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“Is ‘Baptism’ By ‘FIRE’ As Painful As it Sounds? For Some, It Just May Be! We Call Them Martyrs” – Luke 3:15-16,21-22†


  the-Baptism-of-Jesus

“The Baptism of the Lord”

 

. table_of_contentsToday’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:

 

Postures and Gestures at Mass: Catholic Calisthenics

So, why all the exercising at Mass: genuflect, kneel, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, bow, kneel, sit, stand, and finally, genuflect?  Wow, I’m tired just writing the sentence!  Well, in the celebration of Mass we are to raise our hearts, thoughts and voices to God.  Being creatures composed of “body” as well as 00000000000000063560“spirit”, our “prayers” are not confined to solely our thoughts, hearts and voices; it is also expressed by our bodies as well.  When our bodies participate in praying – – we truly and fully pray with our “whole person” – – as the embodied spirits God created us to be.  This engagement of our whole being in prayer helps us to pray with greater attention

During Mass we assume different postures: standing, kneeling, sitting, and make a variety of gestures.  These postures and gestures are far from being merely ceremonial in nature.  They truly have profound meaning, and can certainly enhance our personal participation in Mass.  In fact, these actions ARE the way in which we engage our entire self, body and soul, in the prayer that we know as “Mass”.  Each posture underlines and reinforces the meaning of the action in which we are taking part during that specific moment in our worship.  

Standing is a sign of respect and honor, so we stand as the celebrant who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly.  This posture, from the earliest days of the Church, has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above.  When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us.  By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift.  We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord, and the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, the sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible with Christ who, now gloriously risen from the dead, is the cause of our salvation.

The posture of kneeling signified penance in the early Church: the awareness of sin casts us to the ground!  So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter Season when the prevailing spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving.  In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify the homage of a vassal to his lord, and more recently 00000000000000063360this posture has come to signify adoration.  It is for this reason that the bishops of this country have chosen the posture of kneeling for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.  

Sitting is the posture of listening and meditation, so the congregation sits for the pre-Gospel readings and may also sit for the period of meditation following Communion.

Gestures too involve our bodies in prayer.  The most familiar of these is the Sign of the Cross with which we begin Mass and with which, in the form of a blessing, the Mass concludes.  Because it was by his death on the cross that Christ redeemed humankind, we trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips and hearts at the beginning of the Gospel.  But there are other gestures that intensify our prayer at Mass.  During the Confiteor the action of striking our breasts at the words through my own fault can strengthen my awareness that my sin is my fault.  

In the Creed we are invited to bow at the words which commemorate the Incarnation: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.  This gesture signifies our profound respect and gratitude to Christ who, though God, did not hesitate to come among us as a human being, sharing our human condition in order to save us from sin and restore us to friendship with God.  This gratitude is expressed with even greater solemnity on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord and on Christmas when we genuflect at these words.

The Our Father is followed by the Exchange of Peace, the gesture through which we express a prayerful greeting of peace, that we are at peace, not enmity, with others.  This exchange is symbolic.  The persons near me with whom I share the peace signify for me, as I do for them, the broader community of the Church and all humankind.

Finally, with the new General Instruction for the Roman Mass (GIRM), we are asked to make a sign of reverence, to be determined by the bishops of each country or region, before receiving Communion standing.  The bishops of this country have determined that the sign which we will give before Communion is to be a bow, a gesture through which we express our reverence and give honor to Christ who comes to us as our spiritual food.

In addition to serving as a vehicle for the prayer of beings composed of body and spirit, the postures and gestures in which we engage at Mass have another very important function.  The Church sees in these common postures and gestures both a symbol of the unity of those who have come together to worship AND a means of fostering that unity.  We are not free to change these postures to suit our own individual piety, for the Church makes it clear that our unity of posture and gesture is an expression of our participation in the one Body formed by the baptized with Christ, our head.  When we stand, kneel, sit, bow and sign ourselves in common action, we given unambiguous witness that we are indeed the Body of Christ, united in heart, mind and spirit.

http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/resources-bulletins3.shtml

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

 Luke03v15to17&21to22_2010

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is baptized by John.  What is the difference between John’s and Jesus’ Baptisms?

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(NAB Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, l “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.  21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord”.  In today’s the other Gospel accounts of Je040111_ssus’ baptism, we hear “John the Baptist” address, and correct the confusion of the people who thought that he might be the “Messiah”.  In his response, John contrasts the baptism that he performs with that of the Baptism which Jesus inaugurates – – with water AND the Holy Spirit.  The type of Baptism that John performed during his ministry mission was not yet a full Christian Baptism.  Instead, it was the preliminary foundation for the Christian Baptism of, through, and in Jesus Christ – – through which OUR sins are forgiven AND the gift of the Holy Spirit are received.

The baptism of Jesus is reported in each of the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke (but not in John’s).  Noticeably, the three Synoptic Gospels report the same event is quite rare and revelational. 

Both Mark and Luke report the story from Jesus’ perspective, with “the voice from heaven” addressed to Him.  However, Matthew’s Gospel has instead “the voice from heavenspLOI-Voice-of-Godeaking to everyone.  Also, in Luke, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus during His time of “prayer” – – after His “baptism”.  Through His Gospel today, you will notice Luke shows Jesus to be a person of prayer who withdraws regularly from the crowds AND His disciples as well, in order to pray to His heavenly Father privately.  Jesus goes on to teach His follows “HOW” to pray.

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Today’s reading begins with the people at the scene of the event wondering and questions whether JJohn_the_Baptist%20imageohn the Baptist may actually be the promised “Savior-Messiah”:

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

And so, John knew their questions, and he responded to their inquiries by saying:

I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is comingI am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandalsHe will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). 

Luke even reiterates John the Baptist’s response in his other book, “The Acts of the Apostles”:

“John heralded his [Jesus’] coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am?  I am not He.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet’” (Acts 13:24-25).

So, what does John mean by saying about Jesus:Through_Water_and_Fire_MAIN

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Well, John is stating that he only gives a “baptism with water” representing repentance.  Jesus, however, will “baptize with the Holy Spirit AND with fire”.  From the point of view of the early [1st Century] Catholic-Christian Community, the “Holy Spirit and fire” was understood as a representation of the “fire” poured out from the Holy Spirit in the desert, in the Temple, and finally, in the upper room at the time of Pentecost (the Jewish remembrance  of the “fire” and brimstone on Mt. Sinai):

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

There are two core symbolisms in these four verses from the above passage from Acts (Acts 2:1-4); I’ll cburning_bushomment on both.  I’ll start with “fire”.  Fire” in biblical times was associated with God and with His action in the world AND , His personal presence in the lives of His people during their exodus, and during His enduring personal presence in the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) of the Temple.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of “fire”, such as in the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (cf., Exodus 3:2). 

The figure of “fire” was also used to represent His holiness (cf., Deuteronomy 4:24), His protective presence (cf., 2 Kings 6:17), God’s glory (cf., Ezekiel 1:4, 13), His wrath against sin (cf., Isaiah 66:15-16), and His righteous judgment (cf., Zechariah 13:9),.  

So, writers of the New Testament books were inspired by the Holy Spirit to use “fire” to represent the actions of the Holy Spirit – – Himself (cf., Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3).  God’s “fire” both purifies and cleanses; and it inspires a reverent fear of God – – and a reverence for His “Word”.  

The second core symbol is the “strong driving wind”.  The sound of the “strong driving wind” heralded a “new action of God” in His history of, and plan for, the salvation of all the human race.  tonguesThe “tongues as of fire” symbolizes the presence of God initiating again – – renewing – – His covenant on Mount Sinai:

Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had come down upon it in fire.  The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently” (Exodus 19:18).

At Pentecost, the “Holy Spirit” acts upon the Apostles, preparing them to “proclaim” the spirit-of-pentecost-the_t_nvNEW covenant, with its unique gift from the Holy Spirit, “to speak in different tongues”.  This gift of “speaking in tongues” is a grace of ecstatic prayer – – in praise of God.  This gift of the Holy Spirit is appreciated (cf., in Acts 2:6, 11) through a speaking in foreign languages, and thus symbolizing the worldwide mission of the Catholic Church.

However, as part of John the Baptist’s preaching, the “Holy Spirit and fire”, he is relating them to their Jewish Scripture references about their “purifying” and “refining” natures:

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

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

So, as a quick summary of the differences and representations between Jbaptism_of_jesusohn the Baptist’s and Jesus Christ’s Baptism’s is that the “water baptism” of John the Baptist will be followed by either an “immersion” of the repentant in the “cleansing power” of the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) – – OR, an “immersion” of the “unrepentant” in the devastating fiery wrath of God at their final judgment.  

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Today’s event in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the heavenly message identifying Jesus as God the Father’s “Son” – – AND, through a reference by “Isaiah”, as being the “Servant of Yahweh”:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; He shall bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1).

Three other passages have also popularly been called “Servant of the Lord” verses (cf., Matthew 49:1–7; 5pbwu-servant0:4–11; 52:13–53:12).  Ultimately however, the description of the “mission” of the “servant” has been applied ONLY to Jesus Christ:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.  And in his name the Gentiles will hope (Matthew 12:18–21).

I can’t help but think of the Passion narratives when thinking of Jesus as the “sent” “Servant”.  Jesus proclaimed the “Word”; He never was contentious or cried out; He was struck many times with reeds; and He brought justice into our world.  WOW!!  With all this (plus many other connecting verses from Holy Scripture), who can deny the divine “Servant-hood” of the man, Jesus Christ!!

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Through the life-giving “baptism with water and the Holy Spirit”, Jesus has been, and is still creating a NEW people of God, both Jew AND Gentile alike.  In doing so, Jesus identifies Himself with the pebranch2ople of Israel by submitting to John’s “baptism of repentanceAND in His bearing, on their behalf, and OURS, the burden of God’s decisive judgment:

“He [John the Baptist] went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sinsAfter all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:3, 21).  

In His humble submission to John’s “baptism”, we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” found in His ge0274ruesomely bloody death upon the Holy Cross of Redemptive Salvation.  Jesus’ “baptism” signifies His acceptance to, and the beginning of, His earthly mission as God’s “suffering Servant”.  Jesus allowed Himself to be numbered among sinners, and to die as one, without being one!!  Jesus submitted Himself entirely to His Father’s will of redeeming His human creatures, Jews and Gentiles alike.  Out of love, Jesus consented to this “baptism” of death – reflections on Christ - crucifixion– “baptism” by “fire” – – for the remission of OUR sins. So, please realize, understand, and know the JOY of trust and submission Jesus had to His heavenly Father, God, even to that of a known death in His name, a Martyrdom of Salvation.   

At the Jordan River, in the desert of Sinai, in the wilderness of Judea, “Israel’s” Sonship with God is to be renewed through JesuthCAW7PLKLs’ “baptism”.  And, the “descent of the “Holy Spirit” on Jesus Christ anoints Him for His public ministry:

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD … Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations … The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners … in their every affliction.  It was not an envoy or a messenger, but his presence that saved them.  Because of his love and pity the LORD redeemed them, Lifting them up and carrying them all the days of old (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; 63:9).

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Luke regularly presents Jesus “at prayer” during important points in His public ministry:

  • ·        Here, in today’s reading, at His baptism; jesus-at-prayer
  • ·        Jesus’ choosing of the Twelve (cf., Luke 6:12);
  • ·        Before asking His disciples “Who do the people say that I am?”, and “Who do you say that I am?”(cf., Luke 9:18);
  • ·        On the Mountain of the Transfiguration (cf., Luke 9:28);
  • ·        When teaching His disciples to pray (cf., Luke 11:1);
  • ·        During the Last Supper (cf., Luke 22:32);
  • ·        In the garden on the Mount of Olives (cf., Luke 22:41); and finally,
  • ·        On the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation (cf., Luke 23:46).

A uniqueness found in Luke’s Gospel, and not in any other Gospel, is Jesus praying immediately following His Baptism:

“After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21). 

Jesus’ actions and prayers are answered in a unique, intimate, very personal – – AND often times PUBLIC – – ways:

Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a doveAnd a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22)

The Father proclaimed His entire delight in His “Son”, speaking audibly for all present to hear.  The HLOI-Voice-of-Godoly Spirit was also present as He “anointed” Jesus for His public ministry beginning on that day – – as He rose from the waters of the Jordan River.   

Jesus’ Greek brethren publically were aware of a previous declaration of God, through David, concerning not only David himself, but also of the future “King of the Jews”, revealed as God’s “Servant Son”, today “begotten” by God the Father:

“I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:7).

God the Father acknowledges Jesus as His divinely unique Son, the object of His love.  His expressing of His delight in, approval of, Jesus Christ is the assurance that He, Jesus, will fulfill His messianic mission of redemption and salvation – – for ALL people – – Jew and Gentile alike!!

Luke goes on to write:Desceding Dove b_w

The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). 

The “dove” is a symbol of the NEW creation in the flood, talked about in Genesis, and well-known in Jesus’ community of “Israel”:

“He [Noah] released a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth” (Genesis 8:8);

“Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like birds, like doves, from the land of Assyria; And I will resettle them in their homes, oracle of the LORD” (Hosea 11:11).

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T. summarize titlehe “baptism” of Jesus is considered a “manifestation” of God in Jesus HIMSELF – – another “epiphany.”  Today, on this last day of the Christmas Season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ true relationship to God the Father.  The “son” (little “s”) of Mary and Joseph is also God’s OWN “Son” (big “S”)!!  

Jesus came to give us the “fire” of His Spirit so that we may radiate the JOY and truth of His Gospel to a world desperately needing God’s lightpenti and truth.  His “Word” has power to change and transform our lives, making us “flaming lights” pointing others to Jesus Christ.  We are called to follow Jesus in His public ministry of teaching, healing, and loving.  We are also called to oppose unjust and violent powers in the world today.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ in all of our endeavors.  Let Jesus Christ’s power, grace, and love burn brightly in your life!  Ask Him to “fill” – – “fulfill” – – you with His Holy Spirit.  As we follow Jesus into the Catholic Church’s Season of “Ordinary Time”, identify what needs to be “filled” – – “fulfilled” – – in your life, and in others.  Amen; Amen!!  (“Selahi”, which means “Take breath, relax, rejoice, and saver what you just read – – the truth.)

In today’s Gospel, notice that all three “persons” of the Holy Trinity are manifested:  God the Father in the voice, th1983254601_3cd17489a9_oe Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and Jesus the Son in the one being “Baptized” and “Anointed” for His unique public ministry.  

Luke is communicating to us the crucial information about the true identity of Jesus Christ.  In verses following today’s reading, Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to thbrazzers-adam-evee first person of creation, Adam, who is also identified as the “son of God” (cf., Luke 3:23-38).  We – – the children of Adam and Eve – – are again made children of God – – made NEW – – through Jesus’ Baptism.

Examine Jesus’ humility in today’s Gospel reading.  Ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude of humility in your own heart.  As you do so, “heaven will open” for you as well.  The Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to renew and refashion each of us th2012-LT-Theme-Wallpaper-1600x900rough His Holy Spirit, AND also to anoint us for OUR special and unique mission – – as His ambassadors.  The Lord wants His love and truth to shine through us so that others may see the goodness and truth of God’s message of Redemptive Salvation.  Ask Jesus Christ to “fill” you with His Holy Spirit, allowing YOU to radiate the JOY of His Gospel to ALL those around you.

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Every. conclusion person has a unique identity which is defined by their behaviors, attitudes, and expectations governing their daily lives and existence.  Each aspect of our identity is influenced by our personal history; eaidentity_52205ch expression is unique within him/her self.  In today’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus’ behavior, attitudes, and expectations were governed by His identity as God’s beloved Son.  In our personal “Baptism”, we were made from above, were made true, and are made children of this very same heavenly Father.  So, your individual identity – – as a living member of the “family of God”, and as a “brother or sister” of Jesus – – also shapes your own daily life and existence.  Think about this!  Selahi!!

Identify some of the expectations and behaviors that govern your life by answering the following question: “What are some of the things that make your life unique?”  Once you know the answer, once it is revealed to you, celebrate these things about your life.  How does this identity as a member of the family of God govern and shape your life?  Conclude today’s reflection with a prayer that we ALL will remain faithful to our baptismal identity as children of God and as brothers or sisters of Jesus Christ.  Amen!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Our Father

 

Our Father,
Who art in Heaven, pray-lord-teach-us-to-pray-e1347301783151
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.

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 Our%20Father2

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


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3rd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

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

 

The Christmas Tree

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

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

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

hear 

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

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, from Malachi – – refiners-fire-c

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

An Advent Prayer

 

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

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“It’s a Bird; It’s a Plane; No, It’s Christ! Oh, Oh, I’m NOT Ready Yet!!” – Luke 21:25-28,34-36†


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First Sunday of Advent

 

 . table_of_contentsToday’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:. pencil

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For December, 2012

 

General Intention: that all migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity andPope Benedict illustration authentic love, especially by Christian communities.

Missionary Intention: that Christ may reveal Himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of His Church.

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Today, and next Wednesday, I am going to share information on two holiday objects used by all people in a secular way, the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and the “Candy Cane”.  However, these items started out as ways to catechize Catholics during times of suppression from governments of the day.  I hope you enjoy the history and meaning behind these items.

 

The Real Meaning of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

by Father Edward T. Dowling, S. J | Source: Catholic.net

 

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written by the English Jesuits during the 16th century, though its precise author is unknown.  The carol used obscure symbols to hide its true meaning from the enemy in time of persecution, Henry VIII.  When Henry VIII was rebuffed by Rome in his request to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, he declared himself head of the Church in England.  With replacing the Pope, the King demanded all to swear an oath of allegiance to him as head of the Church.  St. Thomas More, the “Chancellor of the Realm”, (the equivalent of the Prime Minister today), refused the oath, and Henry VIII had him publicly beheaded.  During this time, Catholic convents and monasteries were closed and looted.  

The situation was made worse under his son, Edward VI, and better during the short reign of Catherine’s daughter, Mary Tudor. However, she was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I, an ardent Protestant and the daughter of Anne Boleyn.  The practice of the Catholic faith was banned.  Priests were exiled and forbidden under pain of Twelve Days of Christmasdeath from returning or performing the sacraments.  It was a desperate, dreadful time.

With this as a background we can see the need for secrecy and deception.  “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written to educate the faithful in the doctrines of the faith and, at the same time, not be obvious to persecutors in the area.  The numbers are simply a mnemonic to help Catholics remember some basic facts. Recall the words of the song: 

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: twelve lords a leaping, eleven pipers piping, ten ladies dancing, nine drummers drumming, Twelve_days_Wordleeight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

The song celebrates the liturgical Christmas season, starting on Christmas Day and ending twelve days later on the “Feast of the Epiphany”.  

·        My true love” refers to God, and “me” is the individual Catholic.

·        The “twelve lords a leaping” are the twelve basic beliefs of the Catholic Church as outlined in the Apostles Creed. 

·        The “eleven pipers piping” are the eleven Apostles who remained faithful after the treachery of Judas. 

·        The “ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments. 

·        The “nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels which in those days of class distinction were thought important. 

·        The “eight maids a milking” are the Eight Beatitudes. 

·        The “seven swans a swimming” are the Seven Sacraments. 

·        The “six geese a laying” are for both the Six Commandments of the Church and the six days of creation. 

·        The “five golden rings” are the first five books of the Old Testament called the Torah which are generally considered the most sacred and important of all the Old Testament. 

·        The “four calling birds” are the Four Gospels. 

·        The “three French hens” are the Three Persons in God and the three gifts of the Wise Men. 

·        The “two turtle doves” represent the two natures in Jesus: human and divine and the two Testaments, Old and New. 

·        The “partridge” is the piece de resistance, Jesus himself,

And,

·        The “pear tree” is the Holy Cross.

http://catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=3465

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bag_of_moneyBy the way, all the items mentioned in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” would cost $107, 300 (US) in today’s costs.  This is a 6.1% increase from last year.

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

Luke21v25to36_2003

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches His disciples to be vigilant and ready for when the “Son of Man” comes in glory.  Are you “vigilantly ready”?

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(NAB Luke 21:25-28,34-36)  25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.   27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”  34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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. Reflection Gospel Reflection:

 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, also called the first Sunday of a new liturgical year.  The Advent sAdvent1eason includes the four Sundays proceeding Christmas Day and is a time of preparation for the “coming of the Lord”.  During the Advent season, we recall two essential and foundational elements of our faith:

  • ·        The final coming of the Lord “in glory”;

And,

  • ·        the “incarnation” of the Lord – – through the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

The key themes of the Advent season are watchful waiting, spiritual preparation, and realizing God’s loving justice.

In this new liturgical year, the Gospel of Luke will be the primary Gospel proclaimed (for you techno-missal-geeks, we will be using Lectionary Cycle C).  Today’s Gospel is taken from the chapter just luke-gospel-bannerbefore Luke’s “passion narrative” in which Jesus teaches in the Holy Temple.  Jesus knows what is going to happen to Him soon!  He is preparing, and giving hope and good counsel, and fair warning, to His disciples.  Today’s reading has Jesus speaking to His disciples about the need for “vigilance and prayer” as they wait for the coming of the “Son of Man in glory”.  

Jesus has already predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, warned about the persecution and tribulations to follow, and is now identifying the “signs” signaling the “coming of the Son of Man in glory” to come.

From a historical viewpoint, the community – – the audience and readers – – for whom Luke wrote his GosStLukepel may have believed that they were already experiencing some of the events Jesus described – – and they would be RIGHT!  Luke, a Syrian from Antioch, wrote his Gospel and the Book of the “Acts of the Apostles” as a two-volume work in the late 90’s.  At that time of Luke’s Gospel, many Catholic Christians interpreted the Temple’s destruction as an indication that Jesus’ “second coming” was very close at hand.

Luke, through his writings, shifts the early Christian emphasis away from an expectation of an imminent, about to happen – – NOW – – “Parousia” event, to that of a day-to-day concern of the Catholic Christian community – – in “waiting” – – individually, and as a Church.  Luke is more concerned with presenting the “Words” and deeds of Jesus as instructions for the conduct of His Christian disciples during the intervening period between His Ascension and the His Second Coming, the Parousia – – whenever it is to happen.  He also presents Jesus Christ Himself, as the model for a proper Catholic Christian life of goodness, faithfulness, and holiness. 

Jesus’ eschatological discourse concerns doctrines (truths) about the human soul in its relation to death, personal judgment, heaven, and hell.  Jesus is urging His disciples – – and at the same time, the eschatology-kidsCatholic Church as a whole – – inspiring them to be to be faithful and obedient through the trials and tribulations which WILL confront them – – and ALL OF US! (Sounds just like what is happening today!  Please re-read my “Five stages of Persecution” in last Sunday’s blog for more on this subject.)  

Jesus, through Luke, is urging a necessity to be constantly “vigilant” (literally meaning “watchful”) and not to have a misguided “Messianic hope” of deliverance from our trials and tribulations.  We need to remember that no one but the Father knows the precise time of the Parousia:

Of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).

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Jesus’ “Second Coming” WILL be preceded by signs.  Could Jesus’ “sign” be the presence of the bleak outrages and scandals coming from the Roman power profaning the Temple then(?) and the direct attacks on the Catholic Church from without and within today(?) – – NOW(?) – -!  It certainly seems reasonable to me, so I’m definitely preparing!

So, what are these signs to be?  Luke, being very astute at researching issues, looked for answers throTraffic-signs-theme-vector-material2ughout Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) and John’s prophetic book, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ”:

From a sling, wrathful hailstones shall be hurled.  The waters of the sea will be enraged and flooding rivers will overwhelm them” (Wisdom 5:22);

The stars of the heavens and their constellations will send forth no light; The sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:10);

“When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken all its starsThe sun I will cover with clouds; the moon will not give light (Ezekiel 32:7);

Before them the earth trembles; the heavens shake; Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness … I will set signs in the heavens and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke; The sun will darken, the moon turn blood-red, Before the day of the LORD arrives, that great and terrible day … Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness (Joel 2:10; 3:3–4; 4:15);

“Then I watched while he broke open the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; the sun turned as black as dark sackcloth and the whole moon became like blood.  The stars in the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs shaken loose from the tree in a strong wind.  Then the sky was divided like a torn scroll curling up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place” (Revelation 6:12–14).

Luke relates that the “powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:26).  Is this a reference to the “cosmic angelic armies” – – Satan’s armies – – manifesting themselves?  Or, is it a reference to the physical celestial properties we know in our sphere of earthly human knowledge?  I believe it is “Both/And”.  That our physical environment is under the authority of God and the responsibility and authority which God delegated to the angels before they “fell from grace”.

The Lord continually forewarned His “chosen” family that there will be a periodic “shaking” and other “signs” we should pay attention to.  In the Old Testament, Haggai warns Zerubbabel:

“For thus says the LORD of hosts: In just a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land … Speak to Zerubbabel*, the governor of Judah: I will shake the heavens and the earth(Haggai 2:6, 21).

*(Zerubbabel was a descendant of King David and was a governor of the Persian Province of Judah (cf., Haggai 1:1).  He led the first group of Jews who returned from the Babylonian Captivity around 538 BC.  Zerubbabel also laid the foundation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem soon after their return.  Per Haggai, Zerubbabel will also have a “servant” role in God’s future Israelite kingdom – – to be established – – when God intervenes to overthrow the nations.  )

Now, in the New Testament era, God counsels the Judeo-Christian family in the Letter to the Hebrews:

See that you do not reject the one who speaks.  For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much more in our case if we turn away from the one who warns from heaven.  His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, ‘I will once more shake not only earth but heaven.’  That phrase, ‘once more,’ points to [the] removal of shaken, created things, so that what is unshaken may remain.  Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe.  For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:25-29).

Since this is the case when the Parousia happens, I can see why many will be so frightened.  Hoz202092960wever, though I will always have apprehension and some “fear” of this incomprehensible event.  God’s revelation and promise in Jesus helped to be prepared and constantly vigilant.  In my spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, I am eagerly awaiting His return daily, – – or whenever it shall occur.  We do this at every Mass when the Priest right after the “Our Father” prayer, when the Priest prays:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

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Another “sign” prophesied in today’s reading is:

“They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). 

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied He would return again at the “end of time” (the Parousia) to finCross_Globeish the work He came to accomplish through His death and resurrection.  Jesus’ image of the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” is taken from a foretelling vision of the prophet Daniel:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man. When He reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, His kingship, one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

Remember, Jesus always referred to Himself as “the Son of Man” and never as “the Son of God”!  Why do you think Jesus chose this specific title?  Hmm, He had a great reason, as you will soon find out.

Daniel’s vision [above] is a foretelling of a royal appointment of a “human” king before God’s throne.  This “human” king, whose authority comes directly from God the Father, is given world-wide and everlasting kingship, authority, and power.  

The faithful Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression.  Jesus, however, tells His disciples that when He returns, He will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for ALL – – not just the Jewish “chosen” people.

Jesus goes on to reveal that He will be:

The ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory”:

In saying this, Jesus is citing specific Scriptural words.  He is referencing Jewish Scripture from the book of Deuteronomy:SecondComingOfChrist

“There is none like the God of Jeshurun*, who rides the heavens in his power, who rides the clouds in his majesty;” (Deuteronomy 33:26).

* (“Jeshuran” is a poetic name for “the people of Israel”, used as a token of affection by the author. It translates to, “the dear upright people“. This word is used four times in Holy Scripture: (cf., Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 33:26; and Isaiah 44:2.  It is a term that can be applied to the Catholic Church.)

The word “clouds”, in Jewish Holy Scripture, indicates the presence of divinity. The image of the ATT00001cloud” being “the presence of divinity” is found extensively throughout the story of Moses interaction with “the Lord” during the Jewish exodus in the desert:

The LORD came down in a cloud and stood with him [Moses] there and proclaimed the name, ‘LORD’” (Exodus 34:5);

“[The Lord] said to him [Moses]: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the inner sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the cover on the ark, lest he die, for I reveal myself in a cloud above the ark’s cover (Leviticus 16:2);

and,

The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied but did not continue” (Numbers 11:25).

Thus, in His nature as the “Son of Man”, Jesus is truly a “divine person” (as well as being the “human” king) who will come “in power and glory”.

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The last half of today’s reading is a collection of “sayings” relating to Luke’s understanding of the “end time” and the return of Jesus – – the Parousia event. Luke emphasizes – – for his readers – – the importance of being faithful to the instructions of Jesus in the period before the Parousia event Bible%2520-%2520Instruction%2520Manualoccurs.  This book was written long after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  The early Catholic Christian expectations of an “imminent” second return of Jesus had to obviously undergo some modification.  So, Luke cautions his readers against counting on this delay and acting irresponsibly.  A similar warning can be found earlier in Luke’s Gospel:

“But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful (Luke 12:45–46);

These verses are a warning for Jesus’ disciples to be ALWAYS (i.e., daily) ready for the Lord’s return, during the Parousia – – the promised Second Coming of Christ.  It is also an implied acknowledgement of the “Final Judgment”, the ultimate acknowledgement of God the Father’s love and active participation in the course of this awesome event, the fullest revelation of God sharing His eternal love for each of us.

As Catholic Christians, we need to start living as if the Parousia is here now – – as if you see Jesus Christ descending on a “cloud” NOW!!  Live holy lives; rejoice in hope; be alert to the various Eschatology_False-Prophets_620deceptions that Satan will launch against the Church in those days:

Many false prophets will arise and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11).

 Make use of a radical simplicity in life.  All our material possessions will no longer benefit, nor be of benefit, to us after the Parousia event: they will burn in the purifying fire on that day:header

Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.  For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.  Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.  But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1 John 2:15-17);

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.  Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought [you] to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire.  But according to His promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

BBePreparede in a state of constant awareness and perpetual readiness and anticipation.  Also, be in constant personal spiritual growth – – the best way to prepare.  Luke is warning us to NOT have the attitude, “I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back”.  This is truly a foolish attitude to cultivate.  Live the scouting life: “Be Prepared!!”

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. summarize titleThough Jesus predicts a time of destruction and fear, He indicates that others will be frightened; Jesus’ disciples are instead not to fear, but to stand tall.  However, Jesus goes on to say that He does NOT promise deliverance from anxiety or tribulations in our earthly lives.  Jesus encourages His disciples to pray for strength OFTEN!!  The ealift-up-praiserly Catholic Christian communities did not find consolation in the promise of an ideal and perfect place where ALL live in peace and harmony – – and neither should we today.  Instead, we recognize – – in our Catholic Christian faith – – the instrument and ways by which we can witness to God’s unfailing love for us in ALL circumstances, even the rough times.  These instruments are the Holy Sacraments: all contained in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Jesus’ predictions about the end times may sound dire. However, in the very next verses in Luke’s Gospel, just after today’s reading ends, he tells us that people woke early to listen to Jesus’ teaching in the Temple area:

During the day, Jesus was teaching in the temple area, but at night he would leave and stay at the place called the Mount of Olives.  And all the people would get up early each morning to listen to him in the Temple area” (Luke 21:37-38).

In His personhood and in His personal message to those who listen, strength and consolation will be found.  Like the first Catholic Christians, we will certainly encounter and experience events and cirthCAM75JLMcumstances leading us to periods of despair in our lives.  (After all, we are ONLY human – – but saved by His grace.)  Therefore, through prayer, we find strength and consolation in Jesus’ “Words” and in His continuing presence with us – – through all our trials – – bearing and undergoing, and sometimes suffering together, witnessing to the loving action of God in our world.

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. conclusionSince the early first centuries, many Churches in the east and west have marked “special seasons” to celebrate the central, essential, and foundational “truths” of the Catholic Christian faith.  The Advent season reminds us that we are a “pilgrim people”, exiles from Christ’s eternal heaven, who long for our “true” home with God in His heavenly kingdom.  We are awaiting – – with joyful hope – – the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the age – – the Parousia.  

No one but God the Father knows the day of Jesus’ “return in glory”.  But, it is certain that we are living in the end times, the culmination of this present age in God’s plan – – NOW!  The end times MARK_13_32_by_traylor1234began with the “first coming” of Jesus Christ – – through His “Incarnation” and birth – – which we celebrate at Christmas and the Epiphany.  The end times culminates in His return on the “Final Day of Judgment”.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns His disciples against the apathy and lack of vigilance which can surface if one’s spirit becomes depleted by the anxieties of daily life.  Many of us are all too familiar with this kind of fatigue which Jesus is referring to in today’s reading.  It comes with being concerned about ours or another’s health, job security, education, financial problems, and any number of other reasons.  

Yes, ALL these aspects of life are important matters indeed.  Jesus does not promise to end our daily Keep Your Eyes On Jesusworries and fears.  However, He DOES teach His disciples (and us) that they will have the “strength” to withstand these anxieties and trials IF and WHEN we stay focused on Him in our everyday lives.  His disciples need to remain “vigilant” for His second return – – IT WILL HAPPEN – – someday!  His disciples need to be consistent in praying for “strength” to endure all “tribulations”.  Through prayer, God helps us stay focused on what (actually, “WHO”) is most important in our lives – – Jesus Christ!!

Recall your previous traditions of making New Year’s resolutions in preparation for a new calendar year.  Today IS the first Sunday of Advent, which is the beginning of the new Church year.  During the resolutions1season of Advent, our Gospel readings ask us to consider what (and “WHO”) is most important to us as we prepare for Jesus’ coming, at His birth AND at the “end of time”.

Jesus describes “signs” which surely will disturb and scare many people.  However, Jesus says that these “signs” should not be disturbing to His disciples.  Remember, Jesus in today’s in reading, says that these “signs” indicate “redemption” is near.  He even goes so far as to tell us how to behave:

When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke21:28).

 With this new Church year, what Advent “resolutions” might you make to help you stay focused on Christ; to help you be prepared to receive the salvation which we celebrate at Jesus’ birth, and anticipate at Jesus’ “second coming”.  Pray for God’s help in following through on these “New Year” resolutions you just made.

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Reflection Prayer: 

Psalm 25

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul, my God, in you I trust; do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. No one is disgraced who waits for you, but only those who are treacherous without cause. Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. Guide me by your fidelity and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long. Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD, for they are ages old. Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me psalm25_4_5according to your mercy, because of your goodness, LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way, He guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble his way.  All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth toward those who honor his covenant and decrees. For the sake of your name, LORD, pardon my guilt, though it is great. Who is the one who fears the LORD?  God shows him the way he should choose. He will abide in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The counsel of the LORD belongs to those who fear him; and his covenant instructs them. My eyes are ever upon the LORD, who frees my feet from the snare.

Look upon me, have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart; bring me out of my distress. Look upon my affliction and suffering; take away all my sins. See how many are my enemies, see how fiercely they hate me. Preserve my soul and rescue me; do not let me be disgraced, for in you I seek refuge. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; I wait for you, O LORD. Redeem Israel, O God, from all its distress!  Amen.

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“Is There Anything To Eat?; This Past Weekend Has Been A Trying One For Me!” – Luke 24:35-48†


 

Third Sunday of Easter

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
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I wish to extend a SUPER happy birthday Pope Benedict XVI and Mother Angelica.  To Octogenarians who are still young in heart ans faith.

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Today in Catholic History:     

 

†   296 – Death of Pope Caius (or Gaius)
†   536 – Death of Agapitus I, Italian Pope (535-36),
†   536 – Death of Pope Agapetus I
†   1073 – Pope Alexander II buried/Ildebrando chosen as Pope Gregory VII
†   1164 – Raynald of Dassel names Guido di Crema as anti-pope Paschalis III
†   1610 – Birth of Alexander VIII, [Pietro Ottoboni], Italy, lawyer/Pope (1689-91)
†   1994 – Death of D. Nauta, theologist/church historian/lawyer, at age 96

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus appears to His disciples [again] and shares a meal with them.

 

(NAB Luke 24:35-48) 35 Then the two [men on the road to Emmaus] recounted [to the disciples hiding in Jerusalem] what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  36 While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  37 But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  38 Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”  40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  41 While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  42 They gave him a piece of baked fish;43 he took it and ate it in front of them.  44 He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On the third Sunday of Easter, we continue to hear Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances to His disciples following His Resurrection.  Luke’s Gospel, like each of the other Gospels (cf., Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–15; John 20:19–23), focuses on Jesus appearing to His disciples in Jerusalem and their commissioning for their future ministry.  Luke goes further in having the risen Jesus appear to two men traveling back to their home, probably in or near Emmaus.  These two men, no longer blinded to the risen Christ hurried back to Jerusalem, sought out Jesus’ disciples, and told them of their experience.

Jesus then (as in any good mystery story) miraculously and suddenly appears before all those assembled in this “faith-filled” hiding space.  Standing amongst them, Jesus lovingly states:

Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36).

Their response to Jesus, per today’s reading, was one of “startling terror”, thinking “they were seeing a ghost”!  These are the VERY FIRST words Jesus says to His disciples AFTER they had abandoned Him to His accusers, torturers, and crucifiers.  His first words were one of “peace” and not “What happened to you?” or “Where were you?” or “You abandoned me, why?”

I am sure Jesus’ disciples felt like they had betrayed Him, and knew and felt that they should have had a royal “chewing out” from Jesus, at a minimum.  However, Jesus is God, who is pure love, and responded with a pure love for His disciples.  How relieved and gratified were these startled, terrified men to know Jesus Christ not only DID rise from the dead, but also wished only “peace” for them personally – – AND for all that believed in Him.

Peace be with you.” was a most appropriate greeting for a loving Jesus Christ.  The disciples truly had the experience and shock of the death of someone they loved, and feared for their own safety and lives as well.  “Peace” is what they needed more than anything else.  Along with this greeting of “Peace”, Jesus gave another grace, another gift: “forgiveness”. The inherent linking of “peace” and “forgiveness” is quietly made in the final verses of today’s reading.

They thought they were seeing a “ghost”; yet the figure before them is not a “ghost”.  Jesus invites them to experience His resurrected body with their senses, to look and to touch.  The figure standing before them is truly flesh and bone, still bearing the marks of His crucifixion.  Although the disciples cannot forget His suffering and death, “peace” begins to take root in their hearts, with their fears and turmoil turning to feelings of joy and amazement instead.

Jesus was NO “ghost”!!  He is STILL as human NOWTODAY – as He was on that day, and on the day he was crucified.  He is the physical (and scriptural) proof that there truly is a “life after death” (physical death anyhow).  He IS NOT just a divine memory; AND we are disciples of the LIVING Jesus, not just disciples of our memory of Him!

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The disciples last saw Jesus as a weak and beaten man, who died – – as a human – – on the cross in a most humiliating and torturous way.  Jesus seemed to be “powerless” over the events leading to His ultimate death.  He certainly did not meet the expectations of who the Messiah was to be per Jewish tradition.  If He WAS the Messiah, why did He allow this to happen to Him?  Why would He allow Himself to be as humiliated and embarrassed as He was?

As further proof of His identity and of His resurrected body, Jesus eats with His disciples.  The disciples have known Jesus best through the meals which He has shared with them.  Descriptions of these meals are a defining element of Luke’s Gospel.  By eating with his disciples after his Resurrection, Jesus recalls all these meals, and most importantly, he recalls the Last Supper.

Luke’s report of this Last Supper and the meals which Jesus shared with them after His Resurrection unveils for us the uniquely important significance of the Holy Eucharist.  Having shared a meal with His disciples, Jesus Christ now uncovers for them the significance of what was written about Him in the Scriptures.  Our celebration of the Mass is ALSO an encounter with Jesus – – in fact, the same uniquely important encounter as the disciples!!  So, we encounter Him, this same Jesus, through the Liturgy of the Word and the Sacrament of the Eucharist which is literally the Sacrament of Thanksgiving.  As Jesus commissioned His disciples to be witnesses to what Holy Scriptures foretold, OUR celebration of the Eucharist ALSO commissions US today.  Like the first disciples, we too are sent to announce the “good news” of Jesus Christ, truly risen from the grave.

With His appearance to them, and eating with them, the disciples were given a grace and gift of a revelation in their individual and communal faiths.  They were now able to believe more fully because they had seen the proof of Jesus’ new resurrected life, which they came to understand Jesus’ victory, thus overcoming sin, Satan, and death!

Luke is the only evangelist to mention Jesus’ eating with His disciples.  Jesus didn’t come solely to be seen, to be touched, or to be heard; He came and ate with His disciples just as He did the night of His arrest.  Jesus, still today, does not wish to be simply seen and heard, He wants to converse with each of us; He wants to share a meal with each of us – – personally, uniquely, and intimately – – ALWAYS!!

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We are like the Apostles, especially Matthew; we don’t usually believe unless we see with our own eyes.  The Gospels attest to the true reality of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.  Jesus goes to great lengths to prove to His disciples that He is no mere ghost or illusion – – no trick of the eye.  He shows them the marks of His crucifixion, explaining how Holy Scripture foretold His suffering death AND rising.  (Please read 1 Peter 1:10-12.  It has a “glorious” connection to this last sentence.)  

Jerome, an early church bible scholar, comments:

As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them … Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (From a letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)

Jesus, on the Holy Cross, is one of the central aspects of the Gospels, but it DOESN’T JUST STOP there!  Through His death on the cross, Jesus truly defeated our enemies – death, sin, and Satan; and won mercy & pardon for our sin.  Jesus’ cross then, is the bridge to heaven and the way to paradise.  So, the way to glory IS through the cross.

When the disciples saw the “Risen” Lord, they did not react to Him with “joy”; they reacted with “startle” and “fear”!  After all, how can a death lead to life?  How can a cross lead to glory?  Well, only Jesus Christ could reveal to us the “joy” and “glory” of enduring suffering with faith to a new life.  He gives each of us the power to overcome the fear, worry, and even despair caused by sin, Satan, and death.  Just as the first disciples were commissioned to bring the “good news” of salvation to ALL the peoples of ALL the nations, both Jew and Gentile alike, so we too are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to all among whom we live – – EVERYWHERE and at ALL times.  

Have you truly witnessed to the “joy” of the Gospels personally?  Do you truly witness to the “joy” of the Gospels to those around you?  As the Franciscans say, do you take the:

“Gospel to life and the life to Gospel”?

Hmm, is this something to think about for you?

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To conclude, Catholic Christian life is sustained by God’s “Word” in Holy Scripture and by Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.  We are especially sustained in our faith through our attendance and PARTICIPATION at our weekly (and hopefully daily) celebration of Mass.  Today’s Gospel should remind us that Holy Scripture and the Eucharist are given to us so that OUR words and deeds of bearing witness to Christ might be strengthened.

Jesus came to His followers, not the inverse (other way around) – – AND He Still does today and will in the future!!  Jesus took (and still takes) the initiative in overcoming sin, Satan, and death with us!  Jesus provided (and still provides) His reassurance and promise of everlasting life!  Jesus comes to us in the Holy Eucharist and through the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through each of us personally, intimately, and uniquely.  All we have to do is to receive Him, to allow Him to dwell in us, and to let Him work through us each and every day.  Really, all we have to do is simply to BELIEVE and to be His WITNESS in today’s society!!  How?  Well, as Saint Francis said to his brother friars:

“Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

This week, think about the importance of memories and the importance of the meals you have shared together with family and friends, and will share in the future.  Both, these memories and the anticipation of future meals, will strengthen the love you share for ALL involved.  In a similar way, our Catholic Christian life is also strengthened by sharing God’s Word (memories) and the Eucharist (meal) at Mass.  Recall the “mission” which Jesus gave to His disciples after their shared meal in today’s reading.  The Holy Eucharist also sends us to be Christ’s witnesses in the world today.  Pray that you, and each of us, will be strengthened by God’s “Word”, and by Jesus’ “presence” in the Holy Eucharist in order to be more faithful “witnesses” to our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Tantum Ergo 

Saint Thomas Aquinas

“With heads bowed let us now worship a sacrament so great;
And let the old teaching give way to the new;
Let faith reinforce our belief where the senses cannot.

To the Father and the Son let there be praise and jubilation,
Salvation, honor, virtue, and also blessing;
To the Holy Spirit let there be equal praise.  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.

Honor Due to the Virgin Mary

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

***

“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.  For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name’” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.  

ТТТ

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’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.

Т

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.

ТТТ

“Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold, Jesus Christ is Eight Days Old!” – Luke 2:22-40†


  

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2011

 

General Intention: That the family may be respected by all in its identity and that its irreplaceable contribution to all of society be recognized.

 

Missionary Intention: That in the mission territories where the struggle against disease is most urgent, Christian communities may witness to the presence of Christ to those who suffer.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   672 – Death of Saint Chad
†   962 – Translatio imperii: Pope John XII crowns Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, the first Holy Roman Emperor in nearly 40 years.
†   1119 – Guido di Borgogna elected Pope Callistus II
†   1613 – Birth of Noël Chabanel, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
†   1649 – Birth of Benedict XIII, [Pierfrancesco Orsini], Italy, 245th pope (1724-30)
†   1769 – Death of Clement XIII, [Carlo Rezzonico], Pope (1758-69), at age 75
†   1854 – Pope Pius IX encyclical “On persecution of Armenians”
†   1882 – The Knights of Columbus are formed in New Haven, Connecticut.
†   1906 – Pope encyclical against separation of church & state
†   1925 – Birth of David Abell Wood, priest
†   1974 – Pope Paul VI encyclical “To Honor Mary”
†   1983 – Pope John Paul II names 18 new cardinals
†   1986 – Dalai Lama meets Pope John Paul II in India
†   1995 – Death of Andre Frossard, French publicist (Defense of Pope), at age 80
†   Feasts/Memorials: Candlemas; The Presentation of the Lord; The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; St. Adelbald; St. Cornelius
†   Eastern (Byzantine) Catholic Church: Encounter of our Lord with Simeon – Major Feast Day
†   World Day for Consecrated Life (also February 3 in the United States).

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Catholic Church’s are prayer-conditioned for your (eternal) enjoyment!”

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 10 of 13 Parts

John Paul II, in his Message in 2002, questions this and challenges us to see to it that we never fail in our faithfulness to our vocation and Profession:

If you are truly driven by the Spirit to reach the perfection of charity in your own secular state, “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity marked by a minimalist ethic and superficial religiosity” (Nove millennio ineunte 31). You must be sincerely committed to that “high standard of ordinary Christian living” to which I invited the faithful at the end of the Great Jubilee of 2000 (Ibid).

Let us be called, brothers and sisters, by these exhortations to renew our commitment and walk with courage and humility in the ways of the Lord.

It is all about, dearest brothers and sisters:

  • examining our own faith
  • examining our faithfulness to our vocation and Profession of Evangelical Life
  • examining and renewing the authenticity of our permanent “conversion”
(Continued on next published blog)
From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ presentation in the Temple.

 

22 When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” 24 and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.  25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.  26 It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.  27 He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, 28 he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: 29 “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; 34 and 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 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.  38 And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.  39 When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.  (NAB Luke 2:22-40)

 

The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows that Joseph and Mary were devout Jews and faithful followers of the Mosaic Law (Like we really need more proof!).  Just as John [the Baptist] had been incorporated into the Jewish faithful of Israel through his circumcision (just a few months earlier), the infant Jesus becomes a member of God’s “chosen people” through the same action of His own “sacred” circumcision.   By Mosaic Law, it is at this time that a Jewish baby received his name:  in this case, “Jesus”, meaning “God Saves.”   Jesus is now considered part of the “chosen people” of God, in the same respect and distinction religiously as Simeon, Anna, and even the parents of John:

Both [John’s parents] were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly” (Luke 1:6)

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”  (Luke 2:25)

“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.”  (Luke 2:36-37).

 

Any woman who gave birth to a boy was unable to touch anything sacred (except her husband – [he, he]), or to enter the temple area by reason of her “legal” impurity for forty days according to the Mosaic Law:

 ”Tell the Israelites: When a woman has conceived and gives birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, with the same uncleanness as at her menstrual period.   On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in becoming purified of her blood; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled.  If she gives birth to a girl, for fourteen days she shall be as unclean as at her menstruation, after which she shall spend sixty-six days in becoming purified of her blood.  “When the days of her purification for a son or for a daughter are fulfilled, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent a yearling lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering.  The priest shall offer them up before the LORD to make atonement for her, and thus she will be clean again after her flow of blood.  Such is the law for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl child.  If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, the one for a holocaust and the other for a sin offering.  The priest shall make atonement for her, and thus she will again be clean.”  (Leviticus 12:2-8)

At the end of this period she was required by Mosaic Law to offer a year-old lamb as a burnt offering, and a turtle-dove or young pigeon as an atonement of sin.  The Holy Family could not afford the customary offering of a lamb.  According to today’s Gospel, Mary’s offering instead was two turtle-doves or two young pigeons (as allowed by Mosaic Law).  So, is this proof of Mary and Joseph led a humble and austere life?

 Yep, Jesus was born in an ordinary home without many (if any) extras or luxuries. Like all God-fearing parents, Mary and Joseph raised Jesus in a belief, fear, and wisdom of God through their Judaic religious faith, practices, and traditions.  With such devout parents, Jesus, being obedient to His mother and stepfather, grew in wisdom and grace.

 

They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem (which means “city of peace”) to present him to God.  As the firstborn son, Jesus was consecrated to God as the Law required:

Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.  You shall dedicate to the LORD every son that opens the womb; and all the male firstlings of your animals shall belong to the LORD.”  (Exodus 13:2, 12) 

 

The “Law” further stipulated that any firstborn son should be redeemed by the parents through a payment of five shekels. 

You shall take five shekels for each individual, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel.   Give this silver to Aaron and his sons as ransom for the extra number.” (Numbers 3:47-48) 

Five shekels amounted to just about 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of pure silver.   The probable reason for the Temple obligation of “redeeming” the firstborn son through the giving to the Temple expressly “five shekels” is found in the Book of Numbers:

“Every living thing that opens the womb, whether of man or of beast, such as are to be offered to the LORD shall be yours; but you must let the first-born of man, as well as of unclean animals, be redeemed.   The ransom for a boy is to be paid when he is a month old; it is fixed at five silver shekels according to the sanctuary standard, twenty gerahs to the shekel.”  (Numbers 18:15-16)

I found a couple of possible explanations for “five shekels” of silver being used for the regulation just mentioned above.  One of which I found elsewhere in Holy Scripture, and the other in Wikipedia.  

First, let’s look at Holy Scripture.  In Genesis, Rachel’s firstborn son, Joseph (You know, the one with the fancy coat) was sold by his brothers for twenty silver pieces (which is equivalent of “five shekels” per my Bible commentaries).

“They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt.”  (Genesis 37:28)

This may have established that the “standard price” for a firstborn son being “five shekels” for the ransom to “redeem” the child.  Interesting for me is that “twenty pieces of silver” was the exact price paid to Judas for betraying Jesus.  Could this infer the payment required to redeem us?!

The Second source for this amount of money comes from the “Zohar”, a book from a Jewish “mystical” belief known as Kabbalah.  Per the “Zohar”, the number five (5) is symbolic of the Hebrew letter “hei”, which was added to Abram’s name (becoming Abraham) when the time came for him to father Isaac, – – and the Jewish nation – – as written in the Book of Genesis:

No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations.”  (Genesis 17:5)

God’s choosing of the Jewish people as His “nation”, and the consecration and redemption of the firstborn alludes to Abraham.  Thus, FIVE (5) shekels is the price for redemption.

 

What we DO know for certain, is that Jesus is presented to God at the Temple in Jerusalem as a baby; paying for the privilege of being consecrated to the service of God, as was all firstborn sons of the Jewish faithful.  Jesus however, also paid for OUR privilege of being saved from sin and death through His human pain, suffering, and death on that Holy Tree some thirty odd years later into His human and earthly life.  He will again be presented in this same place, this SAME Temple, at the end of His earthly ministry.  At this time Jesus will be presented not as the newborn infant, but instead as the “Messiah Christ!!”  Still a consecrated servant of God, Jesus offered far greater than a few coins to pay for His privilege of servicing God, and redeeming His people.  He offered His life and death – – for our “redemption”. 

Simeon (His name translates to “God has heard” – WOW!) was not a priest, but instead simply just a devout worshiper, always in the Temple.  He reminds me of an elderly gentleman I know (named John) whom I see at my local parish church nearly every single time I am there.  This man is always observed picking up little pieces of trash, straightening books, cleaning the parking lot, pruning the church and grotto flowers, dusting,  – – and of course praying! 

Though not a priest, Simeon obviously was close to his (and ours) loving God in the simple and miraculous fact that he received a prophetic vision that very few fellow “sinful humans” are privileged to experience.  This vision was given to him directly from God (no messenger here), and it was about the “Messiah”.  Simeon here (and Anna later) speaks about the child “Savior” that all faithful Jews were awaiting with anticipation.  Jesus is the ONE awaited “child” who is the “Redeemer” of Jerusalem as prophesized in the Old Testament.  Simeon recognized Jesus as “a sign that will be contradicted” – – a Messiah “destined for the fall and rise of many.” (Luke 2:34)

Simeon and Anna represent the hopes and expectations of faithfully devout Jews who were looking forward to the full and true restoration of God’s rule in Israel.  The birth of Jesus joyfully and gloriously brought these hopes to fulfillment for these two faithful servants of God (and for many others also).

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Simeon prophesied that Jesus was to be “a light for revealing to the Gentiles“.  Five centuries earlier Malachi prophesied such an event (Malachi 3:1).  The Holy Spirit always reveals the presence of the Lord to those who are open, receptive and ready to receive him.  Do you recognize the presence of the Lord within and working through you?

How exciting it would be to actually see someone of a divine nature you had actually hoped and prayed for over many years, and to actually recognize that divinity in the infant child fully and truly alive and present before you.  In his excitement Simeon extols openly and publicly a beautiful prayer:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:29-30)

He is now ready to die – – ready to be with God in paradise – – because he has found “salvation” in his very presence on earth.  A salvation he had awaited his entire life.

I still remember the instance I looked at my wife on our wedding day, and each of my new-born children in the delivery room.  The excitement and happiness I felt at those moments was so elating.  Would not gazing upon the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord, have to be many times greater than these most profound moments I witnessed in my life?  I cannot wait to gaze upon you, my Lord and my all

The Jewish “Presentation” ritual, along with the associated circumcision of males, and the redemption of the first-born, points to the fact that children are truly and fully gifts from God. So why are large numbers of infants killed daily in an infanticide erroneously called “therapeutic abortions”?  There is absolutely NOTHING “therapeutic” about this tragedy! 

Remember, Simeon was not alone in recognizing the Lord’s presence in the temple.  Anna, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Anna was a beautifully spiritual woman.  Through her faith and actions, she presents a model of devoutness, righteousness, and saintliness to the trust, hope, and faith in God as we advance in age, especially into the elder years.  Advancing age, and the tragedies and disappointments of life, can easily make us sad, cynical, and hopeless if we do not have our hope and trust in eternal paradise with God firmly rooted into our soul.  Anna’s hope and trust in God and His promises grew in her with age.  It resulted in a bountiful harvest of spirituality blossoming in, through, and out of her soul and heart.  She never ceased to worship God in faith and to pray with a hope and trust in God’s plan of salvation.  

 

When reading Simeon’s prophesies, they are so somber to me.  “Many will reject Jesus.”  Even in His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus (and the Holy Family) was ostracized by neighbors who may have thought Jesus was simply an illegitimate child of Mary, whom herself was merely thought of by many “neighbors” as an “adulterer” while still only “betrothed” to Joseph.  Jesus brought a new “covenant” to all people (including His town-folks) regardless of their status, nationality, or even beliefs, past actions, and/or behaviors. 

 “And you yourself a sword will pierce” (from verse 35) is so dismal, depressing, and prophetic for me!  Who would want their mother to be in pain?  However, Mary herself will not be untouched by the various reactions to the life and teachings of her loving child, Jesus.  Her gift of being the mother of the Lord will be challenged by her son, Jesus!!  Jesus Himself describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it.”

“While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.  He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’   (Luke 11:27-28)

“He was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.’  He said to them in reply, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.’”  (Luke 8:20-21).

Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph.  He prophesied to Mary about the destiny of Jesus, and the suffering she would undergo for His sake.  The Virgin Mother was given the “blessedness” of being the true mother of the Son of God (and thus the mother of God as well).  That blessedness was also a two-edged sword, piercing her heart as her beloved Son suffered and died upon the Holy Tree.  She received simultaneously – – a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow – – as her son received a crown of thorns.

Jesus did not come wielding a sword, or destructive weapon of any kind.  Yet, He dies at the hands of others.  Weapons of evil and destruction are wielded against Him.  Instead of a destructive weapon, Jesus wielded a CON-structive weapon against evil – – His “good news” – – the Gospel of salvation!  Loyalty to Jesus leads each of us to a pointed sword pressing against our “hearts” and souls: – – our relationships, our reputations, our ambitions, and even our monetary and earthly treasures.

 

The Jerusalem Temple is long gone, leaving a simple piece of one wall as its only physical remnant to the past.  However, Jesus is now the NEW temple: (John 1:14; 2:19-22).  

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)   

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’  The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking about the temple of his body.  Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:19-22)   

In the Old Testament God manifested his presence in the “pillar of cloud” by day and the “pillar of fire” at night as He led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness.  God’s magnificent and supreme glory came to dwell in a visible way over the ark and tabernacle:

Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling, the Israelites would set out on their journey.  But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward; only when it lifted did they go forward.  In the daytime the cloud of the LORD was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud by the whole house of Israel in all the stages of their journey.”  (Exodus 40:34-38)

When the first temple was built in Jerusalem God’s glory came to rest there (cf., 1 Kings 8).  After the first temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw God’s glory leave it (cf., Ezekiel 10).  But God promised one day to fill it with even greater glory (see Haggai 2:1-9; Zechariah 8-9).  That promise is fulfilled when the “King of Glory” himself comes to his temple:  

“Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.  Who is this king of glory?  The LORD, a mighty warrior, the LORD, mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.  Who is this king of glory?  The LORD of hosts is the king of glory.”  (Psalm 24:7-10)

“I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.  Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1)

Through Jesus’ coming in the flesh along with His saving death, resurrection, and ascension we are made living temples for his Holy Spirit:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”  (1 Cor. 3:16-17) 

Open the doors to your heart, soul, thoughts, and actions for the Holy Spirit to dwell in, and to work in and through you.  Welcome Him in with open arms.  Grasp God in a bear hug of love and want.  Give Him your best in everything.

 

What a radical departure from ‘traditional’ JudaismJesus awakened and probably scared some people in His teachings, approach, and life style.  There appeared to be many reasons for not wanting to be “around” this man named Jesus, or to follow Him.  However, when condensed, all these reasons were simply and purely out of plain, simple fear; a fear that I believe stemmed from ignorance.  This ignorance could be seen throughout Holy Scripture in the fear emanated from the watchful eyes of the Temple priests and elders; and in the fear from the Roman government who was concerned about civil unrest and uprisings stemming from Jesus’ teachings and activities.

The model believer of trust and hope, the model disciple of Christ – – was Mary.  She had to decide what her role was going to be in salvation history: either to follow God’s plan or her own.  Though she was truly the faithful mother of God, Mary still had ‘free will.’  Family ties do not create faith – – only faith creates faith

She did not want to leave her homeland any more than Joseph wanted to leave.  However, according to God’s plan, Mary would have to escape to Egypt in order to protect her baby Jesus.  She would have to experience the fear of losing a child for three days in His youth.  And, Sadly, Mary would have to witness the devastation and despair of Jesus’ trial, scourging, crucifixion, and burial.

Mary, and Jesus, had to tread a rough and treacherous path hewed out for her by God, but isn’t sacrificing the “language” of love?  It is because of her sharing so much in the pain, suffering, and humiliation of Jesus, that she is called the “co-redemptrix” – – the co-redeemer – – in the Catholic Church.

Through all of these trials of faith – – Mary never faltered.  I believe she handled all these “sorrows” because she knew what was needed, and expected from herself, and from her son.  More importantly, Mary trusted in God’s providence at every stage in hers and Jesus’ life.  Even prior to Jesus’ birth, the teenage Mary had already surrendered her soul, her heart, and her body to God.  She allowed the Holy Spirit to dwell in her – – and act through her.  Mary had NO doubts about God in her life, and in her priorities.  Even in the worst of times for her and her son on this earth, she never lost her faith, love, and trust in God’s plan for her.  We can, and we need, to learn from her example.  Please help me Lord to find the strength and fortitude to love, trust, and follow you as did your blessed mother, Mary, so perfectly demonstrated for us all.  

Do you know the joy of submission to God? Do you seek to pass on the Catholic faith, helping others to grow in wisdom, grace, and obedience to His word?  What do you hope for in your life, and in your families’ future?  How can you grow in hope?  We all must place our total faith, hope, and trust in the promises of Jesus Christ.  We must rely on the love, grace, and support of the Holy Spirit.  Does your hope and fervor for God grow with age?

Jesus promised that “no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).  God gives us a mysterious grace of joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain, and which neither life nor death can take way.  One of my favorite short prayers highlights this mystery:

Jesus, there is nothing that is going to happen today that you and I can’t handle together.”

Ask Jesus Christ to renew your faith in the presence of His Holy Spirit living within you, and working through you for His glory.  Give Him thanks and praise for coming to you and each of us individually.  Thank Him for making His home (and place of business on earth) with and within you – – and through you!

 

Morning Offering

 

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, and for the intentions recommended by our Holy Father for this month.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours.

O Mary, my Queen, my Mother, I give myself entirely to you, and to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being without reserve.  Wherefore good Mother, as I am your own, keep me, guard me as your property and possession. 

St. Joseph, model and patron of those who love the Sacred Heart, pray for me.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Presentation of the Lord

 

At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the Epiphany (January 6), the observance of Christ’s birth, and the gala procession in honor of his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later—February 15. (Under the Mosaic Law, a woman was ritually “unclean” for 40 days after childbirth, when she was to present herself to the priests and offer sacrifice—her “purification.” Contact with anyone who had brushed against mystery—birth or death—excluded a person from Jewish worship.) This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple more than Mary’s purification.

The observance spread throughout the Western Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. Because the Church in the West celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25, the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas.

At the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession; at the end of the same century the blessing and distribution of candles which continues to this day became part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name: Candlemas.

Comment:

In Luke’s account, Jesus was welcomed in the temple by two elderly people, Simeon and the widow Anna. They embody Israel in their patient expectation; they acknowledge the infant Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Early references to the Roman feast dub it the feast of St. Simeon, the old man who burst into a song of joy which the Church still sings at day’s end.

Quote:

“Christ himself says, ‘I am the light of the world.’ And we are the light, we ourselves, if we receive it from him…. But how do we receive it, how do we make it shine? …[T]he candle tells us: by burning, and being consumed in the burning. A spark of fire, a ray of love, an inevitable immolation are celebrated over that pure, straight candle, as, pouring forth its gift of light, it exhausts itself in silent sacrifice” (Paul VI).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 2 & 3 of 26:

 

2.  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.

 

 

3.  The present rule, succeeding “Memoriale Propositi” (1221) and the rules approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times. Its interpretation belongs to the Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions and particular statutes. 

“He Thinks He Can Walk On Water!” – Mark 6:45-52†


            

Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1438 – Pope Eugenius IV deallocated council of Basel to Ferrara
†   1531 – Pope Clemens VII forbids English king Henry VIII to re-marry
†   1860 – Death of St John Nepomucene Neumann, 1st male US saints
†   1962 – A replica of the miraculous statue, the Holy Infant of Good Health, is presented to Blessed Pope John XXIII.
†   1964 – Pope Paul VI visits Jordan & Israel
†   The eleventh day of Christmas, and the Twelfth Night of Christmas in Western Christianity.
†   Feast day: St. John Neumann; Simeon Stylites; Pope Telesphorus

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

 Part 02 of 13 Parts

“The letter repeats John Paul II’s appeal regarding what the Church has always expected and looked for from us, in order to be able truly to rely on each one of us, just as She could rely on Francis and all his Family.”

“The Holy See constantly reminds us, authoritatively and insistently, that we are a living, integral and essential part of the Church, where we must exercise in full our role as a living body.”

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus walking on water during a storm.

 

 

45 Then he made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  46 And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.  47 When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore.  48 Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them.  About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea.  He meant to pass by them.  49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out.  50 They had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  51 He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.  They were (completely) astounded.  52 They had not understood the incident of the loaves.  On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.  (NAB Mark 6:45-52)

 

 

 

Jesus had just fed 5000 men (and unknown women and children) with just a few fish and loaves of bread.  After this “miracle”, He tells His disciples to start for Bethsaida (across the sea) by boat while He prays.  A storm surges while they were en-route on their voyage.  These scared disciples see Jesus walking on the water obviously near the boat, and call out to Him.

(Trivia time:  The Jewish people of that time divided the night into four periods.  The “fourth watch” was the period just prior to dawn – the darkest part of the night.)

Would Jesus actually just walk “past them” (v. 48)?  He told them to go by boat in the first place!  He interrupted His prayers and came to them, getting His sandals and feet soaked. (Did Jesus ever get athlete’s feet?)  Thus, would Jesus simply walk past them in their time of need?

Heck NO, He would not!!  And, He still doesn’t walk by us today when we are in need.  Jesus is not indifferent to our tough times and situations.  He lives with us in a relationship of love with Him.

This is not the first time Jesus is seen walking on water.  In Matthew 14:22-33, not only does Jesus walk on the surface of the water, Peter does the same.  Peter steps out of the boat and walks toward Jesus, but Peter apparently lost focus or faith (or something) and starts to sink.  I personally believe Peter started sinking because Jesus made him the “ROCK”, and everyone knows rocks sink – like rocks – in water!

In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus sends his disciples away to fend for themselves in the dark of the night while a storm begins to brew on the sea.  The disciples are engrossed in the labor of paddling, and fighting against the turbulent seas.  When they saw Jesus walking on the water, did they think He was a ghost waiting for their imminent deaths?  Regardless, Jesus had to calm them with his reassuring voice:

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  (Mark 6:50)

Jesus shows His power over the raging waters as He also does in Matthew 8:26:

“He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’  Then He got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.”

You have to remember, these men were experienced fishermen.  Yet, they feared for their lives.  Jesus was not with them in the boat.  Yet, He watched over them in His actions and prayers.  When Jesus saw their fear and trouble, He came to them on the sea.  And even in this action, these disciples were startled by His sudden appearance.

In today’s reading Jesus truly expresses His power over nature through the action of His walking on the sea.  Both Mark and Matthew in their Gospels, incorporate a couple of Old Testament Bible readings into this story:

Through the sea was your path; your way, through the mighty waters, though your footsteps were unseen.”  (Psalm 77:20)

 “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea.”  (Job 9:8)

 

Jesus sent these “chosen” men ahead of Him “to the other side toward Bethsaida”.  Bethsaida was a simple and obscure village at the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  I believe Phillip, Andrew, and Peter (3 of the 12 apostles) were from this tiny village.  Bethsaida is mentioned a total of seven times throughout the four Gospels.

 

After sending His followers off via boat, Jesus “went off to the mountain to pray”.  Jesus loves to pray in private, and it is apparent going to mountain enclaves was His preference.  Jesus prayed a large amount throughout Holy Scripture, and not always on mountain tops though.  Earlier, in Mark 1:35-38, it is written:

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.  Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”  He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come.”

And, in John 6:15, Jesus withdrew to pray to evade any involvement with open defiance of the government in His role as “Savior.”.

“Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone”.  (John 6:15)

Speaking about Jesus’ habit of praying, being a devout Jew, He most certainly had a Tallit, a Jewish prayer robe or shawl, with attached tassels called “Tzitzit” at the four corners.  When in prayer, the Tallit is literally wrapped around the person’s torso and over the head.  In essence, in doing so, the devout Jew is wrapped in the “actual presence of God”, as they have (even today) a strong belief in God’s presence within the Tallit

 

Jesus was saying something extremely profound when He said,

It is I, do not be afraid!”  (Mark 6;50)

He is literally saying, “I am.”  And, in doing so, Jesus is reflecting a divine revelation of faith and fact in seven statements found in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Isaiah.  Mark is truly indicating the hidden identity of Jesus as the “Son of God”.

“God replied, ‘I am who am.’ Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14) 

“Who has performed these deeds?  He who has called forth the generations since the beginning. I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will also be.”  (Isaiah 41:4)

 “Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.”  (Isaiah 41: 10) 

“Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”  (Isaiah 41:14)

 “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in return for you.” (Isaiah 43:1-3)  (“Egypt . . . Ethiopia and Seba” were countries which God permitted the Persians to conquer in return for having given Israel its freedom.)

“You are my witnesses, says the LORD, my servants whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that it is I.  Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none.”  (Isaiah 43:10)

“Yes, from eternity I am He; there is none who can deliver from my hand: who can countermand what I do?” (Isaiah 43:13)

 

The revelation found in Jesus dividing the loaves and fish; feeding the multitudes; and even His walking on the sea completely escaped His disciples.  How could they not see the divinity that had to be associated with these events, these miracles!  Yet, they did!  Twice, in verse 52 of today’s reading, this lack of realization is proved:

They had not understood the incident of the loaves

Their hearts were hardened

Their own humanly dispositions may have prevented these men from comprehending Jesus’ self-revelation through the signs offered to them.

“When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no breadDo you not yet understand or comprehend?  Are your hearts hardened?”  (Mark 8:17)

This lack of understanding and their “hardened hearts” may be attributed to some who did not accept Jesus, and possibly even those plotting His death.   Earlier in Mark’s Gospel, a plot was enacted to bring Jesus and His followers down.

“Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’  He stretched it out and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.”  (Mark 3:5-6)

The Pharisees and Herodians (supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea) want to put Jesus to death after a series of conflicts with Him in Galilee.  Mark reports many conflicts with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes.  These conflicts come to a head with accounts of later controversies in Jerusalem. 

“Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples? But you have made it a den of thieves.’  The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.”  (Mark 11:17-18)

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech.  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?’  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.’  They brought one to him and he said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’  They replied to him, ‘Caesar’s.’   So Jesus said to them, ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ They were utterly amazed at him.”   (Mark 12:13-17)

 

How do you handle adversity in your life?  Do you “trust” God totally and completely?  Or, do you panic, fret, and become fearful?  Fear is a natural reaction, and actually has a medical term associated with the nervous system response to the stimuli of adversity: “sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ reaction”.

However, Jesus wants much more from His followers than just this normal self-preservation bodily reaction.  Jesus wants “perfect love!”

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.   We love because he first loved us.”  (1 John 4:18-19)

Jesus is the “Shepherd” and we are His sheep (and some say I am the blemished, very dark colored one, who spends a considerable amount of time with the wolves).  Being a shepherd can’t be an easy job!  Not only does a shepherd feed and guide his flock, he is willing to suffer and die for his flock.  A shepherd is with his sheep in good and bad weather, protects the flock from predator animals and robbers, and even sleeps amongst his charges.

Jesus, our “Good Shepherd”, watches over His flock continuously.  How often during times of troubles and tribulations do you call out for Him?  How often do you truly rely on His providence?  How often do you depend on His love for all of us?  Jesus assures us that we have no need of fear – – if we TRULY trust in Him and in his immense love for us.  

 

The 23rd Psalm

 

The LORD is my shepherd;
There is nothing I lack.

In green pastures you let me graze;
To safe waters you lead me;

You restore my strength.
You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.

Even when I walk through a dark valley,
I fear no harm for you are at my side;
Your rod and staff give me courage.

You set a table before me as my enemies watch;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.  Amen”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. John Neumann  (1811-1860)

 

Perhaps because the United States got a later start in the history of the world, it has relatively few canonized saints, but their number is increasing.

John Neumann was born in what is now the Czech Republic.  After studying in Prague, he came to New York at 25 and was ordained a priest.  He did missionary work in New York until he was 29, when he joined the Redemptorists and became its first member to profess vows in the United States.  He continued missionary work in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio, where he became popular with the Germans.

At 41, as bishop of Philadelphia, he organized the parochial school system into a diocesan one, increasing the number of pupils almost twentyfold within a short time.

Gifted with outstanding organizing ability, he drew into the city many teaching communities of sisters and the Christian Brothers.  During his brief assignment as vice provincial for the Redemptorists, he placed them in the forefront of the parochial movement.

Well-known for his holiness and learning, spiritual writing and preaching, on October 13, 1963, John Neumann became the first American bishop to be beatified. Canonized in 1977, he is buried in St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia.

Comment:

Neumann took seriously our Lord’s words, “Go and teach all nations.”  From Christ he received his instructions and the power to carry them out.  For Christ does not give a mission without supplying the means to accomplish it.  The Father’s gift in Christ to John Neumann was his exceptional organizing ability, which he used to spread the Good News.

Today the Church is in dire need of men and women to continue in our times the teaching of the Good News.  The obstacles and inconveniences are real and costly.  Yet when Christians approach Christ, he supplies the necessary talents to answer today’s needs.  The Spirit of Christ continues his work through the instrumentality of generous Christians.

Quote:

“All people of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons, have an inalienable right to education.  This education should be suitable to the particular destiny of the individuals, adapted to their ability, sex and national cultural traditions, and should be conducive to amicable relations with other nations in order to promote true unity and peace in the world.  True education aims to give people a formation which is directed towards their final end and the good of that society to which they belong and in which, as adults, they will have their share of duties to perform.”  (Declaration on Christian Education, 1, Austin Flannery translation).

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s  5& 6 of 26:

 5.     Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity.  The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.

 

6.     They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

“Faith is a Conversion Problem!” – John 14:1-6†


Today in Catholic History:
†  1131 – Death of Adjutor, Roman Catholic Saint
†  1555 – Death of Pope Marcellus II (b. 1501)
†  1623 – Birth of François de Laval, first bishop of New France (d. 1708)
†  1651 – Birth of Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, French educational reformer, Catholic saint (d. 1719)
†  Liturgical feasts: Saint Adjutor, Saint Eutropius, Saint Maximus, 3rd century martyr, Saint Suitbert the Younger (d. 807), Saint Pope Pius V

Today’s reflection is about faith.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

“Faith makes all things possible: love makes all things easy.”
    

Today’s Meditation:
     

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  Where (I) am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (NAB John 14:1-6)
      

This gospel reading is about the start of dialogue about Jesus’ departure and return.  This conversation will eventually end the same way it started, with John 14:1, 27: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

You have faith” is an essential element of Christianity.  What is faith?  The twinkle in the eyes of Children on Christmas morning, before even spying what Santa had brought them, and placed under the tree, is faith.  Faith is also the grip your child has on your hand the first time they get stitches or a cavity filled.  And faith is the child going to sleep after you rid their room of the boogey-man one stormy evening.

Faith, for me as an adult Christian, is looking at the monstrance holding that piece of bread, and knowing that it had been changed into the true and actual body of the living Christ, through the actions of the Holy Spirit.  Faith knows that God, who being perfect could not suffer, so He came to us in the form of a human so He could suffer for us, in order to gain our redemption.  Faith knows my suffering is living in the footsteps of Christ, so that I can gain perfection in heaven.

Patrick Overton wrote, “When you have come to the edge of all light that you know, and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”  This is what most children believe. As young adults, we come to think of faith by what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”   Being a “well seasoned” adult, I have finally come to think of faith the same as Mother Teresa of Calcutta believed: “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”

In this gospel reading Jesus talks about coming back again.  In the bible, it is reiterated time and time again that He will return.  He also wants us to return to Him on a daily basis.  Let’s face it; we are all sinners, and need to convert ourselves to Christ on a daily basis.  This phrase has a special significance for me.  At my lowest point in life, a time when I was angry at everyone including myself and especially at God, I was in Church giving Him a piece of my mind (to say it nicely).  I actually heard God say to me (not in a thunderous voice, but in that little internal feeling), “It has been a very long time since you actually came to me and talked openly.  Come back tomorrow, and let’s do this again!”  I nearly fell out of the pew!

There are two ways to know the “way” that Thomas is asking about.  The first is through a genuine relationship with Jesus himself; and also through following the tenants of Christianity in your life.  Neither is an easy path.  Actually, both are very difficult paths to follow; having many pitfalls and obstructions.  The many roads away from Jesus and a Christian life are much easier to navigate, but do not offer the reward of eternal life in paradise, that the difficult one does.

We already covered the “way” to Jesus.  Now, “the truth and the life:” the divinely revealed reality of God the Father being manifested in the person and works of Jesus. Jesus, possessing the truth and life of perfection, has the knowledge, and the ability to liberate us from sin.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Amen.”
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Blessed Benedict of Urbino, OFM Cap.
     

Born at Urbino, Italy; died at Fossombrone, Italy, 1625; beatified in 1867. Born into the de’Passionei family, Benedict was a lawyer in his home town before joining the Capuchins at Fano in 1584. His previous training, complemented by his faith, made him an effective preacher. He was the companion of Saint Laurence of Brindisi, whom he followed to Austria and Bohemia.

(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
     

Prologue to Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule, Chapter 1:
      

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