels that angelic devotion assumed its current form in his day.

A feast in honor of the guardian angels was first observed in the 16th century. In 1615, Pope Paul V added it to the Roman calendar.

Comment:

Devotion to the angels is, at base, an expression of faith in God’s enduring love and providential care extended to each person day in and day out until life’s end.

Quote:

“May the angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs come to welcome you
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.” (Rite for Christian Burial)

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:

  

Saint Francis and the Sacraments

 

How “Catholic” would you consider Saint Francis?

What behavior does Saint Francis request of us regarding the Eucharist and the Sacred Scripture?

Saint Francis addresses some of his brothers as “priest brothers”.   What does this say of his reverence for his brothers who have been ordained with the Sacrament of the Priesthood?

In praying the “Office” (Prayer of the Church) Saint Francis tells the friars that their HEARTS must be in it (Omn.p.107).  What did Saint Francis mean by this statement?

How prominent a role did the Catholic Church and her practices, such as the Sacraments, play in Saint Francis’ beliefs, teachings, and actions?

  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 2 & 3 of 26:

2.  The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this family circle.  It is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered throughout the world and open to every group of the faithful. In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state. By their profession they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of Saint Francis by means of this rule approved by the Church.

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3.  The present rule, succeeding “Memoriale Propositi” (1221) and the rules approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times.  Its interpretation belongs to the Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions and particular statutes.

 

 

 

 

“A Parable a Day Will Keep Satan Away!” – Matthew 13:24-43†


 

Sixteenth Sunday
of Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel
  • 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:

 

Deliberation:

I hope you are enjoying the “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary” that I am posting each day.  Today is day 5 of 34.  It is still not too late to start if you which.  Just catch up with what was missed.

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Discovery:

 

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like our cell phone?  What if we carried it around in our purses/pockets at all times?  What if we opened it several times per day – – for fun?  What if we turned back to retrieve, if we forgot it?  What if we used it to receive “text messages”?  What if we treated the Bible like we couldn’t live without it?  What if we gave a bible to Kids as gifts – – and they were excited at this gift?  What if we used it when we traveled?  And, what if we used it in case of emergencies?

 

Declaration:

 

Are these thoughts making you wonder, “Where is my Bible?”  Oh, one more thought.  Unlike our cell phones, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected; Jesus already paid the bill!  And, there are no dropped calls on his plan!  

 

Makes me (and hopefully you) stop & think “Where are my priorities?”  When Jesus died on the cross, He was thinking of US!

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   180 – Twelve inhabitants of Scillium in North Africa executed for being Christians. This is the earliest record of Christianity in that part of the world.
†   521 – Magnus Felix Ennodius, Bishop of Pavia and Latin poet (b. 474)
†   561 – John III begins his reign as Catholic Pope succeeding Pelagius I
†   855 – St Leo IV ends his reign as Catholic Pope by his death
†   1203 – Fourth Crusade captures Constantinople by assault; the Byzantine emperor Alexius III Angelus flees from his capital into exile.
†   1245 – Pope bans emperor Frederik II Hohenstaufen for 3rd (of 4) times for disagreements with Rome
†   1686 – A meeting takes place at Lüneburg between several Protestant powers in order to discuss the formation of an ‘evangelical’ league of defence, called the ‘Confederatio Militiae Evangelicae’, against the Catholic League.
†   1740 – Prospero Lambertini is elected Pope Benedictus XIV
†   1794 – The sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne are executed (guillotined) 10 days prior to the end of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror (July 17, 1794).

(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 disciple once complained, “You tell us stories, but you never reveal their meaning to us.” The master replied, “How would you like it if someone offered you a piece of fruit and chewed on it before giving it to you?” ~ Anonymous

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus offering parables about the Kingdom of Heaven, and then explains them to His disciples.

 

 

Today’s Gospel Reading:

 

(NAB Matthew 13:24-43) 24 He proposed another parable to them.  “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  25 While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.  26 When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.  27 The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?  Where have the weeds come from?’  28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’  His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  29 He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.  30 Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”  31 He proposed another parable to them.  “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.  32 It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.  It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'”  33 He spoke to them another parable.  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”  34 All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.  He spoke to them only in parables, 35 to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation (of the world).”  36 Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”  37 He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, 38 the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.  The weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  40 Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.  42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading is a continuation of Jesus’ discourse which began last Sunday, and will finish next Sunday.  Today, Jesus offers three parables which allow His “listeners” able to gain an image describing His Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus also explains why He spoke to the crowds in parables.  Finally, He interprets the parable of “the Sower” and “the Yeast” for His followers.  

All of Jesus’ parables contain everyday occurrences and encounters to describe various aspects and components of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The first set of parables (from last Sunday) alerted us to the two-fold reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.  In reality, for us, the actual beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven can be found in this world – – NOW!  The completion of the Kingdom of Heaven, however, will not be truly and fully realized until His final judgment at the “end of the age”.  In the meantime, as Jesus warns His followers that any effort in attempting to judge the progress of the Kingdom of Heaven is premature.  Only God, at the time of the final judgment, will distinguish the “good fruit” of the Kingdom of Heaven, and offer its reward to those who kept His love for us as a priority.

Today’s parables (and next weeks as well) will call our attention to the abundance of His “harvest” resulting from the tiny beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  Just as a mustard seed – – the smallest of all known seeds – – will become a large bush or tree, so too God the Father will bring His Kingdom to full bloom through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  As a small amount of “yeast” will “leaven” an entire batch of bread (I can smell it now – – and it smells “heavenly”!), so too will God bring about the expansion of His Kingdom.  In each case submitted in Jesus’ parables, the image of an immensely great quantity to harvest for His Kingdom comes from even the smallest “mustard seed” amount of faith rooted in our lives.  Our faith grows as we nourish it with His “Word” and sacramental presence.

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(Oh, oh!)  Malicious weed-sowing!!  What does this have to do with God’s kingdom?  The imagery Jesus chooses to use is an example of planting, harvesting, and sorting the good fruit from the bad (even today).  Weeds have the capability to spoil and kill a good harvest if they are not separated and destroyed at the proper time.  Uprooting “weeds” too early can destroy good plants in the process of tearing the weeds out of the ground.

 

Today’s parable of “weeds” being sowed with the “wheat” is found only in Matthew’s Gospel.  We need to remember that the comparison conveyed in Matthew 13:24, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field”, is not that the kingdom of heaven is about the “sower”; instead, it is about the time of the situation narrated in the whole story (Matthew 13:28-30):

“He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’  His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’   He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with themLet them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”  .” (Matthew 13:28-30) 

The refusal of the “householder” to allow his slaves to separate the good and true wheat from the bad weeds while they are still growing is actually a warning from Jesus, to His disciples, not to attempt to anticipate the final judgment of God.  (Paraphrase: “Don’t Anticipate; Participate!”)

In the present period (today) of God the Father’s eternal plan, His kingdom on earth is composed of both “good” and “bad” “seeds and fruits”.  Only through God the Father’s judgment “at the end of the age” will the sinful, “bad weeds from bad seeds”, be eliminated.  Until then, Jesus’ disciples must be patient and preach true repentance on the part of  all His disciples and on the part of all “who have ears” and “ought to hear.

 

Just as nature teaches us patience (so Franciscan of a principle), so too does God the Father’s patience teach us to guard His “Word” which “seed” He Himself planted in our hearts, minds, and souls.  We must be cautious of the devastating power of sin and evil destroying our “harvest”.  God’s “Word” brings life; but Satan’s evil, at the same time, searches to destroy the “good seed” planted in those hearts and souls who have heard God’s “Word” with “thin” roots.

 

God’s judgment is not hasty; but it does (and will) come.  In the end, God will reward each of us, individually and personally, according to what was sown and reaped in our earthly life.  On that day, God will separate the evil “weeds” from the good “wheat”.  Do you allow God’s “Word” to take (and keep) a deep and well-nourished “root” in you?

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Can you picture someone coming in the night, sneakily and purposefully planting a poisonous weed in a field, a weed which in its first stage of growth resembles wheat?  For me, the image presented here, is of evil being directed and governed by Satan himself.  The image of those “asleep” (verse 25) is representative of those disciples of Jesus Christ not keeping ever-vigilant to His good message and works, and at the same time, becoming oblivious to the devils’ cunning and deceptions.

This weed that resembles wheat is called “cockle”.  It looks very much like wheat, but if harvested and ground up with the wheat, it would contaminate the flour.  Any bread made from this contaminated flour would cause severe nausea when consumed.  In first-century Palestine, vengeance sometimes took the form of sowing “cockle” among enemies wheat.  Roman law even prescribed penalties for this specific crime.

With today’s polarized political environment, I think back to a passage I read in a book by the founder of the Opus Dei’s:

The situation is clear — the field is fertile and the seed is good; the Lord of the field has scattered the seed at the right moment and with great skill. He even has watchmen to make sure that the field is protected. If, afterwards, there are weeds among the wheat, it is because men have failed to respond, because they — and Christians in particular — have fallen asleep and allowed the enemy to approach.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 123)

 

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The word “harvest” is a common biblical metaphor for the time of God’s judgment.  Other references can be found in the following Old Testament verses:

“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Daughter Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time it is trodden; Yet a little while, and the harvest time will come for her.” (Jeremiah 51:33);

“Apply the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; Come and tread, for the wine press is full; The vats overflow, for great is their malice.” (Joel 4:13);

And,

“For you also, O Judah, a harvest has been appointed.” (Hosea 6:11);

 

The parables of the “mustard seed” and the “yeast” (verses 31 – 33) illustrate the amazing contrast between the small beginnings of the kingdom and its marvelous expansion – – through the abilities of the Holy Spirit – – working in each of us personally and individually.  Similar parables can be found in Marks and Luke’s Gospels:

“He said, ‘To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.  But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.’”  (Mark 4:30-32);

And

“Then he said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like?  To what can I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden.  When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and “the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.”’  Again he said, ‘To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.’”  (Luke 13:18-21).

 

What does the image represented by “birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches” (verse 32)?  Well, we can read in the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel for a possible answer:

“On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.  It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar.  Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.”  (Ezekiel 17:23);

In its boughs nested all the birds of the air, under its branches all beasts of the field gave birth, in its shade dwelt numerous peoples of every race.”  (Ezekiel 31:6);

“These were the visions I saw while in bed: I saw a tree of great height at the center of the world.  It was large and strong, with its top touching the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of the earth.  Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, providing food for all. Under it the wild beasts found shade, in its branches the birds of the air nested; all men ate of it.” (Daniel 4:7-9);

 And,

“’My lord,’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘this dream should be for your enemies, and its meaning for your foes.  The large, strong tree that you saw, with its top touching the heavens, that could be seen by the whole earth, which had beautiful foliage and abundant fruit, providing food for all, under which the wild beasts lived, and in whose branches the birds of the air dwelt — you are that tree, O king, large and strong!  Your majesty has become so great as to touch the heavens, and your rule extends over the whole earth.’” (Daniel 4:17-19). 

I believe the “birds” are God’s creations – – US!  And the tree rooted on earth and touching heaven is Jesus Christ.  If we choose to live in His branches, under His outstretched “wings” which shelter us, we will gain a way to eternal paradise with Him.

 

The tiny mustard seed in today’s parable literally grew to be a tree which attracted numerous birds because they love the little black mustard seeds the tree produce.  I speculate God’s kingdom works in a similar fashion.  It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts, minds, and souls of those who listen to God’s “Word”, growing and outstretching for others to rest and feed upon.  

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God’s kingdom works unseen, causing a transformation – – a conversion – – from within.  The action of “yeast” is a powerful agent of change.  A basic lump of dough, by itself, remains just what it is, – – a lump of soft, gooey, dough.  But when a tiny amount “yeast” (and heat of the oven)  is added to this gooey, sticky, mess, a transformation takes place which produces a sweet smelling, delicious, and wholesome bread – – a staple of life for humans long before the use of “manna”.

The kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive His message, and then wish to take on the “new” life Jesus Christ offers.  When we believe in, and submit to Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed by the power of His Holy Spirit who dwells in us.  Paul the Apostle says:

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

In the above verse, “earthen vessels” is a reference to the fragile instruments God uses: US!!  When I hear “earthen vessels”, besides the song made popular by the St. Louis Jesuits of the 1970’s, I also imagine the small terracotta lamps mentioned in the bible, from which light is emitted to open the darkness.  Just imagine!  When we submit to Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into the lamp which holds the light of God’s kingdom piercing through the darkness of spiritual death.  Jesus even goes so far as to say elsewhere:

You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14).

Previously, Jesus also said:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

With both “light” verses in mind, it makes me think about a part of the Nicene Creed:

Light from light, true God from true God” (Nicene Creed)

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Verse 33 talks of “the kingdom of heaven is like yeast”.  This parable is also found elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel:

Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:12).

Yeast” (and “leaven“) is used in the New Testament as a symbol of corruption and false teaching.  Other sources for this image can be found in all three Synoptic Gospels, the first letter to the Corinthians, and the letter to the Galatians:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread?  Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’  Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6, 11-12);

“He enjoined them, ‘Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.’” (Mark 8:15);

“Meanwhile, so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot.  He began to speak, first to his disciples, ‘Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.’” (Luke 12:1);

Your boasting is not appropriate.  Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?  Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened.  For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthian 5:6-8);

And,  

A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.” (Galatians 5:9).

 

My mom used to make bread weekly.  We had bowls of bread “rising”, literally, all over the house on baking day.  However, she used nowhere close to the amount of flour talked about in today’s reading.  “Three measures” of flour is an enormous amount of flour, enough to feed a hundred people easily (or my four teenagers for one afternoon).  The exaggeration of this amount of flour directs us to the immense “greatness” and “Joy” God’s kingdom’s has on our soul.

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Today’s reading states that Jesus “spoke to them only in parables”.  Let us all remember what Jesus said in last Sundays Gospel:

“The disciples approached him and said, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’  He said to them in reply, ‘Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.‘  Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’” (Matthew 13:10-15).

 

Some biblical texts have verse 34 reading “Isaiah the prophet” instead of “the prophet”.  This particular quote originates in Psalm 78:

 “I will open my mouth in story, drawing lessons from of old.” (Psalm 78:2).

 

Psalm 78 can be considered a “historical” psalm, attributed to “Asaph”, a founder of one of the “guilds” of Temple musicians.  He was called “the prophet” (“the seer” in the NAB version) in the Epistle, 2 Chronicles:

“King Hezekiah and the princes then commanded the Levites to sing the praises of the LORD in the words of David and of Asaph the seer.  They sang praises till their joy was full, then fell down and prostrated themselves.” (2 Chronicles 29:30).

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From today’s reading, Jesus “dismissing the crowds” and returning to “the house” (verse 36) indicate a change from Jesus’ focus from the crowds, who represent unbelieving Israel.  From this point on, His attention will be directed increasingly toward His disciples – – and to their needed instruction in the faith and the mysteries of the kingdom.  The remainder of today’s discourse from Jesus is addressed solely to His followers.

 

The direct story of “the parable of the weeds” emphasizes the fearful and dreaded end of the “children of the evil one”, whereas the parable’s reflective meaning concentrates on patience with the “children of the evil one” until judgment time at the “end of the age” (the Parousia), the fullness of Jesus’ personal presence.

 

Components and Meanings of
“The Parable of the Weeds”

1)  “He who sows good seed”                   The Son of Man – – Jesus Christ
2)  “The field”                                              The world
3)  “The good seed”                                 The children of the kingdom
4)  “The weeds”                                       The children of the evil one
5)  “The enemy who sows”                       The devil
6)  “The harvest”                                     The end of the age – –  the Parousia
7)  “The harvester”                                  The heavenly Angels
8)  “The Son of Man will                           They will collect out of His kingdom
send his angels”                                    all who cause others to sin and
all evildoers (the Separation)
9)  “Just as weeds are collected                The end of the age of deception
and burned (up) with fire”                     and corruption

 

The “field” is an image or symbol for the world being transformed by His power of restorative life flowing from His personal Resurrection after His death on the Holy Cross, as a sacrifice not only for all His followers, but also for the world itself.  Thus, this image reveals Jesus as the Son of God having “all power in heaven and on earth“:

“Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” (Matthew 28:18).

 

I love the poetic beauty in the phrase, “the end of the age”.  This phrase can only be found in Matthew’s Gospel:

“Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous.” (Matthew 13:40, 49);

“As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3);

And,

Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

You may also know this phrase by the other name I have been using throughout many previous reflections: Parousia.  As a review, “Parousia” is the coming of Christ on Judgment Day.   One may also hear it being called: the Second Advent, or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

 

Verse 41 of today’s reading states that His angels “will collect out of His kingdom – -”.  “His kingdom” is the kingdom of Jesus Christ as distinguished from that of God the Father (verse43):

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”  Matthew 13:43)

Jesus, at the Parousia, will hand over His kingdom on earth to His heavenly Father:

At His coming, those who belong to Christ then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to His God and Father, when He has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. (1 Corinthians 15:23-25).

 

I believe the Catholic Church is the place where Jesus’ kingdom is manifested.  However, His royal authority embraces the entire world:

“He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.” (Matthew 13:38).

 

The last verse (verse 43) in today’s Gospel reading reminds me of a verse from the Old Testament’s Daniel:

“But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” (Daniel 12:3)

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In conclusion, contained within these parables found in Matthew’s 13th chapter, are words of warning as well as words of comfort.  In the parable of “the Sower”, we are warned against judging others.  Remember, to judge and uproot the “weeds” prematurely will produce harm to the “wheat”.  We need to remember that the final judgment rests solely with God.

In the parables of the “mustard seed” and the “yeast”, we are comforted by God’s message that He will work wonders and produce abundance from even the smallest beginnings of His Kingdom of Heaven – – from our smallest amount of faith, hope, and love.

Taken together, the three parables found in today’s Gospel (“Weeds”, “Mustard Seeds”, and “Yeast”) offer both a serious reminder about the reality of the Kingdom of God now, while, at the same time, words of encouragement for His followers.  As the “wheat” and the “weeds” must grow together until the harvest, so too is it that we will discover how our actions have truly contributed to bringing about God’s Kingdom when the time of God’s complete fulfillment under Jesus’ presence occurs.  With Jesus’ word of warning made apparent to us, we should live our lives always in a prayerful awareness that our actions may be consistent with God’s plans.  Thus, we should often ask God the Father and Jesus Christ to work through us by way of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of making His Kingdom of Heaven expand to all earthly creatures.

Good and evil are “sown” in our hearts like tiny, germinating, seeds by what we hear and believe.  In due time, there will be a harvest of either “good” or “bad” fruits.  At the “end of the age” each of us will reap what has been sown in our life.  Those who sowed good fruits will shine in the kingdom of their Father.  They will shine with the beauty, joy, and fullness of God’s love.  However, at the same time, the “bad” fruits will burn in an un-quenching fire of pain, misery, and “gnashing of teeth”.  Please allow the love of Christ to rule in your heart and in your actions!

Set aside a little time this week to reflect on what Jesus Christ meant when He taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a “mustard seed” and “yeast”.  In today’s three parables, Jesus teaches that God the Father can work wonders with even the smallest amounts of faith, hope, and love.  This means that even the little things will make a big difference in the lives of others.  What are some of the little things that you can do to help make things better for others?  Decide on one action to take, and then pray that God the Father will use your action to make a difference in the world.  DON’T ANTICIPATE; PARTICIPATE!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 86

 

“Lord, you are kind and forgiving, most loving to all who call on you.
LORD, hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help.
All the nations you have made shall come to bow before you, Lord, and give honor to your name.
For you are great and do wondrous deeds; and you alone are God.
But you, Lord, are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, most loving and true.
Turn to me, have pity on me; give your strength to your servant; save this child of your handmaid.  Amen
” (Psalm 86:5-6,9-10,15-16)

 

 

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 big change occurs in the text of the “Creed” (Our “Profession of Faith”).  The first obvious change is with the very first word.  Currently we begin with “We believe.” The new, revised text has “I believe” instead of “We”.

Another noticeable change comes in the tenth line, regarding the Son’s divinity.  We currently say Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  The new text will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.”  

Consubstantial is not really a translation.  In reality, It is a transliteration—the same Latin word, spelled in English— of the Latin “consubstantialis”, which literally means “one in being.”  Translation versus transliteration is not the point.  The point is that Jesus is God, one with the Father, co-equal and co-eternal.

A third noticeable change occurs in how we speak of Christ’s human nature.  We currently say, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” The new text will now say, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

Incarnate means “made flesh.” So, using the term here reminds us that he was human from the moment of His conception and not just at His birth. 

There are several other minor changes in the text of the “Creed” (new version is shown below).  It will certainly take us some time to commit the new version to memory, and to be able to profess it together easily.  

The new missal also allows the option of using the “Apostles’ Creed” instead of this version of the “Nicene Creed”, especially during Lent and Easter.  The “Apostles’ Creed” is another ancient Christian creed, long in used by Roman Catholics in our baptismal promises and at the beginning of the Rosary. 

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

(Based on the original Latin versions from the Councils of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (AD 381).

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Servant of God Francis Garcés and Companions (c. 1781)

 

Government interference in the missions and land grabbing sparked the Indian uprising which cost these friars their lives.

A contemporary of the American Revolution and of Blessed Junipero Serra, Francisco Garcés was born in 1738 in Spain, where he joined the Franciscans.  After ordination in 1763, he was sent to Mexico.  Five years later he was assigned to San Xavier del Bac near Tucson, one of several missions the Jesuits had founded in Arizona and New Mexico before being expelled in 1767 from all territories controlled by the Catholic king of Spain.  In Arizona, Francisco worked among the Papago, Yuma, Pima and Apache Native Americans.  His missionary travels took him to the Grand Canyon and to California.

Friar Francisco Palou, a contemporary, writes that Father Garcés was greatly loved by the indigenous peoples, among whom he lived unharmed for a long time.  They regularly gave him food and referred to him as “Viva Jesus,” which was the greeting he taught them to use.

For the sake of their indigenous converts, the Spanish missionaries wanted to organize settlements away from the Spanish soldiers and colonists.  But the commandant in Mexico insisted that two new missions on the Colorado River, Misión San Pedro y San Pablo and Misión La Purísima Concepción, be mixed settlements.

A revolt among the Yumas against the Spanish left Friars Juan Diaz and Matias Moreno dead at Misión San Pedro y San Pablo.  Friars Francisco Garcés and Juan Barreneche were killed at Misión La Purísima Concepción (the site of Fort Yuma).

Comment:

In the 18th century the indigenous peoples of the American Southwest saw Catholicism and Spanish rule as a package deal.  When they wanted to throw off the latter, the new religion had to go also.  Do we appreciate sufficiently the acceptable adjustment our faith can make among various peoples?  Are we offended by the customs of Catholics in other cultures?  Do we see our good example as a contribution to missionary evangelization?

Quote:

On a visit to Africa in 1969, Pope Paul VI told 22 young Ugandan converts that “being a Christian is a fine thing but not always an easy one.”

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 and St. Francis

 

How do human beings compare to animate and inanimate creatures?   How do they differ fundamentally?

Saint Francis is called the “seraphic saint”.  What is the special characteristic associated with the angels called “seraphs”?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 17 & 18 of 26:

 

17.  In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.

By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for His Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child.

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18.  Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.

 

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Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

 

Day 5  Sun, 7/17

 

Imitation: Cont.: Book 3, Chap. 40

Wherefore, but I did know well, how to cast from me all human comfort, either for the sake of devotion, or through the necessity by which I am compelled to seek Thee, because there is no man that can comfort me. Then might I deservedly hope in Thy favor, and rejoice in the gift of a new consolation. Thanks be to Thee from Whom all things proceed, as often as it happens to me, I, indeed, am but vanity and nothing in Thy sight, an inconstant and weak man. Where, therefore, can I glory, or for what do I desire to be thought of highly?

Forsooth of my very nothingness; and this is most vain. Truly vainglory is an evil plague, because it draws away from true glory, and robs us of heavenly grace. For, while a man takes complacency in himself, he displeases Thee; while he looks for human applause, he is deprived of true virtues. But true, glory and holy exultation is to glory in Thee, and not in one’s self; to rejoice in Thy Name, but not in one’s own strength. To find pleasure in no creature, save only for Thy sake. Let Thy Name be praised, not mine; let Thy work be magnified, not mine; let Thy Holy Name be blessed, but let nothing be attributed to me of the praise of men. Thou art my glory; Thou art the exultation of my heart; in Thee, will I glory and rejoice all the day; but for myself, I will glory in nothing but in my infirmities.

 

Now recite the daily prayers for Part 1

 

Prayers to be recited during these first twelve days          7/13-7/24

 

Veni Creator

 

Come, 0 Creator Spirit blest!
And in our souls take up thy rest;
Come with Thy grace and heavenly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
Great Paraclete! To Thee we cry,
O highest gift of God most high!
O font of life! 0 fire of love!
And sweet anointing from above.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts art known,
The finger of God’s hand we own;
The promise of the Father, Thou!
Who dost the tongue with power endow.
Kindle our senses ‘from above,
And make our hearts o’erflow with love;
With patience firm and virtue high
The weakness of our flesh supply.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
And grant us Thy true peace instead;
So shall we not, with Thee for guide,
Turn from the path of life aside.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
The Father and the Son to know,
And Thee through endless times confessed
Of both the eternal Spirit blest.
All glory while the ages run
Be to the Father and the Son
Who rose from death; the same to Thee,
O Holy Ghost, eternally. Amen.

 

Ave Maris Stella

 

Hail, bright star of ocean,
God’s own Mother blest,
Ever sinless Virgin,
Gate of heavenly rest.
Taking that sweet Ave
Which from Gabriel came,
Peace confirm within us,
Changing Eva’s name.
Break the captives’ fetters,
Light on blindness pour,
All our ills expelling,
Every bliss implore.
Show thyself a Mother;
May the Word Divine,
Born for us thy Infant,
Hear our prayers through thine.
Virgin all excelling,
Mildest of the mild,
Freed from guilt, preserve us,
Pure and undefiled.
Keep our life all spotless,
Make our way secure,
Till we find in Jesus
Joy forevermore.
Through the highest heaven
To the Almighty Three,
Father, Son and Spirit,
One same glory be. Amen.

 

Magnificat

 

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid; for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is His name.
And His mercy is from generation to generations, to them that fear Him.
He hath showed might in His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat; and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy.
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

 

♫“Sow, Sow, Sow Your Faith, Gently Down His Path!”♫- Matthew 13:1-23†


 

 

Fifteenth Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote 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:

 

Starting next Wednesday, July 13th, I will begin my yearly “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”, popularized and created by St. Louis de Monfort.  I will be posting the prayers for the four sections on both my blog and Facebook sites.  All you need to add is the 10 or so minutes each day, and a proper heart and soul.  So, please join me.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   983 – Death of Benedict VI, Italian Pope (974-83)
†   1086 – Death of Knut IV, the Saint, king of Denmark (1080-86), murdered
†   1609 – Catholic German monarchy forms Catholic League
†   1900 – Birth of Sampson Sievers, Russian Orthodox Christian monk, priest and wonder-worker (d. 1979)
†   1998 – Roman Catholic sex abuse cases: The Diocese of Dallas agrees to pay $23.4 million to nine former altar boys who claimed they were sexually abused by former priest Rudolph Kos.

(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:

 

 

“When GOD solves your problems, you have faith in HIS abilities; when GOD doesn’t solve your problems HE has faith in your abilities.” ~ Unknown author

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that the kingdom of heaven is like a seed that has been sown on good soil.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 13:1-23) 1 On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.  2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.  3 And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  5 Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, 6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  8 But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  9 Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  10 The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  12 To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’  14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  15 Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’  16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  17 Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  18 “Hear then the parable of the sower.  19 The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  21 But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  22 The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  23 But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

 

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Gospel Reflection

 

Today’s Gospel marks the beginning of a lengthy teaching or dialogue (His third discourse in Matthew) given by Jesus.  Over the next few weeks at Mass, the Gospel readings will cover of the whole of Matthew’s 13th Chapter. 

 

What was (and still is) the best and easiest way to help people understand God’s kingdom?  Like the Temple leaders and Rabbis of first-century Palestine, Jesus very often used “parables” – – short stories and images taken from everyday life – – to communicate “unknown” truths about the kingdom of God.  Jesus was a skilled artist of speech and imagery; a great orator and teacher.  Through His words, He etched in the listeners mind, vividly brilliant and unforgettable images.

A well-constructed image can speak more loudly and clearly than many words.  (Remember the old adage: “A picture says a thousand words.”)  Jesus epitomized this saying by using the ordinary everyday well-known images of everyday life and nature as a way to point to a different (and hidden) order of reality.  Jesus, through the use of parables, points to a different, visible order of reality for those who had “eyes to see” and “ears to hear“, and those who heard with faith.  

Jesus communicated His teachings with vivid and dramatic images, such as soil conditions, plants, and trees.  These images, these parables, grabbed ahold of the imagination of His audience more powerfully than any nonfigurative talk ever could.  His parables were like a “buried treasure” waiting to be discovered:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44).

(Note the inspiration of that salesman – – his “JOY”!)

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In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ teaching of “parables” is known as the “third great discourse” of His ministerial life.  It makes up the second of three parts of Matthew’s Gospel as well.  Matthew used only two of a set of three, and this one is number two of the three.  Matthew uses five other parables taken from other sources known collectively by Biblical Scholars as “Q” and “M”.  The authors of these two documents are unknown; that’s why they are indentified as “Q” and “M”.

In addition to Matthew’s seven parables, Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 13: 1-53, gives the reason why He uses a “parable” approach to teaching the faith and way of God:

“The disciples approached him and said, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’  He said to them in reply, ‘Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because “they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.”  Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: “You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.”’” (Matthew 13: 10-15).

Jesus declares the “blessedness” of those who understand His teaching:

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Matthew 13: 16-17):

He then goes on to explain the “parable of the sower”:

“Hear then the parable of the sower.  The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”  (Matthew 13: 18-23):

In verse 24 through 53 (not included in today’s reflection), Jesus explains the parable of the weeds, and ends with a concluding summary statement of teaching to His disciples.  He is stating in His summary that we are all to be “Scribes” in the new kingdom of God:

Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Matthew 13:52)

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What can a parable about “seeds” and “roots” teach us about the kingdom of God?  Well, any successful farmer (I am not one!  I have a black thumb – even killing a cactus once) will attest to the extreme importance for the need of “good soil” to supply the necessary nutrients for growth and fruit production.  After all, a plant gets all necessary food, water, and other nutrients by its roots?  

Holy Scripture repeatedly uses the image of “fruit-bearing” plants or trees to express the principles of spiritual life and spiritual death.  Here are just two examples from the Old Testament:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”  (Jeremiah 17:7-8);

And,

They are like a tree planted near streams of water that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

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There are different ways of accepting God’s “Word”, which, hence, produce different kinds of “fruit” as a result.  There is the opinionated “hearer”, who shuts one’s mind to differing views.  Such a person is, in reality, non-teachable, and “deaf” to what ne could hear, and blind to what lies behind what he sees.

Then there is the “shallow” hearer.  This person fails to meditate, reflect, and think things out completely.  They lack a “depth” of faith, knowledge, and openness to God’s “Word”.  They may initially respond with even a strong emotionally charged reaction; however, when this feeling wears off, their mind begins wandering to something else which will give them another “charge” without much effort.

A third type of hearer is the person who has many interests or concerns, but who “lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important”.  Such people are too “busy” to pray, or too “pre-occupied” to study and meditate on God’s “Word”.  Their focus is totally on the “here and now”.

Finally, there is “the one whose mind is open”.  This person, this disciple, is willing to listen and to learn – – AT ALL TIMES, ever looking for the spiritual truth lying beneath the surface of what they heard and see.  They are never too “proud” or too “busy” to learn the message and teachings of God; instead they listen with anticipation to His Word, in order to understand Him and His kingdom they will inherit.  

God gives a great gift, a great grace, to those who search for, yearn for, and hunger for His “Word”.  They are “consumed” in Him so that they may understand His will, His way, and His truth.  And, through His “Word”, they have the strength to live according to God the Fathers plan for salvation and redemption.   

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In Palestine, sowing (sort of loosely planting the seeds) was often preceded by plowing.  In “sowing” seeds, the seeds are literally thrown from the hand (similar to spreading salt/calcium on an icy driveway).  Much of the seed is thus oft times scattered on ground unsuitable for any growth.

Yet while many of the seeds are “wasted”, the seed which falls on “good” ground bears “fruit” in an exceptionally large amount.  The point of Jesus’ parable of the “Sower” is that, in spite of some failure, (usually because of opposition and indifference to His message), the trusting and hopeful “true” message of Jesus Christ, about the coming of His kingdom, will have an enormous success – – in those who, like little children, hear Him with faith:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)

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The word “parable” (from the Greek, “parabole”) is used to translate the Hebrew word, “mashal”, a designation for a variety of literary forms such as axioms, proverbs, similitude’s, and allegories.  What these literary forms have in common is a “hidden message” for the receiver.  The New Testament authors, and Jesus Christ Himself, consciously use “mashal” and “parable” to designate and illustrate comparisons and inter-relatedness of “kingdom truths” and everyday life events.  Sometimes, these everyday life events have a strange element quite different from an otherwise “usual” experience of everyday life: for instance, in the parable of the yeast, Matthew 13:33, the enormous amount of dough was produced by adding a small amount of yeast.  Thus, “parables” are meant to sharpen and hone the curiosity and interest of the hearer to leads them to internalize the “true” meaning of the parable.

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In today’s reading, Jesus told His disciples that not everyone would gain an understanding of His parables.  Do you think He was deliberately confusing and/or hiding the meaning of His parables, His stories, His message, from His listeners?   I don’t believe so.  

Jesus was speaking from experience – – past, present, and future experience!  His “experience” is not only internal, but His awareness of “experience encompasses ALL time at ONCE!  He is aware of all things and all times.   He is aware that “some” who hear His parables would refuse to understand them.  It isn’t that these people could not understand them; but rather that their hearts would be hardened, shut, closed, and blinded to what Jesus Christ was really saying.  In reality, they had already made up their minds NOT to believe.  What a pity, as God can only reveal the hidden truths of His kingdom to those who are not blinded spiritually.   God can only reveal the hidden truths to those individuals who have a deep hunger for Him and His “Word”, and humbly submit to His truth and Word.  As He Himself said to them:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Also, in last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father the following prayer of praise:

I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”  (Matthew 11:25)

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Since a parable is “figurative speech” requiring an amount of reflection for its understanding, only those who are open and prepared to explore and discover its true meaning can come to know it, and to internalize its meaning.  To understand Jesus’ teachings and parables is a gift (a grace) of God Himself, “granted” to His disciples, yet, not to those in the crowds when Jesus said:

“… it has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.”Matthew 13:11)  

In reading this verse, it is evident that both Jesus’ disciples’ understanding of His parables and the crowd’s ignorance to their meanings are both attributed to God’s will.  The question of human responsibility for a lack of knowledge is asserted in Matthew 13:13:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13). 

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Jesus mentions the “mysteries” in verse 11.  This word can also be found in Luke and Mark’s Gospel:

“Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.’” (Luke 8:10);

The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you.” (Mark 4:11).

And, the word “mystery” can even be found in the Old Testament:

They might implore the mercy of the God of heaven in regard to this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision, and he blessed the God of heaven. In the king’s presence Daniel made this reply: ‘The mystery about which the king has inquired, the wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers could not explain to the king but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what is to happen in days to come; this was the dream you saw as you lay in bed..’” (Daniel 2:18, 19, 27-28);

The word “mystery” is used to designate a divine plan or declaration affecting the course of history; which can only be known and understood when revealed by God.  Knowledge of the “mysteries” of the kingdom of heaven means recognizing God’s kingdom present in the person of Jesus Christ, and in His ministry.

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 “To anyone who has, more will be given” (verse 12).  Throughout the New Testament this axiom of practical “wisdom” is used several times:

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29);

To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mark 4:25);

“Take care, then, how you hear.  To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” (Luke 8:18);

And,

“I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Luke 19:26).

Its reference goes beyond one’s original gaining time, talent, and treasures.  In essence, God declares a granting of a further understanding of His kingdom to all who accept His “revealed” mystery.  And, from the one who does not accept or use His graces, He takes it away (The ultimate “use it or lose it” principle!)

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Jesus speaks in “parables” so that the non-believing crowds may not understand:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13);

 And,

They may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12),

Making the parables so that the non-believers cannot understand them is looked at by me as a form of discipline to the “crowds” (non-believers).  This “lack of understanding” is allowed them, by God, because He respects their “free will” in choosing not to accept His teachings.  

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In verse 14, Jesus’ cites Isaiah:

“Go and say to this people: Listen carefully, but you shall not understand!  Look intently, but you shall know nothingYou are to make the heart of this people sluggish, to dull their ears and close their eyes; else their eyes will see, their ears hear, their heart understand, and they will turn and be healed.”  (Isaiah 6: 9-10).

The “old” truly lives in the “new”, and the “new” truly FULFILLS the “old”!!

 

I find it interesting and confusing that there are people who are, or become, fruitless and/or uncaring of God’s “Word”!!  Differing priorities, believed more important than God, can distract some from what is truly important and worthwhile.  Allowing our hearts, minds, and souls to be consumed with material items and secular ideals can easily weigh us down, drawing us away from God’s eternal heavenly “treasure”.  

We all need to realize and keep current in our minds that God’s “Word” can only take root in a receptive and humble heart, mind, and soul; a heart, mind and soul, ready and willing to “hear” what God has to say to each of us, personally and intimately.  The parables of Jesus make clear to us what we need to know in order to grow in faith and life.  We need to approach His teachings with an attitude ready to let His teachings challenge us. (No pain, no gain!)  Can you submit to God’s “Word” with the love, trust, and obedience He wishes for you to have?

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Gross is the heart of this people …” (verse 15)!  “Gross” is a strong word that can mean the following: disgusting, unpleasant, foul, vulgar, nasty, uncivilized, repugnant, and grotesque.  This is definitely NOT a pleasant or hopeful image for the person who chooses to be blinded to the “mysteries” and “wonders” of a true and total faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Unlike the non-believing “crowds” of people accompanying Jesus, His true disciples, – – His true followers of the way, – – have seen the reality, revelation, and fulfillment of the prophets and the “righteous” people of the Old Testament (the Old Covenant).  These “chosen” people searched and yearned to “see”, without having their search and yearning being fulfilled during their “earthly” time of life.

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The four types of persons visualized in today parable of the “Sower and the Seed” are:

  • Those who never accept the word of the kingdom (Matthew 13:19);
  • Those who believe for a while but fall away because of persecution (Matthew 13:20-21);
  • Those who believe, but in whom the word is choked by worldly anxiety and the seduction of riches (Matthew 13:22);
  • Those who respond to the word and produce fruit abundantly (Matthew 13:23).

Jesus’ emphasis on the various types of soil on which the seed falls is an explanation on the “dispositions” with which one “sees” and “hears” Jesus’ preaching’s and teachings.  Similar stories and emphasis of the “Sower Parable” can be found in Mark 4:14-20 and Luke 8:11-15.

 

Let’s look at the second and third types of “sown” seeds from Matthew’s parable:

Seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21)

And,

Seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.” (Matthew 13:22)

These two can be explained in such a way as to support views held from many bible scholars that these examples derive not from Jesus Christ directly, but from an early Christian “reflection” on apostasy (a refusal to accept religious beliefs anymore) from the Catholic faith.  This “apostasy” became a major real-time consequence of first-century Christian persecutions, and the secularism of human society at that time.  

However, other scholars maintain that the explanation of these two situations comes from Jesus even though it was developed in the light of later Christian experience.  (Can we say, “Grace of the Holy Spirit!”)

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In conclusion, throughout Jesus’ teachings or dialogues (called a discourse), He offers several “parables” to His followers, illustrating in their (and our) minds what He means by the “Kingdom of Heaven”.  He begins His teaching in Chapter 13 of Matthew with what appears to be a rather straightforward parable of the “Sower and the Seeds”. 

Even “urban dwellers” (such as me) know seeds grow best in good soil.  Seeds which miss the soil, sown on rocky ground, or sown among other plants will not grow to harvest.  However, even with the loss of so many “seeds”, there is still a great and overwhelming “yield” from seeds sown on good soil.

 Jesus explains why He uses parables.  He suggests that He uses “parables” to teach because the meanings of parables are not self-evident without some reflection to find the true meaning.  Those who are willing to engage themselves in the effort to understand, willing to open themselves up to the Holy Spirit, will be rewarded with the discovery – – the revelation – – of the message, yielding much fruit.

Jesus interprets the parable of the sower to His disciples in order to show what can be revealed in His teachings via parables.  The different types of soil in which “seeds” are sown are metaphors for the disposition with which each individual hears the teaching about the kingdom of heaven. Some will be easily swayed away from the kingdom of heaven. Some will receive it for a time but will lose it when faced with difficulties. Some will hear the word but will then permit other cares to choke it out. Yet some will receive it well, and the seed will produce abundant fruit.  (AND THAT’S US!! – – Hopefully!!)

 

One lesson from today’s parable is made clear to all of us, even today: a great “harvest” is sure to come!  While some “seed” will fall away, never to bloom or fully grow to fruition, a harvest will most certainly come (at a time unknown to us):

But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”  (Matthew 24:36).

The seed that falls on good soil, – – on one’s heart, mind, and soul receptive to His “Word”, – – will produce bountiful fruits.  God is continuously ready to speak to each of us, personally and intimately, wanting so dearly to share with us an understanding of His “Word”.  

 

Today’s Gospel reminds us that in order for God’s “Word” to take root in us and produce abundant fruit, we must strive to be like the good soil in today’s parable.  Families, friends, peers, spouses, and the Catholic Church all have a responsibility for “preparing ‘your’ soil” so that the seeds of God’s Word can grow strong in you, producing a great harvest.  How can we “prepare the soil”?  Hold true to our Faith and Traditions in which our faith is celebrated, prayed, and fed by reading Holy Scripture (the Bible – it doesn’t bite), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  In these ways, you will fulfill the promises made at your Baptism when you received the lighted candle:

For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism.” (CCC, Paragraph 1254).

Please reflect on today’s Gospel reading and also on the Sacrament of Baptism for a short time.  Look at any pictures that may have been taken of the event.  Remember that one of the promises made at one’s Baptism is to grow in the practice and tenets of our Catholic faith.  How important is this promise to you?  How do you practice your faith (daily prayer, Mass attendance, religious instruction, etc.)?  We do these things and actions as a “family of God” in order that God’s “Word” can take root in our lives and produce an abundant awesomely tasteful fruit.  

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 “Psalm 65

 A prayer of praise to God for his abundance

 

“You visit the earth and water it, make it abundantly fertile.  God’s stream is filled with water; with it you supply the world with grain.  Thus do you prepare the earth: you drench plowed furrows, and level their ridges.  With showers you keep the ground soft, blessing its young sprouts.  You adorn the year with your bounty; your paths drip with fruitful rain.  The untilled meadows also drip; the hills are robed with joy.  The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys blanketed with grain; they cheer and sing for joy.  Amen.” (Psalm 65:10-14)

 

 

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.

 

The Glory to God (Gloria) has been significantly changed, with more words and many lines rearranged.

The Gloria

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of
the father,
have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One.
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the Glory of God the Father.
Amen.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)

 

Veronica’s desire to be like Christ crucified was answered with the stigmata.

Veronica was born in Mercatelli, Italy.  It is said that when her mother Benedetta was dying she called her five daughters to her bedside and entrusted each of them to one of the five wounds of Jesus.  Veronica was entrusted to the wound below Christ’s heart.

At the age of 17, Veronica joined the Poor Clares directed by the Capuchins.  Her father had wanted her to marry, but she convinced him to allow her to become a nun.  In her first years in the monastery, she worked in the kitchen, infirmary and sacristy and also served as portress.  At the age of 34, she was made novice mistress, a position she held for 22 years.  When she was 37, Veronica received the stigmata. Life was not the same after that.

Church authorities in Rome wanted to test Veronica’s authenticity and so conducted an investigation.  She lost the office of novice mistress temporarily and was not allowed to attend Mass except on Sundays or holy days.  Through all of this Veronica did not become bitter, and the investigation eventually restored her as novice mistress.

Though she protested against it, at the age of 56 she was elected abbess, an office she held for 11 years until her death.  Veronica was very devoted to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart.  She offered her sufferings for the missions.  Veronica was canonized in 1839.

Comment:

Why did God grant the stigmata to Francis of Assisi and to Veronica?  God alone knows the deepest reasons, but as Celano points out, the external sign of the cross is a confirmation of these saints’ commitment to the cross in their lives.  The stigmata that appeared in Veronica’s flesh had taken root in her heart many years before.  It was a fitting conclusion for her love of God and her charity toward her sisters.

Quote:

Thomas of Celano says of Francis: “All the pleasures of the world were a cross to him, because he carried the cross of Christ rooted in his heart.  And therefore the stigmata shone forth exteriorly in his flesh, because interiorly that deeply set root was sprouting forth from his mind” (2 Celano, #211).

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:

 

Holy Scripture

 

How do you use Holy Scriptures in your daily life?

Have you read the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (presented to us at Vatican Council-II)?  Here is the link: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

Have you come to know the differences of Catholic interpretation of the Bible from that of Christians of other faith traditions?  What are the differences?

What is the difference between Divine Revelation and Sacred Scripture?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 10 & 11 of 26:

 

10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

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11.  Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.