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“There are Good Sheep, and there are ‘BAAA’-d Sheep!” – John 10:1-10 †


 

“Good Shepherd Sunday”

The fourth Sunday of the Easter

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Please keep me in your prayers today.  After three years of formation, I am “Professing” in the Franciscan Order of, and for, “Seculars”.  This will be my final “Rite of Commitment to the Gospel Life” in the Secular Franciscan Order.  This Sacramental will be within the Mass; and within, though, for, and with the Holy Spirit in my soul, mind, heart, and body in a very unique covenant with our Almighty and Magnificent Lord Jesus Christ.

After much contemplation, meditation, and prayer, my journey has come to a point of wanting to be fully immersed in the Holy Spirit as our Order’s Seraphic Father, – – St. Francis, – – showed to his brothers and sisters in Christ.  My journey of faith has been fruitful, emotional, exciting, thought-provoking, and divinely inspiring.

I want to thank a few people for assisting me with the special journey I took to get to this point – – and a journey I will continue for the rest of my life.

First, I want to express gratitude to my wife and Sons.  They have put up with a lot of strong emotions and turmoil from me at times over the past couple of years (for which I am truly sorry).  I love them so dearly. Next, I want to thank my SFO Fraternity (Our Lady of Angels), my Regional Fraternity (St. Clare), and all the people that I have come to know as dear friends and a true “family”.  We have had our times of frustrations, short tempers, and concerns.  (I am rather stubborn at times after all – however, I know most people would never believe this [hee, hee]).  As in any family, these sad and distressing periods only highlight and enlighten the love, trust, and respect which emanates when we are together as a group.

It is important for me to give a special thanks to a dear friend, confidant, and journey partner: my “Spiritual Director”, John Hough.  Though his education, philosophy, and theology is Jesuit-based (Sorry St. Francis), no one could have done a better job in walking with me on my formation path, truly holding me up at times (an achievement in itself), and helping me to grow in the love and awe of God’s Word – – Holy Scripture, Church teachings, and traditions.  And, I also want to thank John for helping me to understand my unique role in His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  John, I love our four hour breakfasts/talks at McDonalds each and every Saturday morning.  It is quite interesting to see individual’s reactions when they see two middle-aged Catholic men, with Bibles open on the table (next to the coffee and Egg McMuffin), discussing matters of faith and Scripture.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to unendingly thank, praise, and adore my God in the Holy Trinity: Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I surrender my “self”, – – my “ALL”, – – to You and to Your “will”.  As St. Francis joyously proclaimed throughout his entire earthly life:

“My God and My ALL!”

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter is always Good Shepherd Sunday in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar Sunday.  The name “Good Shepherd” derives from the Gospel reading on this day, which is also always taken from the 10th chapter of John.  In this reading, Christ is described as the “Good Shepherd” who, by dying on the Cross, lays down His life for His sheep.

Recently, today’s Feast Day has also become known as “Vocations Sunday”, a day in which prayers should be said for vocations to the priesthood and religious life by the Catholic faithful.  This also includes praying for me and other Catholic brothers and sisters who seek a more intimate and formally “consecrated” manner of living out our faith, our hope, and our love for the Holy One of Israel, our Lord, Savior, and friend, Jesus Christ.  That’s why I am asking you, my dear readers, and thanking you for praying for me and my brethren in the Secular Order of St. Francis of Assisi.  Thank you ALL!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Shepherd_Sunday

 

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Today in Catholic History:

†   884 – Death of Marinus I, [Martinus II], Pope (882-84)
†   913 – Death of Hatto I, Archbishop of Mainz (present day Germany)
†   1252 – Pope Innocent IV issues the papal bull “ad exstirpanda“, which authorizes the torture of heretics in the Medieval Inquisition.
†   1608 – Birth of René Goupil, French Catholic missionary (Canadian Martyrs) (d. 1642)
†   1665 – Pope Alexander VII proclaims the theology of Fr. Jansen as heretical (called Jansenism).  Jansenism emphasized predestination, denied free will, and maintained that human nature is incapable of good.
†   1773 – Death of Alban Butler, English Catholic priest and writer (b. 1710)
†   1800 – Pope Pius VII calls on French bishops to return to Gospel principles
†   1891 – Pope Leo XIII publishes encyclical “Rerum novarum“, the first document of the Catholic Social Teaching tradition.
†   1912 – Alexis Kagame, Rwanda, priest/writer
†   1931 – Pope Pius XI publishes encyclical “Quadragesimo anno” discusses the ethical implications of the social and economic order.
†   1948 – Death of Edward Flanagan, American priest and founder of Boys Town (b. 1886)
†   1961 – Pope John XXIII publishes encyclical “Mater et Magistra”  (Mother and Teacher) on the topic of “Christianity and Social Progress”.
†   Feast/Memorials: Saint Achillius; Saint Isidore the Labourer; Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle; Saint Reticius; Saint Denise; Saint Dymphna; In the Coptic Church: Athanasius of Alexandria

(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 BEING the gate for His sheep.

(NAB John 10:1-10) 1 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.  2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.  7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  8 All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

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What do you know about sheep and shepherds?  Realize that shepherds and sheep have a very close, unique, and personal relationship with each other.  Still to this day, sheep only follow their own shepherd; they recognize his voice – – his word – – and will not follow a stranger.  The shepherd’s job is to protect his sheep, even with his life if necessary.  In some ways, the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep is like that of a parent and child (God the Father, and His children on earth).  In Jesus Christ, our personal “Good Shepherd”, we find protection from our dangers, and the reward of an abundant and everlasting life with and in Him.

The fourth Sunday of the Easter season is called “Good Shepherd Sunday”.  In each of the three lectionary cycles (A, B, and C), the Gospel reading invites us yearly to reflect on Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”.  In each cycle the reading is from the same tenth chapter of John’s Gospel.  This tenth chapter sets the framework and basis for Jesus’ teaching about Himself as the “Good Shepherd”, leading us, – – His sheep, – – to paradise in His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  Today’s Gospel reading falls between the stories of Jesus’ curing the man born blind (chapter 9), and the resurrection of His dead friend, Lazarus (chapter 11).  Both of these “bookend” Gospel stories were just proclaimed during this year’s Lenten Season.

Following the controversy which ensued when He healed the man born blind, Jesus directs His “figment of speech” about “the sheep and the shepherd” towards the Jewish religious leaders listening to Him: specifically, the Pharisees.

The Pharisees believed in a “divine origin” of creation, found in the Jewish Scriptures known to us as the “Torah.”  The Pharisees also believed in the oral traditions received from Moses, Joshua, and the “Elders”.  Pharisees had a belief in the resurrection of the dead (unlike the Sadducees), and were intensely devoted to the “Mosaic Law”, both written and oral (again, unlike the Sadducees).  Most scholars believe that the other Temple Leadership faction, a group called the “Scribes” and who were considered experts in Mosaic Law, also belonged predominantly to this Pharisaic “party” of Temple leaders.

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Before we  dive into today’s reading, and pull away the layers of meaning hidden yet needing to be exposed with the help of the Holy Spirit, I need to explain the concept (for me, at least) of the repeated words, stressing a particular point.

Whenever Jesus says, “AMEN, AMEN”, I believe He is saying to us:

Yo, LISTEN to me.  I am about to say something very important and profound.  Open those ears and shut those mouths!!”

(Trivia time:  “Amen, amen” is said 13 times in the New Testament, all in John’s Gospel: Chapters 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 21.  The repeated word combination – – “Amen, amen” – – is used three times in the Old Testament: Numbers 5, Nehemiah 8, and Tobit 8).  Each time it is used by the writer or speaker to declare that what follows is a true teaching from God.

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Jesus Christ was not the first to use the metaphor of a “Good Shepherd” in teaching about God’s kingdom.  Jeremiah (a seldom read book of the Old Testament) criticized, and spoke against, the Kings and priests (also described as “shepherds”) who let go, – – or even led – – their “sheep”, astray.  Jeremiah wrote:

“The priests asked not, ‘Where is the LORD?’  Those who dealt with the law knew me not: the shepherds rebelled against me.  The prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after useless idols.”  (Jeremiah 2:8);

But then, God promises:

I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently.” (Jeremiah 3:15).

He then goes on to say, referring to the false shepherd in Jeremiah 2: (above):

“Yes, the shepherds were stupid as cattle, the LORD they sought not; Therefore they had no success, and all their flocks were scattered.” (Jeremiah 10:21);

In God’s name, Jeremiah promised “new shepherds” who would graze their flocks properly so that they will never be harassed or anxious again:

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.  Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.  You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deedsI myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply.  I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.  Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:1-6).

Another prophet, Isaiah, even wrote of the “Good Shepherd”:

Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!  Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!  Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.  Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care. (Isaiah 40:9-11).

And finally, Ezekiel censured false “shepherds” for their misdeeds and laziness, their greed and neglect of their responsibility:

Thus the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, in these words prophesy to them (to the shepherds): Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves!  Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?  You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured.  You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts.  My sheep were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; my sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them.  Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep; because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD.” (Ezekiel 34:1-9)

(WOW!!  What a scene.  Does any of this possibly sound familiar to you recently?)

The motif of a “shepherd” was not only related by the prophets, but also used for “Yahweh” – – God Himself – – throughout the Old Testament:

“Then he blessed them with these words: ‘May the God in whose ways my fathers’ Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day.’”  (Genesis 48:15);

“Each one’s bow remained stiff, as their arms were unsteady, By the power of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel(Genesis 49:24).

The special King of Israel, David, saying this song, remembers his early days shepherding in the hills of Israel.  This is what David sang:

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.”  (Psalm 23:1-4);

Shepherd of Israel, listen, guide of the flock of Joseph! From your throne upon the cherubim reveal yourself.” (Psalm 80:2);

And, a later prophet said this addressing God:

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, that dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.” (Micah 7:14).

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The 23rd Psalm is one of the most beloved Psalms expressing our fundamental and  necessary trust in Jesus Christ, who leads us always from dark and difficult places and into the light of His presence, the majestic peace of rest in His kingdom (our true Easter faith).

The 23rd Psalm is not the only portions in Holy Scripture to talk so eloquently about the Shepherd who will rescue from darkness and bring to restful pastures.  Later, the prophet Ezekiel wrote:

“For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.  I will lead them out from among the peoples and gather them from the foreign lands; I will bring them back to their own country and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel (in the land’s ravines and all its inhabited places).”  (Ezekiel 34:11-13).

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Today, in this Gospel reading, Jesus again presents Himself as THE promised “Shepherd”, who looks after His sheep, seeks out strays, cures the
crippled, and carries the weak on His shoulders:

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in
search of the stray
?  And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not strayIn just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14);

And Luke also writes:

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you; in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).

In addition to the title, “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ attaches to Himself the image of the “gate”, and “door” into the “sheepfold”, we now know as the Catholic Church.  As Vatican II teaches:

The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ (John 10:1-10).  It is a flock of which God Himself foretold He would be the shepherd (Cf., Isaiah 40:11; Exodus 34:11ff.), and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds; are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds (cf., John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:4), who gave His life for the sheep (cf., John 10:11-15).” (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 6, 11/21/1964).

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The “Good Shepherd” discourse is a continuation of the confrontation with the Pharisees described in John 9 (the blind man cured).  Since the image of the “Good Shepherd” is figurative, then the “hired hands” would, in fact, be Pharisees who had just excommunicated the cured blind man (cf., John 9).  Today’s reading serves as a commentary on the “cured blind man” story told in this chapter.

Throughout John’s Gospel, the Pharisees (along with the Scribes and Sadducees) failed to accept Jesus’ ministry and teaching, either out of fear, ignorance, or greed.  They showed themselves to be “thieves and robbers” (verse 1) because they tried to lead the “sheep” without themselves entering through the “gate” – – Jesus Christ.

“Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1)

Through the use of this metaphor, Jesus is telling His listeners that those who follow Him and His “way” will find an abundant and glorious life in paradise.  Jesus Christ identified “Himself” both as the “Good Shepherd”, the “door”, and the “gate” of the single, true “sheepfold”.  Still today, the current shepherds of the current sheepfold (Catholic Bishops and the Pope, making up the “Magisterium”: the teaching authority) who are faithful to Him are the ones whom the sheep (Jesus’ disciples – – US) should follow, as faithful sheep follows their shepherd.

We all have “closed doors” in our lives, places we do not wish to enter.  Places inside ourselves where we do not want to go, out of fear and hurt.  Behind these “doors” are things like old hurts, previous and present addictions and health concerns, strong hatreds, personal fears.

Jesus is telling us that He can lead each of us through His “gate”, as each one of us is a much loved part of His flock.  Jesus Christ can lead each of us, personally and individually, through the “closed doors” in our lives – – those places where there is trouble, – – so we can deal with those issues with His support, help, and love: His grace.  Jesus doesn’t stop at just opening up the “doors” of our lives: He also leads us out again, into His kingdom on earth.

As our true “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ NEVER leaves us.  In today’s Gospel reading, He is telling each if us: Don’t be afraid”!!

Jesus, our loving “Good Shepherd”, will always furnish, through the Holy Spirit indwelling within each and every one of us, all that is necessary to do God’s will:

“May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus our Lord, furnish us with all that is good, so that we may do His will.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

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A “Sheepfold” is a low stone wall opened to the sky.  It is simply a pen for sheep.  Other names for a “sheepfold”, in modern language can be “a folding” or sheepcote.  The image represented in today’s reading for the “sheepfold” is, in reality, God’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ’s metaphor about the relationship between sheep and their shepherd is based on the concept of familiarity.  So familiar was the shepherd and his sheep, that each was called by a distinct name.  Sheep recognized, and loved, their specific shepherd.  They would not follow a stranger shepherd arbitrarily.  At the end of a day grazing in the field, shepherds (still to this day) lead their sheep from pastures to a common gated
area called a “sheepfold”.  One shepherd is chosen to protect all of the community’s sheep until the next morning when each flock’s shepherd would return to lead his designated sheep to pasture again.  As shepherds move among sheep, the sheep follow only their shepherd by recognizing and following his voice – – his words.

In the winter the sheep were usually brought into a communal shelter, locked and kept secure by a guardian shepherd, usually positioned at the “gate”.  He was literally the door through which the sheep had to pass.

Each Shepherd had a distinctive call, which only his sheep would recognize and follow.  Do you believe that you have the potential of becoming this familiar in recognizing Jesus Christ’s voice?  Can you quickly discern His voice, His call, from other voices in the world?  Well, you certainly can: the gift of discernment.  This gift is the ability to make good judgments; it is every disciple’s bequest in and through Jesus Christ; it is developed as we imitate His first followers who:

“… devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42).

Paying close attention to Holy Scripture and Church teachings can help us recognize God’s “voice” and the nature of details He might be telling us:

Be attentive to him and heed his voice.  Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin.  My authority resides in him.” (Exodus 23:21)

Fellowship with other followers of Jesus Christ can build us up, helping us to see and understand whether our thoughts and actions are on target with God’s will, or not.  Fellow disciples of Jesus Christ can listen to your ideas and opinions, and advise us whether they think an idea or opinion is sound or not.

Our personal prayer can become an awesome conversation when we learn to “hear” the voice of God, who loves us above all His creations.  The Eucharist can become an intimate, cherished, and loving encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ, who wants to lead us, Himself, into a deeper understanding of His Father’s “will”.

Do not worry about trying to “find” Jesus Christ’s voice within you.  If you simply allow Him to act in and within you, you WILL follow Jesus Christ Himself, intuitively.  You already know His voice:

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

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A shepherd is the leader of a cluster of sheep, called a flock.  They recognize him as their provider, their protector, and their “ALL”Without the shepherd, the “sheep” would no longer be protected, and would succumb to a horrendous death from the evil that follows them (wolves, dogs, and coyotes – – materialism and/or Satan).  These sheep in today’s story follow their human protector, and no other; we “sheep” follow our Divine protector and no other.  Sheep “recognize his voice”, and go where he goes: we “sheep” recognize Jesus Christ’s voice and follow Him, personally and collectively.  We are a “flock”.

In today’s reading, the Pharisees (sheep not of His flock, nor shepherds) do not recognize Jesus.  They do not recognize His voice, His words, or His authority over them.  However, the people of God, as symbolized in today’s story by the blind man and the sheep, do recognize Jesus’ voice, His words, and His authority over us.

Jesus uses the image of the shepherd’s voice being recognized by the sheep to teach a divine truth: since there are “strange” voices surrounding and constantly calling to us (evil), we need to know and recognize the “voice” of Christ Himself!  His voice is continuing without end, and is addressing us through the “Magisterium” of the Catholic Church.  In following God’s specific voice, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, we are receive all the nourishment and protection our soul needs.

St. Josemaría Escrivá writes eloquently about the flow of grace given to us through the voice of Jesus Christ, in an everlasting way, through the Sacraments:

“Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a flow of grace in the sacraments.  He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way.  There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives a road of faithfulness to God.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ is Passing By, 34).

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We’ve all experienced coming into, and being part of, a group in which we did not know anyone initially.  Perhaps it was simply at a friend’s party, or at a wedding or funeral of a relative or acquaintance.  In such encounters and interactions, we naturally look for a familiar face, and listen for a familiar voice within the group or crowd of individuals.

Jesus Christ came as someone who would be (and still is) with us at every step and turn in our lives.  Even when we feel alone, lost, or confused, He is there.  He wants to be a familiar presence in our lives always; He wants His voice to be the voice which we grow to know well, and hear often.  All we need do is to allow Him to get close, and then listen.

So, listen to Jesus and let His face shine upon you:

Shepherd of Israel, listen, guide of the flock of Joseph!  From your throne upon the cherubim reveal yourself to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.  Stir up your power, come to save us.  O LORD of hosts, restore us; Let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.  May your help be with the man at your right hand, with the one whom you once made strong.  Then we will not withdraw from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.  LORD of hosts, restore us; let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.”  (Psalm 80: 2-4, 18-20)

John says that Jesus used a “Figure of speech” (verse 6) in His teaching of the “Good Shepherd”.  John the Evangelist is simply using a different word or phrase for His descriptive speech than the “parable” of the Synoptic Gospels.  However, the concepts are similar.  In His metaphor, Jesus develops and interprets the image of the “shepherd” and “the flock”, in order to ensure that all who are well-disposed to His teachings can understand the meaning of His discourse.

The Pharisees (and many other Jews) failed to understand Jesus Christ.  Their lack of understanding is nothing new for Jesus.  The same people (Pharisees and other Jews), also failed to understand the Eucharist:

“The Jews murmured about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven,’ and they said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father  and mother?  Then how can he say, “I have come down from heaven”?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Stop murmuring among yourselves. (John 6:41-43);

These same people failed to understand the true meaning of the “living water”:

“Some in the crowd who heard these words said, ‘This is truly the Prophet.’  Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But others said, ‘The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he?  Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’  So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.” (John 7:40-43);

And these same people failed even to understand or believe in the raising of Lazarus from the dead:

 “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:45-46).

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The full power of the “Good Shepherd” image came easily to the first-century Palestine inhabitants.  The Jewish people, most of whom were well acquainted with nomadic shepherds in a country where shepherds were a familiar sight.

The sheep themselves were part of a “nomadic” shepherd’s family.  These animals traveled with the family, from birth to death.  New lambs were continuously being born into the “family” group and flock.  Sights, sounds, and smells of the family, the shepherd, and the flock were familiar to these newborn lambs from the time they are born, bonding them to the shepherd as a baby does to its mother.

From the very beginning of our lives, we come to experience and grow in knowledge of God throughout our lives.  We “see”, “hear”, and “smell” God though our various lessons and interactions of life.  As we grow and age, people “from outside the fold” seem to help us interpret our experiences, and help enhance the “truths” we hold within ourselves.

There is a fine distinction, easily overlooked, in today’s reading.  In John 10:7-8, the figure of Christ is as a “gatefor the shepherd to come to the sheep.  However, in the very next verses, John 10:9-10, the figure is that of a gate for the sheep through which sheep could “come in and go out”.

In verse 7-8, Jesus will readily leave the ninety-nine “sheep” to search for and rescue the “one lost sheep”:

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you; in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).

In verse 9-10, Jesus is also the figure of a “gate” for the sheep to “come in and go out”.  With Jesus Christ as our personal “protector and supplier of all our needs”, we enter into His kingdom, in heaven and on earth.  I see this phrase of “coming and going” as living a proper and morally straight Christian Catholic life in all we do, think, believe, and say.  As a Catholic, we are called to “come” to Him, our shepherd, at His table, to receive Him truly, physically, and spiritually through the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist – – Communion, at every opportunity possible. With Jesus Christ indwelling fully within and though each of us at the dismissal of the Mass, we are told to “go out” to spread the good news, the Word of God:

Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” (St. Francis of Assisi).

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What is the lesson we are to learn in today’s Gospel reading?  I believe it is to “abandon” ourselves to Jesus Christ.  We are taught to say: “Lord, do with me what you will.”  This lesson is emphasized during the Advent Season with Mary saying:

“‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38),

And, continued with Jesus teaching us “how to” pray:

“… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

When one gives oneself to Jesus Christ, that person receives  a “Good Shepherd” who will walk with  them through every rough spot – – and knows he or she is never alone with no  “key” to enter the sheepfold.

What does today’s Gospel  reading mean to me (and to you)?  This is  a question that should be asked any,  and every time one reads Holy Scripture, especially the Gospels.  When reading and meditating on the WORD, one  must keep in mind the history, geography, and society AT THAT TIME, while at  the same time keeping it in perspective with today’s much different world and  society.  We should keep in our minds and  hearts what was meant by the “words” themselves then, and still today.  God’s WORD is truly without end:

The word of the Lord remains forever.”  (1 Peter 1:25)

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Our Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ, promises to go and gather  His sheep, scattered throughout the lands, and bring them back to “good pastures”.   Jesus  Christ is the ONLY source for  forgiveness, redemption, and salvation.   In today’s reading, by referring to the Jewish  teachers and to their traditions, Jesus rejects these “supposedly religious” men  as “thieves and robbers”.

It is so easy to recognize that the “voices” of thieves and  robbers CANNOT bring forgiveness,  redemption, and salvation.  In actuality,  these “thieves and robbers” would be  more than happy to quietly, and sneakily, steal any worthwhile virtues and  divine fortunes you have on your soul.  Please  remember, Jesus is the “Good Shepherd”  who came so that we (His sheep) may have eternal live for eternity in heaven  with Him.  Jesus is the way, truth, and  life!

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I have grown to realize that an individual who belongs to the  “true” Church of Jesus Christ, the Catholic (universal) Church, sometimes seems  to enter into “confinement”, that is, the proverbial “sheepfold”.  Maybe this feeling of confinement is because there  are things one CANNOT do in God’s kingdom.  Maybe one feels their “thinking and beliefs” have been stifled by being  a faithful and pious Catholic Christian.  (Have I peeked your interest in where I am going with this thought  process?)

Jesus Christ’s words are “true” in the Catholic  Church.  One may expect that belonging to  the Catholic Church community means giving up some freedom to think and believe  what one may want.  However, in reality,  the security one can find in the “true” Catholic Church – – founded by Jesus  Christ Himself, – – allows all of us the freedom to dream, to explore, and to  ask questions one possibly could not have ever asked before.  By belonging to a community of Jesus Christ’s  disciples, one can dream even greater dreams and experience a far greater destiny,  regardless of “who” we are in this world.  Jesus Christ has come so that we might have life; He has rescued each of  us; He will nurture each of us; and He will love each of us, as only a “Good Shepherd” can do; and only a “Good Shepherd” does.

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In concluding this reflection, (even though we have less  experience with sheep and shepherds in our fast-paced and modern society, we  can still identify strongly with the image of Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” and the “gate” for us, His sheep.  For me, Psalm 23 remains a popular and  favorite psalm for prayer in my life.  In  Jesus’ role of the “Good Shepherd”,  we know ourselves to be protected and cared for by a loving, compassionate, and  merciful God – – for the Father, by the Son, and through the Holy Spirit.

Holy Scriptures describe God as a “shepherd” who brings  security and peace to His people:

The LORD will guard your coming and  going both now and forever.” (Psalm  121:8).

Even today’s leaders,  the Catholic Priests, Bishops and Pope of Christ’s Church on earth, are called “shepherds”,  with Jesus’ image of “Good Shepherd” in mind:

“May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all  mankind, set over the community a man who shall act as their leader in all  things, to guide them in all their actions; that the LORD’S community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16-17).

Just as a shepherd kept watch over his sheep and protected  them from danger day and night, so too does Jesus stands watch over His people,
becoming the “shepherd” and “guardian” of our souls:

For you had gone  astray like sheep, but you have now  returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter  2:25).

And He has chosen to appoint “shepherds” to watch with Him,  and protect by Him, all His sheep, day and night in each generation.

We are given, in  today’s Gospel, the opportunity to reflect on our Catholic faith’s leadership,  and their role in God’s kingdom.  Jesus’  words suggest to us that those who will lead the Catholic Christian community should  be known by their faithfulness to Jesus.  Church leaders should recognize that Jesus Christ  is the “true gate” for all of His “sheep” (His followers), and that having a  good and proper relationship with Jesus Christ is of primary importance for every  Catholic leader now identified as a “Good  Shepherd”.

Jesus’ metaphor also  suggests that a faithful Catholic leader requires a good and proper relationship  with the community: the “shepherd”  knows “his sheep”, AND they (His  sheep) know him.  Catholic Christian  leaders should “truly”, and “fully”, follow the example of Jesus Christ, the “Good Shepherd”, by being faithful to Him  and being a good and proper “shepherd” themselves. (AMEN, AMEN!!)

Do you know, do you recognize, and do you desire the peace  and security of a life “truly” and “fully” “abandoned” to God as your personal  and communal “Good Shepherd”?  (Sounds hard, doesn’t it?!)  Do you look to Jesus, the “Good Shepherd”,  to receive the strength and courage you need, on a daily basis, to live and  serve Him as His faithful disciple?

Jesus Christ is the GATE.  The only way into His sheepfold, His kingdom, is THROUGH Him.  We must  enter into Him, and allow Him to enter into us (surrender ourselves), thus  filling us with His presence.  Through Jesus  Christ, we not only enter into His kingdom, but in His filling us with  “Himself”, we become the gate for others to enter into His kingdom as  well.  Very powerful; just think about  this last sentence for a while.  – – Read  Ephesians 4:11-16.

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I hope you have guessed by now that I have chosen the 23rd  Psalm as the closing prayer for today’s Gospel reflection.  Written by King David, the 23rd Psalm  is portrayed with figures of a “shepherd”  for the “flock”, and a desire for  generosity toward a guest at His feast.  The  imagery of both sections of the 23rd Psalm is drawn from the  teachings and traditions of the “40 year exodus” in the desert:

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in  his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes  with care.  They shall not hunger or thirst,  nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them; for he who pities  them leads them and guides them beside springs of water.” (Isaiah 40:11; 49:10);

And,

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant coasts, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers  them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock.” (Jeremiah 31:10).

There are five terms or phrases in the 23rd  Psalm’s beautiful song and prayer that I would like to explain prior to your  reading it on your own:

  • The right path” means the “right  way”, the “way of righteousness.”
  • A dark valley” is often translated to  mean the universally well-known, “the  valley of the shadow of death.”
  • You set a table before me” is an  expression occurring in an “exodus” perspective, as found in Psalm 78:19:

They spoke against God, and said, “Can God spread a table in the desert?” (Psalm 78:19)

  • Oil” is a well-known (at least to the  Jewish People) perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at  banquets and in the anointing of Kings: (cf., Psalm 104:15; Matthew 26:7; Luke  7:37, 46; John 12:2).
  • Goodness and love” are the blessings emitting  continuously, and without end, from God’s covenant with Israel, the “chosen”  people.

 “23rd Psalm

“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures you let me graze; to safe  waters you lead me; you restore my strength.  You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through a dark valley,  I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.  You set a table before me as my  enemies watch; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Only goodness and love will pursue me  all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to  come.  Amen.”

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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New Translation of the Mass

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

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

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

There is  only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we now say, “God of power and might,” with the new liturgical text we will say:

God of hosts”.

While this may make many people think of round Communion wafers, the meaning here is “armies,” and it refers to the armies of angels who serve God.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Isidore the Farmer (1070-1130)

Isidore has become the patron of farmers and rural communities. In particular he is the patron of Madrid, Spain, and of the United States National Rural Life Conference.

When he was barely old enough to wield a hoe, Isidore entered the service of John de Vergas, a wealthy landowner from Madrid, and worked faithfully on his estate outside the city for the rest of his life. He married a young woman as simple and upright as himself who also became a saint—Maria de la Cabeza. They had one son, who died as a child.

Isidore had deep religious instincts. He rose early in the morning to go to church and spent many a holiday devoutly visiting the churches of Madrid and surrounding areas. All day long, as he walked behind the plow, he communed with God. His devotion, one might say, became a problem, for his fellow workers sometimes complained that he often showed up late because of lingering in church too long.

He was known for his love of the poor, and there are accounts of Isidore’s supplying them miraculously with food. He had a great concern for the proper treatment of animals.

He died May 15, 1130, and was declared a saint in 1622 with Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila and Philip Neri. Together, the group is known in Spain as “the five saints.”

Comment:

Many implications can be found in a simple laborer achieving sainthood: Physical labor has dignity; sainthood does not stem from status; contemplation does not depend on learning; the simple life is conducive to holiness and happiness. Legends about angel helpers and mysterious oxen indicate that his work was not neglected and his duties did not go unfulfilled. Perhaps the truth which emerges is this: If you have your spiritual self in order, your earthly commitments will fall into order also. “[S]eek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,” said the carpenter from Nazareth, “and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33).

Quote:

“God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…. See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food’” (Genesis 1:28a, 29–30a).

Patron Saint of: Farmers, Laborers

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:

Franciscan Spirituality

 

Have I developed and nurtured my Franciscan Spirituality?  Or have I been developing and practicing another style and approach?

What have I been doing recently to develop my Franciscan Spirituality?

Have my religious activities been heavily “routine” and without much “spirit”?

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

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

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

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“Knock, Knock, Who’s There!” – Luke 13:22-30†


32 Days till the Start of the Advent Season, AND
59 Days till Christmas

 

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   625 – Honorius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

I am ready to meet my maker.  Whether or not my maker is prepared for the  great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. — Winston Churchill

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about entrance to heaven only through Faith AND Works.

 

22 He passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’  He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”  (NAB Luke 13:22-30)

 

What is this “narrow door” to the “Masters House?” Jesus’ story about the door being shut on the procrastinators coming too late insinuates that they had offended their host [God] through their action (or inaction), and that this justified their ban, – – their barring from heaven.  I believe most, if not nearly all Jewish people understood this part of the story simply because the Jewish religious teachers of Jesus’ time would not allow students arriving late to class to enter; the door being closed and locked.  Furthermore, these students were banned from class for an entire week in order to teach a lesson in discipline and faithfulness to the divine importance of their religious duties.

Today’s Gospel reading immediately follows Jesus’ “parables of the kingdom” found in Luke 13:18-21: 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.” 

These two parables preceding today’s reading were used by Jesus to illustrate the future magnitude of the “kingdom of God.” This future kingdom will result from the worldly mission and ministry of Jesus’ preaching, advocacy and healing.

Today’s reading stresses the great effort required for gaining entrance into God’s kingdom and that it is vital to accept the opportunity, given NOW to enter, because this “narrow door” will not remain open forever.  

The “narrow door” which Jesus is talking about is HIMSELF!!  In John 10:9, Jesus literally states, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”  Jesus gives us the way to enter into the paradise of heaven through the Holy Cross wherein He was crucified for our sins.  God, through the human and divine natures of Jesus, sacrificed HIMSELF for OUR sins!!  If we want to be citizens of God’s kingdom on earth AND in heaven, we must follow Jesus’ path, which includes “the way of the cross.”  

The word “strive” from verse 24 can also be translated from the original Greek to mean “agony.”  To enter the narrow gate one must labor against the vigor of, and our sometimes profound weakness to, temptation to sin – and other obstructions from doing the will of God – such as apathy, laziness, and indifference.

Many Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time believed that ALL “Jewish” people would automatically gain entrance to heaven, except for a few clearly obvious “sinners.” I would bet the proverbial “tax-collector,” leper, and prostitute were on the Pharisees “barred from heaven” list!  Most Jewish leaders believed “Israel” was specially chosen by God when He established a covenant with them and thus guaranteed, in essence, a slot in heaven no matter what happens. 

This last paragraph makes me ponder the “saved by faith alone” versus the “saved by faith and works” arguments.  How many people believe they automatically have a slot held for them in heaven – – just because they believe they are saved by God

Heck, Satan even believes in God!!

Sadly, this belief is not just a protestant tenet anymore.  I know of many Roman Catholics endorsing this error in faith.  Jesus warns that ANYONE can be excluded – permanently BANNED – if one does not endeavor to enter the “narrow door” through faith AND works! 

Jesus doesn’t directly answer the question asked in verse 23: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  However, His response is strikingly interesting for two reasons.  First, Jesus says that being a member of God’s chosen people, does not automatically give one a ticket for entrance through the narrow door into the kingdom of God.  

Second, Jesus’ words were a warning of rejecting His teachings’.  Jesus declares that many “Gentiles” from places outside Palestine would also enter heaven; God’s invite is open to Jew AND Gentile alike.  Some Jewish people would have their “places at table of the banquet in the kingdom” taken from them and given to Gentiles from the “four corners” of the world.  Many Gentiles would go through the narrow gate to paradise BEFORE even those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended: the chosen Jewish people.

In Luke 14:15-24, a parable about “the great dinner” is a further example of rejection by most of the Jewish people towards Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet of heaven, AND the addition of the invitation to all the Gentiles of the world.  Also invited, in Luke’s parable are the poor, crippled, blind, and lame who Jesus grouped as those who recognize their need for salvation.

Please remember that we do not go through this “worldly” struggle alone.   God is always with us, giving us His grace when we are open to receiving.  As we struggle, we are promised an open “narrow” door as long as we maintain our faith and works – – for ourselves, others, and God!

 

“Prayer for Success in Work”

 

“Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my many sins; to work with thankfulness and joy, considering it an honor to employ and develop, by means of labor, the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, prudence and patience, never surrendering to weariness or difficulties; to work, above all, with purity of intention, and with detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account which I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success so fatal to the work of God.  All for Jesus, all for Mary, all after thy example, O Patriarch Joseph.  Such shall be my motto in life and death.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza (c. 1200-1271)

 

Dominicans honor one of their own today, Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza. This was a man who used his skills as a preacher to challenge the heresies of his day.

Bartholomew was born in Vicenza around 1200. At 20 he entered the Dominicans. Following his ordination he served in various leadership positions. As a young priest he founded a military order whose purpose was to keep civil peace in towns throughout Italy.

In 1248, Bartholomew was appointed a bishop. For most men, such an appointment is an honor and a tribute to their holiness and their demonstrated leadership skills. But for Bartholomew, it was a form of exile that had been urged by an antipapal group that was only too happy to see him leave for Cyprus. Not many years later, however, Bartholomew was transferred back to Vicenza. Despite the antipapal feelings that were still evident, he worked diligently—especially through his preaching—to rebuild his diocese and strengthen the people’s loyalty to Rome.

During his years as bishop in Cyprus, Bartholomew befriended King Louis the Ninth of France, who is said to have given the holy bishop a relic of Christ’s Crown of Thorns.

Bartholomew died in 1271. He was beatified in 1793.

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the Rule:

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.

Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).

We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).

We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).

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

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

“Oh, holy Father, protect them with your name (cf. Jn 17:11) whom you gave me out of the world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they received it. They have known that in truth I came from you; they have believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9). Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word (cf. Jn 17:20) that they may be holy by being one, as we are (cf. Jn 17:11). And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see this glory of mine in your kingdom” (cf. Jn 17:6-24).

 

“What Exactly Does a ‘Mustard Seed’ Look Like Anyway, & Who Grows Them; the Jews or the Gentiles. There is No Produce in Our Creeds?!” – Luke 13: 22-30†


The retreat I just attended the past three days was, for lack of a better word, AWESOME!!!  Spending three days with seventy-two Secular Franciscans and Friars (OFM) was very spiritually uplifting.  We prayed together, laughed together, played together, and experienced Gods presence in a very unique way.

Fr. Albert Haase, OFM was our retreat speaker.  He gave four presentations, with an additional Q&A session.  Everyone attending the retreat believed he was actually talking about THEIR respective lives, in his talks on the “Spiritual Journey.”  With his unique combination of childhood rearing in New Orleans, and spending many years on the upper east coast, he has a very distinguished Arcadian-New Jersey accent. 

I want to thank him again.  He is a very dynamic, funny, spiritual, and captivating speaker.  If you ever get a chance to attend a presentation of his, DO IT!!

 

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

   
†  1241 – Death of Gregory IX, Italian religious leader, 178th Pope (b. c. 1143)
†  1280 – Death of Nicholas III, Italian religious leader, 188th Pope (b. c. 1216)
†  1679 – Birth of Pierre †  Guérin de Tencin, French cardinal (d. 1758)
†  1760 – Birth of Pope Leo XII (d. 1829)
†  1914 – Death of Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi bishop of Bergamo
†  Roman Catholic Feast – Mary Queen of angels, Immaculate Heart

 

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

Here is a little known fact about the Mustard Seed:

 

If you plant tomatoes close to jalapenos, you will get hot tomatoes.  Many other plants & vegetables cannot grow around certain types of other plants or vegetables because they take on the characteristics of what they are around. However, a mustard tree can be grown around anything, as it is not affected by its surroundings!  You could plant a mustard seed right on top of a jalapeno seed & it will grow completely unaffected by the jalapeno.

  

Reading scripture again brings a new understanding.  It isn’t so much on how “small” the mustard seed is, but rather that the mustard seed is unaffected by its surroundings, environment, or what conditions may be present!  Therefore, so should our faith, “be like unto the mustard seed.”  Faith that is like unto the mustard seed is unmovable, non-doubting, & steadfast.  Just Believe!

From http://my.opera.com

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about the parable of the “narrow door,” and faith and relationship with God.

 

 

22 Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”  (NAB Luke 13: 22-30)

 

Today’s Gospel reading is the third of three parables (the others are described later in this reflection) in chapter 13 of Luke’s Gospel that deals with the theme of the unexpected reversals brought by the Kingdom of God.  The other two parables are about the tiny mustard seed that grows into a large bush, and the small amount of yeast that makes a large batch of dough rise.  All three parables are about the “few and the many,” in relation to the Kingdom of God.

As the parable in today’s Gospel reading opens, Luke reminds us that Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem.  This journey, this “exodus” as Luke refers to it, makes up the entire middle of his Gospel.  Jesus teaches as he goes to His ultimate destination, Jerusalem.  

A question from the crowd gives Jesus the chance to make a prophetic statement.  Luke uses this type of question device a number of times in his Gospel.  A few weeks ago, the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” led to the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The question about “only a few will be saved” today uses typical Christian language about salvation, but also expresses the Jewish concern about whether everyone who calls himself a Jew is actually faithful to the covenant.  

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  What a direct, challenging, and difficult question.  Jesus gave an equally direct and very challenging answer in this Gospel reading.  Salvation is something we have to take seriously.  We have to hold our faith, internally and externally, each and every day of our lives.  St. Augustine once said that God created us without our help, BUT, He will not save us without our help!  We have a major part to play in letting redemption make a way into our hearts, minds, and souls. 

These sayings of Jesus in today’s Gospel, follows upon the two parables of the kingdom in Luke 13:18-21, —“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,” — and are used to illustrate the future proportions of the kingdom of God that will result from its small beginning in the preaching and healing ministry of Jesus.  Nothing will stand in the way of Jesus’ part in fulfilling God’s will, and in establishing the kingdom through His actions such as teaching, exorcisms, and healings.

One must remember that Jerusalem is the city of destiny and the goal of the journey for Jesus Christ on earth.  Only when he reaches this “holy city” will his work be accomplished.  (Trivia time:  the word “Jerusalem” translates to “city of peace.”)

Jesus answers that they (and we) must strive in the time we have remaining on earth, to enter through that the narrow door of faith and trust in Him.  Many will be trying to get in, but won’t be strong enough [in faith or trust].  Jesus then shifts to a parable about another door. (The translation actually says “gate,” then “door,” although the same Greek word is used.)  Once all those entering the master’s house are in and he locks the door, there will be no way for others to enter.  Those outside the door (the kingdom of God) may knock, but the master will say he doesn’t know them.  God will deny even knowing them; they will be like strangers to Him.  Unlike the Gospel reading from a few weeks ago where Jesus was teaching about prayer, and we were told to knock and the door would be opened, in this parable the master will not open, and will say he does not know those outside.  People from other places than the Jewish people of Jerusalem will take our place inside.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, Jesus says, will take our place with others in the Kingdom of God.  Those who do not make it through this “narrow door” will be cast out to where there is wailing and grinding of teeth – eternal agony without love of any kind!

The gate to Jerusalem, in reality, was supposedly a very narrow doorway.  Apparently, in order to go through the gate to the temple courtyard, camels had to have all baggage removed to squeeze through.  By saying the gate is narrow; Jesus is saying a great effort is required for entrance into the kingdom, and the urgency to accept the present opportunity to enter the kingdom because the “narrow door” will not remain open indefinitely.  Get rid of your baggage and step over that threshold NOW, before it is too late!

By rejecting Jesus and his message, His Jewish “contemporaries” place at the table for the feast in God’s kingdom, will be taken by Gentiles from the four corners of the world.  Those called last (the Gentiles) will precede those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended (the Jewish people).

The image of the door is replaced in the final verses of today’s parable with the image of a heavenly banquet.  Two passages from the Book of Isaiah influence the conclusion of this story.  Isaiah 43:5-6 speaks of God bringing Israel’s descendents back from the east and from the west, the north and the south.  And Isaiah 25:6 speaks of the Lord providing a feast of rich foods and choice wines for all peoples on His Holy Mountain.  The answer to the question “if only a few will be saved” is NO.  In the end many will be saved, but many who thought they would be saved will not be saved.  The parable is a prophetic warning to repent, in order to enter the kingdom.  Oh, how I wish the faithful would grasp hold of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and treasure it for the heavenly grace that it is!

In Luke 14:15-24, — the parable about the invited dinner guests not coming to the banquet, so the master sent his servants out to the streets to get people for the banquet — the story of the “great dinner” is a further illustration of the rejection of Jesus by Israel, who is God’s “chosen” people.  In doing so, Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet of the kingdom and the extension of the invitation to others, such as the Gentiles, who recognize their need for salvation, is exemplified.

 Another similar parable is found in Matthew 22:1-10, a story about a king who gave a wedding feast.  The invited refused to come, not once but TWICE; and going as far as killing some of the servants sent by the king to invite the people.  The king sent troops to destroy and burn their cities, and kill the offenders.  Afterwards, the king sent out servants to the streets inviting anyone they came across, bad and good alike to the banquet, thus filling the hall with guests. 

In this parable, this story, are many symbolic traits by Matthew, instead of Luke.  The burning of the cities of the guests that refused the invitation corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.  The parable ends by presenting the kingdom in a two-fold expression of faith.  The first expression is a kingdom that is already present and that can be entered here and now.  The second being one that will be possessed only by those who can stand the scrutiny of the final judgment, during the Perugia.  

We all take advantage of certain days throughout the year to celebrate individuals and to make sure that they know that they are not taken for granted.  Birthdays, anniversaries, religious and secular holidays, and so on.  These days are intended to express appreciation in a special way, but are not meant to replace the appreciation and love that we should always show one another.  

We are also guilty of taking one another for granted from time to time (and maybe even daily).  In today’s Gospel, Jesus told us a story about some people who took something for granted and then paid a very heavy price.  He is warning us not to assume that we will have eternal life in heaven, and not to take HIS invitation for granted.

The question for all of us to reflect on is whether we have Jesus first in our lives, and in our priorities.  Are we taking the time to let Him minister to us: to advocate, comfort, and care for us, every day of our lives.  The “creed” we say at every Mass IS the statement of our Catholic faith.  We must place our faith and trust in all the truths that this creed proclaims, without any uncertain or optional requisites.  One cannot pick and choose which tenants of Catholicism to believe and practice, in order to be Catholic!

Every day of our lives, we need to make it an essential element of our time, to make our own personal confession of faith, based on the truths of the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed.  I find the best time is in the evening, just prior to going to bed.  I simply review the days happenings, and my thoughts and actions; then ask God for forgiveness of any errors in my day, and for the ability (through the help of the Holy Spirit) to not repeat them. 

We need to open our hearts to these truths in the creed daily, so we can place our faith in them more and more.  From a tiny mustard seed, a might bush will grow!  Let us all show appreciation for one another today, and in the days ahead.  Let us strive to NOT take for granted any of the many things others do for us.

 

 

“Faith of a Mustard Seed”

 

 

“Lord, I know that faith is a powerful force.  By our faith we allow the Holy Spirit to reside in us, to teach us, and to guide us.  Without faith the Paraclete cannot live in and through us, and we would be as people of just this world instead of your kingdom.  It is written in Sacred Scripture that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing is impossible.  Please allow my faith to grow into a mighty tree, so that I may harvest a huge bounty to share with you and others.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Queenship of Mary

    

Pius XII established this feast in 1954. But Mary’s queenship has roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship. We can also recall that in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in court.

In the fourth century St. Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and “Queen” and Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.” The Dominican rosary and the Franciscan crown as well as numerous invocations in Mary’s litany celebrate her queenship.

The feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In his encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, Pius XII points out that Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection and because of her intercessory power.

Comment:

As St. Paul suggests in Romans 8:28–30, God has predestined human beings from all eternity to share the image of his Son. All the more was Mary predestined to be the mother of Jesus. As Jesus was to be king of all creation, Mary, in dependence on Jesus, was to be queen. All other titles to queenship derive from this eternal intention of God. As Jesus exercised his kingship on earth by serving his Father and his fellow human beings, so did Mary exercise her queenship. As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king till the end of time (Matthew 28:20), so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth.

Quote:

“Let the entire body of the faithful pour forth persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men. Let them implore that she who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers may now, exalted as she is in heaven above all the saints and angels, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints. May she do so until all the peoples of the human family, whether they are honored with the name of Christian or whether they still do not know their Savior, are happily gathered together in peace and harmony into the one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 69).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #22 of 26:

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

 

“Jesus Wants to Know: Are You a Good or Baa’d Sheep!” – John 10:1-10†


It’s a beautiful day in the large metropolis of Hazelwood, Missouri.  I had a very spiritual and enjoyable weekend.  Someone sent me this thought of our “priorities in life,” and I would like to share it with you as well.  I pray everyone has a beautiful day.

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone? 
What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets? 
 What if we flipped through it several times a day? 
 What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it? 
   What if we used it to receive messages from the text? 
   What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it? 
 What if we gave it to Kids as gifts? 
   What if we used it when we traveled? 
 What if we used it in case of emergency? 
   This is something to make you go….hmm…where is my Bible? 
  Oh, and one more thing. 
Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being 
disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill. 
  Makes you stop and think ‘where are my priorities? And no dropped calls! 
  When Jesus died on the cross, he was thinking of you!

Today in Catholic History:
†  121 – Birth of Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (d. 180)
†  1467 – The miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Counsel appears in Genazzano, Italy.
†  1478 – The Pazzi attack Lorenzo de’ Medici and kill his brother Giuliano during High Mass in the Duomo of Florence.
†  Liturgical Feasts: Our Lady of Good Counsel, Saint Alda (d. 1309), Richarius or Riquier (d. 643), Paschasius (d. 865), Saint Cletus (Pope Anacletus) and Marcellinus (Popes and martyrs), Lucidius (4th century), Trudpert (Irish monk martyred in Germany in 607).

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus being the good shepherd

Quote or Joke of the Day:

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. — Henry Ford

Today’s Meditation:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.  But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.  So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.  (NAB John 10:1-10)
 

This “good shepherd” dialogue continues the theme of attack on the Pharisees from the preceding verses. The hired hands are symbolic of the Pharisees who excommunicated the cured blind man.  The Pharisees do not recognize Jesus for His role on earth, but the people of God (symbolized by the blind man) do recognize Jesus as the true Shepherd prophesized in the Old Testament.

The “figure of speech” that John used is a different word for illustrative speech than the “parable” of the synoptic gospel, but the idea is similar.  This quasi-parable illustrates that Jesus keeps those “outside” His teachings and belief from understanding, while His disciples know what He is talking about.

The crowds present are compared to sheep without a shepherd who must watch out for the wolves of false prophets in their community.  The righteous are the sheep that are saved from these false prophets by following Jesus as their shepherd.

In verses John 10:7-8, Jesus is the shepherd’s gate to come to His flock: the sheep.  In the next verses, John 10:9-10, Jesus is the shepherd’s gate for His flock: the sheep, to come in and go out.  Jesus is the gate: the “good shepherd.”  This symbolic gate, along with the symbol of the shepherd, is of messianic origin; and routinely found throughout the Old Testament.

What does this gospel reading mean to me?  The Lord, Jesus Christ, promises to go and gather His sheep, who are scattered throughout the lands, and bring them back to good pastures.  Jesus is the only source for salvation.  In referring to the Jewish teachers and to their traditions, He rejects them as thieves: they cannot bring salvation.  Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” who came so that we sheep may have life for eternity, in paradise with Him.  Jesus is the way, truth, and life!

“Jesus; swing that gate open wide.  I do not want any misses as I aim for your safety and your good pastures.  Please help me enter.  Amen.”

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Cletus

St. Cletus Popes, Martyrs April 26 A.D. 91     St. Cletus was the third bishop of Rome, and succeeded St. Linus, which circumstance alone shows his eminent virtue among the first disciples of St. Peter in the West. He sat twelve years, from 76 to 89. The canon of the Roman mass, (which Bossuet and all others agree to be of primitive antiquity,) Bede, and other Martyrologists, style him a martyr. He was buried near St. Linus, on the Vatican, end his relics still remain in that church.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.

“Following in Jesus’ Footsteps!“ – Acts 3:1-10†


Happy Easter Wednesday.  I love this Easter Season more than I have any other in the past.  I’m not sure why, but it is probably related to sharing my faith with all of you.  I want to thank you for reading my blogs, and I pray that they have helped you in a little way, to appreciate God a little more.  I love ‘ya.
 

Today’s reflection is about Peter and John continuing miracles through the Holy Spirit.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
  

It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look. ~St. Francis of Assisi
 

Today’s Meditation:
     

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer.  And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple.  When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”  He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.  Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, (rise and) walk.”  Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.  He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.  (NAB Acts 3:1-10)

      

This section starts a series of events for the apostles, and for the “new” church of “Christ.”  The dramatic cure of a lame beggar produces a large audience for a proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ by Peter, in subsequent verses.  The Sadducees, taking exception to the doctrine of resurrection will later have Peter, John, and even the beggar arrested and brought to trial before the same Sanhedrin that persecuted and convicted Jesus in just the recent past.  The issue concerns the authority by which Peter and John publicly teach religious doctrine in the temple.  

With the day beginning at 6 A.M., the ninth hour would be 3 P.M.   This is the same hour that Jesus died, claiming victory over sin.  As Jesus claimed victory, so did these two apostles, and the lame beggar.  The Holy Spirit entered each of these people, and acted in a specific way:  the apostles, through the grace of belief and healing; and through the beggar, by a grace of a new life without defects, and with a belief in the risen Lord.

The miracle proves the saving power of Christ, and leads the beggar to enter the temple, where he hears Peter’s proclamation of salvation through Jesus.  Can you just picture this forty year-old man jumping and yelling, with tears in his eyes out of great joy, exclaiming loudly that “Jesus’ power had cured him!”  I also see Peter and John standing there with a “Jesus told you so” look on their faces; and the temple elders with “Oh no, not again – is this ever going to stop?” looks on their faces.

St. Francis said, “Preach the gospel, and if needed, use words!”  Peter and John, wearing robes with a rope belt, must have been great “Franciscans.”

“Jesus, your magnificence and mercy is beyond our imagination.  Thank you for just being you.  Amen.”
  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. John Baptist de la Salle

  

John Baptist de la Salle was born at Rheims, France on April 30th. He was the eldest of ten children in a noble family. He studied in Paris and was ordained in 1678. He was known for his work with the poor. He died at St. Yon, Rouen, on April 7th. He was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1900. John was very involved in education. He founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (approved in 1725) and established teacher colleges (Rheims in 1687, Paris in 1699, and Saint-Denis in 1709). He was one of the first to emphasize classroom teaching over individual instruction. He also began teaching in the vernacular instead of in Latin. His schools were formed all over Italy. In 1705, he established a reform school for boys at Dijon. John was named patron of teachers by Pope Pius XII in 1950. His feast day is April 7th.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #7:
 

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.

A Day at the Spa! Could Jesus Swim? – Jn 5:1-6†


Jeanine and the boys come home today.  Four days gone, and I have a cleaning crew coming in to put the house back in order.  I am amazed at messy the boys can get the house; even when they aren’t there!
  

Today’s reflection is about Jesus third miracle.

  

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Did you know that dolphins are so intelligent that within only a few weeks of captivity, they can train handlers to stand at the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.

 http://www.oneliners-and-proverbs.com/

 

Today’s Meditation:

 

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep (Gate) a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.  In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.  One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” (NAB Jn 5:1-6)

 

Jesus must have loved food.  It seems He was always going to a feast, or feeding the masses.  Actually, in the time of Jesus, all business dealings of any importance was associated with food.  Contracts and other business dealings were often overlapped with banquets.  This practice continues today: weddings have “rehearsal dinners” and celebrations after the marriage ceremony.  We also have “business lunches,” and so on.  

The self-revelation of Jesus continues in Jerusalem, at yet another feast. His third sign (miracle) of His divine nature is performed at this pool of water.  He cures a paralytic by His “life-giving” word of “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”  The water of the pool, in this story, fails to bring life; but Jesus’ word does.  

Some scholars say this feast could have been Pentecost or Passover.  Regardless, the writer of this gospel reading, John, stresses that the day was a Sabbath day.  Performing this miracle on the Sabbath again brought Jesus under the scrutiny of the temple leaders.  They considered this as a breaking of the law to do no work on the Sabbath.  

The word “Gate” is supplied on the grounds that there must have been a gate in the NE wall of the temple area where animals for sacrifice were brought in.  The Aramaic word “Bethesda” is the name of a double pool of water northeast of the temple area.  Interestingly, a pool was excavated in Jerusalem that actually had the five porticoes described.  Maybe this is the “Bethesda” mentioned.  

 Apparently a spring in the pool bubbled up occasionally in this pool.  Tradition holds that this turbulence was believed to cure the first to enter the pool.  Towards the end of the second century in the West; and among the fourth-century Greek Fathers, an additional verse was added to this gospel reading: “For an angel of the Lord used to come down into the pool; and the water was stirred up, so the first one to get in [after the stirring of the water] was healed of whatever disease afflicted him.”   The angel was a popular explanation of the turbulence and the healing powers attributed to it for the early Christians. This verse is not in any early Greek manuscripts, nor in the earliest versions of the written bible, including the original Vulgate.  

“Lord, through baptism you stirred the waters of my faith and love for you.  Please keep stirring up the ‘water’ within me so my love for you continues to grow.  Amen”  

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

  

*****

 

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Abban

  

Abbot and Irish missionary. An Irish prince, Abban was the son of King Cormac of Leinster. He is listed as the nephew of St. Ibar. Abban founded many churches in the old district of Ui Cennselaigh, in modern County Wexford and Ferns. His main monastery is Magheranoidhe, in Adamstown, Ireland. This monastery’s fame is attributed in some records to another Abban, that of New Ross. Abban is also associated with Kill-Abban Abbey in Leinster, serving as abbot there until March 16, 620. He is revered in Adamstown, which was once called Abbanstown.  His feast day is March 16.

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

  

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #16:

  

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

“Knock, Knock, Who’s There; and Where Am I?!” – Ps 118:20


A bright and sunny Sunday morning.  Blue skies; and I am absorbing as much as possible.  All I can say is, “GO COLTS!!!”

Todays reflection is about the “Pearly Gates.” 

Bible Study

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

“Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.” – Unknown

  

Today’s Meditation:

  

This is the LORD’S own gate, where the victors enter.  (NAB Ps 118:20)

  

St. Peter standing at the ‘pearly gates” with a large book, checking to make sure the person wanting through the gates is on the list.  This is just about every american childs, and some adults, belief of what going to heaven is all about.  No one that I know of can tell me exactly what heaven looks like, or how we “enter” heaven.  Its beauty and magnificence is beyond our comprehension.  I’m sure there are things that we have no knowledge of, and will be granted to us, after our life here ends. 

My vision of our journey, after death, is like a quasi-“Lets Make a Deal” event.  There are three doors in front of you.  One door is elaborately decorated, and brightly colored.  The other doors are plain, without any decorative elements whatsoever.  Matter of fact, these two doors have such tiny doorknobs on them, that it is difficult to grab and turn the knobs.  

You walk up to the doors, and two of the doors are locked!  Which door is “Your” unlocked door.  The elaborate and beautiful door hides behind it, HELL!  The other two doors lead directly to purgatory and heaven respectively.  Why is the door to hell beautiful, and the other doors to paradise plain?  Because they represent our life’s journey, to these doors. 

If you choose the path that is easy; full of self needs such as fame, fortune, power, and materialistic wants: and not for love of,  and for God; through prayer, abstinence, fasting, and wants for others: then the door representing your life on earth is the one bright and colorful.  But this door (and path you chose) leads to emptiness, for eternity.  Hell is a place where you CANNOT feel, or give love.  You cannot even love yourself.  No love means that the only feelings you can experience is hate, loath, fear and depression

The other doors represent our existence on earth as well.  A life where God is the center of our life.  A life of not only fun, but also sacrifice; love for others; and giving of self physically, spiritually, and financially, as means allow.  Does this mean we must suffer, and be poor?  Definitely not!  Many rich people are God centered; and many vagrants are evil centered.  All it means is that their chosen path of the future, after this life, is more important than the “bling” of being self-centered.  

Mortal sins lead us only to the beautiful door.  Mortal sins separate us from a relationship with God.  The only way to remove the stain of mortal sins is through the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” (confession). 

The other two doors, though plain, hide certain beauty behind them.  One leads directly to paradise; and the other to a place that prepares one for a future in paradise.  The former is opened very little, as few have no remnants of sin that need to be cleaned, prior to entrance.  The latter is a place of renewal, and remediation of our sins that have not separated us from God (venial sins for us catholic folk). 

“Lord, my heavenly Father, please be with me on my path to the doors of eternity.  I choose the plain doors over the bright door.  Please help me to get to the plain doors, so I may have eternity in your presence.  Amen”

  

Pax et Bonum

Dan Halley, SFO

  

*****

  

Franciscan Saint of the Day: St. Colette 1381-1447

  

In the little town of Corbie, France, Colette was born on January 12, 1381, of exemplary working people. She was a child of grace, an answer to her mother’s incessant prayers, for the latter was already 60 years old then and had been childless up to that time. 

The little girl took great pleasure in prayer, in compassion for the poor, and in rigorous mortification, making of her soul and of her tender body a sacrifice to God. Up to her 14th year she remained unusually small in stature; the was a great grief got her father. Colette begged God to console her father in this matter, and then she began to grow very rapidly to normal height. On the other hand, she asked God to deprive her of the rare beauty she possessed, which she believed might be the occasion of danger to herself and others; that request, too, was granted, and Colette developed features of a severe cast which inspired great respect. 

When both her parents had died, Colette, at the age of 22, obtained the permission of the Church authorities to shut herself up in a small abode directly adjoining the church; from a small window in it she could see the Blessed Sacrament. There she expected to spend the remainder of her life as an anchoress. She had embraced the rule of the Third Order of St. Francis, in accordance with which she endeavored to live in perfect poverty, severe mortification, and constant prayer in order to become daily more and more like the Seraphic Father. She received many consolations from heaven, but on the other hand she also experienced severe temptations and even corporal abuse from the spirits of darkness. 

Almighty God had destined Colette for something extraordinary. He excited in her the desire to re-introduce the strict observance of the rule of St. Clare, which many convents of Poor Clares then observed in a modified form. The humble virgin recoiled at the thought, which she tried to persuade herself was an illusion of the proud spirit of darkness. But the inspiration returned again and again, and when she continued to resist it, she was struck dumb and later on blind, until she finally resigned herself to the will of God, like Saul before Damascus. “Lord,” she sobbed in her heart, “what wilt Thou have me do? I am ready to do anything Thou desirest of me.” At once her speech and her sight were restored. The Lord sent her a special director under whose guidance she was to perform extraordinary things. And so, after spending four years in her retreat, and with the authority and the blessing of the pope, she established one convent of Poor Clares after another, so that the number reached 17 during her lifetime. After her death similar foundations were established in countries other than France, in which the primitive rule of St. Clare began to flourish anew. 

St. Colette endured untold hardships in fulfilling the task assigned to her, but heaven supported her even in visible ways; numerous miracles, including the raising to life of several dead persons, occurred in answer to her prayers and in confirmation of her work. So, the great foundress remained ever humble, regarding everything as the work of God, who often chooses the lowliest of people as His instruments. 

On this foundation of humility she endeavored to foster in her convents the spirit of prayer and simplicity of heart, She placed great value on the recitation of the Divine Office in choir, undoubtedly in remembrance of the practice existing in her native town, and infused this esteem into her fellow sisters. She was also filled with zeal for the salvation of souls, and once in a vision she saw souls falling into hell more swiftly than the snowflakes in a winter’s storm. 

After laboring for 40 years, she was to receive her eternal reward. She died in her convent at Ghent on March 6, 1447. At the moment of her departure from this world she appeared to several sisters in different convents. Pope Urban Viii beatified her, and Pope Pius VII solemnly canonized her in 1807. 

  

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
 (From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

 

  

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #6:

  

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.