Tag Archives: Hail

“The ‘Pagan’ Had It Right; Jesus Truly IS the ‘Son Of God’ – And So Are We!” – Mark 15:1-39 (Shorter Form)†


Palm Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

This week is known throughout the Church as “Holy Week”, with the last few days being days full with ceremonies and of special notice.

Today is Palm Sunday (or, “Fig Sunday” by some):

On the sixth Sunday of Lent we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Worship services include blessing of the palms and a procession.  The liturgical color is red. 

Spy Wednesday:

This is an old and uncommon name for the Wednesday of Holy Week, which commemorates Judas’ agreement to betray Jesus (cf., Matthew 26:3-5, 14-16).

PASCHAL TRIDUMM:

Holy Thursday (AKA, Maundy Thursday):

 The name “Maundy Thursday” is derived from Jesus “mandate” to love one another as He loves each of us.  This day celebrates the institution of the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Ordination.   Some may also know it as “Shear Thursday.”

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion:

Good Friday is an obligatory day of fasting within the Catholic Church.  This day commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the Holy Cross.  Worship customs include Veneration of the Cross, communion from the reserved Maundy Thursday host, and the singing or preaching of the Passion (reading or singing excerpts of the Passion story from John’s gospel).  In the Catholic Church, the liturgical color was formerly black, but is now red.

Holy Saturday:

 This is the final day of Holy Week.  There are few specific customs associated with Holy Saturday, except that it is the final night before the Feast of the Resurrection, which begins at the Great Easter Vigil.

Other customs and events, including “Tenebrae” (a ceremony in which the gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of readings and psalms are chanted or recited), have developed as Holy Week customs.  Generally, Holy Week is a busy time for Catholic and Orthodox Christians, as we build up to the Queen of all Church Feasts, Easter (Pascha).

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Here is a link to a sight for making crosses out of the palms received at mass today (with pictures and “how to” video):

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Palm-Frond-Cross.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   705 – Greek pope John VII chosen as successor to John VI
†   1283 – Birth of Ludwig IV of Baveria, Roman Catholic Bavarian emperor (1314-47)
†   1682 – Death of Franz Egon of Fürstenberg, Bavarian Catholic archbishop (b. 1625)
†   1939 – US recognizes Franco government in Spain at end of Spanish civil war.  Pope Pius XII congratulates Generalissimo Franco’s victory in Spain
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Hugh of Grenoble; Saint Waleric

(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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In today’s reflection, Jesus is sentenced to death and crucified.  The centurion who witnessed Jesus’ death declares, “This man was the Son of God.”

  

(NAB Mark 15:1-39 [Shorter Form]) 1 As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.  2 Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  He said to him in reply, “You say so.”  3 The chief priests accused him of many things.  4 Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer?  See how many things they accuse you of.”  5 Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.  6 Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested.  7 A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.  8 The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.  9 Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”  10 For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.  11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.  12 Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what [do you want] me to do with [the man you call] the king of the Jews?”  13 They shouted again, “Crucify him.”  14 Pilate said to them, “Why?  What evil has he done?”  They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”  15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.  16 The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.  17 They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.  18 They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.  They knelt before him in homage.  20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.  21 They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.  22 They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of the Skull).  23 They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.  24 Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.  25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.  26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”  27 With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.  28 29 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha!  You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself by coming down from the cross.”  31 Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.”  Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.  33 At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  34 And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  35 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.”  36 One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”  37 Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.  38 The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  39 When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

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Gospel Reflection:

 This Sunday, Palm or Passion Sunday, is the first day of our faith’s Holy Week.  Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, are together called the “Easter Triduum”, three special days that are a highlight of the Catholic Church Liturgical year.

 There are two Gospels proclaimed at today’s Mass.  The first Gospel (with two choices) is just prior to the procession with palms, and tells of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem (cf., Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16).  Riding on a borrowed “colt”, Jesus was hailed by the crowds as they blessed God and shouted “Hosanna!” in His presence – – ALL filled with GREAT JOY being in His presence.  A few days later, the crowd is not “hailing” Jesus, they are instead “mocking and jeering” Him, calling for His death.

Mark presents Jesus’ “Passion” and death on the cross as the consequence of an on-going tension between the Jewish authorities (both Temple and secular) and Jesus Himself.  This tension escalates throughout His public ministry, culminating in the events of today’s reading.  The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” occurred when Jesus drove the merchants and moneychangers from the Temple (cf., Mark 11:15).  After this event, the chief priests and Scribes began secretly seeking a way to put Jesus to death. 

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Today’s Gospel starts with the WHOLE Sanhedrin gathering together to plot against Jesus; they “Held a council” (verse 1).  In the original Greek, “held a council” comes from the verb, “poieō” which can mean either “convene a council” or “take counsel.”  In today’s reading, I prefer a variant form of this verb, meaning “reached a decision”.  Today’s event is the climax of Temple authorities plan’s, started a long time before Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem for THIS particular  Passover celebration:

The Pharisees went out and immediately took counselwith the Herodians against him to put him to death.” (Mark 3:6).

Mark 14:64 (In the long form of today’s reading) describes this “council” as happening as a “trial” during the night (is this sneaky or what?!).  Matthew, unlike Mark, did not consider the Sanhedrin as judging Jesus in a night session. Even so, the handing over of Jesus to the chief government official, Pilate, is because the Sanhedrin did not have right or ability to put their “plotted” sentence of death into effect.

When Jesus was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish “court” – -the council of Jewish priests, scribes, and elders – – He was charged with “blasphemy” (disrespect for God or sacred things), citing His threat in the Temple:

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19).

Mark states one reason for Jesus’ arrest and prosecution.  Luke’s Gospel tells us that “three” false accusations were leveled against Jesus (cf., Luke 23:1-2).  The first charge: Jesus stirred-up sedition within the community.   Secondly, Jesus encouraged people not to pay taxes to Caesar.  And lastly, Jesus took on the title, “King”.   When Jesus was brought before Pilate, the “chief priests” presented His crime as a purely political one (and not a religious), claiming that Jesus said He was “the king of the Jews”.  

So, the Sanhedrin “handed Him [Jesus] over to Pilate”, simply because they lacked the authority to condemn and execute their wishful sentence:

You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as deserving to die.” (Mark 14:64).

With this “evidence” in hand, the Sanhedrin sent Jesus to Pilate.  Through this Roman prelate, Jesus was tried, beaten, and put to death:

Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15);

John goes into greater detail, reporting why the Sanhedrin could not complete their plan, and why they used Pilate to bring their dubious design to fruition:

“Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.’  The Jews answered him, ‘We do not have the right to execute anyone” (John 18:31).

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The second verse in today’s reading states:

 “Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’” (Mark 15:2)

In the accounts of the four evangelists a certain irony surrounded the use of this title, “king of the Jews”.  It is used in today’s reading as an accusation against Jesus.  While Pilate himself uses this “accusatory” – – but correct – – term three times in today’s reading (Mark 15:2, 9, 12).  Jesus is aware of the irony in their false accusations, and in their evil reason for the chief priests to hand Jesus over for a quick trial and condemnation:

“For he [Jesus] knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.” (Mark 15:10).

Their worldly influence and power overtook their role as leaders of the Jewish faith.

Pilate publicly heralded Jesus “the King of the Jews” three times, and I have no doubt that he did so three times just to irritate and annoy the chief priests and Pharisees.

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The crowd at Jesus’ “trial” had to be different from the one meeting and hailing Him with palm branches, at the city gates a few days earlier.  This crowd was angry, wanting Barabbas released over Jesus.  So why did the crowd want Barabbas released rather than Jesus?  And, who was the violence-oriented Barabbas”, and how could a crowd be coerced into calling for his release over Jesus?  The Aramaic name “Barabbas” means “son of the father”.  The irony of the choice offered by Pilate, between “Barabbas” and Jesus – – the “TRUE” son of the Father – – would be evident to those present.  Barabbas was a bandit known for violence. 

Jerusalem was filled with zealots and insurrectionists.  This is why so many Roman forces were always in Jerusalem during the Passover time, it being a time of high tension and religious fervor among the crowds.  Barabbas was probably part of a insurrectionist group known for murder and assassination (making him NOT a friend of either the Jewish nor Roman authorities).  With this little fact in mind, the crowd present, calling for his release, was very likely supporters of Barabbas (like a first century “Robin hood” type cult figure).  The crowd who came on this occasion, very like came because they believed that Pilate may offer Barabbas’ release at the time of the feast.

With Jesus’ situation being incited by the “chief priests” (Mark 15:11), the crowds demanded loudly for Jesus to be executed by crucifixion, a peculiar and terrifyingly horrible form of Roman capital punishment.  

What finally coerced Pilate to sentence a just man such as Jesus to death?  Pilate did not want report being sent to Rome in which he is accused of supporting a dangerous man “known” for inciting the people to accept Him as their “true king” and thus assisting in a revolt against Roman authority in Palestine.  (Political blackmail occurred in the first century, just like today.)  So, Pilate relented in order to avoid having a charge brought against Him in Rome (Any charge against him would not be healthy for him).  Pilate sacrificed justice – – and Jesus Christ – – in order to save his face within the government, his job, and potentially, his life.  Are you personally willing to sacrifice YOUR reputation and position for truth and justice, or, are you willing to go the way of Pilate? 

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None of us can avoid the inevitable — our own death.  We can try to avoid it, even trying to block it from our minds, but the truth is WE WILL ALL DIE SOMEDAY (I believe).  Dying usually involves at least some mental and physical suffering, along with some type of loss and separation for most of us.  We can choose to live well, and we can choose to die well, through a life-long spiritual undertaking (Sounds hard, and may be for most in living in this materialistic world.  Fortunately for each of us, there is something stronger than death – – and that is free and unlimited love:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

Jesus embraced the Holy Cross knowing it was His Father’s will, and knowing His Father’s way for Him was to die for our salvation.

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Let’s get back to Pilate’s actions with Jesus’.  The choice Pilate offers the crowd, between Barabbas and Jesus (verse 15), is in accordance with the Roman custom of the time for releasing one prisoner, chosen by the crowd present, at the Passover feast:

Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished.” (Matthew 27:15).

This custom of the Roman government in Jerusalem is also mentioned in the Gospels of Mark and John (cf., Mark 15:6; John 18:39), but not in Luke’s Gospel.  Actually, outside of these three Gospels, there is no direct confirmation or evidence for this “freeing” practice by Pilate.  Scholars are divided in the historical reliability of such a practice as releasing a prisoner at Passover.

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Scourging was the usual preliminary “event” for anyone being crucified.  I wonder: was Jesus forced to experience a more “thorough” and brutal scourging than the other two “criminals” chosen to be hanged with Him that day?  (I am going to put this one on my “to ask” list for when I meet Him. [I pray I meet Him!])

After Jesus is condemned by Pilate, and “scourged”, He is taken to the “Praetorium”.  The “Praetorium” was the residence of the Roman governor when in Jerusalem; his usual place of residence being at Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast.  The Roman governor went to Jerusalem during the great feasts, when the influx of pilgrims posed the danger of a nationalistic riot by partisan zealots.  Some scholars believe the “Praetorium” in Jerusalem may have been, instead, the old palace of Herod in the west of the city, or the fortress of Antonia northwest of the Jewish Temple area.

Jesus is in the “Praetorium” and obviously was given some “special” treatment, since “the whole cohort” was assembled to mock, jeer, and beat Him.  A Roman “cohort” usually numbered about six hundred soldiers.  (That is truly a lot of “special” treatment!!)

After the mockery and beating of Jesus by the Roman soldiers in the Praetorium, AND after Jesus had previously been scourged by the Roman torturers, Jesus began His “death walk” to Golgotha; His personal way of the cross.  Jesus was so weakened, the soldiers:

Pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian … to carry His cross (Mark 15:21)

I need to note that a condemned person suppose to carry his own instrument of torture and death, usually the crossbeam of the cross.  The Roman soldiers chose a man known as “Simon”.

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Before we continue, let me give a little geography lesson: Cyrenaica was a Roman province on the north coast of Africa, with Cyrene being its capital city.  Cyrene had a large population of Greek-speaking Jews.  “Simon” may have been living in or near Jerusalem, or may have come to Jerusalem as a Passover pilgrim.  

So who was “Simon of Cyrene”, and why was he picked to assist Jesus on His death walk?   Mark’s recording the precise name, “Simon”, was probably due to his being known among early Christian believers; his being among Jesus’ first disciples.  We know Simon came from a long distance, Cyrene (in North Africa, present-day Libya), for the Passover feast. Once he was picked by the soldiers, he really had no choice in the matter at hand, since Roman authority could not be challenged without serious consequences.  

Mark also records that “Simon” was the father of “Alexander” and “Rufus” (Mark 15:21).  Since Mark wrote his gospel for the Christian community at Rome, it is likely that the two sons of Rufus were well-known to the Church in Rome as fellow Christians.  

WOW!!  Here, in this event found in today’s reading, a “theme” comes to the forefront with the “Simon of Cyrene” event.  He takes up Jesus’ cross, and follows Him.  Likewise, a large crowd comprised of fellow followers of Jesus also followed Jesus on His “way” of the Cross of Redemption and Salvation.  Just think, Christian disciples were (and still are) to follow in the footsteps of Jesus to the Holy Cross (and beyond).  

Who knows what would have happened if “Simon” had not been required to carry Jesus’ cross.  “Simon” may never have been challenged with the true message of the cross, or the personal and intimate spiritual meaning of the Christian faith found in the Holy Cross.  Perhaps “Simon” became a believer and passed on his faith to his family as well through this encounter with Jesus.  How often do you take up your cross willingly to follow Jesus in His way of love and sacrifice for others?

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The Romans reserved crucifixion for their worst offenders.  It was designed to be the most humiliating and excruciatingly painful way they knew for execution.  The criminal was stripped and nailed to a cross erected in a public place, usually along a roadside or highway near the town where the criminal was known and could be viewed by everybody who passed by him.  On the cross, a healthy man could live for several days before he expired from hunger, thirst, exhaustion, along with the mental psychosis associated with hours to days of constant torture.  Crucifixion was a slow and agonizing death, usually succumbing to asphyxiation.  The victim was hung on the cross in such a fashion that his lungs quickly filled with fluids (pulmonary edema) and he could not breathe unless he pulled his chest upward and gasped for breath.  Every movement brought excruciating, nerve-racking, pain due to the large nails that purposely severed major nerves in the arms and legs.  Eventually, exhaustion led to the criminal’s asphyxiation.  If the soldiers wanted to speed the process up, they broke the victim’s legs to prevent ease of breathing (cannot lift themselves), causing asphyxiation to occur more rapidly.

 

Verse 24 of Today’s reading states:

Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.” (Mark 15:24)

Per Roman custom, the clothing of an executed criminal went to his executioner(s).  The description of this procedure in Jesus’ case, and written in all four Gospels, is clearly inspired by a Psalm found in the Old Testament:

They divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:19).

However, this Psalm verse is actually quoted ONLY in Johns Gospel:

So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,’ in order that the passage of scripture might be fulfilled [that says]: “They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.”’” (John 19:24_.

John has each line of the Psalms poetic match literally carried out in two separate actions, in the Old Covenant and in the New Covenant brought in by Jesus Christ.

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So, Jesus is on the Holy Cross.  Pilate had the criminal charge against Jesus – – the reason for His execution – – nailed above His head on the cross.  The inscription, written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek said:

The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).

Jesus’ death was a falsely charged penalty for political reasons, by questionable enemies of His.  The charge against Jesus was that He had “claimed” to be “the King of the Jews”, the “Messiah”.  The inscription, which hung over the crucified Jesus, differs with slightly in each of the four Gospels.  John’s account is more detailed, and gives the equivalent of the Latin:

INRI = Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum.

(So that’s what “INRI” means!  Jesus being a man, I thought it meant “I Never Read Instructions”!)

It seems only John mentions its multilingual character, and Pilate’s role in keeping the title unchanged:

Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.  So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews,” but that he said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’  Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’” (John 19:20–22)

The crowd, witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion, says to Him:

You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.” (Mark 15:19-30)

The crowd’s reaction and words toward Jesus also is reminiscent of a verse from the Psalms:

All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me (Psalm 22:8).

The authorities deliberately executed Jesus besides two known criminals.  This was also designed to publicly humiliate Jesus even more, ranking Him with properly accused robbers before the crowds. 

Wow!! Can you picture the mental torment Jesus went through, along with the physical pain he experienced?!  Jesus had been mocked first by the Sanhedrin, then in a way by Pilate, followed by the soldiers during the scourging and in the Praetorium, then along his “death march”, and finally while on the cross by another crucified criminal AND with individual witnesses, Scribes, and Temple Priests.  Jesus endured this physical, emotional, and spiritual torture for about six hours of hanging on the cross.

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The Jews wanted a “king” who would free them from tyranny and foreign domination.  Many had high hopes that Jesus would be the Messianic king.  Little did they understand what kind of “kingship” Jesus claimed to have!  Jesus came to conquer hearts and souls for an imperishable kingdom rather than to conquer perishable lands and entitlements.  

Jesus died not only as King of the Jews, but King of ALL nations as well.  His victory over the power of sin, Satan, and the materialistic world, was accomplished through His death on the cross AND his resurrection.  In today’s reading, Jesus exchanged a “throne of glory” for a “cross of shame” solely in order to restore us to glory with God the Father as His adopted sons and daughters.  Do you recognize Jesus Christ as your personal King and Lord Savior?  Do you exalt His name as truly holy?

 

Throughout his Gospel, Mark depicts Jesus’ disciples as rarely being perfect models of faith, thus doing little to invoke confidence in their capacity to continue Jesus’ ministry after His death.  They fare no better in Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ Passion and death.  

I will give several examples of “poor” discipleship.  The first example can be found in the Last Supper narrative, when the disciples insisted that none among them would betray Jesus.   

Also, when Jesus predicted that His Apostles faith would be shaken in the events ahead (those reported in today’s reading), Peter and the other disciples protested vehemently.  Yet, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus returned three times to find them sleeping.  Jesus prayed in agony over His impending fate while His disciples slumbered through the night.  

Finally, and just as Jesus predicted, Peter denied Jesus, AND, nearly every one of His disciples were absent during Jesus’ Passion and death on the cross.  Only the women who had followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee were present at Jesus’ Crucifixion.  However, they also remained at a distance.

Just think about this for a while.  The Holy Cross brings us face-to-face with Jesus’ suffering, personally and up close.  We need to remember that Jesus was alone on the cross; all His disciples (except John, the “beloved” disciple) had deserted Him except for His mother and three women.

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At about three in the afternoon (per Mark), Jesus cried out in a loud voice:

’Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34)

What Jesus cried out is an Aramaic interpretation, and restated, from the Psalms:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22:2).

In Mark’s Gospel, the verse, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani”, is cited entirely in Aramaic.  Matthew partially retains the verse, but changes the invocation of God to the Hebrew “Eli” (instead of “Eloi”), thus making the verse more easily related to the statement of the following verse in today’s Gospel (Mark 15:35) about Jesus’ calling for Elijah:

Look, he is calling Elijah”  (Mark 15:35).

In this verse (Mark 15:35), some of the crowd believe Jesus is calling to “Elijah” from the Holy Cross.  This is how “some in the crowd” took Jesus, who yelled out “Eloi” (verse 34), as saying, “Elijah”.

We have to also remember that at the Transfiguration of Jesus, His disciples had actually seen Elijah (and Moses).  Elijah is as important to the Jewish faith as is possibly the Holy Spirit is to Christians.  “Elijah” himself was taken up into heaven (cf., 2 Kings 2:11), and he is also believed by the Jewish faithful as coming to the help of those in distress.

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Let’s get back on track with today’s reading.  When Jesus was nailed to the cross He was already more than half-dead.  The scourging, along with the crown of thorns beaten into His skull, had already nearly killed Him prior to His crucifixion.  In such a state, it is all the more remarkable to see Jesus with a clear sound mind and a tranquil heart when approaching death after six hours on the cross. 

Jesus was offered some wine mixed with myrrh to ease His pain, and He refused it.  He willingly embraced His suffering and death for OUR sake because He knew and loved us all when He offered His life as an atoning sacrifice.  Through His scourging, crucifixion, and death, Jesus truly shows us the depths of God’s redeeming love and forgiveness for each of us. 

When Jesus “breathed His Last”, all Hell broke loose (maybe literally).  “The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (verse 38).  There were two “veils” in the Temple of Jerusalem.  The outer “veil” was at the entrance of the Holy Place, and the inner “veil” separated all from the “Holy of Holies” (cf., Exodus 26:31–36).  Only the high priest could pass through the latter “veil”, and then only on the “Day of Atonement” (cf., Leviticus 16:1–18).

The “torn veil” in this reading was probably the inner “veil” (the ultra-important one for the pious Jews).  The meaning of this particular “veil” may be that with Jesus’ death, ALL people – – EVERYONE – – now have “access” to the presence of God PERSONALLY!!  It could also signify that the Temple, with its “holiest” part now standing exposed, is irreverent in God’s new covenant and kingdom, and will soon be destroyed; which it was in 70 A.D. (some 40 years later).  

To tear a curtain (“veil”) as big, thick, and heavy as the one in the Temple of Jerusalem had to be a truly miraculous event indeed.  Early Jewish tradition states that the Temple veil was as thick as a man’s hand (about four inches), had to be opened by three-hundred priests working together, and that horses tied to each side could not pull it apart.  (Information was taken from the Talmud, Josephus’ writings, and other Jewish literature.)

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Jesus’ death was agonizing and humiliating.  Remember, normally a crucified man could last for several days on a cross.  Jesus’ had already been scourged, beaten with rods, and had a crown of thorns pounded into His skull.  It is no wonder He died by mid-afternoon.  I am somewhat surprised He even made to the cross.  Mark graphically describes what occurred at His end – – His death – – as “darkness coming over the whole land”

 “At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” (Mark 15:33). 

This was Satan’s hour as he saw the Son of God dying on the cross.  But that death was also his surprising undoing as well.  Through His obedience unto death, Jesus reversed the curse of Adam’s disobedience, winning freedom and pardon for us:

“He Himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24).

One of the great consequences of sin is that it separates us from God.  Since Jesus bore the weight of OUR sins upon Himself, He experienced in His agony on the Holy Cross what this separation was truly like. 

 

Jesus “bowed His head and gave up His spirit” knowing that the battle over sin and death was won.  Even on the cross Jesus knew the joy of victory.  What God the Father sent Him into the world to do has now been fully accomplished.  Jesus Christ offered Himself “without blemish” – – the sacrificial lamb – – to God, and he defeated sin by the sacrifice of Himself:

 “For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that He might now appear before God on our behalf.  Not that He might offer Himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by His sacrifice.” (see Hebrews 9:24-26).

There is no greater proof of God’s love for us than the willing sacrifice of His Son on the cross.

Т

In a way, the ending of today’s Gospel returns to the theme of its beginning:

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].?” (Mark 15:2);

Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).

In the “Gentile” (non-Jewish, PAGAN) Centurion’s declaration upon Jesus’ climatic death, he came to believe Jesus was “TRULYthe “Son of God”.  This Centurion’s dramatic and instantaneous conversion of faith indicates the fulfillment of the good news announced in Mark’s prologue:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].” (Mark 1:1).

This Centurion’s conversion can also be seen as the “first-fruit” of Jesus’ Passion and death on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation.  What a harvest for God’s kingdom.

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Let’s wrap up this long reflection with a nice bow.  Mark, throughout his Gospel, challenges his audience to consider the claim with which his Gospel begins: “Jesus is the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).  When we read his account of Jesus’ Passion, we begin to understand and internalize the deeper theological statement being made with Jesus’ death.  

Per Mark, Jesus understood His death to be preordained as part of His Father’s plan.  Jesus humbly accepted His death in obedience to God’s will.  Jesus foresaw His betrayal by Judas, and Peter’s thrice denial of Him as well.  At His arrest, Jesus acknowledged that the preordained “time had arrived”, remaining confident, yet silent, before His accusers.  After He was sentenced to death, Jesus did not speak again until His final cry from the cross, at which time the bystanders misunderstood, and believed that He was calling for Elijah (in His need for help).  The Roman Centurion, however, affirmed that “Jesus is truly the Son of God”.  For me personally, nowhere in Holy Scripture is this concept revealed more fully than in His death on the Holy Cross.

Meditate on the Holy Cross for a short time.  What does it means to make a statement of faith in Jesus, and in His obedient suffering and dying, which revealed Himself to us as God’s “Only-Begotten Son”.

Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week; Easter is nearly here (and I can have coffee again!).  During this week, prepare yourselves for Easter by prayerfully reflecting on the events of Jesus’ Passion and death.  Why not display a crucifix in a prominent place (such as right next to the television or computer monitor) as reminder of the redemption and salvation that Jesus Christ won for us through His sacrifice, for humbly following God’s way and plan.  In this way, the entire week can become a personal and intimate “way of the cross” for you!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 The Apostles Creed

 

“I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day, He rose again.
He ascended to Heaven and is seated
at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living
and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.  Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The Papacy

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’  A second time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’  He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’  Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’  And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know that I love you.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:15-17) RSV

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?  And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Hugh of Grenoble (1052-1132)

 

Today’s saint could be a patron for those of us who feel so overwhelmed by all the problems in the world that we don’t know where to begin.

Hugh, who served as a bishop in France for 52 years, had his work cut out for him from the start.  Corruption seemed to loom in every direction: the buying and selling of Church offices, violations of clerical celibacy, lay control of Church property, religious indifference and/or ignorance.  After serving as bishop for two years, he’d had his fill.  He tried disappearing to a monastery, but the pope called him back to continue the work of reform.

Ironically, Hugh was reasonably effective in the role of reformer—surely because of his devotion to the Church but also because of his strong character.  In conflicts between Church and state he was an unflinching defender of the Church.  He fearlessly supported the papacy.  He was eloquent as a preacher.  He restored his own cathedral, made civic improvements in the town and weathered a brief exile.

Hugh may be best known as patron and benefactor of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order.

Hugh died in 1132. He was canonized only two years later.

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

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

01.  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.

Т

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

 

 

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♫“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.

Т

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.

Т

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.”

Т

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!!

Т

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)

Т

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.

Т

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 

ТТТ

 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?

ТТТ

 

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.

Т

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.

“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.

“Mommy Dearest: Literally!” – Lk 1:26-35†


Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord!
 

April showers bring May flowers: wait, it is only March.  March showers brings, um, … er… wet children walking to school?!
 

Today’s reflection is Mary’s acceptance to be the mother of God.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” – Amy Carmichael
 

Today’s Meditation:
 

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  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.  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.”  But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  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.  (NAB Lk 1:26-35)

  

The announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus parallels that of the announcement to Zechariah, about the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both, the angel Gabriel appears to a woman (one elderly and the other barely teenage) who is troubled by a vision of an angel appearing before them.  They are both told by Gabriel “not to fear.”  After the announcement, they object to the announcement (the first stating impossibility, and the later out of humility) and a sign is given to confirm the announcement (Zechariah was made deaf and mute, and Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit).

Mary’s questioning of her pregnancy, by denial of sexual relations, leads to Gabriel’s declaration about the Spirit’s role in the conception of Jesus.  The conception of Jesus takes place through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and by the power of God.  Therefore Jesus has a unique relationship to Yahweh, the “Most High” of all creation.  He IS the “Son of God!”

The primary focus of the announcement of the birth of Jesus is on His identity as the “Son of David,” and the “Son of God.”  Jesus is referred to as the “Son of the Most High” by Luke, the writer of this gospel reading.  If you remember, he also referred to John the Baptist as the “prophet of the Most High.” “Most High” is a title used frequently by Luke for God.

Mary obviously had an important role as well in the life of Jesus, which was predestined, even before her own birth.  Mary was born without original sin; a condition of the soul only shared with one other: her son, Jesus.  When Mary accepted to be the mother to our Lord, she also accepted the entire human race as her children.

Sinners, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and even laborers and fishermen (including the Apostles) had a mother in Mary’s heart.  Mary probably even had these sinners in her abode eating with Jesus, as He wished to be with the lowliest of the lowly in society.

If God can make a young girl, barely a teenager, and make her the mother of us all on earth; the mother of our Church on this world; and the Queen of the Universe, with her body and soul in heaven, imagine what can be done with us!

“Mary, thank you for saying ‘yes.’  You are my mother, my intercessor, and my Queen in heaven.  Amen.”

  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Dismas
 

All that is known of Dismas is that he is the Good Thief crucified with Christ on Calvary. The other thief is known as Gestas. A completely unsubstantiated myth from the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy that enjoyed great popularity in the West during the Middle Ages had two thieves who held up the Holy Family on the way to Egypt. Dismas bought off Gestas with forty drachmas to leave them unmolested, whereupon the Infant predicted that they would be crucified with Him in Jerusalem, and that Dismas would accompany Him to Paradise. His feast day is March 25th.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #25:
 

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