Tag Archives: heart

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


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

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For January 2013. pencil

 

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

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

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

Blessings to all!

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

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

A child is boren” in the English of today:

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

I wish you all a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

Mike [DePue] ofs

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Qu. thought2ote of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

and, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

A Relationship Prayer

 

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

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

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

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

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

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♫“All We Need is (fill in the blank), Dah, Da, Da, Da, Dah ?!”♫ – Mark 12:28b-34†


31stSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2012

 

General Intention: For ministers of the Gospel.

That bishops, priests, and all ministers of the Gospel may bear the courageous witness of fidelity to the crucified and risen Lord.


Missionary Intention: For the Pilgrim Church.

That the pilgrim Church on earth may shine as a light to the nations.

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Next Tuesday, November 4th, is “Election Day”.  I believe this is probably one of the major events of Christendom.  This date will literally effect how are community of faith will be allowed to identify itself, and how we, as individuals, will be able to practice our faith in our private and public lives. 

I fear for my Church and my ability to show my faith!!  It is being attacked overtly and covertly from many fronts today – – both secular and political.  There are two things we all MUST do for our own sakes, and for the sake of our Catholic faith: we need to pray (especially the Holy Rosary), and we need to vote with true Catholic values, virtues, and faith in mind.

Remember, are you saying to God, “Thy will be done” when it really means, “My will be done“?

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is questioned by a Scribe about the greatest commandment.  How well do you know – – and LIVE – – this “greatest of commandments”?

(NAB Mark 12:28-34) 28 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  29 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is Lord alone!  30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.  You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’  33 And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Whoa, last Sunday, we were reading about the “blind man” who receives his vision through his faith, from the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel.  And now, today, we have jumped way over to the end of the twelfth chapter.  If we were to read Chapters 11 and the first part of Chapter 12, we would hear about:

  • Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem;
  • His cleansing the Temple of merchants; and,
  • Previous questions of His “authority” and interpretations concerning “paying taxes” and “resurrection of the dead” by the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders. 

The context, therefore, for today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ growing exposure and popularity with the pious Jews before the Jewish Temple leaders.  Thus, Jesus is being questioned and tested by the Jewish authorities, attempting to find a weakness to exploit in Jesus’ teaching of faith.  Surprisingly, the Scribe who addresses Jesus in today’s Gospel seems to be (or has become) an admirer.

Jesus’ “Words” are very simple and beautiful.  He tells us we should have a faith of inclusivity and welcome, not that of rules and regulations – – EVERYONE should be welcome!!  We are told in today’s reading of Jesus’ teaching on two commandments: loving God and each other.  How hard is Jesus’ “Words” to truly abide by?  Well, I sense that many times in our lives, our faith is based NOT on loving each other as God loves us, but instead, on deciding who is IN and who is OUT of our lives.

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Today’s Gospel reading is a dialogue between Jesus and a Scribe who is impressed by the way in which Jesus has conducted Himself in answering the question asked of Him:

Which is the first of all the commandments?” (Mark 12:28).

This devoutly pious Scribe (a “scholar [or interpreter] of Mosaic Law”) compliments Jesus for the answer He gives him (Mark 12:32).  This Scribe is said by Jesus to be “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

The Temple Leaders prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements.  They made it a life-time practice to study the 613 precepts of Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament), along with the numerous rabbinic commentaries THEY created.  I believe this particular Scribe – – this inquisitor – – was on a mission from the Pharisees, testing Jesus by asking his specific question, a question the Pharisees believed would be impossible to answer correctly.  However, Jesus’ response or answer, by repeating Moses words, caused NO conflict whatsoever with the Scribes’ Jewish religious teaching.  The Scribes reaction to Jesus’ is one of praise for Him.

Why would the question asked by the Scribe be impossible to answer correctly?  Well, for the devout Jew, ALL the commandments (and there were 613 of them) were to be kept with equal obedience and care.  There really is NO “first of all commandments” for the pious Jew.  This question required Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses.  Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and many additional commandments, numbering 613 precepts or laws.  For a devout Jew, adherence to the Mosaic Law is a continuous, life-long attempt at expressing one’s faithfulness to God’s covenant with Israel through very specific behaviors.  The ranking of these commandments was regularly debated among the teachers of Mosaic Law: but ALL laws were treated as equal in observance.

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Jesus startled the Pharisee with His profoundly simple answer; and, with His obvious mastery of Mosaic Law – – Jesus’ answer revealed its true purpose.  So, Jesus is revealing that God simply requires of us to love as He loves, and that God is pure love; and that everything He does flows from His love for us!  God loved us first and our love for Him is a response to His personal, uniquely intimate way of expressing His exceeding mercy, grace, and loving kindness towards each of us. 

Interestingly, Jesus was not the only Jewish religious teacher – – rabbi during this time – – to connect these two commandments: first, the “love of God”, and second, the “love of neighbor”.  Both of these commandments were (and are) central elements of Jewish religious tradition from which Jesus learned in His youth, from His foster-father and the rabbi of Nazareth.  So, Jesus, along with ALL observant Jews (and still today), were educated on this specific precept from Deuteronomy regarding the love of God:

Hear, O Israel!  The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!  Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).

Since the “Lord alone” is God, “Israel” (the Jewish “chosen” people) need to love Him with an undivided heart, being, and strength.  Indeed, even still today, this commandment (and the other love commandment) continues to be the central aspect of contemporary Jewish religious understanding.  

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The second commandment, “love of neighbor”, is a precept from Leviticus:

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18);

Jesus’ response to His questioners proposed a fundamental and vital connection between these two precepts from Mosaic Law.  “Love of God” finds its expression IN OURlove for neighbor”.  I suspect however, that this integral linking of these two commandments was perceived in a newly rejuvenated and fresh way when Jesus taught on this issue in today’s reading.  There had to have been at least one “Ah-ha” moment for this Scribe during this discourse with Jesus.  The “love of God” comes first, and the “love of neighbor” is firmly grounded IN the “love of God”.  The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what He loves   and reject what is harmful, hateful, and contrary to His loving will and plan for each of us.  

For this curious and discerning Scribe, Jesus illustrated, through His answer, the superiority of love over legalism from God’s (and from Moses’) point of view.  The “love of God” must engage the total person (heart, mind, and soul).  However, Jesus goes beyond the extent of the question put to Him, joining to the greatest and first commandment, a second commandment, that of “love of neighbor”:

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18).

The double commandment is the source from which the “whole law” flows.

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A part of the Scribe’s reply to Jesus puzzled me:

“‘To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33).

I believe the Scribe was alluding to Psalm 40:

Sacrifice and offering you do not want; you opened my ears.  Holocaust and sin-offering you do not request; so I said, ‘See; I come with an inscribed scroll written upon me.  I delight to do your will, my God; your law is in my inner being!’ (Psalm 40:7–9).

Obedience to God’s law of love is far better than any “burnt offering and sacrifice”.  I believe that Saint Paul understood this law of love taking precedence over the laws of “burnt offerings”.  Here is what he writes:

 “For this reason, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.  Then I said, “As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”’  First He says, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.’ These are offered according to the law.  Then he says, ‘Behold, I come to do your will.’  He takes away the first to establish the second (Hebrews 10:5-9).

Notice, Jesus identifies Himself as the “ONE” “written” about “in the scrolls”; Jesus reveals the primacy of loving God (and neighbor) over the value of “holocausts and sin offerings”, which (Jesus reveals) God really “did not desire” nor “delighted in”.  So, Paul understood God, through Jesus Christ, was taking away the first laws of legalism to establish the NEW law of LOVE!!

Therefore, Jesus Christ is taking away the “burnt offering and sacrifice”, establishing Himself as the new “Sacrifice”, redeeming ALL from the sin of this world!!!  This is AWESOME!!!

No wonder then that with the last verse in today’s dialogue, the debate with the Jewish authorities comes to an abrupt end:

No one dared to ask Him any more questions” (Mark 12:34).

Were the Temple leaders finally humbled by Jesus’ “Words”?  I don’t think so.  Envy still had a tight grasp on many of the Pharisees and Scribes, as we will see when Jesus is arrested after the “Last Supper”.

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The Scribe who questions Jesus in today’s Gospel engaged in a positive dialogue with Him, giving Jesus the opportunity to express an important – – the MOST important – – precept or law of, from, and about God!.  What is interesting for me is that most Catholics (and other Christians) today believed Jesus was hated by all the Temple leaders; absolutely NOT TRUE!!  I suspect Jesus had MANY friends and advocates among the three groups of Temple leaders: the Pharisees, the Scribes (who were the interpreters and lawyers for the Pharisees), and the Sadducees.

This Individual Scribe agreed with Jesus’ teaching about “loving God” and “loving neighborbeing the first and greatest of commandments.  He agreed with Jesus that these two “connected” laws or precepts even surpass the 613 commandments having to do with certain behaviors for surviving in the desert and other laws pertaining to animal and other sacrifices in the Temple.  

From Jesus’ response to the Scribe’s question, we learn that faith in God – – and hope in His promises – – strengthen us in expressing our “love of God”, for God, and for our neighbor (and even for ourselves). Faith, hope, and love are essential for a good and proper relationship with God.  Faith, hope, and love unites each of us with Him in a unique and intimate way.  The more we know of God – – the more we love Him – – and the more we love God, the greater we believe and hope in His promises.  

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Jesus Christ, through the grace and actions of the Holy Spirit, gives to each of us a new freedom to love as He Himself loves!!  Is there anything keeping you from the “love of God” and the JOY of serving others with a generous heart?    If so, remove it for your existence, for nothing is more important than the “love of God”.  Let us remember what Saint Paul said in his letter to the Romans:

“Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:5

As Catholic Christians, our moral behavior should be guided by the two-part commandment taught by Jesus in today’s Gospel: “love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.  I believe many of us use this “love” framework within the “greatest of the commandments” as an examination of conscience each night and during each Sacrament of Reconciliation.   By examining our lives through the auspices of these two universal commandments, we learn of the challenges in following these precepts as well.  We often desire to NOT follow these coupled laws; but in our capacity as faith-filled Catholic Christians, we need to attempt at consistently honoring these commandments in our daily lives, renewing this commitment DAILY, and sometimes even moment-to-moment.

So, here is a challenge for each of you; let me know how successful you are in executing this challenge.  For one week, identify and collect news reports of how Christians (not just Catholics, but ALL Christians) show their love for God by loving and serving their neighbor.  (This will definitely be a challenge with our present secular news agencies and their anti-religious bias.) 

Think about ways in which you might contribute to the examples of “Christian service” which you hopefully found in the news reports.  Choose one of the actions you came up with or discovered in your search, and do the action yourself.  Let me know what action you came up with, and how you executed that action in your life and area. 

Finally, let us pray together in asking for God’s help in showing our love to our family, friends, and others we meet.  IT’S JUST THAT SIMPLE!!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

Act of Love

“O my God,
I love you above all things
with my whole heart and soul,
because you are all good
and worthy of all my love.
I love my neighbor as myself
for the love of you.
I forgive all who have injured me
and I ask pardon
of those whom I have injured.
Amen.”

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


Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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Today in Catholic History:

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

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

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Joke of the Day:

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

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” (Matthew 18:12);

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4);

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Renewal Prayer

 

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

http://www.catholic.org/prayers

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

She is the Patron Saint of: Penitents, Perfumers.

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

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


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

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

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♫ “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.

 

 

“If We Emulate Mary, We Shall Never Lack God’s Grace!!” – Luke 2:16-21†


 

The Octave** Day of the Nativity
of the Lord Solemnity of Mary,
the Holy Mother of God

(** An eight day celebration: “Octave” is the eighth day or last day of a particular feast)

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
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions
for January, 2012:

General Intention: Victims of Natural Disasters.

That the victims of natural disasters may receive the spiritual and material comfort they need to rebuild their lives.“

Missionary Intention: Dedication to Peace.

That the dedication of Christians to peace may bear witness to the name of Christ before all men and women of good will.”

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Today, this first day of a new year, we celebrate an extremely important Feast Day, the Solemnity of Mary, OUR Blessed and Holy Mother of God. 

Early Christians gave Mary the title “Theotokos”, meaning, “God-bearer” (Council of Ephesus 431 AD).  We still celebrate Mary as the Mother of God, and the Mother of ALL mankind, because, in bearing Jesus Christ, she bore the fullness of the “Godhead” within her.  On this day, we are reminded of the role that Our Blessed Virgin Mary played in God the Father’s salvation plan.  Christ’s Birth was made possible by Mary’s personal and fully complete fiat:

Be it done unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 38:1).

Today, this first day of a New Year is a great day to stop and reflect on both the past year and what’s ahead on your person path to salvation.  Have you followed Mary’s example in living your life according to God’s “will”, His intention, and His purposeful plan?

May your new year – – and ALL new years – – be filled with the love, joy, peace, and hope of being fully “one” with our loving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

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Last week’s reflection blog was the most awesome one I believe I have ever written.  The Holy Spirit allowed me to break through to a new level of understanding the “Word”.  I feel truly blessed to have the Holy Spirit inspiring me to see Holy Scripture from a different perspective.  Thank You my dear Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for allowing me to spread your good news.

Please let me know what you think of His grace working in me.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   379 – Death of Basilius the Great, of Caesarea, Saint (Moralia)
†   404 – Death of Saint Telemachus
†   1431 – Birth of Alexander VI [Rodrigo Borgia], Spanish/Italian pope (1492-1503)
†   1502 – Death Gregorius XIII, [Ugo Buoncampagni], Italy, pope (1572-85)
†   1970 – Revised calendar for Western (Roman Catholic) Church goes into effect
†   1982 – Pope John Paul II prays for an end to martial law in Poland
†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of Jesus’ Circumcision (Old calendar); Final Day of Octave of Christmas, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (New calendar); Fulgentius of Ruspe; Odilo of Cluny; Telemachus; Orthodox Christian Churches – Feast Day of the Circumcision of the Lord in the Flesh; also the feast day of St. Basil, Bishop of Caesaria.

(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:

 

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

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Today’s reflection is about the shepherds finding Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

 

(NAB Luke 2:16-21) 16 So they [the shepherds] went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.  17 When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  18 All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.  19 And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.  21 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.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading is a continuation from the Gospel proclaimed at last week’s Midnight Christmas Mass.  The “shepherds” acted upon what they had seen and heard.  These lowly men of society took the important message they had received from the angel appearing to them, and “hurriedly” went to find the baby Jesus, still in the manger, in the town of Bethlehem.

In going to see the Holy Family, the shepherds find exactly as the angel had said to them:  

This will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)

Therefore, the shepherds’ visit was a unique and significant moment of fulfillment, manifestation, revealing; and they became the first witnesses to the beginning of salvation, the fulfilling of God’s promises, which we also may receive through Jesus Christ Himself.

The birth of the “Messiah Anointed Savior”, Jesus Christ is the key event in the history of mankind; but God the Father wanted it to take place so quietly that the world went about its business as if nothing had happened.  The only ones told, via an angel messenger, were a few lowly shepherds.  Interestingly, it was also a shepherd, named “Abraham”, to whom God the Father gave His promise to save mankind.

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The shepherds “went in haste” to Bethlehem because they were full of joy at seeing the angel and hearing his message.  They were eager to see the Messiah Savior of their people and nation.  I expect their elated attitude was an appropriate response for the situation they experienced.  After all, wasn’t it Saint Ambrose who said, “No one seeks Christ halfheartedly“!!  

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Luke himself reported that our Blessed Virgin Mary, after the Annunciation, event also “went in haste” to see Elizabeth:

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah” (Luke 1:39).  

Any one, any soul, who allows entry to the Trinitarian God, obviously will rejoice in God Himself visiting his meager and marred soul; and, in doing so, acquire a new energy (Sanctifying Grace) for his life with, in, and through God Himself.  This is how God makes us a “new creation” as sons and daughters of God.

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Besides the shepherds’ interaction with the angel, and then with the infant Jesus Himself, this reading also focuses on Mary as the “Mother of God,” “Theotokos” (God-bearer).  Today’s reading tells us at least three details about Mary as a mother.  First, our Blessed Mother Mary is described as an insightfully reflective woman, keeping the testimony of the shepherds in her heart.  Second, we are reminded of how completely obedient Mary was to God the Father when she named the baby “Jesus” (His name means “God saves” in Hebrew) as the Archangel Gabriel had directed her at the Annunciation event.  Third, this reading shows Mary and Joseph faithfully observing, and faithfully practicing, their Jewish faith and traditions by having Jesus circumcised on the eighth day.

Mary’s absolute and total faithfulness to God the Father is unmistakable and is manifested in all three of these details.  Her reflection upon the events in her life indicates that she was a person of deep prayer, deep faith, and deep love.  Her prayer life, her faith, and her trust made possible her complete and full obedience to God the Father – – and His will and intention, – – even if the outcome was not made clear to her.  Finally, her faithfulness to a community of faith grounded her relationship with God the Father and enabled her to participate in His plan of salvation for her personally, and for ALL mankind as well.

Because of Mary’s absolute and total faithfulness to God the Father, she was able to receive the grace and gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Because of her absolute and total faithfulness, she accepted her role in God’s plan for her and ALL mankind’s salvation.  By doing so, she models for us the true path of Catholic Christian discipleship, and is thus called the “Mother of the Church”.

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From today’s reading about Mary’s role, I believe one of the most important verses is:

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

In these few words, this verse tells us a great deal about our Blessed Mother Mary.  In this one simple verse, we can see the peacefulness, tranquility, and contentment with which Mary contemplates and reflects upon the wonderful things known to her, and coming true through her – – and to fulfillment in and with her – – with the birth of her divine Son, Jesus Christ.  She studied, pondered, and “kept” all this knowledge, these observations, and events in the silence of her humble heart.

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” (Luke 2:34-35) 

There is a truly divine purpose for Mary.  Reflect on two words in the above verse: “so that”.  Let me know what you think.

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Mary is a true teacher and perfect model for prayer and personal reflection.  If we emulate our Mother Mary, if we “keep” and “reflect” in our hearts what Jesus says to us and He what does “in” and “through” us, we are well on the way to true holiness.  If we emulate Mary, we shall never lack God’s grace!!  And finally, by reflecting and praying as Mary did on what Jesus has given us, we shall obtain a deeper understanding of the mystery of Jesus Christ Himself.  Vatican II says the following about contemplation, meditation, and reflection on the “Word” of God:

There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on.  This comes about in various ways.  It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience.” (Vatican II, “Dei Verbum“, 8).

 

Today, we take notice of the Blessed Virgin Mary honoring her commitment and promise to God the Father by naming her child “Jesus”.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph is also told (in a dream) to name the child “Jesus” because He will save the Jewish (and ALL) people.  As I wrote earlier, “Jesus” in Hebrew means “God Saves.” – – And, indeed He has, and is, and will continue to do so.  He has – – in us – – ALREADY!!!

Wow, even in His personal name “Jesus”, He Himself announces the mission He came to accomplish.  This reveals that personal names are important to God; so they should be important to us.  So, – – Think about your name, and the names of families and friends.  Reflect on these names; Ponder what each name means? – – And ask: Why was each person given their specific name? 

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Just as John the Baptist was given his name by an angel and had been incorporated into the people of Israel through his circumcision, so too is the infant Jesus.  Jesus, whose name was revealed to His mother and His foster-father by the same angel messenger, was circumcised per Jewish tradition on the eighth day (Octave) of His birth.  On that day, Jesus was incorporated into the “chosen people” of Israel and was to be by a “sign of fulfilling the covenant”.  This circumcision rite was instituted by God the Father as an outward sign to Abraham to single out those who will belong to the “chosen people”.  It was an external sign of the covenant agreement that God the Father made with Abraham and for all Abraham’s future generations:

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.  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. … God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.  This 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 house born slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:1–12).

 

So, for the Jewish people, circumcision and the giving of a name had great importance, and was done at the same time.  When a name was given, it represented what that unique person should be in the future.  A person’s name expressed the reality of his or her “being” at its deepest, most intimate level.  From His circumcision till His death, Jesus would be forever known by the name given Him at His circumcision!!  “Jesus“, means “God Saves”, thus, “Savior”.  His name was given to Him – – not as the result of any human decision – – but in keeping with the “command” of God the Father, which the “messenger” Archangel Gabriel revealed to the Blessed Virgin, Mary, and her betrothed, Joseph:

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” (Luke 1:31);

And,

The angel of the Lord appeared to Him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Ponder this: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten “Son of God”, became “incarnate” (made human) in order to redeem and save not only ALL Israel, but also ALL mankind.  Remember, in our Creed, it says:

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” (Nicene Creed)

So, it is not only appropriate, but also very fitting that He is called “Jesus”, Messiah Anointed Savior.  AND He IS!!

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In the birth and naming of Jesus we see the wondrous design and salvation plan of God the Father in giving us a “Messiah Savior” who would bring us grace (new life), mercy, and freedom from the power of sin and from the fear of eternal death.  He also brought us the freedom for serving others, i.e., for doing unto others as you would like them to do towards us.  The name “Jesus” signifies that the very name of God the Father is present in the person of His Son who became “man” for OUR salvation.  

Saint Peter, the Apostle, cried out:

There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4:12).

In the name of “Jesus”, the “fallen angels”, Satan, and other demons tremble and flee; the maim walk; the blind see; the deaf hear; and the physically and spiritually dead are raised to new life again:  

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Jesus’ name is exalted, praised, and acclaimed far above every other name.

There were (and still are) many who were (and still are) called by the name “Jesus”.  However, isn’t it more appropriate to call our Savior by this name?  Jesus Christ brought light, freedom and salvation, – – not to one only person, – – but to ALL mankind of ALL ages.  To those oppressed, not only by starvation or tyranny, but also by lack of knowledge, Jesus Christ brought light, freedom, and salvation by coming and living with us in the shadow of death and the confinement from the frustrating and restricting “chains” of Satan, sin, and eternal death.

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Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God Himself, in His eternal Son, Jesus Christ, – – made man – – who:

will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21).

The name Jesus is at the center of all Catholic Christian prayer.  It is with, in, and through Jesus Christ that we pray to God the Father, – – with, in, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Many Catholics and other Christians have died with this one single, simple to say, “Word” on their lips, “Jesus”!!!  Do YOU praise, extol, and hail His name – – “Jesus” – – AND pray with confidence in, with, and through HIS NAME?

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To conclude, bear in mind that the name “Jesus” means “God saves.”  Reflect on how Jesus Christ fulfilled the mission that His name still suggests.  Pray that you will fulfill your “personal and unique mission” to be a faithful disciple of Jesus, in whom you (and we ALL) find our salvation – – even NOW, TODAY!!  Pray for our Mother Mary’s help in being faithful to Jesus Christ in all we do, say, and think – – ALWAYS!!

Our personal call to discipleship includes three aspects, just as Mary’s did two thousand (or so) years ago: first, discipleship means faith, prayer, and reflection on the events of our lives; through faith, prayer, and reflection, we come to see God’s true presence, action, and work in our lives; second, discipleship means a complete and total obedience to God and His will; and third, discipleship includes loyalty, commitment, and faithfulness to a community of faith, the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”.  This IS our faith; this IS our path.  Thanks for walking with me!  Pax Christi!  

Have a happy and grace-filled New Year.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Hail Mary

“Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
‘Jesus’.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

Faith and Works, Part 2

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Romans. 2:13). RSV

For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13) KJV

*

 “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgments …” (Hebrews 10:26-27). RSV

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment … ”  (Hebrews 10:26-27). KJV

*

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Blessed Waldo (d. 1320)

Waldo (also known as Vivaldo or Ubaldo) was a disciple of a saintly priest, Bartolo, both of them natives of northern Italy.  When Bartolo contracted leprosy and entered a hospital, Waldo accompanied his friend and nursed him until Bartolo died 20 years later.  In return, Waldo’s religious education was enriched by instruction from the holy priest.  It was at his suggestion that Waldo joined the secular Franciscans.

Following the death of his spiritual father in 1300, Waldo determined to withdraw from the world altogether and to devote himself to conversing with God and focusing on heaven.  Accordingly, he set out for a large forest not far from his birthplace and found a large hollow chestnut tree.  The cavity of the tree offered barely enough room for him to kneel, but it became the hermitage in which he spent the next 20 years in complete solitude.

It is said that one day in May in the year 1320, the bells of the church from the adjacent village began to ring of their own accord.  As local residents ran to the church seeking to unravel the mystery of the bells, a hunter emerged from the forest.  He reported to the assembled crowd that his hounds had circled a hollow chestnut tree nearby and that they began barking excitedly.  When the hunter approached the tree to investigate the matter, he found a recluse in the cavity of the tree, dead on his knees. Just as the hunter finished recounting the story, the bells ceased ringing.

For the inhabitants of the town, it was utterly clear that their humble, solitary neighbor was indeed a holy man.  They processed to his cell, brought his body back to the church and laid it to rest beneath the high altar.  As years passed, many miracles occurred at the tomb of Waldo, while his former cell in the chestnut tree was converted into a chapel in honor of the Blessed Mother.

Comment: Waldo would be considered a strange fellow in our world.  He was a total misfit by modern standards!  Yet his prayers bound him to the rest of the world.  His neighbors realized at his death how much they depended on his prayers; perhaps they even provided him with food and water for those 20 years he spent in his chestnut tree.

However little we understand his chosen lifestyle, he reminds us we also serve when we spend time alone with God.

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

 

Meditate on each of these virtues:

  • The Theological Virtues: Love, Hope and Faith
  • The four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice.
  • The Seven Heavenly Virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Temperance, Prudence.

How do you see yourself using them?

As a layperson (and SFO member) how much do you treasure these virtues?

How much effort are you making to embrace these virtues more completely?

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

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

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

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

“Great, Another Question About the Greater Greatness!” – Matthew 22:34-40 †


 

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Let’s put overpopulation in perspective.  There will be a total of 7 billion people in the world by the end of this month.  “Progressives” are concerned that this amount of people is too much, and the world is getting over-crowded.

Well, if each of the 7 billion people stood on a square three foot by three foot, the overall size would be 47.5 square miles, about the size of a couple typical counties in ONE state.

An acre of land is 208.7 feet per side.  For us “city dwellers”, an American football field is 360 feet by 160 feet, about 1.3 acres.  The United States land mass is 3,536,294 sq mi of land (No water is included in the figures).  SO, each of the 7 billion people on the earth can live within the US borders, and have about a 1/2 acre of property, EACH!  (That’s more than I have now.)

The Earth’s land mass is 57,500,000 sq mi (16.3 times larger than U.S. land mass).  With this in mind, each of the 7 billion people living RIGHT NOW can have about 8 acres of possible land, on average.  Eight acres is a plot of land 1670 feet on each side, or about a 1/3 mile, on each side.  That is about 50 football fields for EACH person on earth!!

THE WORLD IS NOT OVERPOPULATED.  From an ecological point of view, there are plenty of resources available for our NEEDS.  We just don’t want to share and/or pay for acquiring them!!  Overpopulation IS NOT the problem.  The real problem is two-fold: personal greed and materialism is!!

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I know a “good book” to read.  It is 2000 years old, and has 73 “chapters” [actually, books themselves] (some are missing 7, removed only a few hundred years ago).  It is filled with suspense, murder, love, war, sex, and mystery.  The interesting part is that everyone already knows the ending: the main character (and His followers) finally wins (actually won on day one*), but is still hard to put down.  This book comes in EVERY language spoken (including Braille), and is the most read book EVER (sorry Mark Twain).  (* What do you think about this “fact”?  Tell me what “day one” is for you?)

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   502 – The Synodus Palmaris, called by Gothic king Theodoric the Great, discharges Pope Symmachus of all charges, thus ending the schism of Antipope Laurentius.
†   1450 – Death of Johannes van Capestrano, Italian saint, at age 70
†   1456 – Death of Giovanni da Capistrano, Italian saint (b. 1386)
†   1550 – Death of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (b. 1480)
†   1870 – Birth of Francis Kelley, Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma (d. 1948)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Giovanni da Capistrano; Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius; Saint Anthony Mary Claret; Saint Ignatius of Constantinople

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

 

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 Quote of the Day:

 

 

“Love without faith is as bad as faith without love.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Pharisees continuing to test Jesus with a different question: about the greatest commandment.

 

(NAB Matthew 22:34-40) 34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking,36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him,“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

This week’s Gospel follows closely behind, and is actually attached to last Sunday’s Gospel reading.  Today’s reading has the last of three questions put to Jesus by Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. 

The Herodians and the Pharisees asked the first question (in the Gospel two Sundays ago), about paying taxes to Caesar.  The Sadducees asked the second question (last Sunday), about the Resurrection (cf., Matthew 22:22-33).  The third question, today’s Gospel, is asked by a “Scholar” (probably by a Scribe and definitely a Pharisee), who asks Jesus which one of the ten is the “greatest” of the commandments.

Now, why do you think these groups are all questioning or testing Jesus Christ? Because these “pious” men are trying – – with all their power and knowledge – – to trick Jesus into saying something that could get Him arrested.  The background and context for today’s reading is one of mounting tension, hostility, and divisiveness between Jesus, the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and the Jewish faithful.

Isn’t it interesting that all three religious factions (the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes), plus a separate Jewish political group (the Herodians), all considered Jesus a threat to their livelihoods and lifestyles.  They all tried to trap Him, and none succeeded.

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Both the professional Scribes and the group of Pharisees prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements.  Both made it a life-time practice to study the 616 “precepts” of the Old Testament, along with the many numerous Rabbinic “commentaries” (called the “Mitzvot”, Hebrew for “good deeds and acts of kindness”).  So, they tested Jesus to see whether He correctly understood the law as they did – – (not as they should).  

With this fact in mind, what is meant by Matthew reporting that Jesus was “tested”?  This verb is used often throughout the Gospels when attempts to embarrass Jesus’ occur.  These “tests” can be put into two differing challenges: to DO or to SAY something they believed impossible!   Attempts to challenge Jesus to DO something they believe impossible can be found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven.”  (Matthew 16:1),

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.” (Mark 8:11),

And,

Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.”  (Luke 11:16).

The second challenge, having Jesus SAY something that can be used against Him, can also be found in two of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Mark):

Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, ‘Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?’” (Matthew 22:17-18); 

One of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’” (Matthew 22:35-36); 

“The Pharisees approached and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’  They were testing him.” (Mark 10:2), 

and,

“They came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.  You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or should we not pay?’” (Mark 12:14). 

It is obvious that these “pious” men wanted to trap Jesus in a “catch-22” situation.  He would be “damned” either way – – or so they thought!!

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For the devoutly pious Jew, ALL the commandments were to be kept with equal care.   In their questioning of Jesus, there is evidence of an obsession within the Jewish community about which “law” is the greatest:

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36).

Why would any Jewish person even care what “law” is the greatest when they should believe ALL the laws are indeed equal in status?  (Hmm?!)

Today’s question required Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses (the Scribes’ job in the Temple).  Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and over six hundred additional rules, mostly originating in the Torah.  Adherence to the Mosaic Law, for a devoutly pious Jew, is an expression of faithfulness to God’s covenant with “Israel” and there response bu obedience to these rules.  The ranking of the Commandments seemed to have been regularly debated among the teachers of the Law, even though ALL the Commandments were equal in importance, and today’s reading is a good proof of this.

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Interestingly, Jesus startled them with His profound simplicity and mastery of the “law of God”, and its true purpose.  In verse 37 of today’s reading, Jesus’ answer is simple and directly from the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, written by Moses through the Holy Spirit.  His answer can be found in the book of Deuteronomy:

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Matthew omitted the first part of the “fuller” quotation, found both in Deuteronomy and Mark’s Gospel:

Hear, O Israel!  The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!  Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.”  (Deuteronomy 6:4-5);

Jesus replied, ‘The first is this: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”’” (Mark 12:29-30).

Matthew may have omitted this first part of the quotation to focus on the fulfillment of the promises of the Holy One of Israel, for his first century Jewish-Catholic Church, rather than emphasizing the monotheistic (ONE God belief) of the Jewish faith.  Jesus Christ is the reality of, and fulfillment of that faith.  For me, what Jesus was declaring with His new, yet old, answer, is the top priority of the love for God to occupy the total person (heart, mind, and soul – – of both the Jew AND the Gentile)!!

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Jesus, in His unique quality of expanding the issue, goes beyond the extent of the question put to Him.  He joins to His “greatest and the first commandment” a second, “love of neighbor”, also found in the Torah:

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18)

Here’s a revelation for us – NOW, as well as the Jewish people listening to Jesus – THEN.  This combination of the two commandments, “love your God and Love your neighbor”, was already a part of Judaism.  In reality, Jesus DID NOT pronounce anything new to the Jewish people; He only emphasized what should have been recognized and lived by them ALREADY!!

This “double commandment” in today’s reading is the divine source from which the whole (Mosaic) law, and what the “Prophets” stated and affirmed in the Old Testament, originate.  “The Old lives in the New – – and the New fulfills the Old”!!  Only God has the capabilities, with a true authority, to divinely pronounce the “source” thousands of years after the Mosaic Laws had been well established.  After all, “He was, He is, and He will always BE!!”

Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question with a two-fold summary of faith.  He says that all of the commandments can be summarized in two [supplementary and complementary] commandments: “love God and love your neighbor”. Both of these directives were essential elements of the religious tradition Jesus learned as a youth, from His Jewish community.  Indeed, these two “old and new” commandments, together, still continue to be essential and important aspects of contemporary Jewish religious understanding today.  Jesus’ response to His “questioners” anticipates a vital relationship between these two aspects of the Jewish Law.  “Love of God” finds its expression in our “love for our neighbor”!!

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In Summary, we learn about “love” from real, “hard and true” examples witnessed in family life and outside the home by friends and neighbors.  We can “love God and love our neighbors” by showing everyday acts of charity, generosity, and kindness.  (Remember “Mitzvot”?)In doing so, we show (and do) our own expressions of “love for God”.  These acts, small and large, simple and extreme, are the expressions of what Jesus identified as the two greatest commandments: “love God and love neighbor”.

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What does God require of us Catholic Christians?  It is simply that we love as He loves! (Note the present tense!)  God IS love, and everything He does flows from His love for us.  God loved us first, and our love for Him is a response to His exceeding grace and kindness towards us.  The “love of God” comes first with the “love of neighbor” firmly anchored in the “love of God”.  They cannot be separated.  The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what he loves and reject what is immoral, hateful, and contrary to His kindness and love.  

What makes our love for God and His commands grow in, through, and out of each of us?  It is our Faith in God and hope in His promises that strengthens us in actual “loving of God.”  Faith, love, and hope are absolutely essential for a proper relationship with the Trinitarian God.  Faith, love, and hope are the links uniting us with Him.  The more we know of God, the more we love Him.  The more we love Him, the greater we believe and hope in His promises.  

The Lord, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new freedom to love as He loves.  Is there anything keeping you from the love of God? – – and the joy of serving others with a generous heart?  – – Let us remember what Saint Paul says of hope and love:

Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5).

Do you know the love which conquers all?  I do!!  I hope you do too!!

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Love

“O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of those whom I have injured.  Amen.”

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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 New Translation of the Mass

 

 

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

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

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

 

There is only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we presently say:

“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest”,

with the new liturgical text we will say:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.

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

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

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Hilarion (c. 291-371)

 

Despite his best efforts to live in prayer and solitude, today’s saint found it difficult to achieve his deepest desire.  People were naturally drawn to Hilarion as a source of spiritual wisdom and peace.  He had reached such fame by the time of his death that his body had to be secretly removed so that a shrine would not be built in his honor.  Instead, he was buried in his home village.

St. Hilarion the Great, as he is sometimes called, was born in Palestine.  After his conversion to Christianity he spent some time with St. Anthony of Egypt, another holy man drawn to solitude.  Hilarion lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert, where he also experienced spiritual dryness that included temptations to despair.  At the same time, miracles were attributed to him.

As his fame grew, a small group of disciples wanted to follow Hilarion.  He began a series of journeys to find a place where he could live away from the world.  He finally settled on Cyprus, where he died in 371 at about age 80.

Hilarion is celebrated as the founder of monasticism in Palestine.  Much of his fame flows from the biography of him written by St. Jerome.

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

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

 

What is the meaning of “penance”?

What is the meaning of “worthy fruits of penance”?

What can God’s parental love mean in your life?

What is the greatest quality of a loving parent?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 23 & 24 of 26:

 

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

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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.

“Mercy Me, Please, Mercy Me!” – Matthew 18:21-35†


 

 

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is Patriot’s Day.  Please keep all individuals involved (directly or indirectly) with the evil of terrorism in your prayers today, and every day.  2,977 souls lost to 19 hijackers on four planes.  In addition, 6,294 people were reported to have been treated in area hospitals for injuries related to the 9/11 attacks in New York City.  Individuals from more than 90 countries were directly affected on this ill-fated day.  Please Lord, let us not forget these brave souls, and their sacrifice at the hands of pure evil.

(Information obtained from Wikipedia.)

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Wednesday September 14 is the Feast of the Cross.  According to legends that spread widely throughout Western Europe, the true Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem.  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine.

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September 14th It is also a very important day for Franciscans.  It was on this feast that St. Francis of Assisi received the “stigmata”.  During the Lent of 1224, two years before his death, his mind and heart turned frequently to meditate upon the suffering of Christ and His obedience to the Father.  Retreating with Friar Leo into the wilderness, Francis agonized over the great pain that Jesus experienced and thanked our Lord for the supreme sacrifice that He had endured.

On 14 September 1224, in the solitude of prayer on Mount Alverna, while praising God and pouring out his love for Him, Francis beheld the crucified Christ borne aloft by six wings.  In this moment of seraphic ecstasy, he who had sought to imitate Christ in all things, received the marks of his Lord’s crucifixion—the stigmata—on his hands, feet, and side, two years before Sister Death came to him.

And so, when the world was growing cold, Christ renewed the marks of His passion in the flesh of Saint Francis to rekindle our love for God.  By bearing the marks of the crucifixion in his body, Francis experienced an even deeper union with Jesus.  Thus, the God whom Francis had cherished, both as the child of Bethlehem and as the victim at Calvary, brought the Saint into more perfect conformity with His Son.

“Heavenly Father, you gave your servant Francis the grace of intimate union with your crucified Son.  Help us with the cross we bear that, united with you, we too may know the peace and joy that Francis received.  We ask this in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.”

(from the website: http://www.shrinesf.org/francis08.htm)

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   506 – The bishops of Visigothic Gaul meet in the Council of Agde.
†   1226 – The Roman Catholic practice of public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass spreads from monasteries to parishes.
†   1279 – Death of Robert Kilwardby, Archbishop of Canterbury (b. c. 1215)
†   1557 – Catholic & Lutheran theology debated in Worm
†   1838 – Birth of John Ireland, American Catholic archbishop (d. 1918)
†   1914 – Birth of Patriarch Pavle, Patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church
†   1987 – Shoot out at Jean-Bertrand Aristides’ (former Catholic Priest) church in Haiti, 12 die
†   2001 – Coordinated attacks resulting in the collapse or severe damage of several skyscrapers at the World Trade Center in New York City, destruction of the western portion of The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and an intentional passenger airliner crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Two thirds of rescuers (FD, PD, EMS) in New York were Roman Catholics.
†   2004 – All passengers are killed when a helicopter crashes in the Aegean Sea. Passengers include Patriarch Peter VII of Alexandria and 16 others (including journalists and bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria).
†   Feasts/Memorials: Beheading of John the Baptist in the Eastern Orthodox tradition (Julian Calendar); Feast of Neyrouz, the New Year’s Day in the Coptic calendar

(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:

 

 

“He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would reach heaven: for everyone has need to be forgiven.” ~ Thomas Fuller

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that we must forgive one another AS God has forgiven us.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 18:21-35) 21Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  22Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  23That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  24When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  25Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.  26At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’  27Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  28When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.  He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  29Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  30But he refused.  Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.  31Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  32His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  33Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’  34Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.  35So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

Today’s Gospel reading is known as:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.”

This is the final section (of three) of Jesus’ “Discourse on the Church”, and deals with forgiveness which His disciples are to give to fellow disciples who sin against them.

Today’s Gospel reading directly follows last week’s Gospel in which Jesus taught the disciples how to handle disputes and conflict within the first-century Jewish (predominately) Catholic (Universal) Christian community.  In today’s reading, Peter asks Jesus how many times one should give forgiveness to another.

Jesus also gives a lesson on how mercy and justice go together.  In the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, the prophet “Amos” speaks of God forgiving transgression three times, but warns of God punishing for the fourth:

For three crimes of …, and now four— I will not take it back.”(see Amos 1:3-13; 2:1-6). 

Peter proposes a reasonable number of times, i.e., perhaps “seven”.  Jesus Christ replies by expanding Peter’s proposal by an “enormous” amount; not just seven times should one forgive, but 77 times (perfectly complete AND completely prefect and complete [will explain a little later]).  Through the parable, we come to understand the depths of God’s mercy toward us and the results of our acceptance of God’s forgiveness.

 

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To the question Peter asks about how often forgiveness is to be granted (verse 21), Jesus answers that it is to be given without limit (verse 22).  He further illustrates His answer with a parable about the unmerciful and unforgiving servant (verses 23–34).  Through this parable, Jesus is warning ALL OF US that His heavenly Father will give those who do not forgive the same treatment as that given to the unmerciful servant (verse 35). 

Matthew 18:21–22 corresponds to Luke 17:4:

“If he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” (Luke 17:4).

However, today’s parable and Jesus’ final warning are distinctive to Matthew’s Gospel.  It is suggested by some biblical scholars that today’s parable did not originally belong to this situation.  This reason is that it really does not deal with repeated forgiveness, which is the point of Peter’s question and Jesus’ reply.

 

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Why does Peter ask Jesus (in verse 21) if he must forgive someone “as many as seven times”?  For part of the answer, let’s look at the meaning of the number seven in Holy Scripture. (Information obtained from http://www.BibleStudy.org.)

Seven, in Hebrew, is “shevah”.  It is from the root, “savah”, meaning to be full or satisfied.  Hence the meaning of the word “seven” is dominated by this root meaning of fullness and complete satisfaction.  On the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation.  His creation was full and complete, and good and perfect.  Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it.  Hence the word, “Shavath”, means to cease, desist, rest, and “Shabbath”, “Sabbath”, is the “day of rest”.  

It is seven, therefore, that impresses (and means) perfection and completeness in connection with which it is used.  It marks off the week of seven days, which, arbitrary as it may seem to be, is universal and immemorial in its observance among all nations, and in all times.  A “Seven Day Week” passes on an eternal “Sabbath-keeping”, which “keeps on” for the people of God in all its everlasting perfection.

 

In the creative works of God, “seven” completes the colors of the spectrum and rainbow; it satisfies in music the notes of the scale. In both, the eighth is only a repetition of the first.

Another meaning of the root, “Savah”, is to swear, or make an oath.  This oath is clear from its first occurrence in Genesis:

“This is why the place is called Beer-sheba; the two of them took an oath there.” (Genesis 21:31),  

in which this oath was based upon the “seven ewe lambs“:

“Abraham also set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock, and Abimelech asked him, ‘What is the purpose of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?’  Abraham answered, ‘The seven ewe lambs you shall accept from me that you may be my witness that I dug this well.’ (Genesis 21:28-30),

points to the idea of satisfaction or fullness in an oath.  

 

The Greek translation of “Seventy-seven times” (verse 22) corresponds exactly to a verse in Genesis:

“If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” (Genesis 4:24).

There is a probable reference, though by difference, to limitless vengeance implied in the verse relating to “Lamech” in the Genesis text.  However, Jesus’ answer demands “limitless forgiveness” – – Perfectly AND Completely – – on the part of His disciples!!

 

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The “Master” in today’s parable decides to settle accounts with his servants.  We are told that one particular servant owed him an “enormous” sum of money.  Although the servant promises to repay everything, it is unlikely that he would ever be able to repay the debt that he owes.  However, the Master listens to his servant and is moved by the humility of his pleading, and mercifully forgives the entire debt.  

God will settle our account which we have with Him, in the SAME way we settle our accounts with others.  Let us all remember the “Golden Rule”:

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)

So, how much did this servant owe.  You will be amazed at what I found out about this debt.  A huge amount, per biblical scholars, literally meant, “ten thousand talents” (per NAB footnotes).  The “talent” (A Hebrew coin) was a unit of coinage of high, yet varying value, depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin.  It is mentioned in the New Testament only in today’s reading, and in the “Parable of the Talents” (cf., Matthew 25:14–30).

To emphasize the worth of a “talent”, it took 8883 denaii (=/-)* to make ONE talent.  One denarius (a Roman coin) was the usual payment for an entire days work.  Thus, ten thousand talents was equivalent to payment for slightly over 204,203 YEARS of work (I assume pre-taxed).  In Jesus’ time, this amount would have been greater than the total revenue of an entire province!  (This “Master” must have been the “Bill Gates” of his day.)  [* per “Talents (Biblical Hebrew) to Denarius (Biblical Roman) Conversion Calculator”]

 

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In those days, justice was swift.  Justice will also be swift at the “Final Judgment” (the Parousia) as well.  At the Parousia, it will be TOO LATE to justify your account; it needs to be taken care of NOW!!

The servant says to his master, “I will pay you back in full” (verse 26).  This is a grossly empty promise, given the size of his “enormous” debt.  As I said a moment ago, there was no probable way he could ever repay such a large amount.

There is no offence which can be done to us that would compare with OUR debt to God the Father!  We have been forgiven a debt way beyond all paying, just like the servant in this reading.  In order to ransom our debt of sin, God the Father gave up His only begotten Son.  And God the Son (Jesus Christ) paid our debt (my debt and your debt!)!  If God forgave each of us our debt to Him, which was (and still is) very great, “enormous” in fact, then we too must forgive others the debt they owe us, completely and perfectly!!

The servant asked for forgiveness, and his “Master” granted his request.  All we have to do is two things.  First, acknowledge our sins and call it by name.  And second, to ask sincerely for forgiveness.  God, our Father, our Master, will certainly grant our personal request as well.  Do not hesitate: go to confession NOW!! – – (PLEASE!)

 

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Rather than displaying gratitude for this forgiveness, the servant confronted a fellow servant who owed him a small debt, a pittance when compared with the amount owed to his Master.  The unmerciful servant refused the pleas of his fellow servant, sending him to prison.

Did this servant show the same kindness and mercy toward another that was shown to him? … NO!!  He “sought out” another who owed him a debt of just a few hundred denarii: “a much smaller amount” (verse 28).  Remember, a denarius was the normal daily wage of a laborer, and the difference between these two debts is enormous.  This comparison (or actually, a lack of comparison due to the enormous difference in amount) signals a lesson in the absurdity and travesty of the conduct from a Catholic Christian who has received a great grace (a beautiful gift) of forgiveness from God the Father, then refuses to forgive the relatively minor offenses done to him by others.

“I wouldn’t do that!” may be your response.  Well, remember this reflection the next time someone does something nice for you, and you repay by ridiculing, slandering, or defaming another only a short time later.  Have you ever received Christ in the Eucharist, and then thought poorly of another in the communion line; or, said (even yelled) a swear word to another while driving home from THAT mass?  Hmm!!

 

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Jesus teaches that one must forgive in order to be forgiven.  If we do not forgive our fellow man we cannot expect God to forgive us.  If we want mercy shown to us, we must be ready to forgive others as God the Father has already forgiven us (Because of Jesus Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, His investment in us.).

Remember, your actions have repercussions.  If you treated others of God creation with disrespect, why would you expect “respect” from God the Creator?  If you disregard others, God will most certainly disregard you as well.  Hmm, think of these words: “disrespect” and “disregard”.  If you “dis-” others, God the Father will “dis-” you as well. 

 

Then, a few other servants tell the merciful Master about the unforgiving actions of his servant.  Then the Master calls his servant to an account; and punishes the “unforgiving servant” because he refused to show the same kind of mercy given to him previously from his Master.  Jesus, in today’s parable, concludes by declaring emphatically that this is how it will be with God the Father toward those who refuse to forgive another.

Just like Santa Claus, God the Father knows who has been “Naughty and Nice”.  He doesn’t need a checklist or a group of “elves” to keep track of our sins and iniquities since they are written on our souls.  Only the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) can wipe the soul totally clean.

 

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The servant’s Master in today’s reading was “dissed” with the servant’s actions towards another as well.  He summoned him, he judged him; and he sentenced him.  It was too late for repaying any debt, any amount.  Since this “sinners’ debt was so great as to be realistically un-payable (verse 34), his punishment would be endless.

Interestingly, in this thought, I find some relative comfort and hope.  If our sins are too great, our reward will obviously be eternal damnation and separation, the ultimate “dis-” appointment.  However, knowing I am not an angelic being (my mother and wife call me a “fallen” angel anyway), I know that a small amount of sin will not permanently separate me from my Lord.  There is hope in knowing that a small amount of sin and iniquities can be purified in “purgatory” prior to ascending to the highest heaven.  There are many references in both the Old and New Testaments to a place we know as “Purgatory”.  Here is just two:

Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:26)”,

And,

Nothing unclean will enter it, nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies.  Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelations 21:27).

(Regarding “purgatory”, please review the following: Matthew 5:48, 12:32, 12:36; Hebrew 12:14; James 1:14-15, 3:2; 1 John 5:16-17;  2 Samuel 12:13-14; 2 Maccabees 12:44-46; 1 Corinthians 3:15, 15:29-30; 1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6; and 2 Timothy 1:16-18.  (If you know of others, please let me know.)

 

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To summarize, God the Father’s forgiveness has already been given to us through Jesus’ Sacrificial investment in me and all of us, through our baptism, and continuing through the special graces of all the Sacraments which perfectly complete and mature us as members of the Catholic Church, God’s family on earth.  Jesus made it very clear that God the Father will also withdraw His mercy and forgiveness at the “Final Judgment” for those who have not imitated His forgiveness by their own actions during their earthly life:

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

 There is an ever-present temptation to quantify forgiveness as Peter tried to do.  But, Jesus’ point is one of forgiveness – – NOT in quantity, (the number of times we extend forgiveness to another) – – but in the quality of attitude, i.e., in perfect and complete mercy (forgiveness) to ALL, even unto our enemies.   

 

In today’s parable, the Master’s forgiveness is analogous to God’s forgiveness toward us.  His forgiveness and mercy should be used to transform us, (inside – outside), helping us to be as forgiving as God the Father is toward us.  The lesson, the moral of the story, is exceptionally clear: If we hoard God’s mercy while showing no mercy to others, we, in fact, forfeit the effects of God’s mercy in our lives.

The Evangelist James says that judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy:

“Judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (James 2:13). 

Mercy is a true gift – – a grace – – offered in a way in which “justice” is not disregarded.  Mercy “seasons” justice as “salt” seasons meat and vegetables, giving them flavor.  Mercy follows justice, and “perfects” it.  Mercy, with justice, is a delightful meal to consume, and is exactly what we obtain with each Eucharistic celebration. 

 

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To conclude, we learned (and continue to learn) to trust God’s mercy and forgiveness through experiencing forgiveness from those closest to us, our family and friends.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that forgiveness is measured by its quality more than its quantity.

Consider times recently when you or another sought the forgiveness of another.  Were any statements made, putting “conditions” on forgiveness, such as “I will do this if you do that” or “I will accept your apology if or when ….”  

Do you sometimes “keep count” or “put conditions” on your forgiveness of another?  Do you find yourself sounding like Peter, concerned with quantity of forgiveness rather than offering forgiveness abundantly and unconditionally? – – rather than offering forgiveness perfectly and completely?  This is something you may be doing without even realizing, so please reflect on your attitude, as well as your behavior when offering forgiveness. 

What does the servant do to make his Master so angry, so “dissed”?  Well, the answer is simple: he refuses to forgive his fellow man’s debt.  Because we have all received God’s forgiveness, God the Father expects that we will also be forgiving toward others.  Do you hold any grudge or resentment towards anyone?  Please, please, PLEASE release these vices, these hindrances, and these malice’s toward others, before it is TOO LATE!!

Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question of how many times to forgive another, at the end of today’s parable, is found in the attitude and intention to forgive, as described in the following words:

“… forgives his brother from his heart(Matthew 18:35).

Therefore, the number of times we forgive another is, in reality, less important than the depth of our forgiveness.  So, we must forgive one another from the heart, and with unconditional love – – perfectly and completely! – – Because God has forgiven us from His heart, with unconditional love, perfectly and completely – – FIRST!!

 

 

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

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.

 

A second option for the “penitential rite” (the “Confiteor” being the first option) has been revised.  This second form had been little used in recent years.  The second option is presently:

Lord, we have sinned against you:|
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your mercy and love.
And grant us your salvation.

May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.

It will now read as follows:

The priest says, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.”
The people respond, “For we have sinned against you.
Then the priest says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,”
and the people respond, “And grant us your salvation.”

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840)

 

A sermon he heard at age 15 inspired today’s saint to become a missionary in China.  There he met a brutal death on a cross for refusing to renounce his faith.

Born in France in 1802, Jean-Gabriel became a Vincentian priest.  He displayed so many gifts and had such fine personal and spiritual qualities that, for a time, his religious order kept him busy closer to home.

He finally received permission to begin his missionary endeavors in 1835.  After a 1,000-mile trip by boat and foot across three provinces, he arrived in central China.  In one early letter written to his community in Paris he described himself as a curious sight: “my head shaved, a long pig-tail, stammering my new languages, eating with chopsticks.”

He soon joined the Vincentians in helping to rescue abandoned Chinese children and in educating them in the Catholic faith.  He was arrested in 1839 under an edict that banned Christianity.  He was tortured and interrogated for months.  Almost one year later he was executed by strangling while hanging on a cross.

St. Jean-Gabriel was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1996.  Chinese government officials denied permission for any public Mass commemorating the new saint.

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:

 

Peace

 

What does the liturgy at Mass mean when it uses the word “Peace” several times before Communion?

Is the “sign of peace” at Mass – only a gesture? … Or, is it a prayer? 

What meanings do I give the “sign of peace” at Mass?

Do we (do I) let Christ “guide our feet into the way of peace”?

How do examples and principles of prominent people (and neighbors) in our lifetime fulfill your call to peace? 

Can you give examples?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 11 & 12 of 26:

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

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

 

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12. Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.