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♫“‘Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Jesus-Son Gone? Oh Where, Oh Where Can He Be?’ ♫ – – Well, He’s In the Temple, Listening And Asking!!” – Luke 2:41-52†


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Feast of the Holy Family:
Jesus, Mary, & Joseph

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For January 2013. pencil

 

Pope Benedict illustrationFor the faith of Christians: that in this Year of Faith, Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in Him.

For Middle-Eastern Christians: that the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.

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Mike depue, OFS is a dear friend of mine, a brother in the  Secular Franciscan Order, and the St. Clare OFS Region’s JPIC Coordinator.  He wrote this beautiful piece on the Christmas “Caroling” tradition.  Surprising (to me), Christmas Caroling was started by St. Francis and other Franciscans.  I hope you enjoy this bit of historical CHRISTmas trivia from Mike:

Blessings to all!

Did you know that Francis of Assisi began the Christmas caroling tradition in the early 1200s?  Francis wanted people to be able to express their joy at Christmas by singing simple songs themselves, wherever they happened to be, such as in their own homes or even while walking around outside.  Francis also wanted to present the Christmas story in a way that ordinary singing-christmas-carolspeople could best understand.  Priests had been singing formal Christmas hymns in church worship services since AD 129, when a bishop called for a song called “Angel’s Hymn” to be featured in a Mass in Rome, Italy.  However, these Christmas hymns were in Latin, which wasn’t a commonly spoken language by the 1200s.  Francis decided to add religious lyrics to popular tunes of his time, creating the style of song called a Christmas carol.  The word “carol” derives from the French word “caroler,” which means “dancing around in a circle.”  It refers to the pagan tradition of people dancing around in a circle during the Winter Solstice.  Francis wanted people to express their joy in Christ in a similar, uninhibited style.

It was almost certainly through the Franciscans that Christmas carols came to the British Isles. The earliest extant English Christmas carol, “A child is boren” (given below), is found in a set of sermon notes written by a Franciscan friar before 1350.  Collections of poems produced by friars in Scotland in 1372 contain lullabies to the infant Jesus.

A child is boren” in the English of today:

Let us gather hand in hand / And sing of bliss without an end: / The Devil has fled from earthly land, / And Son of God is made our friend. / A Child is born in man’s abode, / And in that Child no blemish showed. / That Child is God, that Child is Man, / And in that Child our life began.

I wish you all a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

Mike [DePue] ofs

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Qu. thought2ote of the Day:

 

Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart?  Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you?  Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it.  Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able hear Him saying, “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor.  Never give up daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person – not just the idea. ~ Taken from When Did We See You, Lord?”  by Bishop Robert J. Baker & Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.

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Today’s reflection: The boy Jesus is found in the Temple, with the Temple teachers, listening and asking.  When was the last time you truly listened and asked? 

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(NAB Luke 2:41-52)  41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, 42 and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.  43 After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  44 Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.  46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, 47 and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.  48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Holy Family”.  We should place today’s Gospel in the context of what LFamily-12uke tells us about the birth of Jesus during.  Luke has been answering the question “Who is Jesus?” through his stories of the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (Chapters 1 & 2).  Today’s Gospel reading continues this same theme: “Who Jesus IS”.  

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are presented as a faithful Jewish family.  In today’s story, they are participating in the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the “Feast of Passover”, an event shared each year with family and friends.  When Jesus is 6ddfb299120a9ca051e900744975446afound, Luke describes Him as seated “in the Temple in the midst of the Jewish teachers”. Although He is young, Jesus seems to NOT need teaching about His Jewish religion and traditions.  In His dialogue with these “learned” teachers (Rabbi’s), Jesus “astounds” them with His insight and understanding.  This event was the important turning point in Jesus’ earthly life when He shifted the name “father” from Joseph, addressing it to God, His Father in heaven instead. 

With this Gospel reading, the infancy narrative ends – – just as it began – – in the setting of the Jerusalem Temple.  This particular story today, is about an incident from Jesus’ youth, and is unique in, and to, Luke’s Gospel.  Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel to report of Jesus being “lost in the temple”.  Thus, Luke assumes and presents Jesus in the role of a faithful Jewish boy, raised in the traditions of Israel, fulfilling all that the Mosaic Law requires of a boy His age for Him to become a Jewish “man”.  

Today’s story starts with the Holy Family in Jerusalem for the “Feast of the Passover”, a high holy day (days) in the Jewish religion:

Each year His parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when He [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom (Luke 2:41-42). 

This Jewish holy feast was prescribed from the time of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.  The reason for this feast wJesus_as_boy_jpg_w300h300as to remember and celebrating God’s interaction in the Jewish “chosen” people’s lives, allowing the Jewish faithful to escape their oppressive captivity:

You will keep this practice forever as a statute for yourselves and your descendants.  Thus, when you have entered the land which the LORD will give you as he promised, you must observe this rite.  When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice for the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he delivered our houses.’  Then the people knelt and bowed down” (Exodus 12:24–27);

And, also in Exodus, the time when this feast is to take place each year:

You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread.  As I have commanded you, you must eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for it was then that you came out of Egypt.  No one shall appear before me empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15);

Abib” is the time of the year, the name of the month, in which the barley harvest happened.  “Abib” translates to “ear of grain, or, ripe grain” and corresponds to our present months of March and April.  At a later time, the month of “Abib” became known as the Babylonian name of “Nisan” instead.

Only males aged 12 and over were required to make this yearly journey of faith.  This clearly puts Jesus at this age, since this is His first time going to Jerusalem for the feast.  How far did they have to travel? Well, Nazaretdirect-map-nazareth-to-jerusalem2h is about 60 miles from Jerusalem (in a straight line on a map).  However, with the “hilly” nature of the country, this trip would actually be about 85 miles.  This is definitely a long way to walk, especially for women and children, every year.

On pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the Jews used to travel in two linked-groups: one of men, followed closely by another of women.  Children could go with either group, probably depending on age and sex of the child.  No wonder Mary and Joseph travelled for a full day’s journey before discovering the child Jesus missing.  They probably “discovered” Him gone when regrouping to camp for the night, each thinking Jesus was with the other group.

Just try to imagine the anxiety and fear Mary and Joseph were experiesimpsons_scaredncing.  Mary certainly was crying, with both of them running to the various family camps, searching for, and inquiring about Jesus’ whereabouts in each of the camps; discovering He is NOWHERE to be found!  I personally have had the anguish of “losing” one of my kids for just a few minutes.  I cannot even imagine the fear of realizing a child of mine was left behind in a strange and very threatening environment of a “big city” like Jerusalem.  

Hmm, here’s a notion or thought for you about “concern for Jesus”.  The concern Mary and Joseph had in “looking for” Jesus might, and should, encourage each of us to personally, and always, seek out Jesus in our own daily lives.  This idea is especially true if we “lose” Him through our sins.

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Jesus was probably found in the courtyard area of the Temple; this is where the “teachers” – – the “rabbi’s” – – taught.  “Listeners” used to sit on the ground at their feet, asking questions, and responding to questions untitledasked of them.  The four “Rabbinic” ways of teaching are:

  • ·        exegesis” – – literal, plain teachings and interpretations; following “hints” in words, phrases, and other elements of truth;
  • ·        eisegesis” – – an allegorical or homiletical application of a text, searching or reading one’s own thoughts into the text, and then expounding on them;
  • ·        finding the “secret” “mystical or hidden meaning” of Jewish Scripture by using the numerical values of the Hebrew letters in Scripture, noting unusual spellings, by transposing letters, and so on;

And finally,

  • ·        through parables:
    • o   as an illustration to help grasp a concept or teaching;
    • o   as a “secret speech”, to deliberately minimize or conceal a concept;

and, 

  • o   as a rhetorical narrative in order to draw a parallel between a fictional story and one’s reality in life.    

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (CCC) says of Jesus’ teaching through parables and secrets:

“Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of ‘parables’, a characteristic feature of His teaching.  Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.  Words are not enough, deeds are required.  …  Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables.  One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to ‘know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.  For those who stay ‘outside’, everything remains enigmatic [mysterious]”  (CCC, paragraph 546).

One third of Jesus’ teachings consisted of parables.  It is importance for us to not only try to understand the “Rabbinic ways of teaching” – – especially the parables – – from OUR viewpoint, but to understand them in their cultural, historic and linguistic context of Jesus’ time as well.

So, Jesus was sitting at the Rabbi’s feet, listening, and asking questions.  However, His questions and answers attc06racted a great interest from the “teachers”!  Jesus was obviously well informed and well taught, in the eyes of these religious men.   If they only realized the truth about this “boy” sitting among them!!

Not only were the “teachers” astounded, so were Jesus’ parents when they saw Him sitting and conversing with the learned religious men:

When His parents saw Him, they were astonished” (Luke 2:48).

Ever since the Annunciation, Mary (and Joseph) knew that her (their) child, Jesus, WAS GOD!!  Mary’s pure and true faith is the foundational bedrock for her generous fidelity to00007803_h her Son, Jesus, throughout her entire life.  There was no reason for Mary to know every detail about the sacrifices Jesus – – her Son, her GOD – – would ask of HER!  Nor, did Mary have reason to know how Jesus Christ would go about His mission of redemption and salvation.  The revelation of Jesus’ mission would be “discovered” as time went by, and while living and contemplating her Son’s life, death, resurrection, and assumption as it happened, and remembered.

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Mary and Joseph asked Jesus why He stayed behind when their group departed for Nazareth:

Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48). 

Iuntitleda am pretty sure I would NOT have been as stoic (showing patience and endurance) as Mary and Joseph was upon finding MY son, in this situation.  If my twelve year son purposely stayed behind, and not told anyone, I probably would have been augmenting my questions with unique “actions” as well: first, a hug and kiss – – then, “something else”. 

Jesus’ reply is His explanation of why he did such a “foolish” thing:

Why were you looking for meDid you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

These are the very first “Words” Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel.  In His saying, “I must be in my Father’s house”, Jesus is referring to God the Father as HIS Father!!  It also shows Jesus’ divine “Sonship”, His defirstwordsforiphonetermination, and His obedience to fulfilling His Eternal Father’s “will”; a “Sonship” which will take precedence over His ties to His earthly family.  Jesus does not chastise Mary and Joseph for searching for Him.  But He does raise their attention, their souls, to understanding and appreciating what He owes to His Eternal Father, whose Eternal Son – – He is!!  Jesus’ parents must have realized that His reply contained a deeper meaning they could not grasp (at that time):

But they did not understand what he said to them” (Luke 2:50).

They did grow to understand the revelation of their Son’s life, as it unfolded – – as it was revealed – – before their eyes.  Mary and Joseph’s faith, and their reverence to their incarnated child, led them to not ask any further questions.  Instead, they “reflected” Jesus’ “Words” and “actions” in this occurrence, and as they will d7%20Sorrowso on many other occasions in His and their lives:

Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Jesus, in His youth, recognized He had been given a “call” by His heavenly Father.  While Jesus recognized His unique call, He, nonetheless, submitted Himself – – with love and obedience – – to Joseph and Mary, waiting for the time when His “call” would be fulfilled.  

Our Heavenly Father also calls each of us to a unique task and mission in this earthly life.  We may not discover or understand it fully, but if we cooperate with God, He will use us for His righteous purpose and plan.  With any call, God also gives a grace – – a grace to say “yes” to His will, and a grace to persevere through any obstacles and trials we encounter.  It is truly an awesome feeling to recognize God’s “call” in one’s life.  It is also an awesome feeling to trust in His grace.  Give it a try the next time He “calls” YOU!!  I cannot even describe the AWE and JOY of answering His calling!!

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Today’s Gospel sums up Jesus’ life in Nazareth in a few simple words of the second to last verse:

[He] was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51).

Jesus, the “Second Person” of the Holy Trinity, came to earth to “obey” God tlove-obey1he Father – – and to obey His earthly “beings”, though Mary and Joseph are very special “beings” indeed!  We have to love God so as to love His will and desire in responding to His calls.  God’s will and desire comes to us through our ordinary daily duties: family, friends, work, private, public.  His will and desire come to us through our own – – and other’s – – difficulties and relationships, and in our eagerness to do what is right and just in life.

ThJesusGrewe final verse of today’s reading is insightfully interesting for me:

And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52).

A similar phrase, “growing in spirit”, is used two times in Luke’s Gospel:

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

The child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).

Luke is the only Gospel writer to connect John the Baptist – – who also “grew in age and favor” – – establishing John’s early direct-relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.  The key element in these three verses above is that both of these two great “beings” grew in age, spirit, wisdom, and favor before God the Father.  I personally believe we can also add Mary and Joseph to this extremely unique twosome of people – – models for how to live a “Christ-like” life.

Jesus lived like other people in Nazareth, working in the same trade as His “earthly” father, Joseph.  Just as any other tradesman, Jesus learned His living by the “sweat of His browthehomelifeofjesusluke2-51”.  Details of Jesus’ life are blank – – to us – – for nearly twenty years.  However, Jesus’ ENTIRE life is an example of how to be a Christian.  We are to sanction – – to SANCTIFY – – our unique and individual vocations, our paths in life, through years of our quiet, often humdrum, and mostly unspectacular living – – in, with, and through Him!  Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God has forgotten about any of us.  Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God hasn’t called you or me for an important role in His kingdom.  God wants us to know that each of us, in our own personal vocations, professions, and talents, are not absent from His divine plan.  Instead, with God – – in our lives – – has sanctified them, making them a more acceptable offering to Him.  WOW!!

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T. summarize titlehe dialogue between Mary and Jesus contains many references to family relationships.  Interestingly Mary and Joseph are never identified by name.  (I bet you didn’t catch this fact.)  Instead, they are referred to by their relationship to Jesus.  Ultimately, this style of writing emphasizes Luke’s point about the identity of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is asked a poiwords-hurt-feelingsnted question, “Why?”  Jesus responds with an equally pointed response, “I must be!”  Jesus did not intend to cause his mother and step-father any distress.  However, His actions most-likely provoked that type of response.  When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, they question Jesus, expressing their anxiety.  Jesus replies in “Words” that many of us may believe to be disrespectful.  Jesus, in fact, is saying He was never lost; He is God’s Son; and He was at home in God’s “house”.  Luke will continue throughout His Gospel to suggest that faith in Jesus establishes “new” family relationships as He describes Jesus’ public ministry in his later chapters.  Luke is also telling us, through his Gospel, that Mary’s importance is even greater than her role as Jesus’ mother.  Remember, Mary is the first disciple, also present with Jesus’ other disciples after His Resurrection at Pentecost.

In the Holy Family, we see the face of God’s love.  As Jesus told us – – and as my Order’s founder, Saint Francis of Assjs2isi lived – – we need to see the face of God in every single person we encounter, not just in the one’s we love.  If we see fear instead of love in others who are different from us, we are not seeing God!!  

We need to be in the presence of God every second of every minute of every day, not just for one hour on Sundays, and not just with people who are like us.  If we do not see the face of God in the marginalized – – the sick, the homeless person, the unborn child – – then God will not dwell within us.  Others will look at us, seeing fear instead of God’s love.

So, let us sing with great joy (Re-JOY-SING) at the celebration of the our Lord’s birth and the gift of the Holy Family to each of us, who are inviting each us into God’s – – HIS – –  family forever and ever.  Let us also renew our commitment, on a daily basis, to do as Jesus told us: to take up our cross and follow Him.  Let EVERYONE who sees us see also the face of God, knowing His love through us.

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T. conclusionoday’s Gospel describes a time of anxiety in the life of Jesus’ family.  We can imagine their panic and worry as Mary and Joseph discoveJesus in the temple discussing his Father's business Luke 2:46-49red Jesus was not with the caravan of people returning to Nazareth.  The Holy Family journeyed with family members and friends because traveling alone was dangerous.  When they found Jesus at the Temple, it appears Jesus spoke like a typical adolescent, unsympathetic to His parents’ concern.  But, His “Words” teach an important lesson about reducing anxiety in our family life.  In essence, Jesus says to them:

“If you had remembered who I am, you would have known where to find me.”

In their panic, Mary and Joseph had forgotten what had been told to them before Jesus’ birth, their son was the Son of God.  Knowing a person well helps reduce our anxieties for them because we can better predict how they will behave, and we know their capacity to handle the challenges that life might present to them.

Recall times when you learned something, even something trivial, about your close friend and/or family members.  Recall times when YOU told others something which possibly “startled” or “surprised” them.  Now, recall how you felt in each of these “revealing” “revelations”. 

Torange_man_thinking_questionake what you have learned from this simple exercise you just reflected on, and reread the questions and answers in today’s Gospel, placing yourself in the roles of the one asking AND the one being asked: 

Son, why have you done this to us?”  (Luke 2:48);

Why were you looking for me?”  (Luke 2:49);

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  (Luke 2:49).

Hmm, the one thing about “true” relationships is that we come to eventually learn to know each other well.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

A Relationship Prayer

 

“Lord, teach me how to love in a way that would be pleasing to You.  Open my eyes and heart so as to be receptive to the needs in my life, and not just for my wants.

Grant me wisdom, direction, purpose, confidence, discernment, and any other tool n06-07-buildingrelationships[1]eeded by me for this great journey with, in, and through You.  Wipe away any and all fears, tears, and doubts, created by my sometimes tumultuous relationship past.

Create in me a new heart filled with a deep and abiding love for You above all else, then for others, and finally for myself.  When the right person comes along, bless me with clarity of vision to see that this is indeed the right person for me.  When this person does come, I will never forget who made it all possible.  In each day, I will strive to exhibit a love that would make You proud.

With a fullness of heart, and a sincerity in my spirit, I ask this all in your name.  Amen.”

Based on a prayer at the following website:
http://www.flyguychronicles.com/2011/02/a-relationship-prayer/

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“Jesus, Can I Be The Right-Hand Servant, And My Brother The Left-Hand Servant?!” – Mark 10:35-45†


29thSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:


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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that those who wish to be great must be the servant of all.  Jesus came to serve.  What about YOU?

(NAB Mark 10:35-45) 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  36 He replied, “What do you wish [me] to do for you?”  37 They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”  38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  39 They said to him, “We can.”  Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”  41 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.  42 Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  43 But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; 44 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  45 For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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Gospel Reflection:

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is still journeying to Jerusalem (3 weeks now).  Last Sunday, Jesus taught about the specific challenge to confront, and surmount, for those with many possessions, in order to enter the Kingdom of God.  Jesus then foretold of His passion to His “Twelve” close and faithful disciples, who then become “amazed and afraid” at His prophetic vision.  Jesus’ “Words” to His closest of His followers, I believe, are intended to prepare them for events that will occur in Jerusalem at the time of Passover, and also in their future lives and paths to martyrdom.

James and John, in today’s reading, ask to be given seats of honor when Jesus “enters into His glory”.  It seems that once again, the disciples are selective in what they hear Jesus say.  (It must be a male trait because my wife accuses me of having selective hearing quite often.)  James and John want to share Jesus’ “glory”, but do not appear to understand that Jesus’ glory will be preceded by His suffering and death.  James and John, though truly loyal and constantly dutiful followers to Jesus, were “wet behind the ears” – – inexperienced and idealistic – – in the understanding of Jesus’ specific mission.  Jesus notes their lack of understanding and foretells the suffering that they will also undergo for the sake of His “Word”, the Gospel.  

Jesus concludes today’s reading by saying that the “honor” they seek is not His to give.  When the other ten disciples hear what James and John have asked, they become “indignant” towards them, probably wishing they had asked first!  It is interesting that these twelve bickering men are the group to whom Jesus will entrust the entire leadership and “authority” of His community of believers and followers, the future Catholic Christian Church. 

Rather than scold His twelve “special” disciples, Jesus turns their squabble into a lesson about “servant leadership”.  Jesus takes the opportunity to teach all of them about the importance of service and sacrifice in the life of EVERY disciple.  In actuality, Jesus seems to be preparing the “Twelve” [Apostles] for their leadership roles in the emerging Catholic Christian community.  

Echoing the Gospel which we heard several weeks ago (cf., Mark 9:33-37), Jesus acknowledges that His teaching is deliberately very different from the cultural values of our earthly society and materialistic world.  His “WAY” in life is countercultural.  Jesus goes on, in today’s reading, to contrast and distinguish the dynamics – – the change producing force – – within the community of His disciples to those of the “rulers of the Gentiles”.

Mark’s description of this event is somewhat different than what is written in Matthew’s Gospel.  Matthew has the mother of the two disciples approaching Jesus:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Him with her sons and did Him homage, wishing to ask Him for something.  He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’  She answered Him, ‘Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.’” (Matthew 20:20–21).

These two men (or their mother) boldly asked Jesus to promote them to the top positions in His kingdom.  I think their desire for greatness seems to be inherent in all of us.  After all, who truly wants to be last or least in the group?  

The reason Matthew’s Gospel has “the mother” petitioning is not made clear.  Some bible scholars suppose that Matthew wanted to allude to Bathsheba’s seeking the kingdom for Solomon (cf., 1 Kings 1:11–21).  Bathsheba, as we all know (hopefully), was the wife of King David and the mother of Solomon.  In David’s old age, Bathsheba secured the succession of her son Solomon to the throne, instead of David’s eldest surviving son Adonijah.  James and John, and Solomon it seems, had good Jewish mothers who wanted the best for their children and “lent a hand” in facilitating the best position possible for their children.

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Jesus replies to the brothers (and probably their mother as well):

Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? (Mark 10:38).

Jesus is using a metaphor, a figure of speech, for the “drinking from the cup” used in Jewish Scripture, which refers to acceptance of the destiny assigned by God the Father:

 “The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, hates those who love violence, and rains upon the wicked fiery coals and brimstone, a scorching wind their allotted cup. (Psalm 11:5-6)

This “allotted cup”, given by God the Father to drink, is a common figure for destiny throughout both the Old and New Testaments:

LORD, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure” (Psalm 16:5);

“Yes, a cup is in the LORD’s hand, foaming wine, fully spiced.  When God pours it out, they will drain it even to the dregs; all the wicked of the earth will drink” (Psalm 75:9);

Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’  They said to him, ‘We can.’” (Matthew 20:22);

“He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39);

“A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice, ‘Anyone who worships the beast or its image, or accepts its mark on forehead or hand, will also drink the wine of God’s fury, poured full strength into the cup of his wrath, and will be tormented in burning sulfur before the holy angels and before the Lamb’” (Revelations 14:9-10).

Jesus’ “cup” is filled with the divine judgment on sin.  Jesus Christ – – the innocent one – – is to drink of this cup on behalf of the guilty:

“He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many’” (Mark 14:24);

Jesus was well aware of the Jewish Scripture prophecy found in Isaiah, chapter 53, in regards to drinking from this cup of salvation:

He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.  He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus’ destiny is to be crucified and die for the redemptive salvation of the human race, “His baptism”:

There is a baptism [His death] with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50).

So, you see, the request of James and John to share in Jesus’ “glory” (Mark 10:35–37) must also involve a share in Jesus’ sufferings as well – – their individual, personal, and intimate endurance of trial, tribulation, and suffering for the sake of the “Word”, the Gospel.

 Jesus ends His lesson with James and John by telling them that the “authority” of assigning places of honor in God the Father’s kingdom is solely reserved to God the Father Himself, and to NOONE else:

To sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared” (Mark 10:40)!!

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As I stated earlier, the other “Apostles” became rather upset, offended, and resentful toward James and John for making such a request of “honor”.  How dare they (or their mother per Matthew) have the nerve to ask for special treatment from Jesus!  Too bad they did not realize that eventually, they ALL, plus many more followers of Jesus’ WAY would be included in the drinking from Jesus’ “cup” – – dying for their Christian faith in horrendous and cruel ways.  They ALL would come to sit WITH Jesus – – in the seats allotted to them by God the Father.  And, ALL of them would be the Grade “A”, primo seats, for eternity.  

Dissention, it seems, was looming amongst the group, and the “boss’s son” knew.  So, Jesus called the group together in order to talk to them:

You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).

Wow, “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  Later, Jesus will again dramatize this very important lesson on the night before He dies, at the Last Supper, when He washes the feet of the Twelve Apostles.

Jesus is telling these future leaders within His group that whatever “authority” is to be exercised by them (and by US today), it needs to be in the example of Jesus’ service to them.  Their “authority” is to be rendered AS SERVICE to others (Mark 10:45).  Their “authority” is NOT to be for personal enrichment or embellishment (Mark 10:42–44).  

Saint Francis of Assisi understood this lesson of Jesus intimately well, and practiced it ALWAYS!  In his “rule of life”, Saint Francis stresses that the ministers – – the leaders of the Friar Minors (little brothers) – – should be:

“Admonish and encourage them with humility and love.… The ministers are to be servants of all.” 

Additionally, St. Francis wrote:

“No one is to appropriate any office or ministry as if it were a personal right.”

The same lesson holds true for today’s secular and religious leaders.  Leaders must give their “authority”, priority, energy, abilities, and commitment to the service of ALL others.  

Jesus stated, in a direct manner, that He came to serve His Father in Heaven by His passion and death – –  NOT for His sake – – but for the sins of the human race!  Later, at the “Last Supper”, He will again say of His service:

This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many” (Mark 14:24).

In both today’s reading and in the future “Last Supper” event, Jesus is AGAIN referring to prophesy found in Isaiah, chapter 53:

“Because of His anguish He shall see the light; because of His knowledge He shall be content; my servant, the just one, shall justify the many, their iniquity he shall bear.  Therefore I will give Him His portion among the many, and He shall divide the spoils with the mighty, Because He surrendered Himself to death, was counted among the transgressors, Bore the sins of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:11–12);

Jesus, what a man, what a leader, what a Lord He truly was AND IS!!  I can never say this little prayer enough:

“I adore you Jesus, I hope in you Jesus, I love in you Jesus, I trust in you Jesus!  You are my Lord, my God, and my ALL!!  Amen.”

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Following Jesus’ example of sacrificial love continues to be “countercultural” today.  Some days, I feel this difference between our societal values and that of God’s values is excruciatingly painful – – both physically and spiritually.  True Catholics, full with God’s grace, are truly at battle with the forces of evil in this world.  All of us need to keep in mind, during this time of spiritual warfare, that we already know the outcome of the war – – GOD WINS!!  And, I know that I personally want to be on the winning side with YOU!  Let’s take this opportunity, given to us by God, and consider our known models of “authority”, and compare them to our OWN use of “authority”.  Whose model of leadership are you using: Jesus Christ’s, or, the “rulers over the Gentiles”?  I know that in my life, I have used BOTH examples in the past, and I prefer the former than the latter.

Jesus did the unthinkable!  He reversed the path to gaining true greatness and glory, literally turning the ladder of success we climb upside down.  If we want to be first and great, then we must place ourselves at the disposal of others by putting their interests first and by taking on their cares and concerns as if they were our own.  Jesus attached “authority” to “unconditional love and service” – – to total sacrifice – – a willing sacrifice of one’s life for the sake of another.  In doing so, our service to others brings about, in ours and others lives, the model of perfect JOY:

J     –       Jesus first;
O    –       Then others.
  And finally; 
Y    –       Yourself last.

Authority”, without sacrificial love, is simply degrading and self-serving.  Jesus used blunt language to explain the kind of sacrifice He expected of Himself and for His disciples.  His disciples need to drink from His “cup” if they expect to reign with Him in God the Father’s kingdom.  The “cup” He described is a bitter one – – involving pain, suffering, and crucifixion – – laying down one’s life, even to the point of shedding one’s blood for the sake of Christ and His “Word”, the Gospel.

What kind of “cup” is prepared for each one of us?  For some, such a “cup” entails physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom.  However, for most of us, it entails the long routine of a pious Catholic Christian life, with all its monotonous daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and ever-present temptations.  

Christ offered His life for our sake, and He calls us to freely offer our lives in a daily sacrifice of love and service for others.  What makes sacrifice a JOY – – rather than a burden – – is love; the kind of joy-full love which has the power to transform and change our lives, as well as the lives of those around us.  Saint Paul tells us that this special kind of love is a pure grace which “God poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5).  If we allow God’s love to transform our lives, then no sacrifice – – no pain, no torment, no death – – will be too great or too difficult to endure.

Pope John XXIII – – who opened the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago this past week (October 11, 1962) – – was a true “servant leader”.  If parents, priests, bishops, politicians, and business leaders are to lead according to the Gospel, they must learn what the Gospel has to say in their particular circumstances, as Pope John the Great had done.  Only in this way can they exercise “servant leadership” in the manner of Jesus Christ.  

As we prepare to elect our nation’s leaders on November 6th, we should pray for all candidates that they may seek NOT political power and prestige, but the ability to be “servant leaders”, especially to those who are in greatest need.  It is also appropriate for us to ask of them – – to DEMAND of them – – that they BE “servant leaders”! 

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In the daily routine of life, power struggles are unavoidable.  Whenever two or more people are together, there will be occasions of disagreement and attempts to exert influence over each other.  However, when two or more are together, in HIS name, all there can be is LOVE, even during dissension:

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). 

Today’s Gospel is an invitation to reflect on how “authority” is applied in your life.  There is a temptation to use our “authority” in order to show power over others.  When conflicts emerge, many of us even rely upon the power we believe our role in life gives us in order to facilitate the situation to “our” favor.  However, Jesus teaches us that there is a more persuasive form of leadership to follow – – servitude.  In our daily “challenges” we have the opportunity to practice and teach the kind of service leadership Jesus modeled for us in His ministry, AND, in His passion and death.

Realize that conflicts based on “power struggles” seem unavoidable in our secular lives.  However, Catholic Christians are to display their authority over others in a unique, some may say unthinkable, way.  Think about Jesus’ unique message to His disciples (and to US) about how He wishes for us to apply “authority”.  Think about ways in which you might apply Jesus’ “Words” in your own life and in others lives.  We all need to remember a somewhat famous expression from the Church itself:

“To serve is to reign with Christ”.

Pray that we ALL may receive honor in God’s eyes by learning to serve others in love.  We share in God’s power, authority, and kingdom by loving others as He has loved us, AND, by laying down our lives in humble caring service for the sake of our neighbor’s welfare.  With God, all is possible.  Father Jacque Philippe, in his book, “Interior Freedom” said:

We do not all have in us the stuff of sages or heroes.  But by God’s grace we do have the stuff of saints

Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did?  I believe I do, even if it means for me a slow martyrs death by way of the everyday monotonous and drudging routine of a normal Catholic Christian life, with all its dull, repetitive, boring, and tedious daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and ever-present temptations.  How about you?

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Reflection Prayer: 

PARDON PRAYER of FATIMA

 

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee!  I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee!  Amen.

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“Hey, Let’s Go On Vacation; I Know A Little Quiet Spot For Some R&R. There’s Great Bread And Fish There As Well!” – Mark 6:30-34†


Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the tenth day of my yearly consecration to Jesus through Mary; a special devotion I absolutely look forward to every year, and have purposely scheduled (in my calendar) for the past 6 years.  It is a great devotion of prayer and reflection, created by St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716), which takes 33 days of preparatory devotions.  The “Total Consecration” made on the 34th day.  The day of Total Consecration should always be on a Marian feast day.  (My consecration day is the “Feast of Mary’s Assumption to Heaven”: August 15th.)  Schedules for the preparation and Total Consecration are included in resource materials – – provided at NO cost – – through this website: www.MyConsecation.org.  There are more than twenty start days throughout the calendar year (ending on a Marion Feast Day) for those wishing to make the Total Consecration, so give it a try.

Let me give you a little history about the author of this devotion, St. Louis de Montfort.  He was a French Roman Catholic Priest, Author, and Confessor.  He was known to be a preacher in his time: Pope Clement XI made him a “missionary apostolic”, giving him authority to emphasize the importance of the Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to encourage the practice of frequent praying of the Rosary.  Father de Montfort is particularly known for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and for the practice of consistently praying the Rosary (Reminds me that both St. Padre Pio and Venerable Pope John Paul II daily prayed the Rosary).  Father de Montfort’s most notable work regarding Marian devotions is contained in a two-part book entitled “The Glories of Mary” along with “The Secrets of the Rosary and the True Devotion to Mary”.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   0260 – St Dionysius begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1099 – First Crusade: Godfrey of Bouillon elected first Defender of the Holy Sepulchre of The Kingdom of Jerusalem.
†   1619 – Death of Lawrence of Brindisi, Italian monk (b. 1559)
†   1647 – Birth of Margaretha M Alacoque, French mystic/saint
†   1649 – Birth of Clement XI, [Giovanni F Albani], Italy, Pope (1700-21)
†   1676 – Death of Clement X, [Emilio Altieri], Italian Pope (1670-76), dies at 86
†   1722 – Birth of Jean-Noel/Joannes Natalis Paquot, Belgian priest/historian
†   1902 – Death of Mieczysław Halka Ledóchowski, Polish Catholic Cardinal (b. 1822)

(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: Jesus invites His disciples to rest after their ministry, and is moved with pity for the crowds who pursue them.

 

(NAB Mark 6:30-34) 30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.  31 He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.  32 So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.  33 People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.  They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.  34 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, in Mark’s Gospel, we read of the return of the “Twelve”, who had been sent by Jesus, in pairs, to preach repentance, to heal the sick, and to drive out demons.  When they returned, Jesus invited them to “come away” from the crowds to get some rest with Him.  However, the crowds followed, not giving them any peace.  It seems that, as the Twelve Apostles now shared in Jesus’ ministry, they also now appear to share in Jesus’ popularity as well.

In an effort to get away from the crowds, Jesus and His disciples get into a boat with the hope of finding the “deserted place” familiar to Jesus.  The crowds notice their “escape”, and so follow along the shore line, also arriving at the same “deserted place”.  The crowds find them and continued to draw near Jesus and the Apostles, making contact, and presenting their individual requests.  Mark reports that these Apostles’s, the closest and most intimate disciple’s of Jesus, don’t even have time to eat their food due to the swarm of people surrounding them.  The crowds are so persistent that Jesus and His disciples cannot even find a place to be alone.  (Sounds like me, a parent of four teenagers in a one-bathroom house.)  Remarkably, even with this chaos and pressure,  Jesus “is moved with pity [for the crowds] and begins to teach” them.

Today’s Gospel stops with Jesus’ having “pity” for them and “teaching”.  Mark’s report of the unyielding demands of the crowd continues in the following verses (next week’s Gospel reading).  The work of Jesus, and the work of His disciples (even still today), appears to be a “round-the-clock” job.  (My kids did not know the term, “round-the-clock”.  They have told me to write “24/7” as an alternative.)  OK; so they were busy 24/7.

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For the second week in a row at Mass, Mark uses the term, “Apostle”.  He also used this term earlier, in his Gospel’s third chapter:

“He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14).

Jesus instituted these twelve me as “apostles” in order to extend His messianic mission through them (cf., Mark 6:7–13). Mark correctly and appropriately calls the “Twelve” men, “Apostles”, meaning His emissaries, empowered them to preach, to expel demons, and to cure the sick (“Apostles”: a Greek word meaning, “one who is sent with the delegated authority of the sender”!):

They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6:13).

The earliest use of the special term, “the twelve”, as Jesus’ delegated “apostles” is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

“He [Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:5).

The number (12) is meant to recall the twelve “tribes” of Israel, thus implying Jesus’ authority to call and gather ALL Israel into God the Father’s kingdom.  Mark distinguished between the “Twelve Apostles” and a much larger group called disciples:

“When He [Jesus] was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned Him about the parables.  Without parables He did not speak to them, but to His own disciples He explained everything in private (Mark 4:10, 34).

The “Twelve” also share in Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom:

As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 10:7). 

In the Pauline letters (the New Testament epistles written by Paul) “apostle” has come to mean primarily one who had seen the “risen” Lord, AND had been commissioned to proclaim Jesus’ Resurrection to ALL the peoples of the planet.  Only after the Pentecost event is the title “apostles” used in the technical or precise term for the twelve specific men who became the first bishops of the Catholic (Universal) Church.  (However, don’t forget about Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, made so by divine appointment and Jesus’ appearing, creating the Lord’s baker’s dozen of 13.  – – Don’t forget the Lord’s choice of the first twelve’s replacement “Matthias”, (cf., ACTS 15:17)

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So, these twelve men, sent out in pairs on a divine mission from Jesus Christ, return back to Him at the conclusion of this inaugural mission – – and still in progress without interruption two millennia later.   Mark relates that the small group yearned for a well-deserved rest in a “deserted place” (Mark 6:31).  However, Luke is a little more specific as to where this “deserted place” actually is located:

When the apostles returned, they explained to him what they had done. He took them and withdrew in private to a town called Bethsaida” (Luke 9:10).

Bethsaida translates to “house of fishing”, and is a small village on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, just east of the Jordan River.  The ground in this particular area has ALWAYS been uncultivated, used solely for grazing animals, and as a “fishing village”.  Note that the village of Bethsaida is where the feeding of the 5000 took place (in next week’s Gospel). 

Being mostly worldly fishermen, and ALL being the Kingdom of God’s “fishers of men”, these twelve men, plus Jesus, set off for Bethsaida by their favorite mode of transport:

 “They went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” (Mark 6:32).  

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Just imagine the scene wherein Jesus and the Twelve Apostles are attempting to escape from the huge throngs of excited, spirit-filled, captivated, and strongly affected  people who wanted – – nay, demanded – – MORE!!  Jesus and His small group made good on an egress from the multitudes, placing water between them and the hordes of believers and non-believers desiring to be near them.

Picture this scene from both angles: from the crowds viewpoint on land and Jesus’ Apostles within the boat as it approached the beach?  I am certain the men in the boat felt some great relief, able to take a deep breath, and no longer wondering about their personal safety.  The other group was excited and awe-filled, wanting to see, hear, and experience MORE!!  The withdrawal of Jesus, with His disciples, to a “deserted place”, attracted a great swarm – – a humungous pack of people – – following the group traveling by boat.   This mob followed – – by foot – – along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The sea and shore is fairly flat, thus making it easy to see a great distance across the water, keeping an eye on the boat, even if it is miles out to sea.  In desperation for the unique teaching, preaching, and healing ability of this small group of divinely inspired and full-filled men, the “crowd” wanted to hear and experience more of what was presented to them physically, mentally, and spiritually by Jesus and His Apostles.

I would think Jesus and His most intimate of friends would be used to crowds interrupting their rest and meals by now, since it wasn’t the first time.  Mark mentions at least one other time when crowds gathered around them, interrupting their “down time”:

Again [the] crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat.” (Mark 3:20).

Jesus is moved with “pity” toward these people experiencing such awe, joy, and desire as to pursue them.  Jesus satisfies their spiritual hunger by teaching them many things in Bethesda, before and during the feeding of the 5000 @ Bethsaida (next week’s Gospel at Mass).  In His preaching, teaching, and healing (plus feeding the multitudes), Jesus shows Himself as the true, promised, and faithful “shepherd” of the NEW Israel and of a NEW Exodus, as prophesized by Moses and Ezekiel:

“Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all humanity, set over the community someone who will be their leader in battle and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the LORD’s community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.’” (Numbers 27:15-17);

And,

I [the Lord] myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest—[says] the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 34:15).

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Verse 34 of today’s reading had an interesting and very prophetic statement somewhat openly hidden:

“When He disembarked and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).

What does the image of a shepherd tell us about God’s care for us?  Well, shepherding was one of the oldest of occupations (a true calling) in Israel, even before farming.  Why(?); because the “Chosen People” had to travel from place to place, living in tents, their constant movement required someone to herd and protect the flocks from one pastureland to another “round-the-clock” (“24/7”).  

Taking care of sheep was no easy calling; it required great skill and courage.  Flocks were often quite large, exceeding thousands or even ten thousands of sheep.  The flocks spent a good part of the year in the open country.  So, watching over the animals required a great deal of attention and care.  Sheep who strayed from the flock had to be sought out and brought back, solely, by the shepherd, at his own peril.  

Since hyenas, jackals, wolves, lions, and even bear were common in the biblical lands – – and tried to feed on the animals of the various flocks – – the shepherds often had to be ready to do battle with these wild and extremely dangerous beasts.  A shepherd literally had to put his life on the line in defending his sheep (Remember, the shepherd King David’s encounter with Goliath).  Shepherds took turns watching the sheep, grouped together at night, to ward off any attackers, so that each could get a little rest.  

The sheep and their shepherds continually lived together.  Their life was intimately bound together with the individual sheep, goats, and cattle in their charge, even when their animals mixed with other flocks.  These animals quickly grew to learn and recognize the voice of their own shepherd, coming to him immediately when called by name.  (My dog doesn’t even do this unless I have a treat in hand for her.)

The Old Testament often spoke of God as shepherd of His “chosen people”, Israel:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1);

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!” (Psalm 80:1);

And:

We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3).

The prophesized Savior Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God’s people:

He will feed His flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms(Isaiah 40:11).

Jesus told His disciples that He was the “Good Shepherd” who was willing to lay down His life for His sheep:

“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?” (Matthew 18:12);

“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?” (Luke 15:4);

And:

“I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 15).

When Jesus saw the huge number of people in need of His protection and care, He was moved, responding with a compassionate concern.  His love was a personal and intimate love for each and every person who came to Him in need – – and still comes to Him today!!  In the person of Jesus Christ, we see the unceasing vigilance and patience of God’s love for us as well as for ALL His creatures.  In our battle against sin and evil, Jesus is ever-ready to give us help, strength, and refuge.  Please trust Jesus and in His grace and help at all times!  (I try to!!)

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In summary, by reading between the lines, we can see from today’s Gospel reading the intensity of Jesus’ public ministry and the intensity of the Apostles involvement.  Such was His dedication to those in His care – – those individual and unique souls – – that Mark mentions TWICE in his Gospel that Jesus and His close groups of disciples did not having time to eat.  In doing so, Mark offered to us a precedent, an example to follow.  A true Christian should be ever-ready to give up time, rest, and even meals in the service to others, to the Lord, and to His “Word”.  In doing so, this attitude to openness, availability, and charity, will guide us to change our plans whenever, and wherever, the good of others souls requires our kindness and helping hand: our involvement. 

Jesus gave us another precedent, EQUALLY important to follow as well: He teaches us to have “common sense” – – not to go to such extremes that you lessen your ability to cope without your own pressures, physically, mentally, or spiritually.  Saint Bede (b.672/673 – d.735), an English monk, once wrote the following:

The Lord makes His disciples rest, to show those in charge that people who work or preach cannot do so without breaks” (St Bede, “In Marci Evangelium exposition, in loc.)

St. Josemaria Escriva also wrote about rest, but in a rather unique way:

He who pledges Himself to work for Christ should never have a free moment, because to rest is to not to do nothing; it is to relax in activities which demand less effort” (St. Josemaria Escriva, “The Way”, 357)

I believe what St. Josemaria Escriva meant by this above statement is that, even at rest, the rest “itself” should be in Christ’s work (i.e., prayer, meditation) and even play – – a great source of active relaxation and joy.

Jesus chose twelve men from among His disciples.  He sent them out to share in His ministry of preaching and healing.  We who are Jesus’ disciples TODAY have also been sent out to share His Gospel with others.  Perhaps, at times, our commitment to follow Jesus – – as His disciple – – leaves us feeling tired and overwhelmed.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus establish, encourage, and assert the importance of times of rest and renewal.  Jesus wanted His disciples to “come away” and spend time alone – – with HIM!!  This is what WE seek and find in our life of prayer, in our celebration of the Eucharist, and hopefully, in times of our personal retreats.  When was the last time you “came away”, solely to spend time – – alone with Jesus Christ?  When was the last time you made a retreat for even part of a day, much less a weekend or a week-long period of rejuvenation with, and in, Christ Himself??!!   A great retreat experience is a joy to behold, a time of renewal beyond most other experiences short of the Eucharist itself (which is the SUMMIT of ALL experiences).  Try it some time, “you’ll like it”!!

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In conclusion, family and work life, and its demands on us , can make us feel similar to how Jesus and the Twelve Apostles felt in today’s Gospel: tired, and in need of rest.  We often wish for times of relaxation and renewal, EXCEPT there are projects to complete, errands to do, household chores to keep up with, and commitments to keep.  These all may be great things in themselves, but we are often left feeling drained and tired in trying to keep up, and keep on schedule.   

Perhaps, if possible, take the opportunity this week to give yourself permission to find the rest and relaxation Jesus attempted to seek for His disciples in today’s Gospel.  A gift we ALL can give to another is to assist them in finding some time and space to renew themselves; even, and especially, by saying a simple prayer of intercession.

Review your work and family calendar, spending some time reflecting on your unique and individual activities.  Find ways to get an appropriate amount of time for rest and relaxation this week and in the weeks ahead.  All of us need to keep in mind how Jesus tried to find time and space for His disciples to rest and relax after they returned from their mission, their work life; so should YOU!  Ask God to help find time to renew yourself so that you might be better disciples of Jesus.  (OK guys, when your wife asks you to take out the trash, don’t say, “I can’t do that.  I’m under orders from Jesus to get rest.”)

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Renewal Prayer

 

“Lord, we are Your people, the sheep of Your flock.  Heal the sheep who are wounded, touch the sheep who are in pain, clean the sheep who are soiled, warm the lambs who are cold.  Help us to know the Father’s love through Jesus the Shepherd and through His Spirit.  Help us to lift up that love, and show it all over this land.  Help us to build love on justice and justice on love.  Help us to believe mightily, hope joyfully, love divinely.  Renew us that we may renew the face of the earth.  Amen”

http://www.catholic.org/prayers

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

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

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

***

“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) RSV.

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Mary Magdalene

 

Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene.  Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.

Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women.  Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Luke 8:2)—an indication, at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or, possibly, severe illness.

Father W.J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.”  Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not…the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”

Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.”  She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother.  And, of all the “official” witnesses that might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given.  She is known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

Comment:

Mary Magdalene has been a victim of mistaken identity for almost 20 centuries.  Yet she would no doubt insist that it makes no difference.  We are all sinners in need of the saving power of God, whether our sins have been lurid or not.  More importantly, we are all, with her, “unofficial” witnesses of the Resurrection.

She is the Patron Saint of: Penitents, Perfumers.

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 22 & 23 of 26:


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

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

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♫“Mary, Did You Know …!”♫ – Luke 1:26-38†


 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am still on the road to recovery, and feeling better each day.  Thanks for all the prayers, and please continue.  I, in return, am also praying for each of your intentions.

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 Today in Catholic History:    

†   821 – Death of Theodulf, Bishop of Orléans
†   1352 – Etienne Aubert elected as Pope Innocentius VI †   1442 – Death of Pierre Cauchon, French Catholic bishop (b. 1371)
†   1837 – Birth of Adolf Daens, Belgian priest/Dutch party founder (CVP)
†   1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Optissima Pax
†   Feasts/Memorials: Gatianus of Tours; O Adonai; Our Lady of Expectation; Greek Orthodox Church – Feast of Sebastian the Martyr

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

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“If there’s one sign or mark of living love it is selflessness.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One

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Today’s reflection is about the Archangel “Gabriel” visiting Mary to announce her conception and the Incarnation of the “Word” to be made flesh: Jesus.

 

(NAB Luke 1:26-38) 26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read the story of the Archangel “Gabriel’s” announcement to a young teenager, Mary, about the birth of her only son, Jesus.  This story, as presented today, is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Mark (This liturgical years Gospel writer) does not even cover the infancy narratives as well.  

On this last Sunday of Advent, the liturgy shifts from a two-week focus on John the Baptist to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Both John and Mary serve as important figures for our reflection during this season of Advent.  They each played active, involved, and instrumental roles in preparing the way for Jesus Christ.  Last week we reflected on John the Baptist’s announcement that the “Savior” was among us, although not yet recognized.  This week we reflect upon Mary’s example of faith, love, and obedience to God the Father.  These traits permitted her to receive the angel’s message that God’s Son would be born to her, as a human person, and as one of us.

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I love the infancy narratives found in Luke’s Gospel.  I have read it to my children many times throughout their CHRISTinMASS Seasons.  Reading Luke’s narrative while sitting around the home nativity scene, with its simple crib, can be a helpful way of presenting our Catholic faith to family and friends.  The symbolism of the crib brings to my mind the “mystery” and “action” of God’s love being made visible and revealed – – manifested – – in the simple poverty of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem city.  

Along with the mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation, Saint Francis loved this same infancy narrative so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223.  His “Nativity scene” (though not live) has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRISTinMASS decorations, both outside and inside the home.  What better way is there to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTinMASS?!”

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the CHRISTinMASS Nativity Scene:

It still retains its value for evangelization today. Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true CHRISTinMASS because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Corinthians 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Luke 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium. There is no other Christmas.

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Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, and carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood. We learn for instance, five things:

(1) Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.

(2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”

(3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and complementary terms possible, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she had with God (This is known, I might add, from the perfect past-participle part of speech Gabriel used.  This form was what caused Mary to be “greatly troubled” – – because that form states something special happened to her way in the past, and is now still present within her.)

(4) The son Mary will give birth to is described in “messianic” terms, learned from her famous ancestor, King David.

And finally,

(5) Her son [Jesus] will be called both the “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

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Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God (the angel) telling you that God is pleased with you??!  Mary’s initial reaction to this angel we know of as “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God”), was naturally one of surprise, and also with some obvious initial fear.  Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe.  Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.

I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction to Gabriel’s acclamation.  She places her whole self: body, heart, and soul into the hands of God.  She trusts God, and now His messenger, accepting God’s grace, gift, and responsibility – – immediately!  I believe that she is believing the message ordaining her to the Motherhood of God Himself, to become manifest in the human form of her baby boy, Jesus.  In doing so, Mary became not only the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to ALL mankind.  Now that is “awesome” indeed!!

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The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message given by the (same) Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah about the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both events, the Archangel Gabriel appears to the “future parents,” who are at first unsettled by the vision:

Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.” (Luke 1:12)

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29)

Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel NOT TO FEAR!

But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’” (Luke 1:13)

Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’” (Luke 1: 30-31)

And, after his announcement he declares:

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Both Zechariah and Mary initially objected to Gabriel’s announcement:

Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’” (Luke 1:18)

But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’” (Luke 1:34)

Finally, a sign is given to each as a confirmation of his announcement of God’s decision or purpose and plan:

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

And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.” (Luke 1:20)

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Mary questions Gabriel of “how this is possible”, for she never had any sexual relations.  Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response.  Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus.  The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the “power” of God.  Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He IS the “Son of God!”

Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, then why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!

Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence for the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God the Father.  Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God the Father.  Mary is thus the true model of discipleship for all Catholics.  She believed God!  We should believe God!  She learned to “have no fear”!  We should learn to “have no fear”!

 

Gabriel puts a particular focus and emphasis on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of DavidANDSon of God”.  In verse 32 of today’s reading, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”.  Later, in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.”  ”Most High” is a title for God which was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts).  You can see each of these references by reading Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.

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In my thirty plus years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting. All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear in regards to delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital.  (Thank God they didn’t realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times than them – – but I could bluff well.)  Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age.  Once, I even took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years old (YES, 13!); she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home.  To make the matters worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ended in an abortion.  (You do the math!)  Now, surprisingly, this young mother was probably only a year or two younger than Mary when she became pregnant with Jesus!

I am sure Mary had some fear – – what woman wouldn’t!  I have yet to see a woman in labor without some fear; and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control).  I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age mind.  Examples: How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy?  How would her own family treat her?  Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know that she used cloth because the Holy Family was “eco-friendly.”)  What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph?  Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery? (This was his right per Jewish law.)  Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?  

She was a young girl of about fifteen.  Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood?  I would think not.  Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child! (Hee, hee! – – Just had to laugh on this one.)

There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle.  Yet Mary said “YES” with little hesitation! She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body!  Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new “covenant” of God – – coming to fruition with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her unique Divine Son.

I have to believe that God is not only a benevolent, merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment. Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.”  Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity.  Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment?  Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you?  Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise.  Others, including the “tepid” (lukewarm) of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell.  (I am saying “yes” too, and am looking forward to a crown for me as well – – have you?)

In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Mystery” of the Rosary.  It is called the “Annunciation”, wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel.  In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth.  Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Luke says these specific words when Gabriel appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth, Mary, for a specific purpose – – to offer Mary an insight about her cousins husbands strange infirmity of not being able to speak since his time of priestly service six months ago; and to alert her to something marvelous: her cousin, Elizabeth, is also pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit – – and is already in her “sixth month”.

This information inspired Mary to go help her cousin in the last three months of her “elderly” pregnancy. (This, by the way, is the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.)

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Now, one of the challenges of our Catholic faith is to recognize the mysteries of God’s plan for each of us and to inspire us to remain open to God’s “will” and God’s actions in our personal world experience.  Filled with God’s grace, Mary models for us the kind of faith needed (and desired by our Lord for us) to cooperate in God’s personal plan of salvation for each of us.  Like Mary, we are given the awesome opportunity to cooperate in God’s saving plan.  On this final Sunday of Advent, our Gospel invites us to consider how our preparations for CHRISTinMASS are making us more aware of God’s grace working in our lives today.

Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility?  To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion.  This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God.  She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us!  Yet, think about this – – realize that each of us is chosen by God in very specific and important ways as well.  We all have been given many gifts, graces, and talents from God the Father.  AND, importantly, we are expected to share them with the world.  As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others – – to help them serve God to their fullest.

Please identify some of the talents and treasures God has given you.  In what ways could, and should, these talents be used in helping others?  Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her.  Will you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did – – without question or pause?!

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To summarize: We have all probably been familiar with the story of the Annunciation for some time.  It is fitting that we recall how God the Father announced the birth of Jesus as we make our final preparations for our celebration of the coming birth of Jesus Christ.  The Archangel Gabriel visited Mary, a virgin “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.  Mary greeted the angel’s news with wonder and awe.  She asked how it could be possible that she could give birth to a child.  In his reply, the angel Gabriel announced the seemingly impossible reality: the child to be born would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and would be God the Father’s own, and only-begotten Son.  Gabriel informs Mary of another miracle; her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant despite having been thought to be “barren” due to her old age (some say in her 80’s).  Mary’s response to the angel is her personal fiat, (means “Let it be done” – -used also as a formal or official authorization of something).  Her response is the best example of complete faith, trust, love, and obedience to God the Father.

For me, the story of the “Annunciation” should bring to one’s mind God the Father’s amazing and supernatural action in salvation history.  God the Father chose a young human person, Mary, to give birth to His Son so that ALL humanity would know God’s kindness, mercy, and salvation.  Thus, Jesus was born as one of us, fully human AND yet, also fully divine.  This is the “mystery” we prepare to celebrate this and every CHRISTinMASS Season, the mystery of His Incarnation, becoming truly human.  In the model of our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, pray that all of us will come to recognize God’s saving plan for us and respond with obedience, trust, hope, and love as she did!

What have you been doing to prepare for CHRISTinMASS?  How have these preparations helped you to celebrate better the “central mystery” of CHRISTinMASS, the Incarnation?  The Gospel today talks about how Mary was prepared for her role in Christ’s birth.  What enabled Mary to say “yes” to God?  Please pray that God’s “grace” will enable you to be more faithful and obedient to God.  This is mt CHRISTinMASS wish for each of you.

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Magnificat

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.  Amen”

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  Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

“Oral Tradition” Found in Holy Scripture

 

You, then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2). RSV

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2) KJV

 

“‘Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1: 12). RSV

“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” (2 John 1:12).KJV 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Poverty

 

Why do Catholics today find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

Why did Catholics in Saint Francis’ time find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

What do you know of Saint Francis’ “romance and marriage” with Lady Poverty?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 18 & 19 of 26:

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

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19.  Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.  Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others.  Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.

“We are ALL ‘Talent-ed’ Children of God!” – Matthew 25:14-30†


 

 

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

  

There are only a few more “New Translation of the Mass” portions left for my blog.  I have been posting, and reposting, these new translations of Holy Scripture to be used at Mass for about a year.

With the new Liturgical year, I will be deleting this section, and adding a new section titled, “Catholic Apologetics”.  It will be a simple listing of Scripture verses and Catechism references to explain such things as Papal Authority, Purgatory (yes, it is still a Catholic belief), and so on.  Let me know what you think.

  

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   354 – Birth of Saint Augustine of Hippo, North African theologian (d. 430)
†   866 – Pope Nicholas I answers the envoys of Boris (Ad consulta vestra) about the individual Churches or Rites of the Catholic Church
†   867 – Death of Nicholas I, (the Great), pope (858-67), at age 67
†   1004 – Death of Abbo van Fleury, [Floriacensis], French abbott/saint
†   1565 – Pope Pius IV publishes degree Professi fidei
†   1938 – America’s 1st saint, Mother Frances Cabrini, is beatified
†   1964 – Pope Paul VI gives tiara “to poor”
†   Feasts/Memorials: Bricius of Tours; Mother Cabrini; Saint Homobonus; Stanislaus Kostka, All the Saints of the Premonstratensian Order; St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople

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

 

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 Quote of the Day:

  

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” ~ Erma Bombeck

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable “of the talents”, in which He teaches about the importance of using the gifts that God the Father has given to each of us for use in service to the Kingdom of Heaven.

  

(NAB Matthew 25:14-30) 14“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  15To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.  Immediately 16the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five.  17Likewise, the one who received two made another two.  18But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.  19After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.  20The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five.  He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.   See, I have made five more.’  21His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.’  22[Then] the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents.  See, I have made two more.’  23His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.’  24Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; 25so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.  Here it is back.’ 26His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter?  27Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?  28Now then!  Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.  29For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  30And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

  

This week’s Gospel is the example of how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves as they wait for God’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Remember, last week’s reading taught that there is no way to predict the coming of God’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus’ disciples must, therefore, remain ever vigilant, and ever ready, to receive the Son of Man at any time.

Today’s parable talks about Catholic Christian discipleship using economic metaphors: something we can understand, see, and feel in order to show a moral point.  Before he leaves on a journey, the “master” entrusts to his servants a different number of “talents”, giving to each “according to their abilities.   Upon the master’s return, he finds that the first and second servants have doubled their money; both are rewarded.  The third servant, however, has only preserved what was given to him because he was afraid to lose the money, so he risked nothing.  This servant is punished by the master, and his talent is given to the one who brought the greatest return.

Recalling, and keeping last week’s parable in mind (the “Ten Virgins” about being ever ready for the Parousia), today’s parable goes on to teach that God’s judgment will be based on the service we render to God and to one another in accordance with the gifts and graces God has given to us.  Our gifts, or “talents”, are given to us for the service of others, NOT for our own personal use!!  If we fail to use these gifts, God’s judgment – – on us – – will be severe.  On the other hand, if we make use of these gifts in service to God’s Kingdom of Heaven, we will be rewarded and entrusted with even more responsibilities.

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Today’s parable makes it clear, from the very first verse (Verse 14), a parabolic comparison exists between “a man who was going on a journey” and “the kingdom of heaven”.  Being faithful users of one’s unique and divinely given “gifts” leads to a fuller participation in God’s kingdom.  At the same time, laziness and inactivity to God’s graces and gifts could also exclude one from paradise.

Today’s reading reminds us that Catholic Christian spirituality is neither passive nor inactive in attitude and works.  Let us remember that prayer helps us to discern His gifts, the “talents we have”, given to us freely by God the Father, and to be used for others.  Prayer and discernment should lead us to use our gifts (Time, Talents, and Treasures) in the service of God and our neighbor.  God’s uniquely personal gifts of grace, our “talents”, allow us to share in the work of serving His Kingdom of Heaven.

Т

So, what is a talent anyhow?  There are two distinct and correct answers to this question.  From a literal and historical viewpoint, a talent was a unit of coinage of high but varying value depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin.  It is mentioned in the New Testament only here and in Matthew 18:24 (The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant).

The other is from the anagogical viewpoint.  This viewpoint involves an allegorical interpretation of a passage in the Bible as a foreshadowing of people or events in the New Testament.  So, the term “talent” is taken in the literal sense, meaning: “an unusual natural or divinely inspired ability to do something well”.  We all have talents.  Some have many little ones, like wiggling their ears and dancing.  Some have big ones, like remembering everything they see, hear, read, or touch.  Most of us have a wide range of “talents”, from the least useful to the greatest needed in society. 

I know I personally have an uncanny ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, with relative ease.  I am a “people person”.  My wife says I have a great “gift of throwing the bull!!”  I simply consider myself “well-learned”.  In reality, I have been given a strong sense of curiosity, which has landed me in trouble occasionally throughout my many years.

Now, let’s get back on track and go back and read verse 15 of today’s reading again:

To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.” (Matthew 25:15)

Was Jesus talking about pieces of money, special abilities to be imparted to others, or both?  I believe He is more interested in the later than the former.  Jesus Christ was not a materialistic person, and money has no use in His kingdom.

Т

Two of the master’s servants used their “talents”, and in the process gained many more.  The last servant, out of fear, chose not to use his “Talent”.  Instead, he:

Dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.”  (Matthew 25:18)

This may seem strange to us, but in the unsettled and often violently ruthless conditions of Palestine during Jesus’ earthly time, it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground.  They did not have banks with safety deposit boxes back then, and the modern mattress had yet to be invented as well.

 

Although the first two servants received large sums, doubling the amount given to them initially, their faithful trading was regarded by the “master” as faithfulness, reliability, and devotion in small matters.  So, he rewards them with “great”, yet unspecified, responsibilities.  I believe Jesus’ statement in this parable:

Share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:23)

is reference to the joy of God the Father’s banquet of the heavenly kingdom, as reported earlier in Matthew’s Gospel:

“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

Luke offers a parallel verse for verse 21 in Matthew’s Gospel, “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities” (Matthew 25:21):

 “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” (Luke 16:10).

Interestingly, Luke seems to go a little bit further in his proclamation.  He adds a second part, recommending a constant fidelity to those with positions of responsibility.

Т

Have you ever been “called on the carpet” for doing something poorly, or creating a bad outcome for your employer?  I have a few times, but chose to use these “experiences” as a learning tool.  I firmly believe we learn more from our mistakes, than from our successes.

The last servant in today’s parable is “called on the carpet” in a big way; he truly messed-up.  He is called a “wicked, lazy servant”.  His sin is He did not even TRY!!  This foolish man’s “inactivity” is not insignificant, financially, but he is still seriously blameworthy for his lack of action.  He failed to use the “talent” he was given to him – – TO USE – – from his “master”.  The result: he loses the gift he had received; it going to the first servant, whose possessions are already great.

Т

What are the results of using YOURtalents” in the service of God?  Jesus says in verse 29:

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

Matthew has a nearly identical application of this proverb earlier in His book:

“To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 13:12)

The reference to “more” being given to those who use their talents transcends a basic understanding or wisdom we have of God’s kingdom.  Matthew is indicating that God the Father gives a further and greater understanding to those who accepts the revealed mystery; and from the one who does not, he will take it away.

This saying or proverb about giving more and taking away is found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels:

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

And,

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

Our “talents” truly respond to the “Word of God”!  Those who “hear” the word must “become a light to others” (Luke 8:16).  Our generous and persevering response to the “Word of God”, through our “talents”, leads us to an even further, more perfect response to His “Word”; a beautiful and continual circle of enlightenment.

Т

The last verse of today’s reading (verse 30) is very similar to a verse much earlier in Matthew’s book:

I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

This “wailing and grinding of teeth” is a phrase used frequently in Matthew’s Gospel to describe the “Final Condemnation” (cf., Matthew 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30).  “Wailing and grinding of teeth” is something I believe no one is truly looking forward too; being placed outside the kingdom and not even able to look in.

Т

To conclude, in today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the correlation between faithfulness and responsibilities.  Our lives provide many opportunities to illustrate this connection.  As we prove ourselves “trustworthy”, we are trusted to take on greater responsibilities.  Jesus teaches us, in this parable, that when we show ourselves to be trustworthy in small matters; we can be trusted to participate in greater matters of responsibility.

Why is Jesus telling this parable?  I believe it tells us something about how God the Father deals with us, His servants.  The parable speaks first of the “master’s” trust in his servants.  While he goes away he leaves them with his money to use as they think best.  While there were no strings attached, this was obviously seen to be a test in order to see if his servants would be productive and reliable in their use of the “talents” entrusted to them.  God the Father, OUR “Master” will reward the hard-working, productive, active, and faithful.  And, he will punish those who sit idly by, and who do nothing with His “talents”, which he has entrusted to us – – TO USE – – in accordance with our abilities.  The essence of this parable seems to lie in the servants’ conception of “responsibility”.  Each servant was faithfully entrusted with the master’s talents, and was faithful to his master’s will, to a certain end-point. 

Sadly, the servant who buried the master’s talent was deemed “irresponsible”.  One can bury seeds in the ground and expect them to become productive; they obey natural laws.  Coins and Talents (big “T” and little “t”), however, do not obey natural laws.  These gifts (graces) obey economic and supernatural laws, becoming productive only when in circulation.  Would it not be presumed then, that the “master” in today’s Gospel reading expected his servants to be productive in the use of his money?

God the Father entrusts His disciples with gifts and graces.  He gives His disciples the freedom to use them as they think best (free will).  With each gift, each talent, God the Father gives sufficient means (grace and wisdom) for using them in the most fitting and appropriate way: 

Faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God …  this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:5,10) 

I believe we “turn away” from God by our indifference and attitude; saying to Him, “it’s not worth trying”. 

God honors those who use their talents and gifts for doing “good deeds” for others.  Those who are faithful – – with even a little – – are entrusted with more!  But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have been given.  There is an important lesson for us to learn here for us.  We either get more OR we lose what we have; God’s kingdom is dynamic and not static in any way.  We either advance towards God or we slip back, out of the picture.  As Peter learned in the boat one stormy night, to walk towards God one must go “overboard”!!  Do you sincerely, seriously, and industriously seek to serve God with the gifts and graces (time, talents, and treasures) He has given to you?

Take some time to recall how you have matured, and how you can NOW be trusted with greater responsibilities (hopefully).  Our “trustworthiness” in small matters shows that we can also be trusted to share in the work of serving the Kingdom of Heaven. We share in the work of serving the Kingdom of Heaven when we use our talents to help and serve others.  So, as a gift to God, choose something to do this week to serve others; and repeat doing this gift-giving action every week.  

 

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  Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.  And kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And you will renew the face of the earth.
Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful.  In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation.  We ask this
through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

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New Translation of the Mass:

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

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

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

The “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely.  More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal.  It will now say, “I have greatly sinned” and later adds “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that
I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

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  A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917)

  

Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first United States citizen to be canonized; she became a U.S. citizen in 1909.  Her deep trust in the loving care of her God gave her the strength to be a valiant woman doing the work of Christ.

Refused admission to the religious order which had educated her to be a teacher, she began charitable work at the House of Providence Orphanage in Cadogno, Italy.  In September 1877 she made her vows there and took the religious habit.

When the bishop closed the orphanage in 1880, he named Frances prioress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.  Seven young women from the orphanage joined her.

Since her early childhood in Italy, Frances had wanted to be a missionary in China but, at the urging of Pope Leo XIII, Frances went west instead of east.  She traveled with six sisters to New York City to work with the thousands of Italian immigrants living there.

She found disappointment and difficulties with every step.  When she arrived in New York City, the house intended to be her first orphanage in the United States was not available.  The archbishop advised her to return to Italy. But Frances, truly a valiant woman, departed from the archbishop’s residence all the more determined to establish that orphanage.  And she did.

In 35 years Frances Xavier Cabrini founded 67 institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick.  Seeing great need among Italian immigrants who were losing their faith, she organized schools and adult education classes.

As a child, she was always frightened of water, unable to overcome her fear of drowning.  Yet, despite this fear, she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times.  She died of malaria in her own Columbus Hospital in Chicago.

Comment:

The compassion and dedication of Mother Cabrini is still seen in hundreds of thousands of her fellow citizens, not yet canonized, who care for the sick in hospitals, nursing homes and state institutions.  We complain of increased medical costs in an affluent society, but the daily news shows us millions who have little or no medical care, and who are calling for new Mother Cabrini’s to become citizen-servants of their land.

Quote:

At her canonization on July 7, 1946, Pius XII said, “Although her constitution was very frail, her spirit was endowed with such singular strength that, knowing the will of God in her regard, she permitted nothing to impede her from accomplishing what seemed beyond the strength of a woman.”

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

  

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

 

Is Reconciliation an act of faith on my part?

How can I better determine my characteristic fault?

How does spiritual blindness hurt us?

Do we need to offer satisfaction for our own sins and those of others?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 13 & 14 of 26:

 

13.  As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

Т

14.  Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.

 

 

 

“Oaky- Doakie! Get Me Pregnant; My Son Will Grow Up To BE a GOD, Or a Doctor, Or a Lawyer, Or a … !!” – Luke 1:26-38†


 

“The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary”

 

 

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

 
 †   1626 – Birth of Christina, queen of Sweden who abdicated after becoming Catholic
†   1768 – Death of Jean Denis Attiret, French Jesuit missionary (b. 1702)
†   1854 – Pope Pius IX proclaims dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which hold the Blessed Virgin Mary free of “Original Sin”
†   1864 – Pope Pius IX publishes encyclical Quanta cura (“Syllabus errorum”)
†   1869 – 20th Roman Catholic ecumenical council, Vatican I, opens in Rome
†   1965 – Pope Paul VI signs 2nd Vatican council
†   Eastern Christianity Major Feast Day: Conception of the Theotokos (Mother of God) by Anna
†   Feast Day: The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (Holy Day of Obligation in Ireland, U.S.); Saint Eucharius, first bishop of Trier 

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans acknowledge that life is sacred and are dedicated to a consistent ethic of life

 

“Since life is the first gift given us by God, Franciscans have a profound respect for human life.  The itinerancy which is part of the Franciscan vocation helps the followers of Francis and Clare understand better the fragility of life and to support the most vulnerable in society. Because of this, the Franciscan family, from its earliest moments, embraced active non-violence and articulated a theology and ethics centered in love.  This spiritual perspective includes respect for those who disagree with us, as shown in the dialogue between Francis and the sultan.” 

“When I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me turned into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I delayed a little and left the world.”  St. Francis, The Testament, 1-2.

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

On the sixth day, God created the platypus. And God said: let’s see the evolutionists try and figure this one out.

 

Today’s reflection is about the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, and Mary responds, “Let it be done to me as you say.”

 

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived  a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.”  38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.  (NAB Luke 1:26-38)

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  This feast day celebrates God’s choice of Mary to be the Mother of Jesus (and us all).  In preparation, God preserved Mary from the stain or mark on her soul from original sin.  This reprieve from original sin was from the moment of her conception.  Thus, Mary’s role was prefigured from the very beginning of time!  Our Blessed Virgin Mary was also the first to receive the benefits and graces from the salvation that her Son – – Jesus Christ – – would secure for all mankind.

I love the infancy narratives in Luke’s Gospel.  I have read it to my children many times throughout the years of CHRIST-mas Seasons.  The home nativity scene, with its simple crib can be a helpful way of presenting our faith to family and friends.  The crib helps us to think about, and consider, the mystery of God’s love revealed in the poverty and simplicity of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem.  Saint Francis loved these same infancy narratives, along with the mystery of the Incarnation, so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223.  The Nativity scene has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRIST-mas decorations as well, both outside and inside the home.  What better way to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTmas!”

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the Christmas Nativity Scene:

“It still retains its value for evangelization today.  Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true Christmas because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Cor 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Lk 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium.  There is no other Christmas.”

Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood.  For instance, we learn (1) that Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.  (2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”  (3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and esteemed of terms, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she has found with God.  (And, with a perfect past-participle part of speech at that, I might add!)  (4) The son Mary is to conceive is described in messianic terms.  And, finally, (5) He [Jesus] will be called “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God telling you that God is pleased with you?!  Mary’s initial reaction to this angel, called “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God.”), was naturally one of surprise, and also probably with some fear attached to his appearance.  Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe.  Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.

I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction.  She places her body, heart, and soul into the hands of God.  She accepts His grace, gift, and responsibility.  God is granting to her the Motherhood of God Himself, in the human form of Jesus.  In doing so, Mary not only became the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to all mankind.  Now that is “awesome!!”

The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message from the archangel Gabriel to Zechariah of the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both, Gabriel appears to the “future parent,” who is at first unsettled by the vision.

Luke 1:12: “Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.”

Luke 1:29:                “         But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”

Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel not to fear.

Luke 1:13: “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’”

Luke 1: 30-31: “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’”

And, after the announcement is made,:

Luke 1:14-17: “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”

Luke 1:31-33: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

 both Zechariah and Mary initially objects (Luke 1:18, 34),:

Luke 1:18: “Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’”

Luke 1:34: “But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’”    

and finally, a sign is given to confirm the announcement (Luke 1:20, 36).

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

Luke 1:36: “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.”

Mary questions Gabriel “of how” is because she has never had any sexual relations.  Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response.  Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus.  The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the power of God.  Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He is the “Son of God!”

Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!

Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence to the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God.  Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God.  Mary is the true model of discipleship for all Catholics.

Gabriel puts a particular focus on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of David” and “Son of God”.  In verse 32, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”.  Further on in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.”  “Most High” is a title for God that was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts).   You can see each of these references by going to Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.

In my thirty years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting.  All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear with the situation of delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital.  (If they only realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times; but I could bluff well.)  Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age.  Once though, I took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years of age (YES, 13!), and she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home.  To make the matter worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ending in an abortion.  (You do the math!)  Now realize, this child was probably only a year or two younger than Mary!

I am sure Mary had some fear.  I have yet to see a woman in labor that hasn’t, and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control).  I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age, head.  How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy?  How would her own family treat her?  Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know she used cloth because the Holy family was “eco-friendly.”) What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph as of yet?  Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery?  (This was his right per Jewish law.)  Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?  She was a young girl of about fifteen (15).  Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood?  I would think not.  Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child!  (He, he!  I had too.)

There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle.  But Mary said “YES” with little hesitation!  She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body!  Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new covenant of God – – coming to fruition through Jesus Christ.  She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, through Jesus Christ.  Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – through Jesus Christ.  

God is a benevolent and merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment.  Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.”  Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity.  Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment?  Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you?  Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise.  Others, including the “tepid” of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell.

In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Rosary Mystery” called the “Annunciation” wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel.  In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth.  Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Gabriel says these specific words when he appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth—Mary, for a specific purpose.  

Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility?  To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion.  This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God.  She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us!  

Yet, realize each of us is chosen by God in many specific and important ways.  Each of us are given many gifts, graces, and talents by God; and we are expected to share them with the world.  As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others; to help them serve God to their fullest.

Today, identify some of the talents that God has given to you.  In what ways should these talents be used in helping others?  Mary was given a special task by God.  Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her.  Can you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did?! 

 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of god, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Feast of the Immaculate Conception

 

A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern Church in the seventh century. It came to the West in the eighth century. In the eleventh century it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. In the eighteenth century it became a feast of the universal Church.

In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

It took a long time for this doctrine to develop. While many Fathers and Doctors of the Church considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, they often had difficulty in seeing Mary as sinless—either at her conception or throughout her life. This is one of the Church teachings that arose more from the piety of the faithful than from the insights of brilliant theologians. Even such champions of Mary as Bernard and Thomas Aquinas could not see theological justification for this teaching.

Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They point out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset.

Comment:

In Luke 1:28 the angel Gabriel, speaking on God’s behalf, addresses Mary as “full of grace” (or “highly favored”). In that context this phrase means that Mary is receiving all the special divine help necessary for the task ahead. However, the Church grows in understanding with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led the Church, especially non-theologians, to the insight that Mary had to be the most perfect work of God next to the Incarnation. Or rather, Mary’s intimate association with the Incarnation called for the special involvement of God in Mary’s whole life. The logic of piety helped God’s people to believe that Mary was full of grace and free of sin from the first moment of her existence. Moreover, this great privilege of Mary is the highlight of all that God has done in Jesus. Rightly understood, the incomparable holiness of Mary shows forth the incomparable goodness of God.

Quote:

“[Mary] gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and she was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.

“It is no wonder, then, that the usage prevailed among the holy Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, fashioned by the Holy Spirit into a kind of new substance and new creature. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the splendors of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is, on God’s command, greeted by an angel messenger as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28). To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38)” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 8 & 9 of 26:

8.     As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

 

9.     The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call.  She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.

“Wine First; Now Bread: Am I a Brewer, Baker, or a Healer?!” – Matthew 15:29-37†


 

Holy Father’s (Popes) Monthly Prayer Intentions for December, 2010

    

The Experience of Personal Suffering as a Help to Others who Suffer, and Opening Our Doors to Christ

 

General: That our personal experience of suffering may be an occasion for better understanding the situation of unease and pain which is the lot of many people who are alone, sick or aged, and stir us all to give them generous help.

 

Missionary: That the peoples of the earth may open their doors to Christ and to His Gospel of peace, brotherhood and justice.

 

 

 

Today is my (and my wife’s) twentieth wedding anniversary.  Though I jokingly say to all who will listen that “twenty years with her is like twenty minutes – – underwater”, I literally cannot remember a time without her.  The two of us are truly of ONE nature.  I love her so much, and that grows exponentially each and every day STILL.  When will the honeymoon be over?!

  

Today in Catholic History:


†   660 – Death of Eligius/Eloy, French bishop of Tournay-Noyon; saint
†   772 – Pope Adrian I elected to Papacy
†   800 – Charlemagne judges the accusations against Pope Leo III in the Vatican.
†   1521 – Death of Pope Leo X, [Giovanni de’ Medici], Italian Pope (1513-21), at age 45 (b. 1475)
†   1580 – Death of Giovanni Morone, Italian cardinal (b. 1509)
†   1581 – Death of Edmund Campion, English Jesuit (martyred) (b. 1540)
†   1581 – Death of Ralph Sherwin, English Catholic saint (b. 1550)
†   1581 – Death of Alexander Briant, English saint (b. around 1556)
†   1830 – Death of Pope Pius VIII (b. 1761)
†   1989 – USSR Pres Mikhail S Gorbachev meets Pope John Paul II at the Vatican
†   Feast Day: St Eligius

(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:

 

Franciscans are dedicated to the care of creation, seeing all creatures as brothers and sisters.

   

“Saints Francis and Clare had a relational understanding of creation. All creatures, from the smallest to “our Sister, Mother Earth,” were sisters and brothers, part of the very family of God.  Because of this, Francis was named the patron saint of ecology by Pope John Paul II.  Following this tradition, St. Bonaventure developed a theological and spiritual vision that acknowledged all creation as emanating from the goodness of God, existing as a “footprint” of God, and leading us back to God if we are able to “read” nature properly. He spoke of creation as the first book that God wrote.”

“This is the royal dignity which the Lord Jesus assumed when he became poor for us that he might enrich us by his want and would make us truly poor in spirit, as heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven. I do not wish to relinquish this royal dignity.”  St. Bonaventure, Major Legend, Chapter VII

(From the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website:
http://www.franciscanaction.org)

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus feeding and healing many on a mountain.

 

29 Moving on from there Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there.  30 Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.  They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.  31 The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.  32 Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.”  33 The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?”  34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”  “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.”  35 He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.  36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  37 They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.  (NAB Matthew 15:29-37)

 

The mountain is a “classic” place for encounters with God throughout both the Old and New Testaments.  Many centuries prior to this event encountered in today’s Gospel, Isaiah prophesized in Chapter 25:6-9 that on a mountain the Lord “will provide for ALL peoples.”  He will feed, heal, and destroy death.  On this mountain, Jesus Christ gives love, joy, hope, peace, a purpose, and freedom; to heal and energize all of us – – with LEFTOVERS!! 

This is not the story of the feeding of the five thousand as found in Matthew 14:13-21.  What makes this one different from the former is that Jesus is taking the initiative by summoning the disciples.  Also different is the numbers of the crowd: 4000 men versus 5000 men in the former story.  Finally, the crowd was with Jesus for three days, seven loaves were multiplied, and seven baskets of fragments remained after all had eaten to satisfaction. 

Here is another example in support of Jesus’ healing ministry.  Our divine physician made many house calls by travelling to those in need.  Many people who were in good physical shape, who were maimed, and who were sick and/or injured sought out Jesus.  He not only healed the physical body, He healed the spiritual soul as well.

Many of the healed people in this Gospel reading are possibly Gentiles.  Through Jesus’ ministry they became part of a reassembled Israel.  Jesus came for ALL, not just two of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Jew, Gentile, Samaritan, Pagan, etc.; does not matter to God.  They are all His creation and equally allowed the opportunity to gain entrance to God’s almighty kingdom.

In verse 31, the people “glorified the God of Israel.”  In writing this Matthew was obviously influenced by Isaiah 29:23:

“When his children see the work of my hands in his midst, they shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel.”

How prophetic is this verse from centuries before Jesus.  I love how the Old Testament is in the New, and the New Testament fulfills the Old.

Jesus had “pity for the crowd”  Can you possibly picture someone being so mesmerized, enthralled, and captivated in someone’s speech, abilities, and presence that they are with Him “for three days and have nothing to eat.”  I picture heaven just this way.  Motivated by a strong and loving compassion for all the people with Him, Jesus took the initiative to care for them: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

They were in a desert!  There were no 7-Elevens, Quick Trips, or grocery stores in the area.  Where could they get bread and fish?  This part of the story is reminiscent of the feeding of the Israelites with manna during the Exodus (Exodus 16:4-12):

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.  Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not.  On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in, let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”  So Moses and Aaron told all the Israelites, “At evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, as he heeds your grumbling against him.  But what are we that you should grumble against us?  When the LORD gives you flesh to eat in the evening,” continued Moses, “and in the morning your fill of bread, as he heeds the grumbling you utter against him, what then are we? Your grumbling is not against us, but against the LORD.”  Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole Israelite community: Present yourselves before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.”  When Aaron announced this to the whole Israelite community, they turned toward the desert, and lo, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!  The LORD spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.  Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.” 

The provision of manna in the wilderness is a precursor to this event in the New Testament.  Jesus is now providing HIS “bread” in abundance for the hungry to those who seek Him.

Why “seven” loaves of bread?  It is a very interesting number for the “Bread of Life” that Jesus gives to all in His presence.  In the Hebrew, seven is “shevah.  It is from the root “savah, to be full or satisfied, have enough of.  So, the meaning of the word “seven” is referring to a fullness and completeness; a goodness and perfection.  Nothing can be added to Jesus’ life sustaining gift to us, or taken from it, without damaging it.

In verse 36, Jesus “Gave thanks.”  He said a blessing, probably similar to the blessing found in Matthew 14:19: 

“… and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.” 

Eucharist is a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving.”  This “thanksgiving” was a blessing of God for His benefits and graces.

The taking of the bread, – – “Jesus’ bread of life,” – – saying a blessing, and finally breaking and sharing His bread of life with His disciples to further share with the crowds matches up with the actions of Jesus’ praying over the bread at the Last Supper found in Matthew 26:26.  

What I think is more interesting is Matthew’s not mentioning Jesus dividing the fish.  I wonder if this was done on purpose, as “fish” is not part of the Eucharistic meal.  I believe what Matthew DID NOT say in this respect is perhaps more significant than the breaking of the bread.

“They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over – – seven baskets full.”    That number of fullness and completion – – seven – – again, and in the same reading.  There is apparently a special message that Mathew is trying to get across to His readers.  The number seven in this context may recall the nations of Canaan (Acts 13:19):

“When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance”

 and the first seven Deacons (Acts 6:5):

“The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.”

The leftovers from this profound event were greater than “seven” times the amount food they started with.  God’s promises and graces are immeasurable.  When He gives, He gives in great abundance!!  You will be “satisfied” to “fullness and completeness” (that #7) in Jesus’ Eucharistic meal!!

Earlier, I proposed that many Gentiles were present, and were healed in these three days in Jesus’ presence.  Thus, they have been included and integrated into the fullness and completeness of Israel – – God’s chosen kingdom.  In other words, all are invited into God’s Kingdom!

Jesus fulfilled all their profound hungers and human weaknesses.  Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise to give what is needed to live.  Jesus’ reveals a sign of God’s kingdom, an expression of His power, and His divine and intense mercy and love for all His creation.  When God gives, he gives in abundance!!  He gives us more than we deserve!  Have you thanked Him?  NEVER underestimate the love, power, and graces of God in your lives.  He is always very generous!!

 

Psalms 23:1-6

“A psalm of David”

 

“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

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed John of Vercelli (c. 1205-1283)

 

John was born near Vercelli in northwest Italy in the early 13th century. Little is known of his early life. He entered the Dominican Order in the 1240s and served in various leadership capacities over the years. Elected sixth master general of the Dominicans in 1264, he served for almost two decades.

Known for his tireless energy and his commitment to simplicity, John made personal visits—typically on foot—to almost all the Dominican houses, urging his fellow friars to strictly observe the rules and constitutions of the Order.

He was tapped by two popes for special tasks. Pope Gregory X enlisted the help of John and his fellow Dominicans in helping to pacify the States of Italy that were quarreling with one another. John was also called upon to draw up a framework for the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. It was at that council that he met Jerome of Ascoli (the man who would later become Pope Nicholas IV), then serving as minister general of the Franciscans. Some time later the two men were sent by Rome to mediate a dispute involving King Philip III of France. Once again, John was able to draw on his negotiating and peacemaking skills.

Following the Second Council of Lyons, Pope Gregory selected John to spread devotion to the name of Jesus. John took the task to heart, requiring that every Dominican church contain an altar of the Holy Name; groups were also formed to combat blasphemy and profanity.

Toward the end of his life John was offered the role of patriarch of Jerusalem, but declined. He remained Dominican master general until his death.

Comment:

The need for peacemakers is certainly as keen today as in the 10th century! As followers of Jesus, John’s role falls to us. Each of us can do something to ease the tensions in our families, in the workplace, among people of different races and creeds.

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

   
   

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 1 & 2 of 26:

 

The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

 

 

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