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“Hey, You May Be Him – – But This Cross Is Heavy! You Carry It For Awhile!” – Mark 8:27-35†


 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today’s readings feature the famous passage from the Letter of Saint James in defense of the unity of faith and works:

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

Thus, we can accept James’ wisdom in the two verses preceding the famous quote above:

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16).

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Peter declares that Jesus is the “Christ” prophesized in Jewish Scripture; and Jesus teaches that those who would follow Him must take up his or her cross.  How heavy is YOUR Cross?

(NAB Mark 8:27-35) 27 Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  28 They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”  29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.”  30 Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.  31 He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.  32 He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  33 At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  34 He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Who IS Jesus for you?  For the 1st century Jews, Jesus was widely recognized throughout His homeland as a charismatic man and prophet of God.  He was even compared with the greatest of the prophets: Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and even John the Baptist.  Peter, however, recognizes Jesus as being the true “Messiah” (the “Anointed One”) promised in Jewish Scriptures.  No mortal human being could have ever revealed this divine fact to Peter; but, this truth, this identity of Jesus, could only be revealed to him through the actions of God the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit working in Peter, AND through him. 

In Mark’s Gospel for today,, Jesus tries to reveal Himself more to all His disciples who were struggling to accept the mysterious unity of His words and deeds – – (along with His unity of a human AND divine nature.  Peter correctly proclaims before his fellow disciples that Jesus “is the Christ“.  However, when Jesus speaks openly about His suffering and death to come, Peter then rejects the way Jesus expects to “reveal Himself” who He truly IS: the true “Messiah”(in Greek: “Christ”) prophesized in their Jewish Scriptures.  Peter is then quickly rebuked by Jesus, who uses this public rebuke of him, and by doing so, to teach the other disciples not to think as Peter.  Mark has Jesus literally declaring that Peter is:

Thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Mark 8:33).

How shocked and upset do you think the disciples were when they heard these ominous words of suffering and death coming from Jesus- – and Jesus’ rebuke as recorded by Mark?!  This is what Mark has to say:

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days” (Mark 8:31).

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This episode in Mark’s Gospel is the turning point in regards to Jesus’ public ministry.  Popular opinions among those 1st century Jews following Jesus as disciples regarded Jesus as a “prophet”.  In contrast, His closest disciples believed Jesus to be the true Messiah Savior.  Jesus acknowledges their correct identification, but prohibits them from making His messianic mission known to others.  Why?  Jesus does so in order to avoid confusing His true mission with false and ambiguous contemporary views known by the Pharisees and others, with their misconceived nature of what His mission should be – – according to THEIR viewpoints!!

At the time of Jesus, the image of the Messiah was laden with extremely popular expectations of a messianic military-political leader who would physically “free” the Jewish people from Roman domination occupation – – in other words, a divine socio-military leader (another King David).  

The image and expectation of Jesus as this Messiah Savior, declared by Peter as spokesman for the other disciples (cf., Mark 8:27–29), is modified significantly in Mark’s Gospel when compared to Matthew’s account.  Matthew shows Peter’s declaration actually amplified and extended: stating Jesus as both the prophesized “Messiah” AND the true “Son of the living God”:

“Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16).  

Jesus’ response, drawn principally from material peculiar to Matthew, attributes Peter’s declaration to a divine revelation granted only to Peter (so far):

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

So, per Matthew, Peter’s “faith”, inspired by the Father. grasped the unity of the human and the divine in Jesus, the person called “Christ”.  He was the first disciple recorded as recognizing Jesus as the divine “Anointed One” (Messiah/Christ).  Peter’s faith however, per Mark, was very much “human”, as proved when told by Jesus it was necessary for Him, the “Messiah”, to suffer and die for God the Father’s work in order to bring about actual salvation and redemption to be accomplished!  

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Mark shows Jesus Christ using the term, “Son of Man” (v. 31).  Jesus does not use the term “Christ or “Messiah” for Himself in Scripture.  So, we see in today’s reading, Jesus referring to Himself instead as the “Son of Man”, a term derived from Jewish Scriptures: e.g., chapters two and three of the book of Ezekiel, and the book of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14) to indicate His identity.  Many bible scholars today suggest that the phrase “Son of Man” is best understood to mean simply, “human being”: Jesus uses the term to apply to Himself, and to describe His understanding of His messianic (divine) identity.

Son of Man” is has a quality of mystery and ambiguity about it.  This title was difficult to understand by most people hearing it come from Peter on that day, before his peers.  “Son of Man”, of itself, means simply “a human being”; yet, there is evidence of this term being used prior to Christian times in Jewish writings (e.g., Ezekiel and David) long before Jesus’ public ministry.  I believe Jesus’ use of this title about Himself, is due to His speaking of Himself in a certain unique, mysterious, way: as a completely “divine” person being completely “human” able to live, suffer, experience rejection and betrayal, and even death (something God cannot do; or, CAN HE?)!!  “WOW!!”  My faith inspires me to say more: I believe Jesus Christ saw beyond His death and burial; His Rising from His grave; His appearing to His mother, the other Mary’s, and Peter; His ascending to heaven; and His glorious coming at the end of the age.  In the meantime … He still comes to us – – in the Holy Eucharist – – in order to strengthen us to take up our individual cross and follow Him all the days of our lives.

Now that the disciples have acknowledged Jesus as “the Christ”, Jesus confides in them the soon-to-be outcome of His earthly public ministry: Jesus knows He will be “rejected”, He “must suffer and die”, and He “will rise after three days”.  Peter emotionally rejects this foretelling prediction; so, Jesus rebukes Peter severely for his “earthly”, one-dimensional view.  

In today’s reading, Jesus is giving us NOT the image of the Messiah Savior who Peter and all Jews were expecting, but the “Christ” image He has of Himself.  Instead, Jesus is teaching the crowd about the reality of His path of true discipleship.  In order to be “Christ’s” disciple, Jesus makes it clear one must follow in the way of the cross – – in the way of HIS cross – – in the way of OUR cross.

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Jesus states in verse 34:

Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel * will save it” (Mark 8:34),

He challenges all believers (you and me) about authentic discipleship AND about a total commitment to Him – – through our acceptance of the Holy Cross of daily suffering brought about by our fidelity to normal duties and obligations – – even to the sacrifice of our life itself for our family, our country, our Lord God, and even OUR SELVES.  

Some of our suffering comes about because of a certain ambivalence – – two opposing ideas – – of life now, AND to life as we will know it when we enter into the destiny Jesus promises.  A life seen as a meager or simple “self-centered” (materialistic, narcissistic) earthly existence, and lived in denial of Christ, will always end in greater suffering and destruction.  Such a life possesses an eternal separation from the JOY our Trinitarian God: in the glory and beauty of everlasting paradise (the “New Jerusalem” above). 

However, when lived in loyalty to Christ, even despite our earthly human death, our lives will be delivered to live in a completely divine “fullness”.  Jesus explained to all who would listen what it would cost, individually and personally, to follow Him as their Messiah.  It would cost EVERYTHING, including their very lives!  (Example: 11 of 12 Apostles were martyred; and the surviving Apostle, John, was exiled to a lonely island, to live in a cave.)  How can anyone make such a costly demand?  Well, God the Father freely gave us His Son, Jesus Christ to save us from the effects of sin and death by giving His very life – – not just a physical death, but also a spiritual death – – HELL – – so we would not have to experience this sad separation:

“Hence, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death.  For what the law, weakened by the flesh, was powerless to do, this God has done: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the sake of sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous decree of the law might be fulfilled in us, who live not according to the flesh but according to the spirit  (Romans 8:1-4)!!

Perhaps this is why Mark finishes his reading for today with a simple, yet spiritually complex verse:

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).

Later Mark uses similar terms again, to equate Jesus with the Gospel, the “good news” of God:

Jesus said, ‘Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.  But many that are first will be last, and [the] last will be first’”(Mark 10:29-31).

When we exchange our life for His life – – working in, with, and through us – – we receive far more than we could ever give up.  In this awesome exchange of lives, we receive pardon, peace, and the abundant eternal life of God’s kingdom now; and we also receive a sacred, divine, promise of a resurrection – – an unending life with God – – in the next age to come.

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We can easily miss the fear Jesus’ words must have evoked in His disciples when uttering His ominous warning.  Death by scourging and crucifixion was all too familiar as the preferred method of execution in Roman-occupied territories.  It was a universal, continuous, danger to the 1st century Christian community for whom Mark wrote.  The “path” Jesus was inviting His disciples to share meant, almost always assured, tremendous suffering and death for the early Christians.  This is the kind of radical commitment and sacrifice Jesus calls us to adopt “for the sake of the Gospel”, even still today.  (If you do not think so, look at what is happening in the middle-east this past week!  Please pray for our Orthodox Catholic Brothers and Sisters.) 

Peter certainly had expectations about what it meant to call Jesus the prophesied “Messiah”, the Christ.  Jesus was indeed the “Messiah”; but His life, and eventually His death, would show to all a different understanding of what it means to be the Messiah Savior.  

We, too, have expectations of our Trinitarian God, the Holy One of Israel.  Our own expectations are about what we think God ought to be doing in our present-day world.  Like Peter in today’s reading, we may risk limiting our image of God by thinking only in “human ways”.  God’s plan is always more than we can ever imagine with our finite minds and imaginations.  God’s thoughts and ways are absolutely different from our human, materialistic, earthly thoughts and ways!  Through humiliation, suffering, and death on the Holy Cross, Jesus broke the confining power of evil, sin, and spiritual/physical death.  Jesus, instead, won for us redemption, salvation, and eternal paradise in heaven.  So, when talking to Jesus in prayer, how do you answer Him when asked, “Who do you say that ‘I AM’?”  (He has asked this question to you.  You may have only heard it just now!)  I answer this question multiple time each and every day with the following:

“Jesus, I trust you, I love You.  You are my God and my ALL!!” (My personal “Jesus Prayer”)

More than any of Jesus’ other works (actions), Jesus’ passion and death is a living, active, expression of His “Words” – – in action; a living, redemptive, saving love for All His creation.  To be a Catholic Christian is to become conformed to Christ – – FULLY!!  Jesus states, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me“.  The image of the “suffering servant” of Isaiah is prophecies of “Christ”, as being the one who can say:

I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who tore out my beard; My face I did not hide from insults and spitting.  The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.  He who declares my innocence is near.  Who will oppose me?  Let us appear together.  Who will dispute my right?  Let them confront me.” (Isaiah 50:6-8).

Jesus spoke openly to His disciples, and dealt openly with those who opposed Him.  As those who bear the name of Christian Catholics, our faith should remain open to Jesus’ revelation of Himself in our daily lives, that we might lose our preconceptions of ourselves and others for the works of living His “Word”, His good news, His Gospel today, everyday, NOW, forever and ever.  AMEN!!

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Reflect on what you expect God to be doing in the world – – in YOUR world.  Reflect about why you believe Peter was so upset with what Jesus was saying to Him?  Jesus was also truly upset by Peter’s reaction to the foretelling of His passion and death.  Do we sometimes forget to just let God BE GOD for us?  Do we sometimes get discouraged because God doesn’t act in the world in ways WE expect Him to act?  Pray for a continual knowledge of God, always working for the world’s redemptive salvation, through ways beyond our limited imaginations.

When we discover the treasure of God’s kingdom – – God Himself – – we gladly give up all we have in exchange for the life of joy, exaltation, and happiness only God can offer us.  He always gives without measure. There is NO sadness or loss which can ever diminish the joy God offers to each of us personally – – on a daily, moment-to-moment, basis!  The Holy Cross of Jesus Christ truly and fully leads to TWO victories: a freedom from evil, sin, and death, AND, a freedom for choosing (a) not to sin, and (b) the better “right” things to do.  Let me ask, “What is the cross Jesus Christ is commanding you to take up each day?”  When my “will” crosses with His “will”, His “will” must be achieved.  (His “will” will “will” my “will”!!)   Are you ready to lose ALL on this earth, for Jesus Christ, in order to gain ALL WITH Jesus Christ?  I know “I AM(and “me too”!)!

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Reflection Prayer:   

 

“A Prayer Of Praise To God For His Salvation”

 

“I love the LORD, who listened
to my voice in supplication,
Who turned an ear to me
on the day I called.
I was caught by the cords of death;
the snares of Sheol had seized me;
I felt agony and dread.
Then I called on the name of the LORD,
“O LORD, save my life!”
Gracious is the LORD and righteous;
yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD protects the simple;
I was helpless, but he saved me.
For my soul has been freed from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living.  Amen”

(From today’s Mass – Psalm 116:1-6,8-9)

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“I’m the Best Darn Humble Person Around, I Do Believe!” – Matthew 23:1-12†


 

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

All Saints Day and All Souls Day are Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, this week.  All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation.  I hope to see you all in Church.  This year, this past Wednesday, marks the 45th Anniversary of my father’s death.  I miss him, but know he (and my Mom) is (are) with me every single Eucharistic celebration.  In preparation for All Saints Day, let’s pray for greater courage in fighting abortion.

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Tomorrow night is Halloween.  Please be safe in all your Ghoulishly Christian endeavors.  If you have children that go “trick or treat”, please use the usual safety rules:

  1. 1.     Reflective material or flashing light or cyalume stick visible on all side placed on costume,
  2. 2.     Parent accompany the children on the haunt and haunting activities,
  3. 3.     Only go to homes where you know the occupants, and
  4. 4.     Inspect any treats prior to allowing children to have and/or consume.

Better yet, go to a party at yours or neighboring church (yet still follow the rules).

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Finally, The St. Louis Carinals are the Baseball World Champions.   There 11th World Champions in 2011 (“11 in 11”).  Besides the team, the fansare also the best.  The city is celebrating, people are hugging perfect strangers and NO rioting, breaking windows, or any other BAD behavior!  We have to be the greatest and classiest fans, not only in baseball, but in sports period!  Way to go Cardinals Nation, and way to go St.Louis Area for once again showing the world the proper and GREAT way to celebrate – –  with CLASS!  (thanks Jeff)

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   701 – John VI of Greece begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   942 – Alberic nominates Pope Marinus II (Martinus III)
†   1270 – The Eighth Crusade and siege of Tunis end by an agreement between Charles I of Sicily (brother to King Louis IX of France, who had died months earlier) and the sultan of Tunis.
†   1389 – French king Charles VI visits pope Clemens VII
†   1534 – English Parliament passes Act of Supremacy, making King Henry VIII head of the English church – a role formerly held by the Pope
†   1950 – Pope Pius XII witnesses “The Miracle of the Sun” while at the Vatican.
†   Feasts/Memorials: St. Artemas; St. Herbert; St. Marcellus the Centurion; St. Saturninus; St. Serapion

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

 

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  Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning against following of the Scribes and the Pharisees example; and teaches that those who would be great must be servants as well.

 

(NAB Matthew 23:1-12) 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice.  4 They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  5All their works are performed to be seen.  They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  6 They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’  8 As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.  9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.  10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.  11The greatest among you must be your servant.  12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

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 Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel continues to expand on the tension between Jesus and the Temple leaders.  Having finished a string of dialogues with the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus is now directing His words to the crowds following Him, warning them not to follow the example of the Scribes and Pharisees in “saying” – – but not “doing”.

Today, Matthew’s begin a narrative in which Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes and the Pharisees for their lack of humility. Matthew, in his writings, saw these Temple leaders as true enemies of Jesus (cf., Matthew 16:1, 6, 11, 12; and Mark 8:11–13, 15).

Who were these men of “faith” that could be enemies of Jesus?  The Scribes and Pharisees were teachers of Mosaic Law.  They were entrusted with the laws interpretation, and thus were influential in determining everyday Jewish practices.  

In order to appreciate the conflict that is evident in this passage, we must understand that Jesus was basing His teachings on the exact same laws and traditions offered to the Temple leaders, as found in the Old Testament, especially the Torah.  Both Jesus and the Temple leaders were interpreting the Law of Moses in order to adapt it to contemporary Jewish life of the time.  The differences between Jesus’ and the Temple leader’s teachings therefore, are often highlighted and amplified in Matthew’s Gospel.

While there is a well-seated and lengthy tradition of deep opposition existing between Jesus and the Temple leaders, today’s discourse by Jesus, exposes an opposition that goes far beyond that of Jesus’ ministry period on earth.  This opposition has to be viewed as expressing the long-held and very bitter conflict between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s later first-century Jewish-Catholic Church, when this Gospel was composed.  Matthew’s Church is believed to have included many who did not believe a break with the Temple was necessary to be a follower of Jesus Christ (My question: Was it?).  So, Matthew reports of Jesus stating that it is correct to “do” and “observe” what the Scribes and Pharisees teach; it is only their “example” that is to be avoided. Namely, Jesus is talking of the Temple leaders love for being honored and exalted (I call it the “look at me, I did much good” syndrome).  Therefore, today’s Gospel reflects the tension of an active internal debate that is occurring within the later first century Church and the Pharisaic Jewish church.

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The Temple leaders are sitting on their “laurels” – – their own personal glory – – and not sitting with God in mind and present among them.  So, is this what Jesus meant when He said:

The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.” (Matthew 23:2)?  

It is not clear whether Jesus meant this is a metaphor for Mosaic teaching authority, or, actually referring to a physical chair on which the “priest or Rabbi” sat as he taught and governed.  After all, there were found to be known seats such as this, in synagogues of later periods.  Did Jesus foretell future events in Jewish religion, was it just a coincidence, or was there another meaning?  

 

Jesus doesn’t stop at just this one observation, but continues to a greater phase in His comments that the Temple leaders do not walk the talk:

 “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” (Matthew 23:3)

Jesus is not doing away with Mosaic Law, but is instead expounding upon – – amplifying and fulfilling – – Mosaic Law:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophetsI have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

Remember, during the “Beatitudes” narrative, Jesus declared the “was said … but I say …” statements (cf., Matthew 5:31-42).  He is now also DIRECTLY warning His disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees, by their examples, as He did when talking of John the Baptist as a “true” servant of God (cf., 14:1-12).

The Scribes and Pharisees indults and actions in observing Mosaic Law in all things cannot be taken as the PROPER way to conduct oneself, then, and now in Jesus’ Catholic Church on earth today.  Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by conformity to salvation history and Mosaic Law.  At the same time, He is also points – – and leads – – to a new “church” that would exist after His death and resurrection on Easter Sunday.  During Jesus’ ministry, the beginning of God the Father’s kingdom on earth, His mission remained within the framework of Mosaic Law, though with a significant anticipation of the age to come.  Keeping this fact in mind, the crowds following Jesus Christ and His disciples were encouraged not to follow the example of the Jewish leaders whose deeds did not conform to their teachings.

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Carrying a heavy load is certainly not any fun or joy for ANYONE.  In verse 4 of today’s reading is the phrase, “They tie up heavy burdens”.  This particular phrase reminds me of Ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom while submitting to the Church’s “yoke”.

Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instructionTake her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching.  For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.” (Sirach 51:23, 26)

Jesus is reminding His follows that though burdened by the “law” as expanded on by the Scribes and Pharisees, that there is a undeniable hope in a faith and love to God the Father.  Those “burdened” can find rest in the “true” Word of God:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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To the indictment of the Temple leaders of preaching – – yet not practicing – – the “true” faith (verse 3), Jesus adds the indictment of “acting in order to earn praise”.  The disciples have already been warned against this same fault when Jesus taught about alms-giving, prayer, and fasting much earlier in His ministry (cf., Matthew 6:1-18).

Jesus is alluding to two specific aspects of Jewish spiritual life prescribed by the Law of Moses, for which many Catholics are not aware.  These two aspects, and two words associated with these aspects, are used in verse 5 of the Gospel.  Let me explain the items: “phylacteries” and “tassels”, and their proper use.

Phylacteries” are an item of clothing required by Mosaic Law during periods of prayer.  They are simple, small, and usually black boxes containing parchments on which verses of scripture are written.  They are worn on the left forearm and on the forehead by black straps (cf., Exodus 13:9, 16; and Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18).  If you watch people at the remains of the Temple wall (the Western Wall in Jerusalem), you will notice these small black boxes on their foreheads, and strapped (with long pieces of leather) around their left forearm, as they pray facing the wall.  These are the same phylacteries in use today, as in Jesus’ time.

The “Tassels” (officially called “Tzitzit”) are the “fringe” Mosaic Law prescribes to be worn on the corners of one’s garment (such as the prayer shawl) as a reminder to keep the commandments.  The widening of phylacteries (bigger boxes) and the lengthening of tassels (longer fringe and tassels) were solely for the purpose of making these “proofs of piety” more noticeable and pronounced.  (Humility in its finest; isn’t it!)

In their misguided zeal, the Temple leaders sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”. They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and rulers.  They, unfortunately, made the practice of their faith – – a burden – – rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to “humbly serve”.

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It is obvious Jesus loved His Father and His faith.  Jesus Christ was not afraid to express His concerns about the way the Temple leaders were abusing their positions for personal gain.  Jesus did not “bow out” or “quit” out of frustration.  Instead, Jesus Christ brought His Catholic (universal) Church into union with God His Father, and gave all that believed (and still believes) in Him the possibility of eternity salvation in paradise.  

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues actually leads to increased greed and separation from God the Father.  Another Evangelist, Mark, in his Gospel, even warns of greed and arrogance:

In the course of his teaching he [Jesus] said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.’” (Mark 12:38-40)

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We now get to the second portion of Jesus’ discourse today: the warning against using various titles.  This section however, is addressed to the disciples alone, and not to the followers coming along for the ride, or the Temple leaders.  

Everybody loves a title.  I once had a title: “Director of Quality Assurance”, which meant I was reportedly in charge of a very important aspect of my company.  In reality, my jobs consisted mainly of filing papers, and counting various variables, in an office BY MYSELF (and with no staff).  (Not as glamorous as the job sounded on my business card.)

Temple leaders loved the name, “Rabbi”, meaning “my great one, or, teacher”.  It was (and still is) a title of respect for teachers and leaders.  Jesus was called “Rabbi” many times in Holy Scripture.  At age fifteen, He was even found teaching in the Temple (the 5th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary).  A large part of His earthly ministry involved being in or around the Temple frequently.  He was easily recognized as the leader of a group of people associated with the Jewish religion.

So, was Jesus against calling anyone “rabbi” or “father”?  Or, was He just directing this sharp rebuke solely to the Scribes and Pharisees? Well, I believe He was warning both His disciples and the Temple leaders about the temptation to seek titles and honors in order to increase one’s personal reputation and admiration by others.  Holy Scripture gives more than enough warning about the danger of self-seeking “pride”.  Examples can be found in the books of Proverbs and James:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) 

And,

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6),

While only the title ‘Rabbi’ is used in addressing the Scribes and Pharisees, I believe the inference is that “Father” and “Master” was also used.  The prohibition of these titles – – to Jesus’ disciples – – highly suggests that the use of these titles was present in Matthew’s first-century Jewish-Catholic Church.  Per Matthew, Is Jesus forbidding the “title” or the spirit of superiority and pride shown by their acceptance (or both)?

Saint Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD), and the bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin language, comments on Matthew’s Gospel reading:

Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity.  For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives.  One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher.  I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption.  Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father.” [Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew]

Т

Humility is the key to piety and love of the Trinitarian God.  The Evangelist, Luke, says of humility:

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Our Blessed Virgin Mary is the supreme example of how to live a humble life.  The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order states:

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

And,

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

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power (11).

Т

 In Summary, the warning Jesus gives against seeking places of honor in the community was directed as much toward the future Catholic communities as well as the Jewish leaders of His day.  Indeed, it is a warning that resonates with us LOUDLY today (Yet, cannot, or will not, be heard by many).  Catholic Christian leadership is a call to “service” for the glory of God!!  Like Jesus Christ, and His Virginal Mother, those who would be leaders among us must be “servants of ALL”.

St. Paul described “servant leadership” in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He recalled their “sharing”, their humility in serving the Church, and their “toil and drudgery”:

We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.  With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.  You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-9)

Although the challenging words of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel was directly addressed to religious leaders of His time, many voices today should still question those in positions of political and economic power.  In their own words, participants in the “Occupy Together” movement have accused individuals, groups, and businesses of greed, arrogance and corruption.  Yet, they don’t (are won’t) see the greed, arrogance, and lawlessness on their own part.  For me, most in both groups: the US Government and in the group of “wildly greedy individuals” are equal partners in greed, arrogance, and corruption.  Their actions of removing themselves from laws (by law and action) prove their lack of caring for the people they are suppose to “serve”.  Arrogance thrives in our halls of government, and in parks around the world (with the “Occupy” groups) today.

 

There is hope however.  Respect for God and His ways will dispose us to humility and simplicity of heart.  The word “disciple” means “one who listens in order to learn”.  Jesus shows us the way to God the Father, the sure and true way of peace, joy, righteousness, holiness, and true happiness.  He showed us “the way” by lowering Himself as a servant for our sake:

He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8).

What is true Christ-like humility?  It is when humility is “lived” with a true self-knowledge; seeing Jesus’ Christ in each and every person we meet.  The humbled do not rely on themselves, but trust in God and the power of His love and saving grace.  True humility is a “servant-like” quality, enabling us to place our life in the service of God and neighbor. Do you have a joy for Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?  Are you following Jesus’ example of service to others – with Humility?

Our response to economic and political concerns, should be to “model” humble servant leadership, and seek the same from those in positions of extraordinary power.  Remember, November 8th (Election Day) is right around the corner.  So, practice what you peach!”  What does this mean to you?  Can you list some examples of people you know who “practice what they preach”?  In these people, what do you observe in them, and what do you admire about them?

“Do as I say, not as I do.”  How many of us have been tempted to say (or actually have said) this phrase to our children and co-workers (Yep, I have)?  Today’s Gospel resounds with Jesus’ reply, “Practice what you preach.”  People, who know us best, can identify the [many] inconsistencies between what we want to teach and the example that we actually give – – so ask, if you aren’t afraid.  

Maybe the challenge for all of us, especially for those of us who are parents, is to model with consistency a love, faith, and hope in the Catholic Christian “way of life” we wish to teach our loved ones.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus Christ talk about the importance of acting in ways that are consistent with our faith.  How might you better practice the Catholic faith you professed at your Baptism and Confirmation (and at every Mass).  TODAY, choose an “action” to take which shows your faith – – in action.  Pray together that your faith will be shown consistently in your actions AND words.  Remember, God opens doors and gives you what you need to “act” on His behalf, so use the gifts and talents God has given you.

 ТТТ

 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 131

We find peace in the Lord.

 

 

“LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty.  I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.  Rather, I have stilled my soul, like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul.  Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever.  Amen.”  Psalm 131:1-3

 

ТТТ

 

New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

The one that is most familiar to us (“Christ has died, Christ is risen …”) has disappeared completely.  The three remaining ones are similar to those in the current missal, but the wording is different in each case.

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

ТТТ

 

 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (c. 1533-1617)

Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.

Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23.  Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor.  Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life.  He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home.  There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.

Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits.  He was not helped by his poor education.  He applied twice before being admitted.  For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca.  When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.

His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian.  Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.

Alphonsus died in 1617.  He is the patron saint of Majorca.

Comment:

We like to think that God rewards the good even in this life.  But Alphonsus knew business losses, painful bereavement and periods when God seemed very distant.  None of his suffering made him withdraw into a shell of self-pity or bitterness.  Rather, he reached out to others who lived with pain, including enslaved blacks.  Among the many notables at his funeral were the sick and poor people whose lives he had touched.  May they find such a friend in us!

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)

ТТТ

 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

Have you ever thought of Christ as your brother?

Why does Francis call us “Brothers and Sisters in Penance”?

Are we to really “hate” our bodies? (cf., Galations:5:13-21)

How much of Francis’ life was spent in penance and conversion?

 

ТТТ

 

 

Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

 

Chapter 1

 

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.

Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).

We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).

We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).

Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.

Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father saying:

“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).

“Mom and Dad, I HATE you; But In A Christian Way!” – Luke 14:25-33†


 

Today is the feast day for my parish’s namesake, St. Martin de Porres.  A great description of his life and endeavors is posted at the end of this blog today.  I hope you enjoy this piece from americancatholic.org.

 

 

 

Thank you Lord, that all the “Hate” talk over the elections yesterday has subsided.  Please allow us all to remember that we are all BROTHERS and SISTERS in Christ.  Amen.

            

Today in Catholic History:
    

†   753 – Death of Pirminius, German saint
†   1493 – Christopher Columbus, a Third Order (Secular) Franciscan, first sights the island of Dominica in the Caribbean Sea.
†   1584 – Death of Charles Borromeo, Italian Roman Catholic cardinal (b. 1538)
†   1794 – Death of François-Joachim de Pierre de Bernis, French cardinal and statesman (b. 1715)
†   1876 – Birth of Stephen Peter Alencastre, Hawaiian Roman Catholic prelate (d. 1940)
†   1889 – Chaplain Ariëns founds 1st roman catholic workers group
†   1924 – Birth of Samuel Ruiz García, Mexican Roman Catholic bishop
†   1931 – Birth of Michael Fu Tieshan, Chinese bishop (d. 2007)
†   Feast Days: Acepsimas of Hnaita and companions; St. Germanus; St. Hubert; St. Malachy O’ More; St. Martin de Porres; St. Winifred

(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:

 

“Before we can pray, ‘Lord, Thy Kingdom come,’ we must be willing to pray, ‘My Kingdom go.’” – Alan Redpath

 

http://www.thebricktestament.com

 

Today’s reflection is about the cost and rewards of following Jesus Christ

 

25 Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and addressed them, 26 “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  28 Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?  29 Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him 30 and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’  31 Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?  32 But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.  33 In the same way, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.   (NAB Luke 14:25-33)

 

 

What does following Christ suggest that’s seems to be worth giving up everything including one’s own life?  The answer: the freedom of eternity in Paradise; absolute and true happiness, peace, and joy forever in God’s kingdom. 

This compilation of proverbs, most of which are only found in Luke’s Gospel, centers on an absolute and total dedication necessary for a disciple of Jesus Christ.  No attachments, – – such as to family, possessions, political viewpoints, or any other of our needs – – can stand in the way of the absolute and total commitment demanded of, for Jesus’ disciples.

What is the price for the ticket to this “heavenly’ life?  Jesus declares with an apparently blunt and directly honest proclamation and in no uncertain “words”, he tells His followers that the price of following Him will cost one dearly.  One must be ready to accept persecution, suffering, and the prior knowledge of hardships and costs in following our Lord in His footsteps! 

To gain all, one must balance this gain with giving up all possessions and treasures in His name.  From a human viewpoint, this last sentence makes very little, if any, sense to our materialistic minds and ways of life.  But there are no opportunities for negotiation, bartering, or special deals with God; we either surrender our existence over to Him totally, or we live in ourselves selfishly! 

“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”   This is an extremely strong message for Jesus to utter publically.  I wonder how many “followers” actually left Jesus after saying this profound statement?!  A similar verse can be found in Matthew 10:37: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”.  What I believe Jesus is saying is that the follower’s family has to take a secondary place to the absolute dedication involved in following Him!  I personally see the three BIG priorities as “God, Family, and Country!” – – in THAT order!!

 In Luke 9:59-60, Jesus talks to His followers about following Him.  A disciple asks, “(Lord,) let me go first and bury my father.”  Jesus responds, “Let the dead bury their dead. You go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  WOW!!  What Jesus is declaring, is just another example of prioritizing your relationship with God.  He, I believe, is not talking about the dead of “Body,” but more importantly, the dead of “Spirit!”  Jesus meant for the spiritually dead (those who do not follow the way of Christ) to bury the physically dead.  His followers were to be far too busy doing His work in the presence of the second person of the Holy Trinity.

St. Paul, in 1 Cor. 6:19, 20, wrote “… You are not our own … we were bought with a price ….”  Jesus paid that enormous price in the blood He shed for all of us on the Holy Cross of salvation.  He already knew that the “Fathers’” way to salvation and victory over sin and death was through His own sacrifice; being scourged and crucified in reparation for OUR sins.  Even with this foreknowledge, Jesus said “YES” to his Father’s will with a total love for God – His and OUR Father in heaven.  Are you ready and willing to say “YES” in following Jesus’ “path to the cross”?!   This path with Jesus will inevitably involve an extreme cost in sacrifice: the sacrifice of surrendering yourself to God’s “will” each and every day of your human life.  Franciscans call this daily surrender, “a daily conversion.” 

Placing any relationship, or any possession, above God is idolatry by definition.  In today’s reading, Jesus challenged his followers to think about who they love first: above all.  Jesus’ way is opposite the world’s way; so the choice is yours!  Do you love Jesus so much as to surrender to self and to put God first in all you do each and every day?  We can never “out-give” or “out-shine” God and His graces He bestows on us!  He always gives more to us than we can ever dream of, in this world AND the next!  

 

“Prayer of Wisdom from
St. Francis & St. Claire of Assisi”

 

“Jesus, following You is not always easy and carefree.  It does require something from me: I must follow your commands. 

Often out of pride or convenience, I seek to follow my own will instead.  Lead me through the narrow gates.  Be merciful and soften my heart when I stubbornly refuse to follow You.

Remind me that life with You is well worth any cost I may incur in following You.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639)

 

“Father unknown” is the cold legal phrase sometimes used on baptismal records. “Half-breed” or “war souvenir” is the cruel name inflicted by those of “pure” blood. Like many others, Martin might have grown to be a bitter man, but he did not. It was said that even as a child he gave his heart and his goods to the poor and despised.

He was the illegitimate son of a freed woman of Panama, probably black but also possibly of Native American stock, and a Spanish grandee of Lima, Peru. Martin inherited the features and dark complexion of his mother. That irked his father, who finally acknowledged his son after eight years. After the birth of a sister, the father abandoned the family. Martin was reared in poverty, locked into a low level of Lima’s society.

When he was 12, his mother apprenticed him to a barber-surgeon. He learned how to cut hair and also how to draw blood (a standard medical treatment then), care for wounds and prepare and administer medicines.

After a few years in this medical apostolate, Martin applied to the Dominicans to be a “lay helper,” not feeling himself worthy to be a religious brother. After nine years, the example of his prayer and penance, charity and humility led the community to request him to make full religious profession. Many of his nights were spent in prayer and penitential practices; his days were filled with nursing the sick and caring for the poor. It was particularly impressive that he treated all people regardless of their color, race or status. He was instrumental in founding an orphanage, took care of slaves brought from Africa and managed the daily alms of the priory with practicality as well as generosity. He became the procurator for both priory and city, whether it was a matter of “blankets, shirts, candles, candy, miracles or prayers!” When his priory was in debt, he said, “I am only a poor mulatto. Sell me. I am the property of the order. Sell me.”

Side by side with his daily work in the kitchen, laundry and infirmary, Martin’s life reflected God’s extraordinary gifts: ecstasies that lifted him into the air, light filling the room where he prayed, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures and a remarkable rapport with animals. His charity extended to beasts of the field and even to the vermin of the kitchen. He would excuse the raids of mice and rats on the grounds that they were underfed; he kept stray cats and dogs at his sister’s house.

He became a formidable fundraiser, obtaining thousands of dollars for dowries for poor girls so that they could marry or enter a convent.

Many of his fellow religious took him as their spiritual director, but he continued to call himself a “poor slave.” He was a good friend of another Dominican saint of Peru, Rose of Lima (August 23).

Comment:

Racism is a sin almost nobody confesses. Like pollution, it is a “sin of the world” that is everybody’s responsibility but apparently nobody’s fault. One could hardly imagine a more fitting patron of Christian forgiveness (on the part of those discriminated against) and Christian justice (on the part of reformed racists) than Martin de Porres.

Quote:

In 1962, Pope John XXIII remarked at the canonization of Martin: “He excused the faults of others. He forgave the bitterest injuries, convinced that he deserved much severer punishments on account of his own sins. He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm laborers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves: thus he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: ‘Martin of Charity.'”

Patron Saint of: African-Americans; Barbers; Hairdressers; Race relations; Social justice

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 3 & 4 of 26:

 

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.

  

4.     The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

“I’m Just a Humble Politician; Yah, Right!!” (Luke 18:9-14)†


Today, I am standing watch and praying for the young ladies and poor souls in their wombs at the local Planned Parenthood death mill.  It is a shame that these girls (most barely ladies) feel so desperate as to kill a human life. 

The forecast is for rain and thunderstorms.  If my misery in advocating against this barbaric act of abortion may save a soul, I gladly accept this distress.

 

 

 

Today is United Nations Day (chartered in 1945).  Please pray for the relief of suffering in the world as a whole. 

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   1710 – Birth of Alban Butler, English Catholic priest and writer (d. 1773)
†   1911 – Birth of Paul Grégoire, French Canadian archbishop of Montreal (d. 1993)
†   2004 – Death of James Cardinal Hickey, American Catholic archbishop (b. 1920)

(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:

 

“The value of consistent prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will hear Him.” – William McGill

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable of the proud Pharisee who prayed from his self-importance, contrasted with the tax collector who prayed with humility and faith.

 

9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.  10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity–greedy, dishonest, adulterous–or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’  13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’  14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.  (NAB Luke 18:9-14)

 

Jesus offers a striking story of two men at prayer and is a continuation of last Sunday’s reading.  This is the second of two parables about prayer.  The first is found in Luke 18:1-8 and is about the diligence and perseverance we should display in our prayer life.  This second parable condemns the haughty and judgmental attitudes of the Pharisees.  The story teaches us why we must have a proper attitude in prayer; that the essential need of any follower of Jesus Christ is in recognizing one’s own sinfulness and a further need in acknowledging a total dependence and faith in God’s graciousness.  Jesus teaches us about the character of prayer in regards to our relationship with God by drawing a distinction between these two exceptionally different approaches towards prayer.  Notice that the Pharisee prayed to himself (not God).  The tax-collector believed he needed God’s mercy because he DID believe in God.

This parable gives us a warning about the danger of slighting others around us.  Disrespecting others is more than an action of being mean-spirited.  Conceit and disrespect of others erupts from a self-conceived notion of one’s own goodness and righteousness.  So, that one conceited person feels “competent” to sit in the “judges’ seat” that determines who is a good and just person. 

I bet Jesus’ story offended those present who regarded “tax-collectors” as being “unworthy” of God’s blessing and love.  How could Jesus slight a Pharisee, a temple leader, and praise a known “sinner”?  This parable reminds me of the story of the “pardoning of the sinful woman” found in Luke 7:36-50: – “… Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment …,” – wherein a similar distinction is presented between the judgmental view of the Pharisee “Simon,” and the love and faith shown by the woman now a pardoned [by Jesus] sinner.  

Luke unquestionably loves stories.  He should have had some “Irish” blood in him!  To set the stage for today’s story, Jewish tax-collectors were a quasi-partner with the Roman officials in a practice that allowed the tax-collector to pad their own purses (or coin-bags) by charging much more than the straightforward taxes.  Because of this relationship with the Romans and their “less-than-honest” business practices, the tax-collector was more than aware of his “unworthiness” per Jewish societal norms.  He was well aware how others perceived him; he also knew that he wasn’t even welcomed in the temple for worshipping.  The tax-collector though, never lost his faith and hope IN God.  He was looking for forgiveness FROM God.  And he sought after an internal and spiritual peace THROUGH God.

Remember from last week’s reflection that Pharisees were high-ranking members of the Jewish religion during Jesus’ time.  They taught an oral interpretation of the Law of Moses (the Torah) as a foundation for Jewish devoutness and practices.  If anyone would be an example for prayer, one would think a Pharisee would normally be an expected model to the Jewish community.  

This Pharisee, unlike the “sinful” tax-collector, was very much pleased with himself; he further expected God to also be extremely pleased with him as well.  His prayer was not from his heart (nor from his faith) like the tax-collectors.  The Pharisee represents those who take pride and smugness in their personal religious practices; praising himself at the expense of others.  Engrossed with [self-] approval, pleasure, and opulence, he mainly prayed with himself and not to God!  His prayer consisted of congratulatory declarations of what he did, and of scorn for those he loathed.  In reality, his prayer was just a listing of his political and social achievements.  I can’t believe he actually had the audacity to thank God for his “high” position in society!  This Pharisee believed he justified himself through his prayer.  In reality, only God can justify His creations! – – by Grace!!

The tax-collector in today’s Gospel represents the lowly, despised and desperate of society.  He humbled himself before God and begged God for His mercy.  God was pleased with the humble attitude of faith and reliance of this tax-collector, a self-professed sinner.  This “sinner’s” prayer was truly heard by God, for this person had a true remorse for his sins against God AND his fellow brethren.  This man sought God with a humble heart rather than with a prideful spirit.  The tax-collector, and not the Pharisee, went home “justified”- – vindicated by God. 

I believe this parable shows the tax-collector as THE example of faith and prayer.  Jesus loves the marginalized, the humble “tax-collectors” of society.  He even went so far as to eat with, and touch the lowly “sinners and unclean” of His time.  In Luke 5:30-32, Jesus said that He came, “NOT for the healthy, but for the sick!”  Thank God we, as sinful humans, are “spiritually sick” and thus in need of Jesus daily in our daily lives!  We simply need to recognize this fact and to ask God for His grace and magnificent mercy. – – Daily!

The proud among us, like today’s Pharisee, do not believe they need any help.  They believe they hold their own destiny in their hands.  They don’t realize the danger they are placing themselves in, in not seeing the need for God’s compassion, generosity, and mercy, in their lives. 

Today, we are presented with both an opportunity for betterment and a stern warning.  Pride (a deadly sin) leads one to false assumptions, false impressions, and false honesty.  Humility, the flipside virtue of the coin, helps us to see ourselves as we really are.  A humble approach to prayer disposes oneself to knowledge of God’s love, grace, and mercy.  

In Isaiah 57:15 (NRSV), it is written “For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  God does not hear us in prayer if we are not humble in heart, or if we hate and despise any other of God’s creation!

Do you truly trust in the divine mercy and generosity of our Trinitarian God?  Do you ask for help from Him on a daily basis?  Do you realize how weak in spirit and flesh you may be at this time, and how much you need God’s continual compassion?  In 2 Cor 12:10 it is written,”when I am weak, then I am strong.”  How can we emulate the prayer of this “weak” tax-collector? 

We sometimes see and experience a high level of competition between ourselves and others around us.  This behavior happens for many reasons; but usually it is for the purpose of gaining attention or for acknowledgement of one’s skills and talents.  Some even seem to believe that any attention given to one person has to significantly lessen the attention available to be given to another.  In believing this way, people can act like the Pharisee in today’s parable. 

Have you ever compared yourself to another or another to you?  Is it helpful to compare yourself to another? In what ways can comparing yourself to another be a positive experience from a spiritual viewpoint?  In what circumstances might this comparison be unhelpful or dangerous spiritually?

Do you seek God’s love and mercy with a humble or prideful heart?  Do you show love and mercy to others around you? – – especially those you find difficult to love and to forgive, as St. Theresa of Lisieux found happening within her?

If we are pompous and self-important, then there may be far too little room for God to work in and through us!  So, as you pray, please believe in, and remember, to thank God for His unconditional love for you NOW.  Today’s parable tells us that when we pray, we must bear in mind our need for God in our lives. 

 

The Serenity Prayer

 

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

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.  Amen.”

–Reinhold Niebuhr
(A Lutheran Minister from
the St. Louis, MO area)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Anthony Claret (1807-1870)

 

The “spiritual father of Cuba” was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee.  He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council.

In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: the future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers.

He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand.  At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians.

He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba.  He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for stamping out concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves.  A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist.  Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term.  His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market.  This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar.  Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: Reflections on Agriculture and Country Delights.

He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen.  He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions.  In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony.

All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press.  He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets.

At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops.  Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, “There goes a true saint.”  At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.

Comment:

Jesus foretold that those who are truly his representatives would suffer the same persecution as he did.  Besides 14 attempts on his life, Anthony had to undergo such a barrage of the ugliest slander that the very name Claret became a byword for humiliation and misfortune.  The powers of evil do not easily give up their prey.  No one needs to go looking for persecution.  All we need to do is be sure we suffer because of our genuine faith in Christ, not for our own whims and imprudence’s.

Quote:

Queen Isabella II once said to Anthony, “No one tells me things as clearly and frankly as you do.”  Later she told her chaplain, “Everybody is always asking me for favors, but you never do. Isn’t there something you would like for yourself?”  He replied, “Yes, that you let me resign.” The queen made no more offers.

Patron Saint of: Savings & Weavers

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 24 & 25 of 26:

 

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

  

 

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

 

 

 

 

“The One Who Ha$ the Mo$t – Just Might Lo$e!” – – Luke 12:13-21†


Pope Benedicts XVI’s Prayer Intentions for the Month of August, 2010:

The Unemployed and the Homeless:

General:  That those who are without work or homes or who are otherwise in serious need may find understanding and welcome, as well as concrete help in overcoming their difficulties.

Victims of Discrimination, Hunger and Forced Emigration:

Missionary: That the Church may be a “home” for all people, ready to open its doors to any who are suffering from racial or religious discrimination, hunger, or wars forcing them to emigrate to other countries.

 

 

Today I am hosting the annual Secular Franciscan Picnic for our Fraternity.  My wife had literally spent all of yesterday cleaning the house because, as she said, “real holy people” were coming over.  I thanked her for the compliment of calling me holy, as I am in the group.  Her response put me back into my shoes on solid earth: “You’re just their token misfit that is in all groups!”  Anyway, please pray for a successful BBQ.

 

 

Today is also “World Scout Day:” the anniversary of the first day of the “Brownsea Island Camp” in 1907, where Robert Baden-Powell began scouting.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

†   371 – Death of St Eusebius of Vercelli, Italian bishop (b. c. 283)
†   1546 – Death of Peter Faber, French Jesuit theologian (b. 1506)
†   1974 – Death of Ildebrando Antoniutti, Italian Catholic cardinal (b. 1898)
†   2001 – Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has a Ten Commandments monument installed in the judiciary building, leading to a lawsuit to have it removed and his own removal from office.

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

As for me, I’m just hoping God grades on the curve.

   

      

Today’s reflection is about why a person’s life should not consist solely of material possessions, but more importantly on spiritual possessions.

 

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”  14 He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”  15 Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”  16 Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.  17 He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’  18 And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods 19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”  20 But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’  21 Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (NAB Luke 12:13-21)

 

Our economy has been, to say the least, “depressed” for the past several years.  Though it may have never been officially called an economic “depression,” I believe we met the unofficial requirements for being in one.  There have been many serious financial blows in these past couple of years; collapse of the banking and real estate markets; Government bailouts of financial and automotive infrastructures; inappropriate use of tax financing incentives for big business; and the extreme unemployment, and outsourcing of jobs “offshore.”

I remember when the United States was on the top of the economic world.  Our dollar at one time was the most valuable money across the world.  It is no longer so.  It still has a strong hold, but countries such as China, Japan, and several European countries hold extensive financial holdings and bonds from our country.

Most of us recently have had personal and drastic hits financially.  IRA’s, T-bills, retirement plans, and stocks and bonds have all been seriously damaged, and are worth less than just a few years ago.  There is even a larger percentage than usual of retired people, some into the 80’s, returning to the work force; solely out of financial need.  Home foreclosures are at an all-time high, with more people and families living on the streets.

Today’s Gospel reading will probably mean more to most of us than ever before.  Bountiful harvests DO disappear without any warning.  Bigger barns, crops, and our homes and jobs are gone; at least for now!  Mark Twain once said that we are only obligated to do two things in life: “pay taxes and die.”  As a Christian I know the only realistic absolutes in this world are life, death, and judgment.  The best success in this life that we can make every effort for, is a spiritual and physical love for God and each other.

Family life helps us learn about the values of shared aims and the common good. As a family of blood relatives and neighbors, we need to strive in the respecting of the rights of each family member.  What is so wrong in making decisions that promote the common good?!  We are called to share the goods of creation fairly and justly.  Jesus, in this parable, challenges us to remember that the goods of the world are intended to be shared by all.

Luke, in this chapter of his Gospel, shows Jesus instructing His disciples and others on how to ready themselves for the coming judgment.  In this particular case, a crowd of many thousands have gathered to hear Him.  Jesus is speaking to His disciples when He tells them that it is not persecution by others they should fear, but the coming time when we will be held accountable for the use of our treasures before God.  I can hear Him saying something like, “Woe to the one who does not acknowledge the Son of Man!”  

Someone from the crowd asks Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  Jesus uses the statement to teach this point: for anyone inheriting the coming Kingdom; spiritual wealth is to be over material wealth.  

Jesus, as he had done many times (about 35 in total; 20 in Luke’s Gospel), tells the crowd a parable.  To refresh, a parable is a story with a moral or spiritual point.  In this case about a “rich” man whose land yielded a massive amount of produce, much more than he ever expected.  His reaction to this great gift from God was not to consider how he might share some of the extra food with others in need, but to contemplate how he could possibly store it all for future personal use, and future $elling.  He believed he had a brilliant solution for what to do with his success and excess.  He was going to tear down his present barns, and then to build much larger ones. In hoarding all the produce grown, he would have future years of “eating, drinking, and making merry,” and thus felt secure in his lifestyle.

In this parable, God says to the man, “You fool!”  I don’t know about you, but THAT is one phrase I would certainly not like to hear from God directed towards me!  In God’s infinite and sometimes directly harsh sense of humor, He tells this “man of new found material wealth,” that his life will be taken away from him that very night.  What a punch line!  Is it inappropriate to go “te-he-he-he, oops, sorry?” “Life is full of surprises indeed.”

The story continues with God asking the “wealthy” farmer to whom his extreme wealth will belong after his death.  What can he do with his material possessions after he is dead? NOTHING!!  As the old adage clearly states, you certainly can’t take it with you! 

Jesus joined together the contrasting views of those whose focus and trust in life is on material possessions, symbolized here by the rich man of the parable with those who recognize their complete dependence on God.

What is life all about?  Jesus clearly states what life is about in the moral of this parable:  it is not material wealth that matters to God.  What matters most to God is each one of us individually, and our sincere and loving relationship we have with Him and all others with whom we come into contact.  We MUST acknowledge God in our daily lives, and give alms to help those in need. 

Focusing on excess possessions is capable of having deadly effects on people.  The vainness of seeking a safe haven from the struggles of life by hoarding possessions is harmful.  In this one parable, I see a potential for five of the seven “sins that lead to death” (1 John 5) being violated: Pride in himself as a great farmer; Greed in not sharing what he has; Gluttony by eating more than he truly needs; Envy by boasting on his great success; and Sloth by being lax in his requirement to help others in need, and forgetting God in the big picture.

The man in the story doesn’t seem openly bad.  He is not mean or threatening.  He does not wish harm to others in this parable.  Jesus points out that this man’s flaw was his thinking only about himself, and his own comfort and security.  His egotism excluded God and neighbor from his sight, heart, and soul.

The pitiful thing with this man and his ego in this parable is this: I know of friends and family that may be emulating him.  They love their families, and shower them with extravagant and beautiful gifts, almost haphazardly.  When we fail to think about the needs of others, we may be guilty of the sin of omission.   We need to review the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth) daily.  I know I need to ask for help in not committing these offenses to God and to His creations on a daily basis.

For some people, not having enough money is worse than death itself.  However, the silver lining in this parable and in this economic tribulation we are experiencing so harshly today, IS the lack of $ilver!  I firmly believe we all need to take steps toward a simpler lifestyle.  On one hand, being financially successful is a grace from God; but as you know, ALL graces and talents are meant to be shared.  On the other hand, experiencing limitations and even loss of resources is, from a faith perspective, a grace, an invitation, and a reminder for us to look to God for His help and guidance.  Actually, I certainly would not mind an increase in my household income.  It would be accepted gladly if anyone wishes to give me some gold, diamonds, silver, or any other type of monetary value.

What I am saying, and what I believe Jesus was stressing in this parable, is that our TRUE treasures are in heaven, and the graces and creations around us.  Each one of us is meant to be a grace for each other.  Our heaven-dwelling friends and family, our personal angels and saints, our blessed Mother, and our God in three persons are the true treasures that we need to rely on and value more than material possessions; the simple trinkets we have on earth!

The only way to obtain our true treasures is to dig for them here on earth: prayer,
fasting, and Almsgiving.  Almsgiving is much more than putting money in the collection basket.  It is caring for each other by feeding and giving drink to the hungry and thirsty, clothing, and giving shelter to those without, visiting the sick and imprisoned (even in their own mind and/or broken body) to remind them they are loved, and burying the dead in the hopes of an everlasting life in paradise.

 

“Prayer in Time of Trial”

    

“Lord, teach us to love and thus overcome our hatred of those who harm us.  Teach us to hope and thus conquer the depression and despair that so often overwhelms us.  Teach us courage and sacrifice of self as the Immaculata’s instrument.

Pray for us now Mary, our Mother; and Jesus, her Son to bring our troubled spirit peace, calm, and joy.  Amen.”

(Spend two minutes thinking of the good things that God has done for you during your lifetime.)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****
    

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
      

Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.

In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.

At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups.

He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over.

Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions.

He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese.

His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united.

At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent.

Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His Glories of Mary is one of the great works on that subject, and his book Visits to the Blessed Sacrament went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.

Comment:

St. Alphonsus was known above all as a practical man who dealt in the concrete rather than the abstract. His life is indeed a “practical” model for the everyday Christian who has difficulty recognizing the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure. Alphonsus suffered all these things. He is a saint because he was able to maintain an intimate sense of the presence of the suffering Christ through it all.

Quote:

Someone once remarked, after a sermon by Alphonsus, “It is a pleasure to listen to your sermons; you forget yourself and preach Jesus Christ.”

Patron Saint of Theologians and Vocations

 

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 #1:
      

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

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

 

“If you are going to talk the talk, then you have to walk the walk; just like the Samaritan!” – Luke 10:25-37†


It is a beautiful Sunday morning.  I hope all my Benedictine friends have a great day celebrating the founding of their religious order in the Catholic Church. 

My Secular Franciscan Order’s Fraternity is having our monthly meeting today.  We have a new inquirer, and I excited to travel with her on our journey in the Franciscan Order.  Anyone interested in the SFO, or even just have questions, please let me know.  Can’t find a better group of fun and pious people; and being Franciscan’s, it seems there is always food present.  

  

Today in Catholic History:

 

†   Feast Day of Saint Olga (first Russian Saint)
†   Feast Day of Saint Benedict (founder of the Benedictine Order)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
    

The greatest kindness one can render to any man consists in leading him from error to truth. ~ St. Thomas Aquinas
            

Today’s reflection is about the story of the “Good Samaritan.”

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.  ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’  He said to him, ‘What is written in the law?  What do you read there?’  He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’  And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’  But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’  Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them.  Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.”  Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’  He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ (NRSV Luke 10:25-37)

 

In response to questioning from a Jewish “Lawyer” about inheriting eternal life, Jesus gets the “Lawyer” to respond that what is written in the law comes from Deuteronomy 6:5: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  In this Old Testament bible verse, one of the most important prayers in Judaism and said twice a day in Jesus’ time, confirms that love of God and neighbor are what is required for eternal life. Jesus’ response to this official was just as pure and simple as this verse from Deuteronomy above; “Do this and you will live.”

When questioning continued, with an attempt to trap Jesus, He illustrated the superiority of love over legal rhetoric through the parable about the “good” Samaritan, found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Samaria was the territory between Judea and Galilee west of the Jordan River. Samaritans were descendents of Jews from the northern part of the country, who had intermarried with Gentiles and did not worship in Jerusalem.  For these cultural and religious reasons, the Samaritans and the Jews had a bitter hatred of each other. 

This “lawyer” is obviously an expert in the Mosaic Law, and was probably a “Scribe.”  Scribes were Jewish temple leaders that were extensively trained in oral interpretation of the written law, and were adversaries of Jesus because Jesus questioned their interpretations and judgments. 

As an example, remember the story of Jesus asking for water from a Samaritan woman at the well.  What a dangerous thing to carry out; and explicit statement to make, with this action.  Jews used nothing in common with Samaritans.  Samaritan women were regarded by Jews as ritually impure, and therefore Jews were forbidden to drink from any vessel they had handled.  For a Samaritan to touch a Jew was diabolical, for it made the Jewish person ritually unclean as well.  Jesus, taking a cup of water from her was, in essence, a slap to Jewish Law.

Earlier in Luke’s gospel (the Sermon on the Plain found in 6:27-36), Jesus talked about the “law of love.”  In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus proclaimed that the Samaritan, a person the temple lawyer would have considered ritually impure, actually exemplified the love we should offer to others much more than the Priest and Levite did.  The Temple lawyer (or Scribe) had to bitterly admit that the identity of the “neighbor” was a Samaritan, a despised person to the Jewish faith and people.  For the Jewish people, and especially the Temple officials, the Priest and Levite being religious representatives of Judaism, would have been the expected models of the “neighbor.”

Where does all this hatred in the Jewish people come from, and is it in Scripture?  There is no actual Old Testament commandment demanding hatred of one’s enemy, but the “neighbor” of the love commandment was understood as only one’s fellow countryman.  Hatred for others outside your group could be interpreted from Old Testament and Dead Sea Scroll Passages as being a correct attitude.  Psalm 139:19-22 states (O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves up against you for evil!  Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?  And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?  I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.).  The Qumran 1QS 9:21 reads (And these are the norms of conduct for the man of understanding in these times, concerning what he must love and how he must hate: Everlasting hatred for all the men of the “Pit” [those who do not belong to the Essene community] because of their spirit of hoarding!).

Where does hatred come from today?  It is all around us.  With groups such as Al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other “Jihad” groups; the Ku Klux Klan; Neo-Nazi’s; and the Black Panther’s, hatred is spread in a separatist and destructive style.

Relations sometimes even erupt in every day religion.  Issues involving Protestant, Catholic, and Judaic groups seem to be an everyday occurrence; with clear and specific beliefs by some that each other group may be doomed to eternal hell for not believing exactly the same way as they do.  And we definitely cannot forget the Pro-Abortion, Pro-Capital Punishment, Pro- Euthanasia versus Pro-life conundrum.

How do I, [and we], get over all of our issues to live in harmony?  How can I, [and we], make a difference in this world, in order to establish peace throughout the lands?  Start small!  I say the following prayer every day:  “Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little, since I do them with Your power; and little things as though they were great, since I do them in Your name.”   The key is to keep God in your hearts, and on your lips.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is extending the “love commandment” to any enemy, and to the persecutor. Jesus demands that His disciples, being children of God, must imitate the example of His Father in heaven: God the Creator, who daily offers His gifts of sun and rain to both the good and the bad equally

Jesus’ disciples (then and now) must not be content with merely displaying the “usual” standards of conduct for their status in society.  What Jesus taught (though I am not even close to being worthy of summarizing anything Jesus taught), is that love for God and each other is basically genetic in origin, and natural in all of us.  It is already in our hearts and consciousness.  Love of God and each other is not a complex set of theological rhetoric or formulas. 

We do not choose to do good for others.  We actually have to choose to be malevolent, or even ignore the person, when we witness one in need of assistance.  For whatever reason, (even if it is a realistic reason), we make a definite decision NOT to help when we see a need; and sometimes we choose to do the exact opposite of helping by encouraging further distress to an individual.  Think about this the next time you see a person fall, hurt, or otherwise in need: and you do not act; be it for safety, lack of knowledge, time constraints, or for some other reason.  Remember this also the next time you see someone threatening to jump from a high obstacle (even on television) and hear, “Go ahead, jump, jump, jump!”

Jesus, with this parable, utterly destroys the notion that social definitions such as class, religion, gender, or ethnicity determines who our neighbor will be.  A neighbor, through Jesus, is now defined as a person who acts with compassion towards another.  It is no longer “who” deserves to be loved as I love myself, but that I become a person who treats everyone with compassion, regardless of their social status.

The last sentence of this Gospel Reading threw me for a loop!  Jesus is an extremely smart and cunning person; who would make a great lawyer today: He knew how to use His words to play with people.  When He said “Go and do likewise,” He is explicitly saying that it is not enough to just understand loving God and each other; the “doing” is important as well.  If He were to make this point today, He would probably have say something like, “If you are going to talk the talk, then you have to walk the walk!”

With the English Translation of the new “GIRM” (General Instructions of the Roman Mass) coming out within the next year, the dismissal at Mass is changing to the more accurate vernacular found in Scripture.  The words presently are, “The Mass is ended, go in peace.”  The Priest, with the upcoming changes in the Mass, will have the option to say either, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”  It is now time to walk that walk!  Do as St. Francis of Assisi did; go up to the metaphoric “leper” to hug and feed him.  In other words, try to find Jesus in everyone: family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and even enemies; and then ACT on that love.

 

 “Act of Love”

    

“O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love.

I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.  Amen.”

  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

  

*****

  

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)

  

Veronica’s desire to be like Christ crucified was answered with the stigmata. 

Veronica was born in Mercatelli.  It is said that when her mother Benedetta was dying she called her five daughters to her bedside and entrusted each of them to one of the five wounds of Jesus.  Veronica was entrusted to the wound below Christ’s heart. 

At the age of 17, Veronica joined the Poor Clares directed by the Capuchins.  Her father had wanted her to marry, but she convinced him to allow her to become a nun.  In her first years in the monastery, she worked in the kitchen, infirmary, sacristy and served as portress.  At the age of 34, she was made novice mistress, a position she held for 22 years.  When she was 37, Veronica received the stigmata.  Life was not the same after that. 

Church authorities in Rome wanted to test Veronica’s authenticity and so conducted an investigation.  She lost the office of novice mistress temporarily and was not allowed to attend Mass except on Sundays or holy days.  Through all of this Veronica did not become bitter, and the investigation eventually restored her as novice mistress. 

Though she protested against it, at the age of 56 she was elected abbess, an office she held for 11 years until her death.  Veronica was very devoted to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart.  She offered her sufferings for the missions. Veronica was canonized in 1839. 

Comment: 

Why did God grant the stigmata to Francis of Assisi and to Veronica?  God alone knows the deepest reasons, but as Celano points out, the external sign of the cross is a confirmation of these saints’ commitment to the cross in their lives.  The stigmata that appeared in Veronica’s flesh had taken root in her heart many years before.  It was a fitting conclusion for her love of God and her charity toward her sisters. 

Quote: 

Thomas of Celano says of Francis: “All the pleasures of the world were a cross to him, because he carried the cross of Christ rooted in his heart.  And therefore the stigmata shone forth exteriorly in his flesh, because interiorly that deeply set root was sprouting forth from his mind” (2 Celano, #211). 

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 #11:

  

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

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