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“Are You The Wheat, Or Are You the Chaff? Got Me, I Grew Up In The City!” – Luke 3:10-18†


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3rd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

The history of the Christmas tree has many stories of origin, and has had quite of few adaptations to its usage throughout history.  In my research of the Catholic aspect to Christmas tree history and origin, I left no [xmas] “leaf” unturned.  I hope you enjoy.

 

The Christmas Tree

 

Despite many historians’ attempts to link the Christmas tree to an ancient pagan practice, it is actually “Christian” in origin.  Whoa, how is that fact for a baited hook to get you to read on?!

Although it is highly unlikely that the Christmas tree – – as we know it today – – was first used in the 8th Century, some people believe the idea for the tree was invented by St. Boniface at that time.   Legend holds that St. Boniface 14was the first to co-opt the “tree” tradition for Christianity in the 8th century.  He was attempting to convert the Druids who worshipped oak trees as the symbol of their idol.  He instead offered the balsam fir tree, using its triangular shape to describe the Trinity and the fact that the evergreen branches pointed to heaven, as a symbol of God.  These new “converts” then began worshiping the Balsam fir tree as a Christian symbol. 

There are also claims that the first proper Christmas tree was erected in Riga, Latvia (one of the Baltic States) in 1510.  Today, there is a plaque in the Town Hall Square, in Riga, that is engraved with the text “The First New Year’s Tree in Riga in 1510“.  It is believed that this tree was possibly decorated with paper flowers, and then burned during the New Year’s celebration. 

Another legend has Martin Luther as being credited with bringing the popularity of the Christmas tree to Germany.  2011-11-13_10-48-16_573_288x287Out on a winter evening one night, while composing a sermon, he was awed by the beauty of the stars.  When he returned home, he attempted to recreate the beauty for his family by putting candles on an evergreen tree in his home.

We do know with certainty that the Christmas tree goes back to medieval German mystery plays.  One of the most popular “mysteries” was the “Paradise play”, representing the creation of man, the sin of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from Paradise.  It usually closed with Christmas-Fir-Branches-2457977the consoling promise of the coming of the Savior, and referencing to His Incarnation.  These plays were performed in the open, on the large town squares in front of churches, or, sometimes even inside the house of God.  The Garden of Eden was indicated by a fir tree with apples hung on the branches.  It represented both the “Tree of Life” and the “Tree of KNowledge of Good and Evil”, which stood in the center of Paradise:

“Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

When the pageant was performed in church, the “Paradeisbaum” (German for “Tree of Paradise”) was surrounded by lighted candles.  Inside a ring of lights surrounding the tree, the play was performed. 

In the 15th century, after the suppression of the “mystery plays” in the German churches, the symbolic object of the play, the tree itself, found its way into the homes of the faithful, and the Christmas tree then became a symbol of christmas_tree_albert2-747156the “Tree of the Savior”.  During this same time, the custom of a “tree” in the home developed into decorating the “Paradise Tree”, already bearing apples, with small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist.  These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of pastry cut in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells.  Finally, other cookies were introduced to this tradition, bearing the shapes of men, birds, roosters and other animals.

The first known documented use of the fir tree as a Christmas tree is found in a description written by a German traveler visiting the city of Strasbourg (in the Alsace region of France, but formerly part of Germany) in 1605.  In this description, he tells of trees being planted in rooms, and that they were ornamented with “roses of colored paper, apples, tinsel, sugar cubes, and cookies”.

Until the 17th century the “Christbaum” (as the tree is called in German, meaning “Christ tree”) had no lights.  The Christmas candles, generally used in medieval times, were placed on a Christmas “pyramid”, made of graduated wooden shelves.  As time went on, the tree replaced the pyramid in its function of representing Christ as the “Light of the World”.  The candles and glittering decorations were eventually transferred from the pyramid to the tree.  

In the 1700’s the Christmas tree custom had spread throughout northern Germany.  People began decorating the tree with candles that were lit on Christmas Eve, a practice still done today in many homes across Europe.  As the 108n-grChristmas tree custom spread through Germany, the Roman Catholic Church eventually recognized the tradition in the early 1800’s.  It was introduced to Vienna in 1816, quickly spreading across Austria, and in 1840 to France by the duchesse d’Orleans.

German immigrants were most likely to have set up the first few Christmas trees in America, as early as 1710.   During the Revolutionary War, Hessian (German) soldiers were responsible for rapidly disseminating the practice throughout the entire US Eastern seaboard.  However, the Christmas tree did not become the principal symbol of Christmas in America, and was not used generally throughout American homes until late in the 19th century. 

treeIn 1846, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who was actually German) were pictured in the London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree.  As a result of this picture, the popularity of Christmas trees soared both in England and America.  By 1920, the custom of having a Christmas tree was almost universal.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, pioneer families who settled in areas where evergreen trees were scarce made Christmas trees out of bare branches, painting them green, or wrapping the branches with green paper or cloth.  Sometimes a “tree” would be made by drilling holes in a broomstick and inserting branches of cedar or juniper into it.  Often the only Christmas tree in the community would be in the Church or school.  In the absence of a Christmas tree, presents were often hung by ribbons from a decorated clothesline strung across the corner of a room.

While many Christmas trees are set up in the home around the first of December (or earlier!), and are in the dumpster by January 2, many Catholic families often delay decorating the tree until Christmas Eve, still today.  It is thCAGLANJNappropriate, and a popular custom, to delay lighting the tree and to put gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve when we celebrate the coming into the world of the infant Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

On Christmas Eve, parents might adorn the tree after small children are asleep, so that the first sight of Christmas morning is the gloriously adorned tree.  Families with older children could even make the decorating of the tree a family affair.  Many families bless their Christmas trees.  A Blessing for the Christmas tree could be said on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Through the use of the Christmas tree, we are reminded that our first parents (Adam & Eve) were not allowed to eat from one tree, and that Christ paid the great price for our redemption – – by hanging on a tree.  Being reminded that Christ is the “Light of the World” and that His light is everlasting, bringing joy and light into our dark world – – a christmas_angel_tree1-150x150blessing truly appropriate for this great Christian symbol of faith.  Here is a simple blessing for your Christmas tree:

“Holy Lord, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of your Son, who rescued us from the darkness of sin by making the cross a tree of life and light.  May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, which we may always rejoice in the new life which shines in our hearts.  Lord God, may the presence of this tree remind us of your gift of everlasting life.  May its light keep us mindful of the light You brought into the world.  May the joy and peace of Christmas fill all our hearts.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Information obtained from the following sites:
http://www.wf-f.org/04-4-Traditions.html
http://www.christmastreehistory.net/christian
http://catholicexchange.com/the-history-of-the-christmas-tree/

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Let us submit ourselves to His guidance and sovereign direction; let us come to Him that He may forgive us, cleanse us, change us, guide us, and save us.  This is the true life of saints.” ~ Blessed John Henry Newman, “Life’s Purpose”, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist teaches the path of repentance and announces Christ.  Did you hear what I heard?

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(NAB Luke 3:10-18) 10 And the crowds asked him [John the Baptist], “What then should we do?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.”  12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  13 He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”  14 Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?”  He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  18 Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

This Sunday’s Gospel continues last week’s focus on John the Baptist and his role in preparing “the way” for Christ.  Recall last week’s reading describing John’s appearance in the desert and establishing his connection with the prophetic tradition of Israel.  If we were to read Luke’s Gospel continuously, we would learn about John the Baptist challenging the crowds who came to him, and John’s calling upon them to show evidence of their repentance.  

With this in mind, I am starting with a few verses prior to this week’s reading (and also situated between last Sunday’s Gospel and 1211-gospel-lthis Sunday’s, Luke 3:7-9).  In this way, I would like to describe to you the three types of preaching by John the Baptist: (1) eschatological, (2) ethical, and (3) messianic.  An eschatological preaching (1) concerns the human soul (the person) in its relation to His death, judgment, and destinies – – either heaven or hell.  John the Baptist urges the crowds present around him – – getting their feet wet in the faith (and maybe their entire bodies as well) – – to reform their lives in view of the coming “wrath” expected with the appearance and coming of the Lord:

“He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7,9).

John tells his listeners that they cannot rely on their lineage as Israelites.  Why (?): because true, authentic “children of Abraham can be raised up from stones” (Luke 3:8).  Rather, repentance must be observable in one’s actions.  So, the crowds, probably now questionfrightened by his words, ask John the Baptist:

What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10)

Hmm, I wonder how often I ask this same question: What am I to do Lord?  I know the answer, and sadly, I don’t like my answer.  Forgive me Lord, please!!  I will try to do better in the future with your help.  Amen.

John answers the crowds by drawing attention to, and preaching on, concrete ethical standards (2) (principles of correct moral conduct) for reforming their social behavior:

He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food shoul03advientoC3d do likewise.’  Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’  He answered them, ‘Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.’  Soldiers also asked him, ‘And what is it that we should do?’  He told them, ‘Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages’” (Luke 3:11–14).

Interestingly, Luke mentions in particular two groups of people who came to John the Baptist for spiritual advice: tax collectors and Roman (some even Jewish) soldiers.  Both groups were regarded as “dangerous” by the Jewish authorities – – and society as whole.  They were treated as outcasts among both the Jews and the Romans.

John, in his instructions, is saying we must do six seemingly simple, but rather complex, things in order to have a true conversion of heart, body, and soul:

  • ·        SHARE what we have with others: wealth and food;
  • ·        STOP  doing wrong: don’t cheat, extort, or make false accusations;
  • ·        BE SATISFIED with what you have; 
  • ·        BE CHARITABLE;
  • ·        BE JUST; and,
  • ·        BE HONEST.

John does NOT tell them to adopt his desert way of life. He does NOT tell them to make sacrificial offerings or wear sackcloth and ashes.  John the Baptist doesn’t try to purposely upset the existing social order.  However, John DOES call for a real concern for a person’s “neighbor”.LetsBeHonest

The concern for justice is a hallmark of Luke’s Gospel and for John the Baptist.  John tells the soldiers to make no false arrests, to be content with their pay, not to take bribes, and not to bully anyone.  When talking to the tax collector, he knew that they were outcasts among the Jewish people, though Jewish themselves.  John knew they were detested as “traitors” by the Jewish people and as nothing more than “robbers” approved by the Roman Government.  As for as the Roman government was concerned, if the tax collectors wanted to collect a little bit more than the government required, that was fine with them.  They could keep the extra money for themselves; all the Roman government was concerned about was getting their tax money!!  

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John obviously knew how to get his message across to these groups of people.  Through his divinely-inspired words – – and witness – – to God the Father and to others around him:

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

The people recognized John as an extraordinary man of God and a prophet for their times.  John broke the prophetic silence of the pJohn_the_Baptist%20imagerevious centuries when he began to speak the “Word” of God.  His message was similar to the message from the earlier Jewish prophets who scolded the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who cried out BOLDLY to awaken true repentance within them.  

John proclaims his water baptism of his followers to be clearly in immediate preparation for the coming of the actual, true Messiah.  John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s plan of salvation.  He announces to the crowds his messianic preaching (3) (relating to the Messiah instituting of the promised golden age of peace, truth, and happiness), the coming of the “ONE” mightier than he:e0274

John answered them all, saying, ‘I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fireHis winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’  Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:16–18).

When John the Baptist talks about someone coming who is “mightier and more powerful than he”, John is ultimately speaking NOT of the “earthly” Jesus (though he may not have realized this fact), but the Risen Christ, third_advent_cgrwho baptizes us with the Holy Spirit in a very personal and intimate way.  When John says “He [the Messiah] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16), he is contrasting his prophetic baptism – – just with water – – to Jesus’ additional messianic baptizing with both the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit’s “refining fire”.   When this Gospel was written decades after the Pentecost event, the early Christian community’s point of view understood,  “the Holy Spirit and fire” to be seen in light of the “fire symbolism” found in the “pouring out of the Holy Spirit” at Pentecost:

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

Jesus’ “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire” fulfilled John’s “water baptism” mission on earth.  Jesus’ baptism will also be accomplished by an “immersion”, an immersion of the repentant in water, and in the cleansing power of the Spirit of God.  There will also be an immersion the unrepentant in the destroying power of God’s wrath and judgment of them!! 

John’s preaching of the “Holy Spirit and fire” is revealed in, and related to, the purifying and refining characteristics found in Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament):  First, from Ezekiel – –

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

Now, from Malachi – – refiners-fire-c

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

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John the Baptist goes on to describe the actions of the coming Messiah Savior in terms this “well entrenched urban city” boy just cannot understand:

“His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).

Iwinnowing_fork_2 am pretty certain I know what wheat is, but a “winnowing fan” (?), “threshing floor” (?), and “chaff” (?) – – what the heck are these??!!  I definitely had to  research these items, and the why and how they are related to the actions of the coming Messiah Savior.

A “winnowing fan” was a forklike shovel with which the “threshed” (separated) wheat was thrown into the air.  The wheat kernels fell to the ground – – to the “threshing floor” to be picked up later – – while the light “chaff” (the dry covering bracts [modified leafs] of grains being separated by the process of threshing) were “blown off” by the wind, gathered later, and then burned in a nearby fire.

Fire” in Old Testament times was associated with God and with His purifying action in the world, His cleansing actions in the lives of His people.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of fire, such as in the example in the story of the “burning bush” burning_bushwhich was not consumed when God spoke to Moses:

“The angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush.  When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed (Exodus 3:2). 

John, in describing the procedure by which a farmer separates wheat and chaff, is using the image as a comparison for what will happen to the “good” and the “bad” in this world by God when He returns with His judgmental and saving actions in the person of the RISEN CHRIST!

In the New Testament, the image of fire is also used with regard to the Holy Spirit, who comes to cleanse us from sin and to make utongues-of-fires holy:

 “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them” (Acts 2:3).

God’s fire purifies and refines.  This refining purification, through baptism, confirmation, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also increases our desire for holiness and for the joy of meeting the Lord when He comes again.  Our baptism in Jesus Christ by water and the Holy Spirit results in a “new birth” and entry into God’s kingdom as His beloved sons and daughters:

Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). 

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John the Baptist ends his preaching in today’s Gospel with a message of hope:

Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:18)

For me, God’s “Word” ALWAYS offers hope, even in the most dismal of circumstances characters in the bible seem to get into.  After all, they enter those bad circumstances, usually, not because of God Himself, but because of them turning their backs on BIBLEHim!!  God was (and is) always with them, even in the BAD times; they just did not believe in his “word”, nor could they realize His presence!  So, read the Bible, re-read the Bible with YOU as the character in these stories, and then re-re-read the Bible so that you realize that the 73 books which make up this great “Bible” (in the Catholic edition) are truly “instructions” on how to live as a Catholic Christian and an honorable son or daughter of God in the world!!

The third Sunday of Advent is also called “Gaudete Sunday”.  “Gaudete”, a Latin word – – meaning “rejoicthCA2A51IGe”, with its form being a “command” – – is another way of exhorting hope.  This command to rejoice is taken from the entrance antiphon for Sunday’s Mass, which is also echoed in today’s second reading from the Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:4-6).

The Catholic Church obeys this command by lighting a pink candle instead of another purple one already on the Advent wreath.  In doing so, it is a reminder that the Advent season is a “Season of JOY” and “Re-Joy-Sing” [rejoicing] because our salvation is truly already at hand.

John the Baptist’s message of “good news” inspired many to believe God was about to do extraordinary things in their midst.  John the Baptist’s task – – his mission – – was simply to awaken the interest of his people to God’s “Word”, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough “good will” to recognize and receive the Messiah when He appearance on the scene.

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. summarize titleToday, Luke is continuing to set up two important themes of his Gospel message: (1) the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and (2) the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.

John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  John’s teaching to the crowd suggests that each person has a role to play in God’s salvation.  He is encouraging them to follow his model of faith and hope in their own personal Horizontal_Logo9life’s positions and status.  It is our personal, human cooperation in His divine plans that is THE great mystery of God’s initiative to empower and to encourage each of us to participate – – through our believing and rejoicing – – in His plan.

John the Baptist basically called the people to turn back to God and to walk in His way of love and righteousness.  Whenever the Gospel is proclaimed it has the power to awaken the faith in people, thepathofsinandrighteousnessand to change their lives for good.  John’s baptism was for repentance; a turning away from sin and taking on a new way of life according to God’s “Word”.  

Hmm, my life has its own temptations, and its own opportunities to take advantage of others, using them for my own personal gain.  Does yours?  As I prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas, I will consider my own life situation, my own temperament, and my own personality in heeding John the Baptist’s words from today’s reading.  I believe I may need to make some adjustments.  How ‘bout you?

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. conclusionThe theme of the season for Advent is sometimes described as “a period of waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ”.  However, today’s Gospel reading suggests something much different.  John the Baptist did not tell the crowds to wait for the Messiah.  Instead, he told them to prepare for the Messiah through acts of repentance.  If RepentBelieveTheGoodNewsBwAdvent is a time of waiting, it is not the “sitting in waiting room or office lobby” kind of waiting.  It is a busy time of preparation, more like the waiting we might do when “preparing for dinner guests”.  Our challenge as Catholic Christians is NOT to make this season a frantic, disordered, and/or apathetic time, but rather a time of “joyful anticipation”, making ready for God who comes to dwell among (and in) us, changing our lives with His gift (grace) of redemptive salvation.

Think about the preparations you are making during this season of Advent period.  Reflect on these activitiechanges, not only on what you are doing but WHY you are “choosing” to do these things.  Remember, Advent is a time for making ourselves ready to receive Jesus Christ – – anew and more – – in our personal lives.  Could you make some changes in your Advent activities so that you are MORE prepared to celebrate the gift of salvation at Christmas?  Hmm, I think I can for sure.  Pray that you, and your family and friends, will be able to live the “spirit” of Advent as it should be, and not as a secular time of the year.  Heck, why not sing an Advent song, such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” as you light the third candle on your Advent wreath this evening at dinner.  I will, and I’ll possibly report on the interesting looks I receive from my family members who ALL say I have a voice made for paper!!

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

An Advent Prayer

 

“Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Chuprayerrch: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to His return at the end of time.  Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which His presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever.  Amen.”

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“You Cannot Mention My Father’s Name. However, I Truly Want You To Use MINE!” – Mark 9:38-48†


 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’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:

 

As Catholics, we are to achieve a “unity of life”, letting our faith form our political decisions as we prepare to vote this November:

“We have important obligations as citizens.  But we have to carry out those obligations always in light of our duty to God” (Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles).

We, per Jesus’ “Word”, are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”  We are called to work for the common good of society, to obey just laws, and to respect society and government.  These responsibilities are what we render unto Caesar. 

What we render unto God – – IS FAITH. This means that “we can’t forget about the Church’s teachings and the demands of God’s law.  We have to make sure our participation and our contributions ALWAYS reflect the moral and religious values we find in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church.

When Catholics go to the voting booth, there are NON-negotiable aspects of Catholic social teaching.  Abortion, euthanasia, and marriage between a man and a woman, are among those that are non-negotiable!!

However, many issues ARE, and can be, debatable among Catholics.  Such issues include the economy, taxes, government spending, immigration, foreign affairs, and helping the poor and marginalized.  All these topics are matters for careful judgment – – careful CHOICE.  In such areas, we are always going to have legitimate differences of opinion over how best to apply the Church’s moral principles and teachings among members of our faith community.

So, what is a Catholic to do this November when we go to vote for our future?  What is important to remember is that we are always think and act with the mind of Christ and the mind of the Church in voting and in other civic responsibilities.

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We want with all our hearts to love, to BE “love”.  When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them.  God sees Christ, His Son, in us and loves us.  And so we should see Christ in others.” ~Dorothy Day, “My Wounded Hands“, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that whoever is not against Him – – is FOR Him.  Are YOU a fan, or a follower?

(NAB Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48)  38 John said to him, l “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  39 Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  40 For whoever is not against us is for us.  41 Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.  42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.  45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.  47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last week we heard Jesus rebuke His disciples for their arguing about who among them was the greatest.  Jesus taught them that the greatest among them will be those who serve the least among us.  Today, Jesus’ closest disciple, John, questions Jesus about an “unknown exorcist”, driving out demons in Jesus’ name.  John’s question to Jesus, in today’s reading, looks to have been motivated by simple jealousy:

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us (Mark 9:38). 

I believe John’s question is evidence that Jesus’ disciples have not completely grasped the meaning of Jesus’ “Words”.  These twelve extremely close followers of Jesus continue to compare themselves to others, especially others who appear to have greater healing powers than they possess.  They DO NOT want to share the power of Jesus’ name with others.  John and the other “disciples” even try to stop the man “because he was not following us“.

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Jesus’ reply is, in itself, filled with wisdom:

Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me (Mark 9:39).

Jesus strongly warns against jealousy and intolerance toward others who do not follow in His and our particular ways of faith, and leading to making false judgments.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian’s:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Let me ask you all a question: “Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to stand out more than us?”  I remember as a child being told by the Nuns teaching at my parochial school that ONLY Catholics would go to heaven.  All others would go to Hell, purgatory, or the infamous “limbo” (with the un-baptized infants), and going no further towards a full glory found in heaven.  Thank God (literally) that our closed-minded misunderstanding of dogma no longer exists in the Catholic faith today. 

All of us have to keep in mind that the Catholic Church was established by Christ Himself, at the “Last Supper”, and it has continued without a break in Apostolic Succession to the present day.  Yet, this “perfect” Church is filled with imperfect, sinful souls.  All can achieve the glorious perfection of heaven through their individual actions in this world, even without ever hearing the “Words” of Christ.  Christ knows all of us BY our works:

I [God] know your works (Revelations 3:15);

Christ knows all of us BY our faith and HOW we show our faith through our works:

“Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

With this in mind, there are many Catholics walking on the much easier road to Hell than much more difficult path to paradise.  These materialistic, jealous, judgmental people think they will be saved simply because they attend Mass when necessary, by sending their children to a parochial school, and by supporting their parish and diocese.  At the same time, they cheat, steal, tell lies, look at pornography, and so on.

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In today’s more medically advanced society, the “demon possession” described in Mark, might be seen as only a form of mental illness.  However, the need for healing, including for those with mental illness, was as real for them in the first-century, as it is for us still today.  “Exorcism” was a common practice during Jesus’ time on earth.  We know some people had the power to heal the symptoms of possession then, just as priests are able to do so now.  One of the strategies used in “driving out demons” was, and is still, by invoking the name of a person or figure believed to have the divine power and authority to heal: e.g., Jesus Christ.

The disciples observed that the “unknown exorcist” invoking Jesus’ name was potentially successful in his healing of others (hot-diggity-dogma!!).  This unknown healer recognized the power of Jesus’ name as truly having a divine power in itself, even though this “healer” who was not a member of the clan following of Jesus.  Even though this “healer” was an “outsider”, he must have believed in Jesus, by the fact of using His name. 

In Jesus’ reply to His disciples, He acknowledges that deeds of faith certainly can – – and DO – – precede the words of faith.  Our actions are more powerful than words alone.  Jesus continues teaching His disciples that they should not be reluctant to share Jesus’ healing powers with others.  In other words, we should “spread the wealth” of His grace and its power!!

In Mark 9:40, Jesus’ axiom truly demonstrates a broad attitude, belief, and tenet found in displaying His divine patience, lenience, and charitable tolerance toward others:

Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).

Even the smallest of considerations are shown to those who teach in Jesus’ name: – – and they will not go unrewarded!!  This axiom, this saying, compels a warning: there is NO position for a “neutral” stance where Jesus is concerned.  He Himself states to ALL present that they are either for or against Him – – they are either hot or cold.  NO lukewarm faith is allowed in His Kingdom:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot.   So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Revelations 3:15-16).

Jesus goes on further to speak about the positive effects in works of faith; in other words, those who act their faith in their love for God and others are those who are “hot”:

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward (Mark 9:41).

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Was Jesus’ exaggerating when He urged His followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences found in the last half of this reading (Mark 9:42-48)?  (I believe not.)  The last six verses (Mark 9:42-48) of this Gospel relate to the consequences of sin on one’s life.  Tying a heavy stone and being thrown into the sea, cutting your hand or foot off, or plucking your eye out, in order to save yourself from Hell, is an extremely vivid and morbid image to contemplate.  These images make me think of the idea of ALL of His children being part of His Church body.  If one of us sins, it truly affects ALL of us.  If a “sinner” remains unrepentant, they separate themselves from the Church body (Self-excommunication, which means they are out of fellowship with Christ – – until they choose to acknowledge their sin and repent). 

Just as a doctor might remove a limb, or some other part of the body, in order to preserve the life of the whole person, so too must we be ready to part with anything causing us to sin, leading to a spiritual death.  Jesus warns His disciples of the terrible responsibility of not putting stumbling blocks in the path of another.  Jesus warns us to not give offense or bad example, which may lead another to sin.  Even the first-century Jews understood that giving offense, or giving a bad example, is sinful since leads another TO sin.  If we lead another to sin, that person in turn may lead still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end – – and with assured devastation occurring – – unless someone harkens to an inspired conscious and grace, then to acknowledge their behavior as sin, and finally, to ask God’s forgiveness and mercy. 

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Remember: Christ came to heal; He was the first “medic” coming into – – and onto – – the field of battle: the Jewish nation, PLUS, ALL our individual souls, i.e., the whole human race.   His salves and bandages are the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.  They all heal our wounds of sin and strengthen our moral character.  Jesus treats ALL who come to Him (His practice is open 24 hours per day) with a pure love.  He expects us to treat people with His healing example of love.

With Jesus, there is no longer a need to cut off, or pluck out, anything to gain entrance to heaven.  Instead, we are to put on a great gift which Jesus gave to each and every one of us: the sanctifying grace of Himself and His Spirit!!  Through a proper faith in Jesus, we no longer have to worry about eternal misery with Satan.  After all, “Gehenna” does not sound like a fun place to be:

 “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

Ironically, it is interesting the number of people who end up going to Hell, even though they are aware of the consequences to their earthly actions.  There is not much, if anything, written about Hell that is positive.  So, why do we sin, knowing our action puts us on this road?  The answer is “Satan”  Satan is always wanting another soul – – NOT – – to go to paradise in heaven, but instead, to come to eternal misery and pain in HIS kingdom.  This is his only goal: JEALOUSY – – to take a soul away from GOD!!

The word, “Gehenna” (Mark 9:44, 46), is an interesting word indeed.  It refers to a valley just southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  To the Hebrew’s, this valley is known as the “Valley of Hinnom” (pronounced “gê-hinnōm”), or the “Valley of the son of Hinnom” (“gê ben-hinnōm”).  Gehenna was at one time the center of an idolatrous cult during a monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice.  This specific place is mentioned in two books of Jewish Scripture, our present-day Old Testament:

The king also defiled Topheth [a place of torment and punishment where the wicked are sent after death] in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be any immolation [killing; sacrifices] of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech [a Semitic deity]” (2 Kings 23:10);

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they go on building the high places of Topheth to sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire, something I never commanded or considered”(Jeremiah 7:31).

The concept of punishing sinners by fire, either after death, or after the final judgment, is found in Jewish apocalyptic literature:

Seventy shepherds were judged, and found guilty, and they also were thrown into that abyss of fire.  And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned.  And that abyss was on the south of that house. (Enoch 90:25-26**)

** (The “Book of Enoch” is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah.  It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from a group known as “Beta Israel”.  It is regarded however, as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church, but no other Christian group. ~ From Wikipedia)

“Gehenna” is traditionally used as an image of the invisible reality of the place of eternal punishment written about in the New Testament – – HELL!  Saying either Gehenna or Hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”, reminds me of another morbidly vivid description found in the book of Isaiah:

 “They shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against me; For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be extinguished; and they shall be an abhorrence [revulsion] to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24).

Per Isaiah, God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the “New Jerusalem” – – understood to be heaven.  As in the time of Isaiah, Jesus’ time on earth also had huge cemeteries of dead and decaying corpses, filth of every type, and societal/human waste scattered about in this “Valley of Hinnom” – – Gehenna – – JUST outside the city.  There still are many of God’s enemies surrounding us today – – the “living dead” who have rejected Jesus Christ.

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Jesus teaches us NOT to create obstacles for those who are just beginning to have faith, but to encourage even the smallest signs of faith.  In the vivid terms of today’s reading, Jesus teaches His disciples the consequences of putting obstacles before people on their road to faith.

The second part of today’s Gospel (Mark 9:42-48) contains a strong message for those sharing the responsibility of fostering faith in Jesus to others, an AWE-some responsibility.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that “FAITH” is a continuous, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, lifelong journey toward happiness – – which is God Himself!!  We don’t always understand our journey, or even stay on-track at times.  However, we should pray daily for the grace – – His grace – – to acknowledge and build upon even the smallest signs of faith, in ourselves, and in others.  This is what HOPEIS for Catholic Christians.   In today’s world, there are plenty of obstacles preventing the growth of faith in many individuals.  Pray you are not contributing to the obstacles, thus hindering another person’s continuously growing faith in Jesus Christ; instead continue to choose to encourage and strengthen that faith in others as well as ourselves.

We have a calling to confront obstacles to faith.  In dealing with obstacles confronting you, you may be called upon to use courageous, bold, outspoken word, and unpopular actions in order to surmount and break down that obstacle.  Perhaps God is calling YOU to break down that obstacle for another.  Saint Francis, a loyal member of the Catholic Church, and a radical challenger to Church of his day, broke down many obstacles in his public ministry, always with a sincere love, and with definite actions of faith and love.   Saint Francis routinely said:

Preach the Gospel, and at times, use words”.

Are you being called for a “challenge”, just as Saint Francis was called?  In a little, dilapidated, weathered chapel known as San Damiano, Jesus Christ spoke to him with the following words:

Francis, rebuild my church”!

What is Christ saying to YOU?!

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There are many people and things in our daily lives nurturing our faith, and, also attempting to hinder our faith.  Those nurturing our faith include: healthy family relationships and friendships, good literature, EWTN, Healthy Church life, retreats, and so on.  Those things that might be obstacles to our faith may include: improper relationships, scandals, bad habits, sin, and so on.

Jesus teaches us, in today’s Gospel, that we are to do everything possible to help another HAVE faith in Jesus Christ.  We are also to do everything possible to avoid creating obstacles hindering another’s faith life.  Pray that you will be a faith-filled Catholic Christian, helping others grow in faith, that you do not create obstacles for others obtaining or growing in faith.  YOU ARE the next “unknown exorcist” to proclaim God’s Word and Plan by your actions, and by passing on your faith to the next generation!

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen. 

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“Jesus, Heal Me, Touch Me, Cure Me! – The Actions Of Jesus ARE The Origins Of Our Sacraments”


 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’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:

 

Please do not forget that this Tuesday, September 11th is “Patriot Day”.  In the United States, Patriot Day occurs on this date each year, in memory of the 2,977 killed during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Initially, this day of remembrance was called the “Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001”.  President George W. Bush signed the resolution into law on December 18, 2001 (as Public Law 107-89[1]).  It is however, a “discretionary” day of remembrance.

On this day, the President requests that the American flag be flown at half-staff at individual American homes, at the White House, and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments, home and abroad.  The President also asks Americans to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time), the time the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

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This past weekend, my family and I witnessed my oldest son’s “PIR” (Passing-In-Review), his graduation from the Naval Recruit Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois.  We were privileged to see his group receive an “Honor Flag”, plus, the rarely given “Hall of Fame” flag.  Dan (my son) was lucky enough to be able to spend Friday afternoon and all day Saturday with us on his first liberty.  We toured the Chicago area, and he was also able to spend quite a bit of time either texting, sleeping, or on Facebook – – something missing from his life for the past eight weeks.

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We said that faith heals our intellect and hope heals our memory.  Similarly, we can say that love heals our will by ordering our interests and actions toward giving ourselves to God and others, for their own sake.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One

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Today’s reflection: Jesus restores a man’s hearing and speech.  What do you need “restored” by Christ?

(NAB Mark 7:31-37) 31 Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.  32 And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  33 He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; 34 then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)  35 And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.  36 He ordered them not to tell anyone.  But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.  37 They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.” 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Whatever Jesus did, he ALWAYS did well. (I wonder if he was the Star Quarterback on His high school football team, and class valedictorian as well.)  In essence – – AND in action – – Jesus always demonstrated a true love, a true beauty, and a true mercy of Father God in His actions. 

In today’s reading, Jesus heals a deaf man who had a “speech impediment”.  This is one of many stories about Jesus’ healing power.  In today’s story, we find clues about our understanding of our “sacraments” (rites established by Jesus Christ Himself to bring grace to those participating in and receiving the benefit of the rite or sacrament).  I am personally awed by the physical means – – to show the spiritual effect – – used by Jesus to heal the “deaf man”: the use of spittle and touch.  Jewish people of Jesus’ time would never had touched another’s ears or tongue, thus becoming “unclean” and not able to go into the synagogue or Temple to pray until purified.

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In this specific Gospel reading, we can see an image in the proclaiming of the good news, the Gospel, of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.  The geographic references in this reading tells us that Jesus is purposely journeying through Gentile territory.  Remember, Jesus had already previously visited this region, healing a person possessed by a demon at an earlier time in His public ministry.  (Is today’s event an encore appearance?)  After all, Jesus was already famous there, already a first century “idol” of sorts (posters on the kids’ walls and so on).  In knowing of His earlier presence in this specific area, Jesus’ previous “healing” certainly explains why the deaf man was brought to Him for a cure.

To begin, let me give a little geography lesson on the area in today’s Gospel.  I believe knowing the area, and its inhabitants, helps understand their motives – – and Jesus actions.  The cities of Tyre and Sidon were famous areas in the ancient Near East.  Both are now located in present day Lebanon, with Tyre 20 miles south of Sidon and 12 miles north of today’s present Israel-Lebanon border.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, each of these cities today is just a shadow of their former selves.

Sidon, called “Saida” today (an Arabic word for “fishing”), was named after the firstborn son of Canaan (cf., Genesis 10:15) and was probably settled by his descendants as a port city from its very beginning.  Sidon was built on a peninsula, with a nearby island sheltering its natural harbor from Mediterranean storms.

Twenty miles south of Sidon, in the middle of a coastal plain, Tyre (now called by the Arabic name, “Sour”), was constructed on a rock island just a few hundred yards out into the Mediterranean Sea.  In fact, Tyre took its name from the physical makeup of this island.  The word “Tyre” comes from the Semitic language, meaning “rock”.  The rich, well-watered plain of Tyre became the fortified island’s primary source or food, water, wood, and other essentials needed for existence.  Apparently this specific island was fortified first and called Tyre, while the coastal city directly opposite was settled later and also used this name as well. 

The Decapolis (two Greek words meaning “ten” and “city”) was a group of ten cities in present-day Jordan, Syria, and Palestine.  Decapolis was, at one time, on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire.  The ten cities making up the area called “Decapolis”, were not an official grouping, or even an organized community.  They were grouped together solely because of their similarities in language, culture, location, and politics.  The Decapolis was a center of Greek and Roman culture in a region which was otherwise Semitic (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Maltese, and Amharic).  Interestingly however, each of these cities had a certain degree of autonomy and self-rule under the Roman Government.

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The story in Mark’s Gospel preceding today’s reading sets the stage for today’s “healing” encounter (cf., Mark 7:25-30).  In the preceding story, Jesus comes upon a Gentile, a Syrophoenician woman, who asks Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter.  In this preceding story, Jesus engages the woman in a discourse about not feeding to dogs the food intended for children.  In other words, why should He [Jesus] help her, a non-Jew?  (Jesus believed His primary audience was His own people.)  However, Jesus, impressed and moved by the woman’s great faith shown in her reply to Him: “even dogs eat the food that falls from the table”, Immediately heals her daughter!!  The great, undaunted faith of this Roman-Greek “non-Jewish” woman actually compelled Jesus to respond to her plea for help.  WOW!  The power of faith and persistence!!

In today’s story, He shows His sincere compassion, kindness, and generosity for this man’s predicament, and heals him a dramatic manner!!  Jesus takes the deaf man aside privately, no doubt to remove him from the embarrassment of being exposed to a noisy crowd of staring people.

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Jesus then puts His fingers into the man’s ears (WHAT??); and He touches the man’s tongue with His own “spittle” (Double WHAT??).  He carried out these actions in order to physically identify with this man’s infirmity, and to awaken the man’s faith already within him.  With a simple command, “Ephphatha”, the afflicted man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he could now speak plainly, perhaps for the very first time in his life. 

So, from a spiritual viewpoint, what is the significance of Jesus putting His fingers in the man’s ears?  Saint Pope Gregory I, 540-604 AD (Gregory the Great), wrote on this very question:

“The Spirit is called the finger of God.  When the Lord puts His fingers into the ears of the deaf mute, he was opening the soul of man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Unknown source to this author)

Luke, in his Gospel, also mentions this same “finger of God”:

“It is by the finger of God that [Jesus] drive out demons” (Luke 11:20).

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There is an irony in the story of the healing Mark tells in today’s reading.  Jesus gives the man the gift of speech, but then tells him not to use it.  Jesus instructs the “cured” man not to spread the good news of his cure at the hands of His healing power, a strong evidence of His identity and verification as the true Savior Messiah.  Jesus’ instruction of silence is a recurring theme in Mark’s Gospel; some bible scholars today have called this Counsel of Jesus (“Don’t publicize this!”) as the “messianic secret”.

Interestingly though, Mark even goes so far as to say that when the “cured” man and others witnessing his cure were told to stop talking about the man’s cure, “the more they proclaimed it”.  The same verb used by Mark for “proclaim” “eipwsin” (to speak or to say), in relation to the miracles of Jesus, is used in his Gospel three other times:

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14);

But the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:10);

And,

Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

Wow!!  For me, what was subjectively implied in the actions of the crowd of today’s reading is their recognition of the divine power of effecting miraculous cures (prophesized by Isaiah – in todayy’s first reading), and revealing the saving mission of Jesus Christ

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In Summary, Mark shows that Jesus’ own mission pronounced and verified the early Church’s mission to both the Jewish and the Gentile nations – – a “universal” (Catholic) mission.  This mission to the Gentiles was a significant and unique issue for the early Christian community.  However, they came to realize, through such teachings and writings as in today’s Gospel, that the good news of Jesus truly did take root, and quickly spread, among the Gentiles as well as the Jews. 

Jesus uses His “actions” to show the spiritual aspect of His healings.  His actions ARE our present day “Sacraments”.  (STOP – – Just dwell on this last sentence for a short time.  It is a powerfully revealing point of fact.)  Still today, the Catholic Church continues to participate in, and celebrate, these “actions” as our “Sacraments” using physical means.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, water and oil are used to show the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are anointed with holy oil on the forehead and the hands.  In the Holy Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ (by transubstantiation).  Catholics are truly a “sacramental” people, believing God’s graces are imparted to us through these “actions” as physical signs and rites.

In today’s Gospel reading, the people’s response to this “healing” miracle truly testified to Jesus’ great and loving care for ALL others – Jewish and Gentile alike.  Jesus “did all things well”, and will continue to do ALL things well through His family and their special “actions”- – FOREVER!!  There is NO problem or burden too much for Jesus’ careful consideration.  He treats each of us with kindness and compassion, and calls each of us – – individually and personally – – to treat one another as He Himself does for us:

I [Jesus] give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

The Holy Spirit dwelling within us enables us, giving us the ability to love, AS Jesus loves.  So, love others, treating them with love and civility – – especially those hard to love – – as Jesus did Himself, and as He shows us how to do through His loving actions.

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In Conclusion, today’s Gospel invites us to consider how we witness to the healing presence of Jesus Christ in OUR care for, and ministry to, those who are sick.  In today’s reading, we notice that the deaf man is brought to Jesus for healing by his friends.  They beg Jesus to “lay his hands” on this deaf man, healing him.  Jesus’ healing power is shown in His opening of the man’s ears and the restoring of his speech. 

When family members care for one who is sick, they also bring Christ’s healing presence with and through them.  When we pray for those who are ill, we are asking God to show His healing power though are words and actions.  And, when health is restored, we share that “good news” with others.

So, recall a time when a family member or close friend was ill, and recall the steps taken to help restore this person to good health.  Think about how it feels to care for a person who is ill, and also about how it feels to BE the sick person receiving care.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment; now notice how the “cured man” and his friends could not honor Jesus’ request to keep quiet about His power to heal.  They had so much praise and thanks, they COULD NOT keep quiet.  We also should not keep quiet, but continue to celebrate Jesus’ healing presence in our lives by giving praise and thanks to Him for His gift of healing and health to us and others.  On a daily basis, let us all publically and privately thank Jesus for our gifts of health and healing – – even when our health may be not so great:

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 18) . 

So, pray for those who are sick and bed-ridden, ending each prayer with “Jesus, heal us” – – and, “Thank You”.

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Reflection Prayer:   

 

A PRAYER FOR HEALING

 

“Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to you.  Allow Your healing Hand to heal me.  Touch my soul with Your compassion for others; touch my heart with Your courage and infinite Love for all; touch my mind with Your Wisdom, and may my mouth always proclaim Your praise.  Teach me to reach out to You in all my needs, and help me to lead others to You by my example.  

Most loving Heart of Jesus, bring me health in body and spirit that I may serve You with all my strength.  Touch gently this life which you have created, now and forever.  Amen.”

 

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1325

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♫ “Oh Johnny Boy, The Christ, The Christ Is Com-um-ing!”♫ – Luke 1:57-66, 80†


 

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

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:

           

Many churches of both the Eastern and Western faiths celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on this day. The Nativity of St John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, being listed by the Council of Agde [Southern France] in 506 as one of that region’s principal festivals, where it was a day of rest and, like Christmas, was celebrated with three Masses: a vigil, at dawn, and at midday.

 The Nativity of St John the Baptist on June 24 comes three months after the celebration on March 25 of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told Our Lady that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus.  The purpose of these festivals is not to celebrate the exact dates of these events, but simply to commemorate them in an interlinking way.

(per Wikipedia)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1386 – Birth of Giovanni da Capistrano, Italian saint (d. 1456)
†   1519 – Death of Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander, dies at 39
†   1529 – Zurich & catholic kantons sign Peace of Kappel, ending an armed conflict in 1531 between the Protestant and the Catholic cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy during the Reformation in Switzerland.
†   1542 – St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet (d. 1591)
†   1546 – Birth of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (d. 1610)
†   1572 – Death of Joannes van Naarden, OFM priest, hanged
†   1572 – Death of Ludovicus Voets, priest, hanged
†   1923 – Pope Pius XI speaks against allies occupying Ruhrgebied
†   1967 – Pope Paul VI publishes encyclical Sacerdotalis coelibatus, an encyclical on the celibacy of the priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of the birth of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Québec, brush makers and knife sharpeners; also Festival of San Juan observed in Bolivia and Peru, Jaaniõhtu in Estonia.

(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:

 

Why did John the Baptist take his shoes off before going into the water?

Why?

He wanted to save soles!

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist is born.  All wonder what he will grow to become.

 

(NAB Luke 1:57-66, 80) 57 When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.  58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.  59 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”  61 But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”  62 So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.  63 He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.  64 Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.  65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.  66 All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”  For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.  80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  He opens with Jesus’ infancy narrative, a collection of stories about the birth and childhood of Jesus.  However, Luke also presents the parallel scenes (diptychs) of angelic announcements of the birth of John the Baptist AND of Jesus.  Luke’s account shows the parallelism of their births, circumcisions, and presentations in the Temple.  With his parallel stories, the ascendency of Jesus over John is stressed in Luke’s Gospel:

John is the “prophet” of the Most High:

“You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways (Luke 1:76);

And Jesus is the “Son” of the Most High:

“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 (Luke 1:32). 

Then, John is said to be “great in the sight” of the Lord:

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 (Luke 1:15);

And Jesus “will be ‘Great’”:

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 (Luke 1:32). 

Finally, John “will go before” the Lord:

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16–17);

And Jesus “will be” Lord:

“How does this happen to me [Elizabeth], that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord (Luke 1:43; 2:11).

In the verses before those read today at Mass, the birth of John the Baptist had been announced by the angel Gabriel to an elderly man, Zechariah, performing his duties as a priest in the Jerusalem Temple.  The Archangel Gabriel would then go on to announce the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth.  Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth never had children.  And, Mary is engaged to Joseph, but they have not yet come to live together. So, two women physically impossible to get pregnant are graced by God to give birth nonetheless.  The story of John (the Baptist) is placed in the center of the Jewish environment into which he and Jesus were born.  In the next chapter (Luke 2), Jesus’ annunciation and birth begins a movement of the Gospel into the environment of the occupying Roman Empire of Jesus’ adulthood, setting the stage for His Passion. 

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The birth and circumcision of John contained within the Gospel today emphasizes John’s incorporation into the people of Israel by the sign of the covenant, as promised in Genesis:

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said: I am God the Almighty.  Walk in my presence and be blameless.  Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.  Abram fell face down and God said to him: For my part, here is my covenant with you: you are to become the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you.  I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now residing as aliens, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.  God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the agesThis is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.  Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.  That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including houseborn slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:1–12).

And, again in the book of Leviticus (a great and easy read for first-time bible readers – NOT!!), circumcision is again alluded to as the sign of the covenant:

“The LORD said to Moses: the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised (Leviticus 12:1,3).

Did you know circumcision was actually widely practiced in the entire ancient world, usually as an initiation rite for males at puberty well before Abraham and Moses’ time?  However, with the Jewish nation shifting the time of circumcision to “the eighth day after birth”, the Jewish religion made it no longer a “rite of passage”, but THE sign of an eternal covenant between God and the community of, and descending from, Abraham.

The narrative of John’s circumcision also prepared the way for the subsequent description of the circumcision of Jesus in Luke’s next chapter:

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21).

So, at the beginning Luke’s books of Holy Scripture (His Gospel and the Book of ACTS), he shows those who play crucial roles in the inauguration of Christianity to be – – as a whole – – a part of the people of Israel.  On top of this acclamation of faith, at the end of the Acts of the Apostles (cf., Acts 21:20; 22:3; 23:6–9; 24:14–16; 26:2–8, 22–23), Luke makes a case for Christianity being a direct descendant of Pharisaic Judaism which accepted the supernatural origin of the universe, and of Abraham’s family, believing of a life after death, angels, and so on.  Our Jewish friends and brethren are truly our brothers in, and through, Christ – – their Messiah and OUR Savior!!

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The practice of Judaism at this time in Jesus’ time in human form in this world was to name the child at birth.  Furthermore, though naming a male child after the father is not completely unknown, the usual practice was to name the child actually after the grandfather, per biblical footnotes:

There is no one among your relatives who has this name” (see Luke 1:61).

In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation for this verse states:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patriautou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

patri is a male ancestor.  This male could be the nearest ancestor, a father of the corporeal nature, such as a male parent.  Or, the male ancestor could be a more remote ancestor, the founder of a family or tribe, a forefather such as a Grandfather.

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Zechariah was a godly man who was tuned to God’s voice.  He was born into a priestly family and it was his privilege to be chosen to enter the inner court of the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God in the “Holy of Holies”.  

The naming of the infant John, and Zechariah’s recovery from his loss of speech, should be understood as fulfilling the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement, given to Zechariah in the Holy of Holies:

“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.  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 1:13, 20).

Luke records that the people wondered at Zechariah’s delay from emerging from the Holy of Holies, and were amazed that he was speechless when he withdrew from the inner sanctuary:

“When he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.  He was gesturing to them but remained mute.” (Luke 1:22).

I believe Zechariah also lost his hearing too.  WHAT did I say?!  How can I presume this “strange” fact?  You might even say, “I have NEVER been told this before!”  Well, my evidence comes directly from what is written ALSO in Luke’s Gospel:

“So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called” (Luke 1:62).

Why did they need to make “signs” to ask him a question if Zechariah was able to hear?  Zechariah himself would have had to make the signs to answer questions, since he was unable to speak.  Thus, I believe Zechariah was, in actuality, a “deaf – mute”, and not just deaf.

Well, actually, that is what I believed for some time.  I allowed my understanding of American English trapping me into believing what is NOT really there in the original word and meaning.  In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation proves my error in fact:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patri  autou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

eneneuon actually translates to mean “signifying or expressing ‘by a nod or a sign’”.  So, in reality, Luke 1:62 simply says, “They ‘nodded’ at Zechariah, asking him what he wished for the infant to be called”.

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The last verse from today’s Gospel jumps fourteen verses to this next verse:

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

Interestingly, Luke uses very similar words to describe Jesus’ growing into manhood as well:

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

Jesus too, goes into the desert, starting His public Ministry by attending John the Baptist preaching and observing him baptizing in the Jordan River.  Jesus presented Himself to be baptized by John in the Jordan River – – two more parallels between John and Jesus indeed.

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To summarize, in today’s reading Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoice with her because God had shown her mercy in the birth of a son – – an heir.  However, they were confused when Elizabeth told them her infant’s name was to be “John”, which means “God has been gracious”.  Zechariah had been unable to speak since the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel’s word.  When Zechariah writes “John is his name” all are amazed.  Then, a great fear comes upon everyone; and this event is spread and heard throughout all Judea:

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:65). 

Fear – – Awe – – along with joy and praise – – is the appropriate response to God’s mercy, per Luke.  I am sure people present and/or hearing of this event wondered what this infant would become, but this question was already answered by Gabriel:

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 1:15-16).

Zechariah responds with praise in his famous hymn of prayer, the “Benedictus” or “Canticle of Zechariah”:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.  He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79).

This canticle (a true song of praise) is not part of today’s Gospel reading at Mass.  Instead we jump to the last verse of this chapter (Luke 1:80), which explains that John will become strong in spirit, living in the desert until it is time to show himself to the people of Israel.  When John appears again at the beginning of Chapter 3, after the stories of the birth and childhood of Jesus, he will prepare those people for the ministry of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance for the acceptance of God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins.

John lived as a “Nazarite” (cf., Numbers 6) – – a person set apart for the Lord (The Old Testament “Samson” is another example of a Nazarite).  Filled with the Holy Spirit, even within his mother’s womb, he was sent to the people of God – – in the spirit and power of Elijah – – to turn hearts to God and one another, by turning the “disobedient to the wisdom of the just” (Luke 1:17).  When God acts to save us, He graciously fills us with His Holy Spirit, making our faith “alive and active” to, and through, God’s promises (cf., 2 Peter 1:3-4).  

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To conclude, names have special meanings.  Some people are named after parents or other relatives and ancestors.  Sometimes peoples’ names are symbolic, suggesting something unique about the person or recalling an event or experience related to that person’s birth.  Sometimes, names are even randomly bizarre and of their own in origin.  In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth gives her son the name John, meaning “God has been gracious”.  This name truly sets John apart – – in a special way – – for it was normally the father’s responsibility to name a child, and the name was usually a family name.  The unusual nature of John’s naming suggested (and still suggests) to everyone that he is truly a special child with a special purpose in God’s kingdom.

Spend some time focusing on your name – – and others’ names.  What is the significance of each of these names (?), and how did the naming take place?  Review the parts of today’s reading describing how John received his name.  

How important are names?  How are we as Catholics called to honor the name of God?  How can we emphasize and honor God’s name in our daily lives?  How can we promise to live “our lives” in and with God’s name?

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I would like to end with my favorite verse from today’s reading:

“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth (Luke 1:14).

Both John’s birth (June 24th) and Jesus’ birth (December 25th) are not only celebrated once a year, but are celebrated with each and every Baptism, Confirmation, and Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Their “births” are remembered by, and Jesus’ birth is renewed in me (and in you) each time I receive Him:  Resurrected body, blood, soul, and divinity during the Eucharist.  So, we can celebrate His (and our) birthday EVERY day if we wish.  In doing so, we will live by another verse (my all-time favorite verse, the bible verse I take as my personal motto):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17).

When God draws us into His presence, He wants us to be still and quiet – – before Him – – so we can listen to His voice as He speaks to our consciences and our hearts.  In doing so, He reveals His Word, Will, and Plan to us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  Do you listen attentively to the Lord (?) and do you ponder his Word in your heart with a certain trust and confidence in Him? I will finish with the prayer I say continually throughout the day:

My Lord and my God; I love You and I trust You”.

 What else is there to say!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Sign of the Cross

 

“In the name
of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
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 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.

Faith and Works

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’  Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith….Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?” (James 2:18-20) RSV.

“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18-20) KJV.

***

“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24) RSV.

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….”  But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).   

John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic.  He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.

His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus.  His Baptism, he said, was for repentance.  But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b).  But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b).  Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew.  John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah.  But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus.  John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah.  But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus.  For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah.  Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53).  John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

Comment: John challenges us Christians to the fundamental attitude of Christianity—total dependence on the Father, in Christ.  Except for the Mother of God, no one had a higher function in the unfolding of salvation.  Yet the least in the kingdom, Jesus said, is greater than he, for the pure gift that the Father gives.  The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil—all stem from his fundamental and total placing of his life within the will of God.

Quote: “And this is not something which was only true once, long ago in the past.  It is always true, because the repentance which he preached always remains the way into the kingdom which he announced.  He is not a figure that we can forget now that Jesus, the true light, has appeared.  John is always relevant because he calls for a preparation which all men need to make.  Hence every year there are four weeks in the life of the Church in which it listens to the voice of the Baptist.  These are the weeks of Advent” (A New Catechism).

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 24 & 25 of 26:

24.  To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups.  It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

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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.

 

 

“‘40 Days’ Can Be A Lifetime For Some, But Can ‘Lead’ Others To An Everlasting Lifetime In God’s Kingdom!” – Mark 1:12-15†


  

First Sunday of Lent

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I’m back!!  Three weeks without a computer (only an I-Pad) has been a pre-Lenten mini sacrifice for me.  (For some of you, it may have been a vacation.)  However, I have been hankering to proclaim the “good news”, so this week’s reflection has some built-up “BS” in it.  (Ah, ah, ah; … “BS” means “Bible Study”).  Do you need to go to confession for what you thought it meant?! (He, he, he!)

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Speaking of Lent, this past Wednesday starts our Lenten Season, that period of time (40 days, not including Sundays or other days of ‘worship’) spent in renewing our Baptismal promises to follow God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit through prayer, fasting, sacrifice, and penance.  We hope and pray we all have a great journey of faith this, and every, Lenten Season. 

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In the news the past week or so, is that a “hometown boy”, Archbishop Timothy Dolan (a St. Louis native and Archbishop of New York) had been elevated to a “Prince of the Catholic  Church” on February 18th by Pope Benedict XVI, in Rome.  He is now to be known as Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

 

I have NEVER seen Cardinal Dolan without a rosy glow on his cheeks, and a smile in his heart (and face).  The day before his elevation to Cardinal, during a Pre-Consistory Day of Reflection, then “Cardinal-elect” Dolan said the following:

 

The gospel must be ‘accomplished with a smile, not a frown.'”

 

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, – – in character, humor, reverence, and faith, – – reminds me so much of Pope John XXIII.  Hmm, could he become a future “Pope John XXIV”?

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Today in Catholic History:

    

  •  1361 – Wenceslaus is Born, Holy Roman Emperor, “Good King” of Bohemia [and of song](d. 1419) 
  •  1534 – Pope Paul II affirms George van Egmond as bishop of Utrecht 
  •  1616 – Inquisition delivers injunction to Galileo.  Pope Urban VIII alienated him, and the Jesuits who had supported Galileo up until this point.  He was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy“, forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.  The Inquisition’s ban on reprinting Galileo’s works was lifted in 1718.  On 15 February 1990, in a speech delivered at the Sapienza University of Rome, then Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope BXVI) cited some current views on the Galileo affair as forming “a symptomatic case that permits us to see how deep the self-doubt of the modern age, of science and technology goes today“.  On 31 October 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo affair was handled, and issued a declaration acknowledging the errors committed by the Catholic Church tribunal that judged the scientific positions of Galileo Galilei.
  • 1720 – Birth of Gian Francesco Albani, Italian Catholic cardinal and member of the famous Albani family. (d. 1803)
  • 1732 – First Mass celebrated in first American Catholic church, in Philadelphia
  • 1925 – Jihad-Saint war against Turkish government started.
  • Liturgical Memorials/Feasts: Saint Nestor (died 251); Saint Alexander of Alexandria; Saint Isabel of France
(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:

 

“Everything depends on my will. It depends upon me, whether I become a saint or a sinner.” ~ Blessed Mother Teresa, “Where There Is Love, There Is God“, Doubleday

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus being tempted in the desert by Satan, and afterwards, the Beginning of His “Galilean” Ministry.

 

 

(NAB Mark 1:12-15)12 At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, 13 and He [Jesus] remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.  14 After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15 “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On the first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading in each Lectionary cycle is always about Jesus’ temptation in the desert.  This event in Jesus’ life is reported in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke); however, it is not found in John’s Gospel.  Since this year is “Cycle B” of the Liturgical year, we are presented with Mark’s account of this event this year, with Luke’s next year (Cycle “C”).

Today’s event from the Gospel reading today, as compared to Matthew and Luke’s Gospel of this same event, is amazingly sparse in specific and intricate details.  Mark’s account of Jesus’ “temptation in the desert”, barely says much more than Jesus went into the desert, led by the Holy Spirit – – for “40 days” – – , was “tempted” by Satan; He then returns to begin His public ministry.  The Gospels of Matthew and Luke go much further in detailing the event, describing how Jesus fasted while in the desert, how Satan presented Him with three temptations, and how Jesus refuses each one, quoting Scripture as His reason and belief.  Only the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (not Luke) report “angels” ministering to Jesus at the end of His sojourn in the desert.

The “temptation of Jesus” follows His baptism by John the Baptist (cf., Mark 1:9-11).  We are told that Jesus went into the desert immediately after His baptism in the Jordan River and by the Holy Spirit descending upon Him.  After this “40 day” period of testing, Jesus’ public ministry in Galilee begins.  There is a purpose in the continuity and course of action found in Mark’s Gospel.  Mark makes a strong and “linking” connection between the arrest of John the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  Jesus’ preaching about the “Kingdom of God” is in continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist – – but it is also something altogether “NEW” and “AWESOME”!!  As Jesus announced the start of His public ministry, “proclaiming the Gospel of God” in Galilee – – the “Kingdom of God” is also beginning, in the NEW, EVERYWHERE!  The time of God the Father’s fulfilling promises were manifested in Jesus Christ Himself!  Jesus tells us directly and openly that the “Kingdom of God” requires “repentance” to take place in each of us; and He also declares the importance for a “belief” in His “Word”, the “good news” of the Messiah coming to light in our souls, our hearts, and our entire SELVES!

Above, I stated that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus during His baptism in the Jordan River.  This same Holy Spirit is, in today’s reading, now “driving” Jesus into the desert for “40 Days” (and nights).  The result of His venture (and personal retreat) was a far-reaching confrontation, multiple intellectual and spiritual battles, and several temptations by Satan Himself.  Satan is an evil entity continuously at war with the Trinitarian God, attempting to frustrate the work and plan of God the Father then, now, and in the future.

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The fact that Jesus spent “40 days” (and nights) in the desert in the wilderness is significant.  This “40 day” period, for me, recalls the “40 years” which the Israelites wandered in the desert after being led out of Egyptian slavery.  Earlier, the prophet “Elijah” also journeyed in the desert for “40 days”, making his way to Mt. Horeb, where an “angel” attended to him.  

Remembering the significance of these events, we set aside “40 days” for the season of Lent for fasting, prayer, repentance, thus sustaining OURSELVES on God the Father’s divine and infinitely generous forgiving love and mercy.

In the Old Testament, “40 days” was often seen as a significant period of testing and preparation for entering into a covenant relationship with God.  In the days of Noah (from our First Reading at today’s Mass – Genesis 9:8-15), God the Father “judged” the earth and destroyed its inhabitants in a great “flood” because of their idolatry and their total rejection of Him.  Only Noah and his family were spared as they obeyed God, taking refuge in the ark for “40 days” and nights.  When the flood subsided, God made a “covenant” with Noah, giving him a sign of His promise that He would not destroy the human race again by flood.  The sign is the “rainbow”.  (I love rainbows because of that promise).  Jesus Christ is the New and Fuller sign coming to fulfill the promise His heavenly Father made.

When God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, He brought them into the “desert” wilderness.  Moses went to the mountain of the Lord at Sinai, Mt. Horeb**, and stayed there in prayer and fasting for “40 days”:

“Moses entered into the midst of the cloud and went up on the mountain. He was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.” (Exodus 24:18).

At the conclusion of this “40 day” encounter and experience of faith, God the Father made a new “covenant” with Moses and His “chosen” Jewish people.  

This theme of “40 days” continues in the story of the prophet Elijah confronting of idolatry of the priests of Baal: God responded to Elijah’s prayer by destroying the altar of the 400 priests of Baal.  Elijah then fled into the “desert” wilderness and journeyed for “40 days” to the “mountain of God” at Sinai.  On this sacred mountain, God spoke with Elijah this time, commissioning him to pass on the restoration mission of “proper worship” of God, the Holy One of Israel:

“He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.  There he came to a cave, where he took shelter.  But the word of the LORD came to him.” (1 Kings 19:8-9)

(**Per Wikipedia, the word “Horeb” is thought to mean “glowing or heat”.  Hmm, remember how Moses face shined so brightly when bringing the Ten Commandments to the tribes of Israel.  There is an obvious “linking” connection with this mountain and “covenants” made with God.)

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After Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit, in the living and flowing waters of the Jordan River, He (as Moses and Elijah before Him) journeyed into the desert wilderness of Judea for “40 days” (and nights) to prepare Himself for His mission of salvation and redemption – – a mission God the Father sent Him to accomplish, in establishing a newer and fuller “covenant” – – one which supersedes ALL the previous covenants which God the Father had previously made with His people.  

In today’s reading, Mark declares emphatically:

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the desert” (Mark 1:12).

Hmm …, was Jesus compelled to seek solitude for such a lengthy period simply as “a test” to prepare Him for His ministry (?) … Or, did Satan want to lure Jesus into a trap (as he still does with each of us today) … ?!  The Scriptural word, “tempt”, means to test for the purpose of proving and purifying in order to ready someone for a task to be carried out.  Encountering conflict is intended to mature and refine His sons and daughters, as it did for Jesus.  The word “tempt” in this particular case, for me, simply means “to entice to sin, producing conflict and a challenge for us to learn to overcome.”  

Satan did his best to entice Jesus to choose to comfort Himself by His divine power.  Despite Jesus’ weakened physical condition (after 40 days of fatigue and lack of food), He unwaveringly rejected Satan’s subtle (and not so subtle) temptations towards Him.  (By the way, Satan offered three enticements as recorded in Matthew and Luke.)

Wow!!  Where did Jesus find His strength to survive the desert’s harsh conditions AND the evil tempter’s unrelenting attempts at seducing Him?  SIMPLY, Jesus Christ fed on His Father’s “Word”, and there found strength and encouragement in doing His heavenly Father’s will on earth.  

Hmm!  Since Satan attempted to “tempt” Jesus Christ, he surely will try to tempt us every time possible for him to do so.  And sadly, at times, will succeed.  He will try his best to get us to choose our own personal, materialistic, worldly needs and wants over God the Father’s will and personal plan He has for each of us – – uniquely, personally, and intimately in every detail.  If Satan can’t make us renounce our faith or sin seriously, he will then try to get us to make choices which lead us away , – – whittling just a little bit at a time, – – from what God the Father wants and expects for and from  each of us, personally and collectively.

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As I mentioned earlier, Mark does not identify what “temptations” Jesus was subjected to; however, we learn in a similar passage from Matthew that Jesus was tempted with power and money (cf., Matthew 4:1-11):  

Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan!  It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10).

From this event, we learn Jesus’ technique for resisting and overcoming temptation.

Later in his Gospel, Matthew relates to us this core principle:

“No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)

The principle is the core meaning of the very first Commandment: “I am the Lord thy God; Thou shalt not have strange gods before me!”  The principle is for us to choose God fist; put God and our faith first – – above ALL Else!!  Are you following the principle and the path our Trinitarian God, through Jesus’ experience has taught us to follow?  Are you going in the direction in which God is leading us?  Or, are you taking the easier path, worshiping money and power – – “mammon“? 

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Notice verse 13 of today’s Gospel reading:

He [Jesus] remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” (Mark 1:13)

The presence of “wild beasts” in this narrative may indicate the horrors and dangers of the desert – – regarded by many as the abode of demons.  Or, could it reflect a “paradise motif” in which there is a harmonious relationship among ALL of God the Creator’s creatures, as found in Isaiah:

“Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.  The cow and the bear shall graze, together their young shall lie down; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.  The baby shall play by the viper’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.  They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6–9)

Along with the “wild beasts”, verse 13 mentions the presence of “angels ministering to Jesus” in order to sustain Him.  This recalls for me the “angel” who guided the Israelites in the desert of the first Exodus (Who, among my readers can explain what I mean by the “first Exodus”?):

The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s army, now moved and went around behind them.   And the column of cloud, moving from in front of them, took up its place behind them.  I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 14:19; 23:20);

This image of the ministering angel also is reminiscent of the sustaining angel who supplied nourishment to Elijah when he was “in the wilderness [desert]”:

He [Elijah] lay down and fell asleep under the solitary broom tree, but suddenly a messenger touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat!’  He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water.  After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you!’  (1 Kings 19:5–7).

The combined forces of the good found in the “angels” and the evil found in the “wild beasts” is a profound image.  Jesus deals with both the “angel” and the “evil” in a direct, certain, and holy way.  Jesus, though tempted, sustained a profound obedience to, and respect for, His heavenly Father; by doing so, He brought forth a “New Israel” for God the Father in a place where Israel’s rebellion against their Creator had brought death and alienation in the past (Hint: can you now answer the question about the “First Exodus.).

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Mark jumps from Jesus’ “40 days in the desert”, immediately to the beginning of His ministry inGalilee” (Jesus never received any vacation benefits.  He must have been salaried).  In Mark’s Gospel, “Galilee” is the focal scene of Jesus’ most significant events of His public ministry, before His arrest, trial, condemnation, scourging, and crucifixion.

In God the Father’s plan, Jesus was NOT TO proclaim the “good news” (meaning of the word “Gospel”) of salvation prior to the ending of John the Baptist’s active mission and ministry.  Thus, Jesus’ public ministry was planned to startafter John had been arrested”.  We need to remember that the “Gospel” is not only the “good news” from God the Father; it is also about God the Father working in, with, and through Jesus Christ Himself (and working in, with, and through each of us as well).  It’s True!!

John the Baptist had enemies who sought to silence him during his ministry.  Jesus also had enemies who sought to silence him during his earthly ministry.  We will have enemies seeking to silence us in our mission and ministry as well!!  However, the living and true “Word” of God – – the Gospel – – cannot EVER be silenced.  (We are witnessing this fact today, in regard to the recent battle concerning the Church’s “conscientious objection” to the HHS healthcare mandate inspired by the present administration.)   

In His day, Jesus proclaimed the time of restoration – – foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah – – was NOW being fulfilled (and is continuously being fulfilled) in His very “personhood” on earth.  The “kingdom of God” was (and is NOW) at hand.  

So, what is the “kingdom of God”?  The basic word, “kingdom“, means something much more than a territory or an area of land.  It literally means “sovereignty” or “reign”, and a relationship with the power to “rule” and “exercise” authority over oneself and others.  “The kingdom of God” means the effective rule of God the Father over His people.  In its fullness, it includes not only human obedience to God’s “Word”, but the triumph of the Trinitarian God over ALL physical evils, supremely over death itself.  In Jewish belief, the “kingdom” was to be ushered in by a “judgment” in which sinners would be condemned, separated, and forever imprisoned in agony.  This faith and belief was obviously shared by John the Baptist, who preached “repentance” and pronounced judgment upon the leader of his day (Herod), prior to our Lord Savior Jesus Christ’s “fully human, yet fully divine” manifestation.  This Jewish notion of “kingdom” has been somewhat modified in the Christian understanding, wherein, the “kingdom” is being established in stages, culminating with the “Parousia” (Second Coming) of Jesus.  “The kingdom of God is at hand” IS the actual, physical, spiritual, and real reign and rule of God the Father over His people.  As I said earlier, and is worth repeating: In its fullness, the true “kingdom” includes not only human obedience to God’s “Word”, but the total triumph of God the Father (and Jesus Christ) over ALL physical evils, supremely over physical and spiritual death.  (Please read 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 to see how Paul expresses this final triumph!)

The prophets of the Old Testament announced that God the Father would establish a “kingdom,not just for one nation or people, but for the entire world and ALL peoples!!  We need to remember that God the Father sent to us His “Only-Begotten Son”, the Lord Jesus Christ, not only to establish an earthly kingdom but also to “bring us” into His glorious and heavenly kingdom; a kingdom ruled by justice, truth, peace, love, mercy, and holiness.  The “kingdom of God” is, and continues to be, the central theme of Jesus’ still on-going mission and ministry on earth. The “kingdom of GodIS, and will forever be, the core and outcome of Jesus’ “good news” (Gospel) message.  (If you haven’t read Paul’s 1 Corinthian 15:20-28 yet, please do so NOW!  It’s ALL there.)

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The ending verse (Mark 1:15) of this Sunday’s Gospel reading, has a very profound meaning to me.  “This is the time of fulfillment” is talking about God the Father’s promises to ALL of us, even those who do not believe in Him.  Look at the first two words of this verse: “This is ….”!  God the Father’s promises are being fulfilled NOW!!  There is LITTLE TIME to wait, to take action, and to prepare for the completion of His salvation plan, the “Parousia” or “Second Coming”.  John the Baptist called for (and Jesus Christ STILL continues to proclaim) a personal change of heart and conduct, a turning of one’s entire way of life from rebellion to one of obedience towards God and His way, His Plan. This is the meaning of “Repent”!! 

How can we enter the “kingdom of God”?  Well, in “proclaiming the good news”, Jesus gave us TWO explicit things each of us must do in order to receive His “kingdom” of God the Father:

Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

When we submit to Christ’s reign and rule, Jesus gives each of us – – individually, uniquely, and personally – – the grace and power of the Holy Spirit needed to live a “new” way of life as “child-like” members of God’s “kingdom”.  Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, gives us the grace and conviction we need to renounce sin and Satan who is the “father of lies” and the ruler of this present world:

You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.  Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” (John 8:44; 12:31).

Repentance” (verse 15) needs to be, and IS, the first step on our individual journey to His “kingdom” on earth AND in heaven.  “Repentance” simply means to change – – your way of thinking, your attitudes and disposition, and the choices YOU make – – the choices you make determine your life and its quality.  This is the way we allow Jesus to be the Ruler, Lord, and Master of our hearts and souls.  Jesus and the Holy Spirit strengthens us to resist and overcome Satan’s sin, greed, and selfishness, always prevalent in our world, not only personally, but also socially, as in politics and international relationships.  If we are only sorry for the “consequences” of our sins and bad choices and not for the sin itself, we will most likely keep repeating them.  “True repentance” requires a humble and contrite heart:

My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.” (Psalm 51:19)

True “repentance” then also requires a “true sorrow” for sin and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future.  Jesus Christ gives us the grace to see sin for what it truly and really is: a rejection of His infinite and merciful love, wisdom, and hope, AND a refusal to do what is good and righteous in accordance with His will and plan.  God’s redemptive grace brings pardon, healing, and support when we deliberately and purposely TURN AWAY from anything, anyone, and everything keeping usfrom His enriching, sustaining love, truth, and hope.  To “believe” this fact (found in verse 15) is to take Jesus at His “Word” and to recognize that God the Father so loved us that He sent His “Only-Begotten Son” to free us from the chains of bondage resulting from the sinful and harmful weakness we inherited from Father Adam.  

God the Father made the supreme sacrifice of His Son, crucified on the Holy Cross, in order to bring us back into a relationship of peace and friendship with God Himself.  He is OUR heavenly Father as well, and he wants us to live as His “children” in paradise WITH Him.  God loved us first (even if we don’t love Him) and He invites us – – in a total and pure love – – to surrender our complete and personal lives to Him.  Do you believe that the Gospel, the “good news” of God the Father through Jesus Christ, has the power to free you from the destructive chains of bondage resulting from sin and the fear of death?  I DO!!  Thanks be to God!

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In summary, the “desert temptations” marks the “beginning” of Jesus’ continual battle with Satan and his evil associates.  The ultimate test – – or battle – – for Jesus, will be found in His final hours on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation.  In a similar way, our personal and public Lenten observances are also only a “beginning” – – establishing, learning, preparing for our battle with Satan, – – and a reinforcement of our ongoing struggle to resist the many continual temptations we will face in our daily (sometimes hourly) lives.  During the Lenten season, we are led by the Holy Spirit to remember the promises of our Baptism in which we promised to reject sin and to follow Jesus.  Just as Jesus Christ was ministered to by “angels”, God the Father also supports each of us, personally, intimately, and fully in our ongoing struggles against sin and temptation with our own personal “angel”.  We succeed in this dreadful struggle SOLELY because Jesus Christ Himself conquered sin permanently and irretrievably through His saving death on that Holy Cross outside the gates of Jerusalem some two thousand or so years ago.

The announcement which Jesus makes as He began His preaching in today’s Gospel was recalled this past Ash Wednesday service in the signing with ashes on our foreheads:

“Repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)  

Make this announcement of repentance and belief your challenge for this Lenten season.  After all, it is TRULY the “challenge” of our ENTIRE life on earth.  During this period of Lent (and every Lent to follow), we are invited “again and again” to strengthen and renew the promises we all made at our Baptism (even if we were a mere “few days old”), to reject Satan – – and sin – – so as to live NOW as “children” of God the Father in His “kingdom”:

“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Matthew 18:3-5).

Through the grace, love, and mercy of God the Father, received at our Baptism, we follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and know we also will be, and remain, victorious over Satan and sin – – with the Holy Spirit’s help.

Reflect on the importance of your Baptism.  At your Baptism, your sins were completely and fully forgiven, and you promised to live as “children” of God the Father.  As part of the Rite of Baptism, we reject sin and Satan.  During each and every Lent, we renew these promises of our Baptism, turning again from sin and promising to follow God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Maybe right now is a good time to pray the well-known prayer, the “Act of Contrition”.  One is provided immediately after this Gospel reflection; however you can also say your own “Prayer of Contrition”, from your heart and soul with a blazing brightness found on Mt Horeb.  (I personally believe a prayer of contrition, coming from your innermost-self, is a more meaningful and powerful statement of faith.  Otherwise, stick with the tried, true, and proven prayer I have supplied.)

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To conclude, the First Reading at Mass this Sunday is about Noah, the flood, and the Covenant God the Father established with Noah after a “40 day” period of destruction and testing (cf., Genesis 9:8-15).  Peter recalls this event when he wrote:

God patiently waited in the days of Noah.” (1 Peter 3:20)

Is God still waiting patiently for you to follow on the path He wishes you to follow, while at the same time, – – and, as His people did before the flood and again in the desert of the Exodus, – – you continue to worship false idols and the “mammon” of your choosing?  In doing so, you place your individual “materialistic” desires ahead of His plan of salvation?  Yes, He is truly “patiently waiting”; you need only to “drop everything and go with Him”!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 Act of Contrition

 

“My God,
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
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.

 Christ’s Divinity, Part 2:

 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

*

I and the Father are one (John 10:30). RSV

I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30). KJV

*

For in Him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). RSV

“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). KJV

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Porphyry of Gaza (353-421)

 

We go far back in history today to learn a bit about a saint whose name is not familiar to most of us in the West but who is celebrated by the Greek and other Eastern churches.

Born near Greece in the mid-4th century, “Porphry” is most known for his generosity to the poor and for his ascetic lifestyle.  Deserts and caves were his home for a time.  At age 40, living in Jerusalem, Porphyry was ordained a priest.

If the accounts we have are correct, he was elected bishop of Gaza—without his knowledge and against his will.  He was, in effect, kidnapped (with the help of a neighboring bishop, by the way) and forcibly consecrated bishop by the members of the small Christian community there.  No sooner had Porphyry been consecrated bishop than he was accused by the local pagans of causing a drought.  When rains came shortly afterward, the pagans gave credit to Porphyry and the Christian population and tensions subsided for a time.

For the next 13 years, Porphyry worked tirelessly for his people, instructed them and made many converts, though pagan opposition continued throughout his life.  He died in the year 421.

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 25 & 26 of 26:

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

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26.  As a concrete sign of communion and co- responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance.  They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.

 

“Ok, Already; I Forgot the Music for the Passover Meal! So Crucify Me!” – Matthew 26:14-25†


 

Wednesday of Holy Week

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

I want to thank you Lord for extending to us your graces.  Please be with all of us in all our endeavors, thoughts, and dreams.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1303 – The University of Rome La Sapienza is instituted by Pope Boniface VIII.
†   1314 – Death of Clement V, [Bertrand Got], pope (1305-14) move papacy to Avignon
†   1317 – Death of Agnes van Montepulciano, Italian mystic/saint
†   1534 – Death of Elizabeth Barton, English nun (executed)
†   1586 – Birth of Saint Rose of Lima, Peruvian saint (d. 1617)
†   1884 – Pope Leo XIII published encyclical “On Freemasonry”
†   1884 – Pope Leo XIII publishes the encyclical, Humanum Genus.
†   1999 – Death of victims of the Columbine High School massacre
†   2007 – Death of Michael Fu Tieshan, Chinese bishop (b. 1931)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Agnes of Montepulciano; Saint Theotimus (d. 407); Blessed Oda (d. 1158)

(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:

 

Jesus had no servants, yet they called Him Master
Had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher.
Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer.
Had no army, yet kings feared Him.
He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world.
He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him.
He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today.

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Today’s reflection is about the planning and provision for the “Last Supper” and pronouncement of Judas’ disloyalty, deceit, and betrayal.

 (NAB Matthew 26:14-25) 14 Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”  They paid him thirty pieces of silver, 16 and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.  17 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples  pproached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘”  19 The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.  20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve.  21 And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  22 Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”  23 He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me.  24 The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”  25 Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”  He answered, “You have said so.” 

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Have you ever wondered why Judas betrayed his “Master”, his “Rabbi”, his “dear” friend?  I know I have!  This specific question is towards
the top of my list of questions that I plan on asking some day (yet, hopefully not soon though).

Judas Iscariot” is an Apostle that is not really made as factually well-known to us as some of the other major disciples of Jesus Christ.  I believe he was a “zealot”, and possibly even a member of the same group of Jewish rebels who attempted the military overthrow of Roman rule in Palestine in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.  The name Iscariot, per NAB footnote) may mean “man from Kerioth”, a city of Judah.

What was his reason for his actions?  Were Judas’ deceitfulness, disloyalty, and treasonous actions toward Jesus Christ provoked by greed?
Was he disappointed with Jesus because of an action or non-action?  Or did he come be disillusioned in Jesus’ message, and way?

It could be that Judas never intended for Jesus Christ to die (though he should have known the consequence of his actions).  Maybe he wanted to “push” Jesus into some type of action – – a stimulus plan of sorts.   Did Judas think Jesus was proceeding too slowly and/or not acting forcefully and violently enough in His setting up of the “messianic” kingdom on earth?  Perhaps Judas simply wanted to force Jesus’
hand by forcing and coercing Him to start an armed, substantially physical, act of some unknown type.

What we can surmise, however, is that Judas somehow could not accept Jesus Christ as He was, and in the plan of His humanly divine mission.  But, aren’t we tempted to use God for our own purposes as well, at times?  We have to remember, it is not God who must change to fit our needs.  We must be changed by Him, so we can fulfill His needs.

The motive of greed is introduced by Judas’s question, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” in regards to the price for betrayal.  Curiously, this sentence is absent in Mark’s Gospel:

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.  When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money.  Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.” (Mark 14:10-11).

Hand him over”, however, is in both accounts (Matthew’s and Mark’s).  The same Greek verb is used to express the saving purpose of God the Father by which Jesus Christ is handed over to death, and the human malice that hands him over:

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” (Matthew 17:22);

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and
they will condemn him to death.”
(Matthew 20:18);

And,

“You know that in two days’ time it will be Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (Matthew 26:2).

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The chief priest’s intent was to put Jesus to death.  They plotted for a long time, yet delayed their thirst for His death out of fear of Jesus’ following in society and out of the fear of the crowds around Him nearly continuously.

There are many references to “thirty pieces of silver throughout Holy Scripture.  “Thirty pieces of silver” (about 21 ounces) was the price Judas agreed upon with the Temple leaders in his contract of betrayal; in his being a traitor of Jesus.  The amount of money paid to Judas
is found only in Matthew’s account.  It is derived from the Old Testament Book of Zechariah, where it is the wages paid to the rejected shepherd:

I said to them, ‘If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, let it go.’ And they counted out my wages, thirty pieces of silver.  But the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it in the treasury, the handsome price at which they valued me.’ So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the treasury in the house of the LORD.” (Zechariah 11:12-13).

The amount: “thirty pieces of silver” was also the compensation paid to one whose slave has been gored by an ox:

But if it is a male or a female slave that it gores, he must pay the owner of the slave thirty shekels of silver, and the ox must be stoned.” (Exodus 21:32).

Interesting for me is that five shekels was the price Mary and Joseph had to pay at the Temple (by Mosaic Law) for Jesus’ redemption, at
the time He was “Presented” to the Temple at eight days of age (cf., Luke 2:22-40).  It is now thirty shekels (about 21 ounces of pure silver) that officials of the same Temple are paying to condemn Jesus Christ to death – – and for OUR redemption.

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Unleavened bread took the form of loaves which had to be eaten over a seven day period, in commemoration of the unleavened bread which the Israelites had to take with them in their hurry to leave Egypt:

The people, therefore, took their dough before it was leavened, in their kneading bowls wrapped in their cloaks on their shoulders.” (Exodus 12:34).

In Jesus Christ’s time, the Passover supper was celebrated on the first day of the week of Unleavened Bread.

Most Catholics do not understand this Jewish festival.  Both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are two separate events, co-mingled.  The two festivals are reflected in the following Old Testament verses:

You shall keep the feast of Unleavened BreadFor seven days at the prescribed time in the month of Abib you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you; for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt.” (Exodus 34:18);

“These, then, are the festivals of the LORD which you shall celebrate at their proper time with a sacred assembly.  The Passover of the LORD falls on the fourteenth day of the first month, at the evening twilight.  The fifteenth day of this month is the LORD’S feast of Unleavened Bread.  For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  On the first of these days you shall hold a sacred assembly and do no sort of work.  On each of the seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD. Then on the seventh day you shall again hold a sacred assembly and do no sort of work.” (Leviticus 23:4-8);

“’Tell the Israelites to celebrate the Passover at the prescribed time.  The evening twilight of the fourteenth day of this month is the prescribed time  when you shall celebrate it, observing all its rules and regulations.’  Moses, therefore, told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover.  And they did so, celebrating the Passover in the desert of Sinai during the evening twilight of the fourteenth day of the first month, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.  There were some, however, who were unclean because of a human corpse and so could not keep the Passover that day.  These men came up to Moses and Aaron that same day and said, ‘Although we are unclean because of a corpse, why should we be deprived of presenting the LORD’S offering at its proper time along with the other Israelites?’  Moses answered them, ‘Wait until I learn what the LORD will command in your regard.’  The LORD then said to Moses: ‘Speak to the Israelites and say: If any one of you or of your descendants is unclean because of a corpse, or if he is absent on a journey, he may still keep the LORD’S Passover.  But he shall keep it in the second month, during the evening twilight of the fourteenth day of that month, eating it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and not leaving any of it over till morning, nor breaking any of its bones, but observing all the rules of the Passover.  However, anyone who is clean and not away on a journey, who yet fails to keep the Passover, shall be cut off from his people, because he did not present the LORD’S offering at the prescribed time.  That man shall bear the consequences of his sin.  ‘If an alien
who lives among you wishes to keep the LORD’S Passover, he too shall observe the rules and regulations for the Passover.  You shall have the same law for the resident alien as for the native of the land.
’ (Numbers 9:2-14);

On the fourteenth day of the first month falls the Passover of the LORD, and the fifteenth day of this month is the pilgrimage feast. For seven days unleavened bread is to be eaten.” (Numbers 28:16-17);

And,

Observe the month of Abib by keeping the Passover of the LORD, your God, since it was in the month of Abib that he brought you by night out of Egypt.  You shall offer the Passover sacrifice from your flock or your herd to the LORD, your God, in the place which he chooses as the dwelling place of his name.  You shall not eat leavened bread with it.  or seven days you shall eat with it only unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, that you may remember as long as you live the day of your departure from the land of Egypt; for in frightened haste you left the land of Egypt.  Nothing leavened may be found in all your territory for seven days, and none of the meat which you sacrificed on the evening of the first day shall be kept overnight for the next day.  ‘You may not sacrifice the Passover in any of the communities which the LORD, your God, gives you; only at the place which he chooses as the dwelling place of his name, and in the evening at sunset, on the anniversary of your departure from Egypt, shall you sacrifice the Passover.  You shall cook and eat it at the place the LORD, your God, chooses; then in the morning you may return to your tents.  For six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh there shall be a solemn meeting in honor of the LORD, your God; on that day you shall not do any sort of work.’” (Deuteronomy 16:1-8).;

Every male adult Jew was expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at some time in their life.  If possible, the Jewish people living near Jerusalem were to celebrate Passover every year in Jerusalem.

This annual feast commemorated the deliverance of the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 12).  On that night the angel of death slew the first-born of the Egyptians; but he “passed over” the homes of the Israelites, because the wooden beam and jams of their doors were smeared with the blood of an unblemished lamb sacrificed for the occasion.

Jesus Christ was also an “unblemished” (sin-free), “lamb” (human offering) sacrificed at Passover, and His blood was smeared on the wooden beams of the Holy Cross.

The “Feast of the Unleavened Bread” was continued from Nisan 14, through Nisan 21 (7 days of the Hebrew Calendar), a reminder of the suffering and difficulty the Israelites experienced, and of the haste surrounding their departure from Egypt.  Praise and thanks to God for His goodness in the past year were combined at this “dual festival”, along with the hope of future salvation in the coming years.

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Matthew and Mark have parallel and similar versions of sending disciples into the Jerusalem for the acquisition of a room for the
Passover meal:

He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘”(Matthew 26:18)

In comparison to,

“He sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.  Follow him.  Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, “The Teacher says, ‘Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’” Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.’” (Mark 14:13-15)

By Matthew leaving out much of Mark’s version, along with adding “My appointed time draws near”, plus, turning His question (in Marks Gospel) into a statement (in Matthew’s), the passage is presented in a formal, solemn, and majestic way, making his presentation far greater (for me) than is presented in Mark’s version.

The passage from today’s reading (verse 18) refers to an “unknown” person as the one to approach in order to acquire a place for the Passover meal.  In reality, I believe Jesus gave this person’s real name.  After all, Jesus was not unknown in Jerusalem, and had been there many, many times.  He was “connected” in that city.  From what the other Evangelists write, Jesus most certainly gave enough information to enable His Apostles to find a place.

“He sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.’” (Mark 14:13);

And

“And he answered them, ‘When you go into the city, a man will meet you carrying a jar of water.  Follow him into the house that he enters.’” (Luke 22:10);

What do you think?  Did Jesus’ disciples go without any knowledge what-so-ever, are did they go with some sort of instructions?

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Given Matthew’s interest in the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies, I wonder why he leaves out Mark’s words of the “betrayer” being present at the very table eating with them; of Jesus’ betrayer being an Apostle, as in Mark’s version:

“And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’” (Mark 14:18),

However, they both do allude to Psalm 41 in their words.  However, Mark’s words are closer in comparison:

Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned me.” (Psalm 41:10).


For me, the shocking fact is that the “betrayer” was one of the twelve Apostles, chosen personally by Jesus Christ.  The truth is that a “betrayer” who shared the same table and same fellowship with Jesus Christ and His followers, who listened to His teachings and was in His loving embrace – – daily, – – would purposely choose to knowingly hand Jesus over to a certain death.

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His resurrection at “Easter” will teach the Apostles so much more about who Jesus Christ truly was.  However, this glorious, magnificent, and miraculous event had not occurred as of this time in first century Palestine.  Their faith was growing, strengthening.  It was being fortified and deepened during the course of Jesus’ public ministry, and though their continual contact with Him and His divine graces which He had imparted on them.

“Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.” (John 2:11);

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:68-69);

And,

“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.’” (Matthew 16:17).

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I could never even imagine giving up a friend as dear as Jesus Christ.  The evilness, ruthlessness, and horror of Judas’ actions were such that it would be better for him not to exist than to do what he had done.

It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24).

Jesus in saying, “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him …” is referring to the “truth” that He will offer Himself up freely to pain, suffering, and death.  In so doing He was fulfilling the will of God, as prophesized, centuries before:

Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned me.(Psalm 41:10);

And,

“Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers; he was silent and opened not his mouth.(Isaiah 53:7).

Although our Lord Jesus Christ goes to His death willingly, and of His own free will, this does not reduce the seriousness of Judas’
treachery.

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The advance warning of Judas being the traitor was not noticed by the Apostles:

“Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.’  So he dipped the morsel and (took it and) handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot.  After he took the morsel, Satan entered him.  So Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’  (Now) none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.  Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, ‘Buy what we need for the feast,’ or to give something to the poor.’” (John 13:26-29).

Distinctive to Matthew is the half-affirmatives, “You have said so” found several times in his Gospel, including verse 25 from today’s reading:

“Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”  He answered, ‘You have said so.’” (Matthew 26:25),

along with two others:

“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘You have said so.  But I tell you: From now on you will see “the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power” and “coming on the clouds of heaven.”'” (Matthew 26:64);

and,

“Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’  Jesus said, ‘You say so.’” (Matthew 27:11).

These “half-affirmative”, (sort of “Yes’s”), emphasize the pronoun “you”.  Jesus’ answer implies that His statement – – His near “yes” – – would not have been made if the question had not been asked in the first place.

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In Summary, It was at Passover time that Jesus came to Jerusalem knowing he would be betrayed and put to death as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Jesus fulfilled the Passover prophesies.  His new covenant – – fulfilled the old.    His death and resurrection happened at the time of Passover solely in order to redeem US from our life of sin, death, Satan, and worldly needs.

His blood on the wood of the Holy tree, like the blood of the first Passover lamb just prior to the Exodus, protects God’s people from the angel of death and the oppressive power of Satan.  “Easter” is the Catholic Christian Passover:

“Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened.  For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

Are you celebrating this Holy Week, this Catholic Passover, with sincerity, love, and truth in your heart?

Jesus knew before the earth existed what would transpire at this time.  As Jesus ate the Passover meal with His twelve Apostles, and saying, “one of you will betray me”, He taught them (and us) to examine theirs, (and OURS), consciousness and actions.  He taught US also to examine ourselves in the light of God’s truth and grace.  We need to ask Him to strengthen our faith, hope, and love (the intentions of the first three “Hail Mary” beads on the rosary) DAILY, so we may not fail Him or abandon Him when tempted.  Pray with confidence, love, hope, and trust the words Jesus gave us to pray for deliverance from evil.

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The Our Father

“Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.  Amen.”

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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New Translation of the Mass

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

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

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

The third form of the penitential rite, with the various invocations of Christ (e.g., “You came to call sinners”) will be much the same (not much of a change), though an option is added to conclude each invocation in Greek:

“Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

Which may be used instead of the English: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy”, as it is presently.  The first two forms (found in the past two previous blogs) may conclude with this threefold litany too, either in English or in Greek.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Conrad of Parzham (1818-1894)

Conrad spent most of his life as porter in Altoetting, Bavaria, letting people into the friary and indirectly encouraging them to let God into their lives.

His parents, Bartholomew and Gertrude Birndorfer, lived near Parzham, Bavaria.  In those days this region was recovering from the Napoleonic wars.  A lover of solitary prayer and a peacemaker as a young man,

Conrad joined the Capuchins as a brother.  He made his profession in 1852 and was assigned to the friary in Altoetting.  That city’s shrine to Mary was very popular; at the nearby Capuchin friary there was a lot of work for the porter, a job Conrad held for 41 years.

At first some of the other friars were jealous that such a young friar held this important job.  Conrad’s patience and holy life overcame their doubts.  As porter he dealt with many people, obtaining many of the friary supplies and generously providing for the poor who came to the door.  He treated them all with the courtesy Francis expected of his followers.

Conrad’s helpfulness was sometimes unnerving.  Once Father Vincent, seeking quiet to prepare a sermon, went up the bell tower of the church.  Conrad tracked him down when someone wanting to go to confession specifically requested Father Vincent.

Conrad also developed a special rapport with the children of the area.  He enthusiastically promoted the Seraphic Work of Charity, which aided neglected children.

Conrad spent hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.  He regularly asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for him and for the many people he included in his prayers.  The ever-patient Conrad was canonized in 1934.

Comment:

As we can see from his life as well as his words, Conrad of Parzham lived a life that attracted others because of a special quality, something Chesterton alluded to when he wrote, “The moment we have a fixed heart we have a free hand” (Orthodoxy, p. 71).  If we want to understand Conrad, we have to know where he fixed his heart.  Because he was united to God in prayer, everyone felt at ease in Conrad’s presence.

Quote:

“It was God’s will that I should leave everything that was near and dear to me.  I thank him for having called me to religious life where I have found such peace and joy as I could never have found in the world.  My plan of life is chiefly this: to love and suffer, always meditating upon, adoring and admiring God’s unspeakable love for his lowliest creatures” (Letter of Saint Conrad).

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:

Virtues II

What virtues were given to us with the Sacrament of Confirmation?  How often are we aware of trying to use them?

In our spiritual life, is it better (more wholesome) to concentrate on practicing virtues, rather than trying to eradicate vices? What is the practical difference?

Discuss one or two outstanding virtues that impress you about your favorite Saint…

How do these individual virtues compare to societal values today?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 20 & 21 of 26:

20.  The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

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21.  On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions. Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.


 

“Ash Wednesday – – First Day of Lent” 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the start of the Lenten Season.  Most followers of Western Christianity observe Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Holy Saturday (April 23, 2011).  The six Sundays in this period are not counted because each one represents a “mini-Easter,” a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. 

The number forty has many Old Testament Biblical references:

  • the forty days and nights God sent rain in the great flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4);
  • the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18);
  • the forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the desert while traveling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33);
  • the forty days Jonah in his prophecy of judgment gave the city of Nineveh in which to repent (Jonah 3:4).
  • the forty days and nights Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8);

AND, Jesus retreated into the wilderness, where he fasted for forty days, and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-2, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-2).  Jesus said that his disciples should fast “when the bridegroom shall be taken from them” (Matthew 9:15), a reference to his Passion.  Since the Apostles fasted as they mourned the death of Jesus, Christians have traditionally fasted during the annual commemoration of his burial.

The Etymology of the word is interesting for me.  In Latin, the term “quadragesima” (a translation of the original Greek meaning the “fortieth” day before Easter) is used instead.  In the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the common vernacular instead of the traditional Latin, the English word “lent” was adopted.  This word (lent) initially meant, simply, “spring” (as in German language “Lenz” and Dutch “lente”) and derives from the Germanic root for “long” because, in the spring, the days visibly lengthen.

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude, below (after my reflection on the Gospel), is one of the most famous of the prayers for souls in purgatory.  St. Gertrude the Great was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century.  According to tradition, our Lord promised her that 1000 souls would be released from purgatory each time it is said devoutly.  Please say this prayer each day, during Lent.

            

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1422 – Death of Jan Zelivsky, Hussite priest (b. 1380)
†   1440 – Death of St. Frances of Rome, Italian nun (b. 1384)
†   1452 – Pope Nicolaas I crowns Frederik III RC-German emperor
†   1568 – Birth of Aloysius “Luigi” van Gonzaga, Italian prince/Jesuit/saint
†   1824 – Death of Jacobus J Cramer, priest of Holland/Zealand/Friesland, dies at 79
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Gregory of Nyssa; Saint Frances of Rome; Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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In today’s reflection, Jesus teaches that almsgiving, prayer, and fasting should be done in secret.

 

1 “[Jesus said to His disciples] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  16 “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.  They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.  And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.   (NAB Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

  

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Today, we celebrate “Ash Wednesday”, the first day of the liturgical season known as “Lent” (explained in detail at the beginning of this blog, above).  We should be preparing ourselves to celebrate the Catholic “summit” of our Spiritual and Liturgical year: Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead on that early Sunday morning we now call “Easter”.  

Each year, the readings for Ash Wednesday are the same.  They instruct us to develop and mature a true and loving change of heart.  This season is a time to build-up our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; disciplines that are meant to be part of our individual and communal Catholic ways of life during every season – – every day – – of the year.  However, during the Lenten season, we are given an opportunity as a Catholic Family (the Church militant) to renew and refresh our commitment to theses regular “yearly” practices.

The Jewish people considered prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as the fundamental works of religious life.  These three practices were the essential and primary practices of a pious person; the three great pillars on which the good life was based (a Trinitarian statement).  

Jesus is warning against doing good so others can see you.  He then gives three examples in today’s reading: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  In each example, the conduct of the “hypocrites” is compared with what is actually demanded of His followers.  Jesus is instructing His followers with the aim of praying, fasting, and giving alms, to not draw attention so that others may notice and think highly of them?  He is instead instructing His followers to give glory to God, and not allow glory to self.    

Self-seeking glory is in opposition to “piety”.  True piety is far more than just feeling good or looking holy to others.  True piety is a virtue of loving devotion and surrender to God in all aspects of life.  Piety is an individual and person attitude of awe, reverence, worship, and obedience to our almighty God.  True piety is a grace and action of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through us, – – individually, – – enabling us to devote our entire lives to God with a righteous longing to please Him in all things, thoughts, and actions.

Jesus warns his followers against acting for the sake of appearance.  When His disciples give alms, pray, and fast, they are to do so in such a way that only God, who sees their heart and soul – – and knows what is hidden, – – will know.  Although our Gospel reading today omits the Lord’s Prayer (cf., Matthew 6:9-15), we can bear in mind that Matthew presents the Lord’s model of prayer for His disciples’.

 Do not pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his Gospel.” (Didache 8:2)

 

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The references to “reward” in today’s reading, is also found in other verses of Matthew’s Gospel:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:12)

“For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46)

“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42)

It seems that Matthew considered all Christian disciples as “prophets”.  A prophet is, by definition, one who speaks in the name of God.   In addition, being “righteous” is required for all of Jesus’ disciples.  The Prophets, the righteous man, and the “little ones” from Matthew 10:41-42, are used here for different groups within the followers of Jesus Christ – – Christian missionaries of the era – – per se, as compared to His “close group” of Apostles and disciples that stayed near His physical presence.

What is the “reward” that Jesus offers to His disciples – US?  Answer: Communion with God our Father. (WOW!!)  In God the Father, we find the true and complete fullness of life, happiness, truth, beauty, love, and eternal joy. (What else would anyone want?)  Saint Augustine, the great fourth century bishop of Hippo, wrote the following prayer in his Confessions:

“When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.  The Lord rewards those who seek him with humble and repentant hearts.  He renews us each day and he gives us new hearts of love and compassion that we may serve him and our neighbor with glad and generous hearts.”

This reference to “reward” in today’s reading shows the word itself is an early part of Christian moral buzz-words.  In using this particular word (reward), Jesus is possibly attempting to emphasize the distinction between the Christian idea of reward and that of the hypocrites, especially the Scribes and Pharisees.  In the original Kenoi (Biblical) Greek, Matthew uses two different Greek verbs to express the reward of the disciples compared to that of the hypocrites.  The “reward” word for the hypocrite is the verb “apecho”, a business-related term meaning to give a receipt for what has been paid in full.

The word “hypocrite” occurs 21 times in the New Testament.  Mark uses it once. Luke uses it four times.  In addition to parallel words and references, Matthew uses it eleven times in passages that are found solely in his Gospel.  All of these are Jesus’ statements in which “hypocrite” refers to the most religious Jews of Jesus’ day – – the Scribes and Pharisees.  Interestingly for me, the word “hypocrite” is not found in the Book of Acts or any of the other epistles, but only in the Gospels.

When Jesus used the word “hypocrites” in verse 2, was He is, in fact, referencing the Scribes and Pharisees of the Jewish temple:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.” (Matthew 23:13) 

 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You pay tithes 12 of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.  (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.” (Matthew 23:27)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous.” (Matthew 23:29)

The designation – – “hypocrite” – – reflects an attitude which resulted, not only from the disagreements and controversies at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry in the early first century A.D., but also continued with antagonisms and disagreements between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s congregation in the later part of the first century A.D., and continuing on throughout history.  I believe we sadly still experience a large amount of hypocrisy in everyday life, in the Catholic Church itself, and even within my own Secular Franciscan Order.  Hypocrisy continues throughout all aspects of earthly existence to one level or another.  How sad!

Jesus, in saying “they have received their reward”(verse 2), is telling His followers that these individuals desired “praise” in their actions instead of a relationship with God, and have received exactly what they were looking for, and not God’s grace.

 

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The only “fast” (verse 16) prescribed in the Mosaic Law is on the “Day of Atonement”:

“Since on this day atonement is made for you to make you clean, so that you may be cleansed of all your sins before the LORD, by everlasting ordinance it shall be a most solemn Sabbath for you, on which you must mortify yourselves. (Leviticus 16:30-31).

However, the practice of regular fasting became a very common practice in later Judaism and Christianity:

“Do not let your fasting be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second day and the fifth day of the week [Monday and Thursday], but you shall fast on the fourth day and the day of preparation [Wednesday and Friday].  (Didache 8:1).

 

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Now, let’s return to the beginning of my reflection.  What is our responsibility during the Lenten Season?  What does rubbing burnt palm leaves on one’s forehead have to do with praying, fasting, and alms-giving?

The meaning behind tracing a cross on our foreheads with ashes at the beginning of Lent (the outward liturgical sign of our inner belief and faith) is a summary of our Catholic Christian life.  The ashes on our foreheads remind us of our origin from God through Adam in that beautiful garden, and of our human death in body.  Today, when receiving ashes, listen to the words prayed by the minister when receiving them on your forehead:

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

There are actually three representations associated with the ashes.  Most know about the ashes representing our origins and death, but there is actually an additional representation most probably don’t think of (Isn’t it interesting that even the ashes have a Trinitarian aspect to them!)

The ashes are also the sign of our victory: that victory being – – the cross of Christ.  As the minister places the ashes on your forehead, he is making the sign of the cross. (Through sometimes it appear to look like a map of Europe or a Rorschach test.)  In Jesus’ death and resurrection, He overcame and conquered death.  Our destiny as Catholics is to receive the same “victory” over death that Jesus Christ triumphed over, and won for us.  We acknowledge Jesus’ victory over death when we:

 “turn away from sin and are faithful to the Gospel.”
(Words from the alternative prayer when receiving the ashes.)

 

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In summary, the season of Lent presents an opportunity to examine our life and to re-commit ourselves to the Catholic practices of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  Ash Wednesday is a great time to pray and to plan Lenten practices.

Jesus expected His disciples to give alms, pray, and fast.  He gave instructions that when we do those practices, they should not be done solely for public display.  Think of one way YOU will give “alms” during Lent; to share what you have with people in need – – in a private way.  Think of one way YOU will “pray” – – privately – – during Lent.  Choose one thing that YOU will “give up” during Lent as a reminder of your love for God – – without telling others.  

Finally, pray that God blesses your Lenten promises by praying today’s psalm from Mass (Psalm 51), the “Our Father”, or the Prayer of St. Gertrude (below).

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude

 

Eternal Father, I offer you the Most Precious Blood of your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family.  Amen.

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440)

 

Frances’s life combines aspects of secular and religious life.  A devoted and loving wife, she longed for a lifestyle of prayer and service, so she organized a group of women to minister to the needs of Rome’s poor.

Born of wealthy parents, Frances found herself attracted to the religious life during her youth.  But her parents objected and a young nobleman was selected to be her husband.

As she became acquainted with her new relatives, Frances soon discovered that the wife of her husband’s brother also wished to live a life of service and prayer.  So the two, Frances and Vannozza, set out together—with their husbands’ blessings—to help the poor.

Frances fell ill for a time, but this apparently only deepened her commitment to the suffering people she met.  The years passed, and Frances gave birth to two sons and a daughter.  With the new responsibilities of family life, the young mother turned her attention more to the needs of her own household.  The family flourished under Frances’s care, but within a few years a great plague began to sweep across Italy.  It struck Rome with devastating cruelty and left Frances’s second son dead.  In an effort to help alleviate some of the suffering, Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever the sick might possibly need.  When all the resources had been exhausted, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging.  Later, Frances’s daughter died, and the saint opened a section of her house as a hospital.

Frances became more and more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, and it was not long before she requested and was given permission to found a society of women bound by no vows.  They simply offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor.  Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but rather at home with her husband.  She did this for seven years, until her husband passed away, and then came to live the remainder of her life with the society—serving the poorest of the poor.

Comment:

Looking at the exemplary life of fidelity to God and devotion to her fellow human beings which Frances of Rome was blessed to lead, one cannot help but be reminded of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (September 5), who loved Jesus Christ in prayer and also in the poor.  The life of Frances of Rome calls each of us not only to look deeply for God in prayer, but also to carry our devotion to Jesus living in the suffering of our world.  Frances shows us that this life need not be restricted to those bound by vows.

Quote:

Malcolm Muggeridge’s book Something Beautiful for God contains this quote from Mother Teresa say about each sister in her community: “Let Christ radiate and live his life in her and through her in the slums.  Let the poor seeing her be drawn to Christ and invite him to enter their homes and lives.”  Says Frances of Rome: “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife.  And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

Patron Saint of: Motorists; Widows and Oblates

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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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 third form of the penitential rite, with the various invocations of Christ (e.g., “You came to call sinners”) will be much the same (not much of a change), though an option is added to conclude each invocation in Greek:

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

instead of in English: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy”, as it is presently.  The first two forms (found in the past two previous blogs) may conclude with this threefold litany too, either in English or in Greek.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Money

How does the monthly fraternity collection fit into your understanding of poverty and penance?  How does shopping at second-hand stores (e.g., garage sales/Good Will/Salvation Army/etc.) for clothing and furniture show concern for the environment and natural resources?  What is your attitude toward money and possessions?  Are you comfortable curbing your desire to “want more”?  Can you think of examples of doing this (curbing your desires)?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 9 & 10 of 26:

 

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.

 

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