Tag Archives: homage

“If They Sought Advice from Herod, Were the ‘Magi” Truly Wise? I believe the Answer Is ‘Uncertainly Maybe Possible!’” – Matthew 2:1-12†


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“Epiphany of the Lord”

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

Because of the supportive and positive feedback I received concerning my success of explaining the Advent and Christmas symbols used in the Catholic Church, I decided to address occasionally other symbols used throughout the Church year.  Today I will discuss the Liturgical colors of vestments.

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The Church’s liturgical norms do prescribe specific vestment colors for various celebrations.  The purpose of utilizing different colors for vestments is twofold: first, the colors highlight the particular liturgical season and the faithfull’s journey through these seasons.  Second, the colors punctuate the liturgical season by highlighting a particular event or particular mystery of faith.  The following explanation is based on the norms of “The General Instruction on the Roman Missal”.

White or gold, a color symbolizing rejoicing and purity of soul, is worn during the liturgical seasons of Christmas and Easter.  White vestments are also used for certain other feasts throughout the year.  White may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial and Masses for the Dead to signify the Resurrection of our Lord, when He triumphed over sin and death, sorrow and darkness.

Red has a dual imagery: symbolizing the shedding of blood and is therefore used on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, any other commemoration of the Lord’s passion, the votive Mass of the Precious Blood, the days marking the martyrdom of the apostles (except St. John), and the feasts of other martyrs who offered their lives for the faith.

On the other hand, red also signifies the burning fire of God’s love.  Red vestments are won on Pentecost; for the Sacrament of Confirmation; and for the votive Masses of the Holy Spirit.

Green is used during the liturgical season called Ordinary Time.  We focus on the life Jesus shared with mankind during His time on this earth, the life we share now with Him in the community of the Church and through His sacraments, looking forward to sharing an everlasting life with Him perfectly in Heaven.  Green symbolizes this hope and life, just as the hint of green on trees in early spring arouses the hope of new life.

Violet or purple is used during Advent and Lent as a sign of penance, sacrifice and preparation.  At the midpoint of both of these seasons—Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent—rose vestments are traditionally worn as a sign of joy: we rejoice at the midpoint because we are half-way through the preparation and anticipate the coming joy of Christmas or Easter.  Purple vestments may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial or Masses for the Dead.

Although not seen very frequently in the United States today, black vestments may be worn for Masses of Christian Burial as a sign of death and mourning.  Black may also be used on the Feast of All Souls or for any Mass of the Dead, such as on the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

In all, the colors of the vestments awaken us to the sense of sacred time. They are another visible way to make present the sacred mysteries we celebrate.

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/LITCOLOR.HTM

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Kings may be judges of the earth, but wise men are the judges of kings.” ~  Solomon Ibn Gabirol

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Today’s reflection: The “Magi” seek out Jesus and do him homage.  When have YOU last sought out Jesus, giving Him homage as these “Wise Men”?

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(NAB Matthew 2:1-12)  1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the Catholic Church’s Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Mejesus-and-maryssiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to ‘let His face shine upon’ us through the face of the Mother of God.  We ‘serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.’” (G.K. Chesterton)

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  Historically several moments in Jesus Christ’s early life and earthly ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” as “manifestations” of the divine of this newborn, beginning with His birth in Bethlehem, in the visit of the Magi, in His baptism by His cousin, John – the Baptist, and in His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.

There are some fascinating implications about Jesus in the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s “infancy narrative”: Christmas2012

(1)In Luke’s Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit, includes the Census required for Jesus to be “registered” in their father’s hometown (will say more about this later).

(2) Matthew’s Gospel today focuses on the strange event of “learned” non-Jews, the “Magi”, seeking to visit the prophesied “new king” to be born of Jews, “Israel”.

In retrospect, this text and its story anticipates the future of this “king” on one hand, AND, His acceptance by the non-Jewish “Gentiles” on the other.  We have here a veiled image of the future Church composed of non-Jewish believers, and Jewish believers – – a new “Israel” of faith and worship.

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So, let’s take a deep breath and relax – – and consider this: If Jesus is truly “who” He claims to be – – “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, the prophesied “Anointed One” (Messiah), and the ‘Savior’ of the world’” – – then why was He not recognized by everyone who heard His “Word” and saw His works?  Well, John the Evangelist states in his Gospel that when Jesus came into the world:

The world knew Him not and His own people received Him not” (John 1:10-11).

Hmm, my faith has grown to realize that there is NO neutral stance when it comes to Jesus Christ, during His lifetime, and still today.  Once people hear and see who Jesus claims to be, and what the implications of His coming are for them, they either accept or reject Him outright.  

Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only a few lowly Jewish shepherds were graced to recognize this Jewish infant boy (Jesus) –wisemen3 – as “King” – – at His birth in a lowly place and fashion; however, some “Magi” also found their way, over a short period of time, to Bethlehem, in order to pay “homage” to the newborn “King of Israel”.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in the many “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the true “great” Messianic King when He appeared as prophesied and promised. 

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly order.  However, over a period of time, the word became used more so for anyone regarded as having a “more than human knowledge”. mcconnellwisemen For this reason, the term frequently used for them is: “Wise Men”.  We also get our word “magic” from this specific word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (probably around the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were most likely astronomers and/or astrologers, as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others quite apparently and easily overlooked when viewing the VERY SAME stars and constellations.

We know little about the “Magi”.  We know they came “from the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, via “Jerusalem”, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the “star”) which, in itself, was of some type ofth “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them across the vast desert, by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening”, to the little town of Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  (Can you hear the song “Oh, little town of Bethlehem” in your head.)  The “Magi’s” journey had to be a difficult one indeed. Roads were poor, no road signs in the desert, Inns (CamolTels) were not the best – – even for the camels.  And let’s not forget the thieves and the lack of police intervention.  All they had was a “star”- – but the best “star” in the heavens.

In their diligent search, these “three” Kings were led to the source of true knowledge – – to Jesus Christ Himself, the “Light and Wisdom” of God the Father.  When they found the newborn child Jesus, they humbly worshiped Him, and gave Him “gifts” fitting for a “true King”, even for a “divine king”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this specific – – and uniquely special – – “Messianic King”?  I would like to think it was a confident and assured faith in the promise God gave to the Jews, to them and their people – – and to us.  The prophetic promise was to send a Redeemer – – a “King” – – who would establish God’s reign of peace and righteousness for all peoples: 556238_10151178055187903_1249455228_n

Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for David; as king He shall reign and govern wisely, He shall do what is just and right in the land.  In His days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.  This is the name to be given Him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

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My question to you: “Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of ‘strange lands’ to represent the Gentiles’ search for a M11 ADVENTtable_html_m309f20f1essianic Savior?”  I believe so.  In essence, the “Magi” could easily and correctly represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  As such, they are truly representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives and journeys today.

Also, there are a couple of Old Testament verses inferring that the “Magi” were truly “kings” themselves:

May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts.  Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day” (Psalm 72:10, 15).

And,

“Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD” (Isaiah 60:6).

Tarshish and the islands”, in the above verse from Psalm 72, refer to the far western part of the “known world”, and Arabia and Seba [Sheba] in the fProject1ar southern portion.  These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”. 

What did Matthew mean by saying “saw HIS star”?  Well, it was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any significant  ruler’s birth: be it a secular king or religious ruler.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of an Old Testament story in which “Balaam” prophesied:

I see him, though not now; I observe him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, That will crush the brows of Moab, and the skull of all the Sethites” (Numbers 24:17).

The “star” in this case means the physical Messiah King, Jesus Christ Himself; not the astronomical phenomenon in the Middle East the “Mafollow-the-star_t_nvgi” are following all the way to Bethlehem.  In a “Christian” messianic interpretation, the “star”, as also the “scepter” from Israel, would refer to Jesus Christ as “King”:

“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom” (Isaiah 11:1).

In reality, how many “Magi” do you suppose came to give “homage” to the child Jesus?  Where, in Holy Scripture, does it say that “three” Wise Men travelled to Bethlehem?  The answer is NOWHERE!  We actually base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the three “gifts”- – “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” – – but the actual number of “Magi” that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us. 

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the prophesied “Word” being “written” in the heavenly stars.  (They did not connect the twinkling dots in the sky.)  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. until 4 A.D. when he died.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius (a favorite of mine) as:

 “A madman, who murdered his own family, and a great many rabbis.” 

However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects throughout Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the “Second Temple” in Jerusalem (also referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what!” moment upon listening to the “Magi” about what the “heavenly skies” prophesied.  He was confused and also concerned about his lack of knowledge AND for getting NO preemptive warninthCAB77DFPg about this “NEW” king in “his” territory from his own priests, astronomers, and astrologers.  Herod was also worried about his personal future welfare, prestige, and physical life, with a “Messiah” king in “his” territory.  So, Herod immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to an immediate presence before him. (Hmm, first century pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the Temple leaders (the chief priests and Scribes), astrologers, and astronomers of his realm had a very strong similarity to the following “Jewish non-biblical legend” (per a NAB-RE* footnote).  This footnoted story is about a child, later learned to be Moses, in which the “sacred scribes” warn the Pharaoh about an imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt.  In this story, the Pharaoh King makes plans to destroy him.  (WOW!!!!  Moses and Jesus have nearly identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is often called the “New Moses.”) *(NAB-RE is “New American Bible – Roman [Catholic] Edition”)

Herod’s “chief priests and scribes” also reminded Herod of the prophecy found in the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) Book of Micah:

You, Bethlehem-Ephrathaha least among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:1).

The Book of Micah shared with Isaiah the expectation that God the Father will deliver “Israel” through a “king in the line of David”.  “Bethleimage002hem-Ephrathah” is the birthplace of David, and therefore, of his whole “Davidic line”.  Today, it is known to us as simply, “Bethlehem”. 

Herod, and his “chief priests and scribes”, in a somewhat defensive maneuver to what is written in the prophecies found in Jewish Scriptures, asked these “Magi”, these first Gentile believers to be an [unlikely] envoy for King Herod.  So, after meeting with Herod, the “three kings” – – the three “Magi” – – travel to Bethlehem, and away from King Herod’s presence (as his “envoy”):

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:8).

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Continuing to follow the “star”, the “Wise Envoy’s” eventually find the Holy Family still in Bethlehem:  holiness-title-slide

 “On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his motherThey prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

Upon finding Christ, the “Magi prostrate themselves”, an action given ONLY to God.  Thus, Jesus is confirmed to be the true Son of God through their action.  These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home and homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for discovering, and further knowing, this “heavenly” announced “God-King”.  They followed THE “star” in pursuit of a personal quest for finding the desire of their hearts, and their pursuit for a personal relationship with this “new divine king” whose name they learn was – – Jesus Christ.   – – (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it on a Hollywood street corner or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their pilgrimage these “Magi” can serve well as a model for “contemplative listening” today.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, what I mean is that their “actions” flowed directly from their personal – – their focused – – learning and true discernment through divine guidance.  They had set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in a unique “star” announcing:

the newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

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Can you see the three gifts of the “Magi”, given to the Holy Family, as a foreshadowing (prophecy) of Jesus’ role in salvation hichristmasbitters5story?  I believe the meanings of their gifts are “Christological” in nature (representing the spirit, the person, and the actions of Jesus Christ).  “Gold” represents Jesus’ kingship.  “Frankincense” is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And “Myrrh” was used to prepare the dead for burial, and thus, was offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.  Jesus Christ “was”, “is”, and forever “will be”!!

So, “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” are understood to be symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death (for OUR salvation).  In giving these special gifts, the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, to Jesus gold_2Christ Himself (and to us through His nature), the “Magi” – – those unknown “Gentile” men from foreign lands and cultures – – were the first to acknowledge the “who” Jesus was – – FROM BIRTH – – as the Savior KING – – as OUR Savior King!

The journey we take to God is a long one, lasting our entire lives; only ending with our earthly deaths.  Mary, Joseph, and ALL the saints experienced the same long and difficult journey we need to experience. 

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know the Trinitarian Godhead personally.  In today’s story of the “Magi’s” finding and encountering the child Jesus, we see God the Father’s personal plan for salvation to, and for, ALL nations, ALL peoples.  God’s divine plan included giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for ALL mankind (even those from far-away lands).  God gave us His true and full – – both human and divine – – personhood (in the singular), – – not solely for just the Jewish faithful, – – but for ALL people everywhere!! 

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, these three men made a “gift” of their individual, unique, and personal “liveGifts-with-a-Meaning-behind-Them_001-608x456s” with each step taken in the search for the prophesied “Messiah-Savior-King”.  Matthew, by his account of today’s event, eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” searching quest:

They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Matthew2:10).

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires in meeting this “singular” “King of Kings”.

After giving Him “homage” and bestowing “gifts” to the newborn child “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod.  So, they returned to their country by another route:

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way (Matthew 2:12).

Nothing is written or otherwise known about what happened to the “MagiAFTER they left the child-Jesus.  They found Jesus – – so their journey seems to have ended for them.  BUT, their journey actually did NOT end, and neither has ours; it was just a “turning point” for them as it is for us.  Our journeys never end when we finally “find” Christ in our lives; it just puts us on the “proper path” to Him and to everlasting life with Him in paradise..wise01

By their faith, they followed the “star.”  By their faith, they found the true Messiah King of ALL peoples.  And, by their faith, they returned to their “far off” country via a different route.

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F. summarize titleaith is an entirely free gift which God the Father offers to us, and imparts to each of us personally.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – moving in our individual hearts, and opening our individual souls and being – – that we are able to understand, accept, and believe the real divine “truth” which the Trinitarian Godhead reveals to us in personal and unique ways.  With trust, love, and faith, OUR human “will” and “intellect” cooperates with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace” (Thomas Aquinas).

No matter where I am in my personal search of discovery in God’s faith, Christ is present with me – – and within me – – ALWAYS.  I always have the same “star” the “Magi” followed, lighting my way, never leaving me in the dark, distancing me from MY Messiah-Savior-King!!

The visit of the “Magi”, which we celebrate as an “Epiphany”, or manifestation of God’s glory, reveals that the child Jesus whom the “Magi” hailed as the “newborn King of the Jews” (cf., Matthew 2:2), AND who will be crucified under the same title, “King of the Jews” – – is also King of ALL peoples

I sell myself short in my faith-life often.  I don’t always appreciate the power of my faith within me!  I don’t realize my capabilities in knowing God.  Sometimes, I believe my faith is weak, that myencountersThumbnail level of sanctity is low – – in my eyes – – not in His.  To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Trinitarian Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  Jesus Christ came so that both Jew and Gentile might find a true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND with each other. 

We usually do – – and definitely should – – think about God’s goodness to human beings.  Today’s story of the “Magi” has turned such thinking the in the opposite direction, around the goodness of human beings TO God instead.  Three human beings, the Wise Men, the Magi, brought and gave “gifts” to the “Son of God”.  Even though we try to imitate this action in our individual lives, the Son of God is a hard one to shop for.  How does one give gifts to the Son of God, who certainly has everything He needs or wants?  Well, Jesus Christ helped us with this specific inquiry.  He more or less revealed His answer, making it easier for us when He said:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

How can we become a people and nation which defers to God?  We can begin with ourselves. The mysteries of this season invite us to imitate the “Magi”:

They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts” (Luke 2:11).

Let us prostrate ourselves before Christ the true and promised Messiah-Savior-King, worshiping and adoring Him.  Let us offer ALL we have, and listen to His “Word”.  Then we shall be ready to serve Him and His Kingdom in heaven and on earth, here and now!! 

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To. conclusion some people, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed to have been established in remembrance of the gift giving of the “Magi” in today’s Gospel reading.  For this reason, in many cultures even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on “Christmas Day”.  This makes me think: giftofpresence-ckwe should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES” – – our true “Present Self”!!  Our “three” “special” gift offerings should be “praise”, “adoration”, and “thanksgiving” for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do – – in our lives!  Our individual spiritual gifts are much more valuable to Him, and to each other, than the monetary value of ALL the “gold, frankincense, and myrrhin the entire world!!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  How can we offer our very “selves”, our “lives”, more fully to God the Father’s personal and collective love and personal plan He has for each of us?  Hmm, let me know what your thoughts are on HOW YOU can do this task.

Let me please finally pass on a couple of reflection questions to each of you.  “Do you truly bring Jesus Christ to others in your psales-questionsersonal path of life?  Do you actively ‘LOOK’ for Jesus Christ in others you encounter along your path of life; especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?”  God loves it so much when we speak “Words” of love, and perform “acts” of blessing, hope, and encouragement as the norm – – instead of the exception.  He rejoices when our “Words” and “actions” help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes and trees of immense size.  (So, become the “spice” of life; enhance the flavor of God’s working in, with, and through you for and to OTHERS!!)

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift-giving”.  (Yes, I know it just passed a few days aGiftGiving_12-04go for most of us.  But, please, reflect on gift-giving again.)  What was the best gift you have ever received (?), and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special (?), was it the thought that went into it (?), or was it the person who gave it to you which made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress out on the correct answer.)  Do you bring the twinkling “light of Jesus Christ” to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?  Has this specific reflection today been a gift to you?  It has been a gift writing my thoughts on this Gospel reading. gift-keep-giving-13

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impartto others throughout your personal and public route in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of our personal journeys through life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” Wise One’s – – “Camel Jockey’s” – – in OUR search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  So, head towards to the light – – of the “new shining ‘star’”!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

Father,Epiphany 6
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven
by the light of faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen

From:
The Liturgy of the Hours

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


Palm Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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

Spy Wednesday:

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

PASCHAL TRIDUMM:

Holy Thursday (AKA, Maundy Thursday):

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

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion:

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

Holy Saturday:

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

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

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

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

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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

  

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

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Gospel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The second verse in today’s reading states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Verse 24 of Today’s reading states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).

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

INRI = Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 The Apostles Creed

 

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The Papacy

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“FedEx or UPS May Have Been Easier, But Not As Fulfilling!” – Matthew 2:1-12†


 

The “Epiphany” of the Lord

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Blessing of a Home at Epiphany

 

Leader: Peace be to this house.

All: And to all who live here.

Leader: Bless, O Lord, this household and family, and allow all of us who live in this home to find in it a shelter of peace and health.  Inspire each of us to develop our individual talents and to contribute wisdom and good works for the benefit of the whole family.  Make our house a haven for us all, and a place of warmth and caring for all our friends who come to visit us.  Enlighten us with the brilliance of your Epiphany star, so that, as we go into the world, we might clearly see our way to You and discover You in our work and play.  This we ask to your glory and in the power of your kingship. All: For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory now and forever, Amen.

Then, bless the house with the sign of the cross.

After the blessing, the initials of the Magi (traditional names: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) are written with chalk over the main door way of the house, like this: 20 + C + M + B + 12 (the + is a cross; the “12” stands for 2012; change the year accordingly).

Adapted from commonly used parish prayer

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Today in Catholic History:

†   482 – Death of Severinus, German monastery founder/saint, dies
†   1100 – Death of Antipope Clement III (b. 1029)
†   1198 – Death of Coelestinus III (aka, Pope Celestine III), [Giacinto Bobo], pope (1191-98)
†   1198 – Lotario di Segni elected Pope Innocentius III
†   1456 – Death of St Lawrence Justinian, Italian bishop and first Patriarch of Venice (b. 1381)
†   1635 – Birth of Luis Manuel Fernández de Portocarrero, Spanish Archbishop of Toledo (d. 1709)
†   1735 – Birth of John Carroll, American Roman Catholic archbishop (d. 1815)
†   1892 – Death of John Heykamp, old-catholic archbishop of Utrecht, dies at age 67
†   1894 – Birth of St Maximilian Kolbe, Polish martyr (d. 1941)
†   1904 – Pope Pius X banned low cut dresses in the presence of churchmen
†   1905 – Birth of Franjo Cardinal Seper, Croatian Catholic cardinal (d. 1981)
†   1932 – Death of Eurosia Fabris, Italian Catholic (b. 1866) †   Feasts/Memorials: Our Lady of Prompt Succor in the Roman Catholic Church.

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 “The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Magi seeking out the child Jesus and doing Him homage

 

(NAB Matthew 2:1-12) 1When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the “official” Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Messiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to ‘let His face shine upon’ us through the face of the Mother of God.  We ‘serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.’” (G.K. Chesterton)

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  Historically several moments in Jesus Christ’s early life and earthly ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including His birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, His baptism by His cousin John, and His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.

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In Matthew’s Gospel, the visit of the “Magi” occurs immediately prior to the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  It is apparent Matthew tells a different version (actually, just a different viewpoint or emphasis) of Jesus’ life than what is written in Luke’s Gospel.  Of the infancy narrative – – covering the actual birth of Jesus Christ, – – Matthew barely tells us little more than:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod.” (Matthew 2:1)

Other differences in covering Jesus Christ’s infancy event, between Matthew and Luke, are found in the:

(1) Census being addressed only in Luke’s Gospel, and
(2) Visit of the “Magi” only being confirmed in Matthew’s Gospel (today’s reading).

The future rejection of Jesus by His own people, “Israel”; AND Jesus’ acceptance by the “Gentiles” (the perceived “heathens” by Jewish faithful) are projected backwards (actually, retrojected) into the scene and circumstances of today’s reading.

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If Jesus truly is who He claims to be, “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, and ‘Savior’ of the world”, then why was He not recognized by everyone who hears His “Word” and sees His works?  John the Evangelist states that when Jesus came into the world:

The world knew him not and His own people received him not.” (John 1:10-11)

 Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only the lowly shepherds recognized Him at His birth.  However, some “Magi” also found their way to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn “King” of Israel.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the “great” Messianic King when He appeared.  

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly social order at one time.  However, over a period of time the word became used generally for anyone regarded as having “more than human knowledge” (Hence, the term the term frequently used for them: “Wise Men”).  We get our word “magic” from this root word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (possibly the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were probably astrologers as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others seemingly – – and apparently – – quite easily overlooked.

We know little about the Magi.  We know they came from “the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the star) which was of some type of “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening” across the desert to the little town, Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  In their diligent search these “three Kings” were led to the source of true knowledge — to Jesus Christ, the Light and Wisdom of God the Father.  When they found the newborn King they humbly worshiped Him and gave Him gifts fitting for a “King”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this Messianic King?  It was a confident and assured faith in the promise God the Father gave to send a Redeemer, a “King” who would establish God the Father’s reign of peace and righteousness:

“Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.  This is the name to be given him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

 

We base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the “three gifts”, but the actual number of magi that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us.  My question: Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of “strange landsto represent the Gentiles’ search for a Messianic Savior?  In essence, the Magi represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  In such, they are representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives.

There is a couple of Old Testament verses which may be used to infer the “Magi” as being “kings”.

May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts.  Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day.” (Psalm 72:10, 15)

And,

Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.” (Isaiah 60:6)

These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”.  It was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any ruler’s birth: be it secular or religious.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of the Old Testament story in which Balaam had prophesied:

A star shall advance from Jacob, & a staff shall rise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17)

However, the “starin this case means the Messiah King Himself [Jesus Christ], and not an astronomical happening in the Middle East.

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the “Word” being written in the heavenly stars.  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, who is an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”  However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what” moment upon listening to the “Magi”.  He was confused and concerned about his lack of knowledge AND getting no preemptive warning about this “NEW” king in “his” territory.  He was also concerned about his future welfare, prestige, and life, with a “Messiah” king, again, in “his” territory.  So, he immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to his personal presence. (Hmm, Biblical pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the Temple leaders (the chief priests and Scribes), astrologers, and scientists of his realm had a very strong similarity to the following “Jewish non-biblical legend” (per NAB footnote).  This story is about a child (later learned to be Moses), in which the “sacred scribes” warn the Pharaoh about an imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt.  In this story, the Pharaoh king makes plans to destroy him.  (WOW!!!!  Moses and Jesus have nearly identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is oft called the “New Moses.”)

The “three kings” travel to Bethlehem, from King Herod’s presence, in response to prophetic Hebrew Scriptures, which the “chief priests and scribes” also shared with these first Gentile believers through an unlikely envoy: Herod:

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the childWhen you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:8).

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Let’s Continue.  Verse 11 from today’s reading offers a huge amount to ponder in itself:

And on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.(Matthew 2:11)

These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home, their homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for knowing this “heavenly” announced “God”.  They “followed a star” in pursuit of their personal quest of discovering and knowing true divinity — Jesus Christ.   (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it in Hollywood or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their activity, the three “Magi” serve as a model for contemplative listening.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, their action flowed directly from their personal – – and focused – – discernment of divine guidance.  The “Magi” set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in the star which announced:

The newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

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Can you see the three gifts the “Magi”, brought to the Holy Family, as being a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation history?  I believe the meanings of their gifts are “Christological” (representing the spirit, character, and actions of Jesus Christ) in character, and as found in nature.  “Gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  “Frankincense is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And “Myrrh was used to prepare the dead for burial, and thus offered in anticipation of Jesus’ deathJesus Christ “was”, “is”, and forever “will be”!!

So, “gold”, “frankincense”, and “myrrh” are understood as symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death (for OUR salvation).  In giving these special gifts, the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, to Jesus Christ Himself (and to us through His nature), the “Magi” (those unknown “Gentile” men from foreign lands and cultures) were the first to acknowledge “who” Jesus was [from birth]: our Savior KING!

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know the Godhead (Divine Trinity) personally.  In the story of the “Magi” encountering the infant Jesus, we see God the Father’s personal plan for salvation to ALL nations and ALL peoples.  This divine plan included giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for ALL mankind (even those from far-away lands).  God gave to us His truly and fully – – both human and divine – – personhood (in the singular), – – not solely for just the Jewish faithful, – – but for ALL people everywhere.  

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, they made a gift of their individual, unique, and personal “lives” with each step of their journey in search for the “Messiah King”.  Matthew’s account of this event eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” search and quest:

They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Matthew2:10).

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires to meet this singular “King of Kings”.

 

And, after giving homage and gifts to the newborn infant “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them, in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod and “they departed for their country by another way“:

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way” (Matthew 2:12).

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Faith is an entirely free gift that God the Father makes and imparts to us.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – who moves the individuals heart and opens the individuals soul and mind – – that we are able to understand, to accept, and to believe the real divine “truth” which the Godhead reveals to us personally, and uniquely.  With “trust”, “love”, and “faith”, OUR human will and intellect cooperate with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace(Thomas Aquinas).

To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  In the encounter of the Magi “Wise Men” “Kings” – – with and towards Jesus Christ – – we see the divine plan of God the Father giving His only-begotten Son as the Messiah King and Savior, – – not just for the Jewish people – – but for ALL the nations and ALL peoples.  Jesus Christ came so both Jew and Gentile might find true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND each other.  

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In conclusion, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed by some to have been established in the gift giving of the “Magi”.  For this reason, in many cultures, even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on Christmas Day.  This makes me think, we should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES”!!  Our three “special” gift offerings should be praise, adoration, and thanksgiving for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do in our lives!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  Interiorly (and exteriorly), how can we offer our very “selves” more fully to God the Father’s love and personal plan He has for each of us, personally and collectively?  

My question to each of you: Do you truly bring Jesus Christ to others in your personal path of life?  Do you actively “LOOK” for Jesus Christ in others you encounter along your path of life, especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?  God loves it so dearly when we speak “Words” of love, and perform acts of blessing, hope, and encouragement as the norm instead of the exception.  He rejoices when our “Words” and actions help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes and trees of immense size.  (So, become the “spice” of life; enhance the flavor of God’s working in, with, and through you to OTHERS!)

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift giving”.  What was the best gift you have ever received, and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that making it special, was it the thought that went into it, or even the person who gave it to you making it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress.)  Do you bring the “light of Jesus Christ to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impart” to others throughout your personal and public path in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of their personal journeys path of life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” in search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

“Father,
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven
by the light of faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen”

The Liturgy of the Hours

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

Faith and Works

 

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James. 2:17). RSV

So faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.(James. 2:17). KJV

*

 “Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? (James. 2:20). RSV

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James. 2:20). KJV

*

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Maximilian Kolbe

OFM Conventional (8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941)
Feastday: August 14

 

Maximilian was born in 1894 in Poland and became a Franciscan.  He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. Before his ordination as a priest, Maximilian founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Our Lady.  After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled “The Knight of the Immaculata” and helped form a community of 800 men, the largest in the world.

Maximilian went to Japan where he built a comparable monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement.  In 1936 he returned home because of ill health.  After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time.  But in 1941 he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

On July 31, 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner’s escape, ten men were chosen to die. Father Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father.  And he was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect.  He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. His feast day is August 14th.

from Wikipedia:

Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity.  He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.  Pope John Paul II declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.

In Italian he is known as “San Massimiliano Maria Kolbe”; his given name in Polish is “Maksymilian”, in French, “Maximilien”.

Due to his efforts to promote Consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.

From “Catholic Online” Website
http://www.catholic.org/saints

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Our Mother Mary

Reflect on the following Franciscan prayer”

Antiphon to Mary

“Holy Virgin Mary, among women there is no one like you born into the world: you are the daughter and the servant of the most high and supreme King and Father of heaven: you are the mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ, you are the spouse of the Holy Spirit.  Pray for us with Saint Michael and the Archangel and all the powers of the heavens and all the saints to your most holy beloved Son, the Lord and Master. Amen”

 

What points of honor does Saint Francis call our attention to in his esteem of Mary? … And, in this antiphon?

Do you know how often this Antiphon to Mary was indicated to be used by the friars?

What does our SFO Rule, article 9 tell us?

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.” (Article 9, SFO Rule)

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 8 & 9 of 26:

08.  As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

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09. 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.

 

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


 

 

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

(Information obtained from Wikipedia.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

Today’s Gospel reading is known as:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

And,

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Our Father

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

It will now read as follows:

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Peace

 

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

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

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

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

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

Can you give examples?

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

“Your Faith Is Not For The Dogs!” –Matthew 15:21-28†


 

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection 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:

 

Tomorrow is SOooo special for me.  It is the “Feast of the Assumption”, a Marian Feast Day, and also the Day when I will renew again my “Consecration to Jesus through Mary”, as created and popularized by St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1720).  His “consecration” is a special devotion lasting 33 days before the actual pledge or consecration of one’s total abandonment to Jesus through Mary, as a means to live my Baptismal promises.

This particular Marian devotion was loved greatly, and commented about often, by Blessed John Paul II, “the Great”.

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Next weekend, I will be on my annual SFO Regional Retreat at “King’s House” in Belleville, Illinois.  Franciscans from Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois, and all over Missouri are getting together to rejoice, pray, and interact with, in, and through the Holy Spirit, and in the Seraphic presence of Sts. Francis and Clare.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1464 – Death of Pope Pius II (b. 1405)
†   1740 – Birth of Pius VII, [Luigi B Chiaramonti], bishop of Imola/Pope (1800-1823)
†   1941 – Death of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Polish martyr (b. 1894)
†   1961 – Death of Henri-Edouard-Prosper Breuil, priest/archaeologist, dies

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

“No cloud can overshadow a true Christian but his faith will discern a rainbow in it.” ~ Bishop Horne

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus healing the daughter of the Canaanite woman because of her great faith.

 

(NAB Matthew 15:21-28) 21 Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  22 And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”  23 But he did not say a word in answer to her.  His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”  24 He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  25 But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”  26 He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”  28 Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.”  And her daughter was healed from that hour.

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

Last week we read about Jesus walking on the water and the disciples’ “confession” of faith: Jesus is the “Son of God”.  Today we move ahead in our reading of Matthew’s Gospel.  If we were reading Matthew’s entire Gospel, we would have read about Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees in relation to Jewish “purity laws”. Jesus argues that it is not what goes into us which makes us unclean; He is referring to the strict Jewish dietary rules created from the Scribes own interpretations of Mosaic Law.

Instead, our words and our actions – – what emit from us – – make us truly unclean, because our words and actions emerge from a heart which is truly unclean through our previous sins and iniquities.

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Today’s Gospel reading describes the only occasion in Holy Scripture when Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory.  (Tyre and Sidon are fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.)  

Tyre is a city in what is the Southern part of Lebanon today. The city juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean and is located about 50 miles south of Beirut. The name of the city means “rock” after the rocky formation on which the town was originally built.  Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city having many historical sites, including its famous “Roman Hippodrome”.   

 Sidon is also on the Mediterranean coast of present-day Southern Lebanon, about half-way between Tyre to the south and Beirut to the north.  Its name means “a fishery.”  Hmm; I wonder what the main occupation was in Sidon!

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Knowing about Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees helps us to understand today’s Gospel.  In fact, the unread story leading up to today’s reading would heighten the revelation and awe we feel as we “hear” Jesus’ exchange with the “Canaanite woman”.  The woman, who is not Jewish, approaches Jesus with a request that He heal her “demon-oppressed daughter” (I often feel that my teenage son’s are “demon-oppressed”).  At first, Jesus ignores her; He says nothing.  Besides, the disciples ask Jesus to send her away (They love to send people away, don’t they), and Jesus, at first agrees, remarking that He was sent to minister to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” – – “only”.

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A similar story to todays is related earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 8:5-13):

“When He entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.’  He said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’  The centurion said in reply, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.  For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me.  And I say to one, “’Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come here,” and he comes; and to my slave, “Do this,” and he does it.’  When Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those following Him, ‘Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.  I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.’  And at that very hour (his) servant was healed.” (Matthew 8:5-13)

As in Matthew’s earlier story of the “daughter of a Centurion” above, Jesus breaks with His usual practice of ministering, teaching, and preaching to Israelites only, and in doing so, prefigures the Apostles and the Catholic Church’s mission to the Jews and Gentiles alike.

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Today’s reading has a “Canaanite woman” as the solicitor of help.  Canaanites’ (Gentiles) were a despised race by the Jewish people.   Canaanites, like the woman in this Gospel reading, were inhabitants of a region in the area of what is the present-day Gaza Strip, Israel, West Bank, and Lebanon.  “Canaan” predates the ancient Israelite territories described in the Bible, and describes a land with different, yet, overlapping boundaries.

This Canaanite woman, a non-Jew, is identifying Jesus as her “Lord” and “Son of David”!  By saying these two phrases, she is exclaiming publically that Jesus is the one having power and authority over all others as the divine ruler by hereditary right and ascendancy from God the Father in heavenFOR Jew AND Gentile as well!  She is also declaring her faith – – openly and publically – – that Jesus is the “true” Messiah of the Jewish people; and  as such, He is due our love, worship, and obedience.

 

Jesus tells this Canaanite lady, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (verse 24).  What did He mean by this?  Didn’t He come for the entire human race?!  I believe His “Word” is a foretelling of a future mission Jesus will give to His Apostles, and through them, to the growing Church to come.

Like Jesus Himself, the Twelve Apostles were initially sent only to Jewish territories and people; a way to “get their feet wet”:

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, ‘Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.  Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” (Matthew 10:5-6)

 

The statement, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Verse 24)   may reflect an initial early Christian refusal of missions to the Gentiles.  Or, it could just have been an expression of the limitation – – Jesus Himself – – observed during His ministry, by never travelling any further than about 100 miles from His birthplace.

 

However, the woman persists, paying homage to Jesus, and yet He denies her request again.  Jesus even appears to insult her, using a Jewish word of disrespect for Gentiles (including Canaanites): “dog”:

It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26). 

In a rather quick-witted reply, the “Canaanite woman” cleverly turns Jesus’ “insult” into an affirmation of a deep and “true” faith:

Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Matthew 15:27).

This witty quip of hers really got Jesus’ attention; it showed the strength of her faith and her persistence.  Only then does Jesus grant her request and heal her daughter.

This woman reminds me of my wife: she won’t take “no” for an answer.  The woman in this story keeps calling out after Him, to the point of annoying the Apostles.  Jesus finally relents, and not only listens to her pleas, but acts on her pleas immediately.

In recalling Jesus’ encounters with women, this seems to be a normal pattern for Him: swiftly relenting to the women in His life.  Mary, His mother asks Jesus to help the wine stewards at the feast in Cana; Margaret asks Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead; and Mary Magdalene had seven “spirits” removed after asking Jesus.  (Jesus obviously learned early on, the first mantra of every married man: “Yes dear”!!)

 

Now, here’s a little secret!  Jesus does the same thing – – still today – – for both men and women!  All we need to do is ask Him for help, and He will help.  His intervention may not be swift enough for you, and may not even be the way you wanted something carried out.  To be quite honest, you may not recognize that Jesus interven at all, but He always helps anyone who asks.  The divine wisdom of God has no earthly boundaries such as time and space.  Every action He takes has a purpose and reason, maybe ever known to us.  How He acts on a specific request is always for the best outcome of the person making the request, the people involved, and for future circumstances.

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Jesus’ words are specific and purposeful then, now, and in the future.  What did Jesus mean by the phrase “throwing bread to the dogs“?  Jewish custom often spoke of “Gentiles” with conceit and disrespect as likened to “unclean dogs”.  For the Jewish people of this time, Gentiles were excluded from God’s covenant and favor with Israel.  Earlier in Matthew 7:6 records this expression:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs ….” (Matthew 7:6).

And now, I however, believe Jesus spoke to this Canaanite woman with a calm and reassuring voice rather than with an insult.  Why?  Simply because she immediately responded with a quick wit and deep faith:

Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Matthew 15:27)

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The children” Jesus was speaking of, were the people of Israel: the Jewish people.  The term “dogs” on the other hand, was (along with the word “swine”) a Jewish term of scorn for Gentiles by the Jewish people: 

Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)

As stated earlier, dogs and swine were Jewish terms of contempt for Gentiles.  This saying may originally have derived from a Jewish Christian community opposed to preaching the Gospel (what is holy, the pearls) to Gentiles.  Some believe Matthew may have taken this concept and belief as applying to a Christians dealing with stubbornly unremorseful, unapologetic, and/or brazen fellow Christians, as in Matthew 18:

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:17)

I do not believe this was Matthew’s intent or meaning.  My reasoning is in light of what is written in the very last chapter, the very last verses of Matthew’s Gospel:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

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Let’s get back to Jesus’ reaction to this woman.  Jesus’ unresponsiveness to her may appear to us as uncharacteristic or possibly even shocking for Him to do to another.  Yet, we need to know and remember that in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ ministry is directed primarily to the people of Israel – the Jewish “Catholic” people.  Only in a very few times, such as this one, do we find Jesus anticipating the later “Catholic (Universal)” Christian ministry to the rest of the world.

Behind Matthew’s written text, we can hear his early Catholic Christian community’s struggle to understand how God’s selection of Israel is unfailing after two recent, specific, and very important events: Israel’s rejection of Jesus by the formal “Leaders” of the Temple (His arrest, scourging, and crucifixion), and the Gentile peoples acceptance of Jesus.  Just as Jesus was surprised by the deep faith of the “Canaanite woman”, so too were the first Catholic Christians surprised that the Gentiles would also receive the salvation God the Father offered to the Jews first, and then to the Gentile world through Jesus Christ.

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Faith is not for the Jewish people alone; it is for ALL mankind and for individual persons as well!  As in the case of the cure of the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:10):

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” (Matthew 8:10),

In both instances of the “Centurion” and the “Canaanite Woman”, Matthew attributes Jesus’ granting of the request to both as His response to their GREAT FAITH.

 

Jesus praises both the “Canaanite woman” and the “Centurion” for their faith, trust, and love.  They made the suffering of their children their own, and were willing to suffer refusal and rejection in order to obtain a healing for their children.  THEY BOTH possessed a “determined persistence” in their request to Jesus Christ; beginning with a request, they both ended on their knees in worshipful prayer and gratitude to the living “Messiah”.  No one who ever sought Jesus, with faith – be they Jew or Gentile – was ever refused His help.  Do you seek Jesus with a confident and “persistent” faith?

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In conclusion, the figure or symbol of a household in which children at a table are fed first, and then their “leftover” food is given to the dogs under the table, is used effectively to acknowledge a prior claim of the Jews to Jesus’ earthly ministry, but not an exclusive claim, as some Jews believed.  However, Jesus Himself grants the Gentile “Canaanite” woman’s plea for a cure for her afflicted daughter, solely out of her strong, confident, and persistently “true” faith in Him as the promised “Son of David”: the “Messiah” who saves both Gentile and Jew.

 

Even when spurned by Jesus, the faith of the “Canaanite woman” makes her both strong and bold enough to confront and ask again for what she needs from Jesus Christ, in order to receive a healing for her daughter.  Her persistence and great confidence, knowing Jesus could heal her oppressed daughter, reminds me of the confidence with which our children bring to us their own needs.  In their “child-like” faith and trust we can find an example of how we might approach God in prayer – – with humility, piety, love, perseverance, and most importantly, simple, child-like FAITH!!.

Let us remember: we don’t pray to change God’s mind; we pray that our minds be changed.  If we got everything we ask for, then WE would be God, and we would have no need for faith in anyone!  There would be no opportunities for other doors to open, and no need to see Jesus in others with whom we come into contact.  I believe, that without faith, there would no longer be any anticipation, wisdom, miracles, sharing, trust, or gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Then, how sad would be the world!

Recall a time when a request for something was presented to you by a friend or family member with confidence and persistence.  If the request was denied, why was it denied?  If the request was granted, what led to a change of heart?  

Were you surprised by Jesus’ initial negative response to the Canaanite woman?  Why or why not?  What made Jesus change His mind and heal the woman’s daughter?  When we pray, God wants us to be  confident in His mercy.  Identify things you need from God (not things you “wish” for).  Pray these “prayers of petition” with a confidence God will hear and answer your prayers.  He always answers ALL prayers, one way or another, and on HIS time (not ours).

 

The faith the Canaanite woman had for the divinity of Jesus Christ is an affirmation of, and confidence in, God’s abundant mercy to all His creation.  Yes, salvation comes through Israel, but it overflows for the benefit of all who believe, live, and journey on Jesus’ pathway to paradise.

 

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Reflection Psalm:

 

 

Psalm 67

All the nations will praise God.

 

May God be gracious to us and bless us; may God’s face shine upon us.  So shall your rule be known upon the earth, your saving power among all the nations.  May the nations be glad and shout for joy; for you govern the peoples justly, you guide the nations upon the earth.  May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you!  May God bless us still; that the ends of the earth may revere our God.” (Psalm 67:2-3,5-6,8)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The 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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe (1894-1941)

 

“I don’t know what’s going to become of you!”  How many parents have said that?  Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s reaction was, “I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me.  She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red.  She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom.  I said, ‘I choose both.’  She smiled and disappeared.”  After that he was not the same.

He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvív (then Poland, now Ukraine), near his birthplace, and at 16 became a novice.  Though he later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships.

Ordained at 24, he saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day.  His mission was to combat it.  He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work and suffering.  He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to preach the Good News to all nations.  For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanow—which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers.  He later founded one in Nagasaki, Japan.  Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one-million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Mary.

In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed.  Niepokalanow was severely bombed.  Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1941 he was arrested again.  The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders.  The end came quickly, in Auschwitz three months later, after terrible beatings and humiliations.

A prisoner had escaped.  The commandant announced that 10 men would die.  He relished walking along the ranks.  “This one.  That one.” As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line.  “I would like to take that man’s place.  He has a wife and children.”  “Who are you?”  “A priest.”  No name, no mention of fame.  Silence.  The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine.  In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness.  But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang.  By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive.  The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying.  He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle.  It was filled with carbolic acid.  They burned his body with all the others.  He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982.

Comment:

Father Kolbe’s death was not a sudden, last-minute act of heroism.  His whole life had been a preparation.  His holiness was a limitless, passionate desire to convert the whole world to God.  And his beloved Immaculata was his inspiration.

Quote:

“Courage, my sons.  Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission?  They pay our fare in the bargain.  What a piece of good luck!  The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible.  Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes”  (Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested).

Patron Saint of: Addicts, Drug addiction

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

SFO Fraternity Life

 

In what ways does an SFO Fraternity show SHARING on the part of the members?

How is this manifested in your daily life?

In what ways does a SFO Fraternity show CARING on the part of the members?

How is this manifested in your daily life?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 14 & 15 of 26:

 

14.  Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively.  Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.

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15.  Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

  

“Mary says, ‘My Son DOES Walk on Water’!” – Matthew 14:22-33†


 

Nineteenth 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 Prayer New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

One week from tomorrow, my four boys go back to school; two in Middle School and two in High School.  Let us all pray for a safe year for all our students and their families.

BTW – Did I mention that my boys will not be home all day – – EVERY day (Hee, hee, hee – Party time).

 

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Today in Catholic History:


†   768 – Stephen III [IV] begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1547 – Death of Cajetanus van Thiene, Italian saint, dies1814
†   1547 – Pope Pius VII reinstates Jesuits
†   1978 – Thousands of mourners file past body of Pope Paul VI

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus walking on water, and the disciples acknowledging Him as the “Son of God’.

 

(NAB Matthew 14:22-33) 22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  23 After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.  24 Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.  25 During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.  26 When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.  “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.  27 At once (Jesus) spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  28 Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  29 He said, “Come.”  Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.  30 But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  31 Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  32 After they got into the boat, the wind died down.  33 Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel directly follows last week’s account of Jesus feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 (plus) people with just five loaves of barley bread and two fish.  For the sake of the crowds, Jesus had deferred His time of private prayer and rest.  In today’s reading, Jesus finally finds some time for quiet reflection and private prayer.  He sends His disciples ahead of Him by boat, dismisses the crowds, and then withdraws to His favorite place on a mountain to pray privately.  Jesus Christ being on a mountain to pray reminds me of a Chinese proverb:

“You must climb the mountain if you would see the plain.”

 

Does the Lord seem distant when trials or adversity come your way?  It was at Jesus’ initiative that the disciples sailed across the lake, only to find themselves in a life-threatening storm:

“When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and He was alone on shore.  Then He saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them.” (Mark 6:47-48).

Can you picture being thrown about, in a turbulent sea, in a glorified open rowboat?  In the midst of all the mayhem, you look up and see a person walking towards you – – ON THE WATER!!  Though experienced fisherman and sailors, the disciples, laboring to keep the boat aright against the violent sea, are saved by Jesus in a most miraculous and mysterious way.  

The disciples were not faring well.  Indeed, they had gotten into some serious trouble.  These seasoned men of the sea were struggling to ride out the blowing wind and foaming waves, making little progress in their journey.  While Jesus was not with them in the boat, He watched over them in prayer.  When He perceived the danger of their situation, He went to them, on the sea, and startled them with His unexpected appearance.  Do you look for the Lord’s presence when you encounter difficulty or challenges?  When you are “startled”, look for God – – He is there for and with you.

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Jesus does not calm the seas immediately!  The disciples demonstrate fear and wonder when they see Jesus walking toward them on the water.  In this story, it is not the storm which is feared but the sight of Jesus Christ coming towards them on the water.  No wonder they mistake Him for a ghost.  (The “Holy Ghost” was already with them.  I wonder if they realized this bit of fact.)

Jesus is demonstrating to the disciples His power over the waters.  Remember, from earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 8:26), a similar occurrence happened on the same sea; and Jesus took control of the weather and sea then as well:

He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’  Then He got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.”  (Matthew 8:26)

In the earlier occurrence, Jesus CALLS to the disciples and calms their fears.  In this second occurrence, Jesus COMES to the disciples and calms their fears – – AGAIN!  In both these occurrences, Jesus is neither ghost, nor a spirit; He is the “Messiah” walking on the water in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The spontaneous, hasty Peter seeks proof that the person walking towards them on a path of deep water is indeed Jesus Himself.  He asks Jesus to command Him to come to Him on the water; and Jesus grants this request.  Jesus simply commands Peter:

Come!” (Matthew 14:29)

Peter actually obeys and gets out of the boat, and starts walking towards Jesus Christ on the water.  The reason given in the reading is that Peter became “frightened”.  I wonder if the real reason is that Peter realized the Jesus was going to make him the “rock” the church will be built upon; and everyone knows a ROCK SINKS!!!  (Hee, hee, sorry for this one.)

 

Peter’s human fear and self-imposed doubt overtake him as he is supernaturally walking on the water.  He cries out for help.  Jesus immediately reaches out and saves Peter as he is sinking into the sea “like a rock”!  When Jesus and Peter enter the boat, Matthew relates that the wind ceases.  The disciples, onboard this small, open vessel, confess that Jesus Christ is TRULY the “Son of God”.

Jesus’ control over the sea, in both of these “sea stories” may be meant to recall the Old Testament theme of God’s control over the “chaotic waters”:

You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.” (Psalm 65:8);

You rule the raging sea; you still its swelling waves.” (Psalm 89:10);

The flood has raised up, LORD; the flood has raised up its roar; the flood has raised its pounding waves.  More powerful than the roar of many waters, more powerful than the breakers of the sea, powerful in the heavens is the LORD.” (Psalm 93:3-4).

And so, the Lord …:

Hushed the storm to a murmur; the waves of the sea were stilled.”(Psalm 107:29).

Into today’s Reading, Jesus’ divine power is expressed by His walking on the sea instead of simply “calming” the seas:

“During the fourth watch of the night, He came toward them, walking on the sea.”(Matthew 14:25);

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

And,

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

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The sea is a unique place; in speaking about the sea, writer have used unique terms.  The “fourth watch of the night” (verse 25) is a nautical term meaning between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. – – early morning or late night (six of one OR half-dozen of another).  It is a historical fact that the Romans were the first to divide the twelve hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. into four equal parts called “watches.”  This is still the norm in some navies of the world.

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During this fourth watch, Jesus’ reply, “It is I” is a powerful, revelational, and declarative statement, from Jesus Himself, to the fearful disciples. The same statement is related in Mark’s Gospel:

They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’  He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.  They were (completely) astounded.” (Mark 6:50)

That powerful, declarative statement: “It is I”, literally means, “I am.”  This statement reflects the divine revelatory formula found in the Old Testament passages which reveals the hidden divinity of Jesus as the divine Son of God:

When Moses asks God, “What should I tell the Israelites when they ask, ‘who sent you?’”  God replied, “Tell them, ‘I am who am’ has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)

Later, through Isaiah, God revealed the following:

“Who has performed these deeds?  He who has called forth the generations since the beginning.  I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will also be.  Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.   Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”(Isaiah 41:4, 10, 14).

And, again in Isaiah 43, God says:

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior.  I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in return for you.  You are my witnesses, says the LORD, my servants whom I have chosen To know and believe in me and understand that IT IS I.  Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none.  … yes, from eternity I am He; There is none who can deliver from my hand: who can countermand what I do?” (Isaiah 43:1-3, 10, 13).

So, God set the stage through Moses and the prophets for identifying the “true” “Messiah”: His name shall be “I AM”!   Another translation of the Hebrew and Greek word for “I am” is “It is I”!

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This dramatic incident on the Sea of Galilee revealed Peter’s character more clearly than from the others present for this experience of a sign of Jesus’ true divinity.  Here we see Peter’s impulsivity of his faith; his tendency to act without thinking inspired him to “get out of the boat”.  Then, that same impulsivity inspired Peter to doubt, to worry, and to become scared to death.

Peter often failed and anguished as a result of his impulsiveness.  In contrast, Jesus often hinted to His disciples how difficult it will be (and is) to follow Him; how difficult His path which He taught and lived, is.  You may think and feel that you are sinking at times, overwhelmed by waves of worry, and in the depths of fear; however, the truth is: Jesus Christ is always there to take your hand.  

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Two other interesting things said by Jesus in verse 31 of today’s Gospel reading are revealing as well:

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “’O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”  (Matthew 14 :31)

First, “you of little faith” is also found in Luke, and earlier in Matthew:

“If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? (in Luke 12:28);

And,

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30).

You of little faith” is used by Jesus Christ for those of His disciples whose faith in Him is not as deeply rooted as it should be.  That was certain in Peter’s situation.

Then, the second phrase, “why did you doubt?” uses a verb distinctive to Matthew used in only one other place, in Matthew 28:17:

When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted” (Matthew 28:17).

 

The confession, “Truly, you are the Son of God“, made by all the disciples after they witnessed Jesus helping Peter back into the boat, is in striking contrast to Mark’s description that the disciples are “completely astounded“:

“He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were (completely) astounded.” (Mark 6:51)

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In summary, I believe this story is about the disciples’ growing understanding of the identity of Jesus Christ, living physically among them during their daily struggles.  Related to last week’s Gospel about the feeding of the “crowds”, today’s Gospel is also about what the disciples’ faith in Jesus will enable them to do in THEIR daily lives.  In last week’s Gospel, when the disciples see the crowds, they ask Jesus to send them away.  However, Jesus turns the circumstances around, telling the disciples to feed the crowd with the miniscule provisions they have with them.  For me, both of these Gospels tell much about what ministry “truly” is, and why we need to participate in Jesus’ ministry then, now, and into the future.

 Faith in Jesus Christ, their Savior and ours will enable the disciples to do the work (the mission) which Jesus has done and is still doing on earth.  Remember, Peter truly did walk on water.  The disciples truly fed a large mass of people mysteriously and miraculously with the five loaves and two fish.  Jesus’ disciples (all of US) can and will participate in the work of the kingdom of heaven when we allow Him into our lives, hearts, and souls.  When Peter fears and doubts, he falters in his faith.  Peter’s example teaches us that “true” Catholic Christian ministry (work) emerges from a faithful belief that Jesus is the “true” Messiah, God’s only Son:

See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route?  For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:24-26)

The mission (work) of the Catholic Church is to continue the work Jesus started during His time on earth.  The family, – – the “domestic church”, – – participates in this mission as well.  Please remember that Jesus Himself said:

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”” (Matthew 18:20).

I believe people think too logically – – too “earthly” – – in regards to this particular verse.   “Where two or three are gathered together” does not mean a direct gathering, as one unit or group.  The two or three can be separated by miles, even in different parts of the world, yet still be together – – gathered – – in praising, adoring, and worshiping God.  This is why the “Divine Office” is the official prayer of the Catholic Church.  It is said privately, and as a group, throughout the world, continuously, and in unison.

 

How do you, your family, and your friends participate in the mission (works) of the Catholic Church?  In what ways can you seek to reach out to your neighbors and other people in need through acts of kindness, mercy, and justice?  Peter wanted to be like Jesus, to walk on water as Jesus did.  Take note: Peter was “successful” for a time; but then he doubted as he focused on the externals, the waves and the wind; then he began to sink into the water (like a “rock”).  How are your acts of mercy and justice rooted in your faith in Jesus?  Pray that Jesus Christ will continue to work through you to prepare the kingdom of heaven on earth.

A great deal of failure in Catholic life is due to acting on impulse, emotional fervor, and passion without counting the spiritual cost for such actions.  Peter, in the moment of his failure called out for help, seized Jesus, and held Him firmly in his grip.  Every time Peter fell, he rose again.  His failures only made him love the Lord Jesus Christ more deeply, and to trust Him more intently.  

Jesus Christ keeps watch over us at all times, especially in our moments of temptation, challenges, and difficulties.  Do you rely on Jesus for His strength and help?  Jesus assures us that we have no need to fear if we trust in Him and in His great love for us.  When trials and temptations threaten to overwhelm you, how do you respond?  Do you withdraw?  Or do you stand your ground knowing you have a powerful ally: Jesus Christ?  Let’s “get out of the boat” and stand together in our common, “universal”, Catholic faith!!

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Franciscan Morning Prayer

 

“Jesus Lord, I offer you this new day because I believe in you, love you, hope all things in you and thank you for your blessings.

I am sorry for having offended you and forgive everyone who has offended me.

Lord, look on me and leave in me peace and courage and your humble wisdom that I may serve others with joy, and be pleasing to you all day.  Amen”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

with the new liturgical text we will say:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.

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

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Cajetan (1480-1557)

 

Like most of us, Cajetan seemed headed for an “ordinary” life—first as a lawyer, then as a priest engaged in the work of the Roman Curia.

His life took a characteristic turn when he joined the Oratory of Divine Love in Rome, a group devoted to piety and charity, shortly after his ordination at 36.  When he was 42 he founded a hospital for incurables at Venice.  At Vicenza, he joined a “disreputable” religious community that consisted only of men of the lowest stations of life—and was roundly censured by his friends, who thought his action was a reflection on his family.  He sought out the sick and poor of the town and served them.

The greatest need of the time was the reformation of a Church that was “sick in head and members.”  Cajetan and three friends decided that the best road to reformation lay in reviving the spirit and zeal of the clergy. (One of them later became Paul IV.)  Together they founded a congregation known as the Theatines (from Teate [Chieti] where their first superior-bishop had his see).  They managed to escape to Venice after their house in Rome was wrecked when Charles V’s troops sacked Rome in 1527.  The Theatines were outstanding among the Catholic reform movements that took shape before the Protestant Reformation.  He founded a monte de pieta (“mountain [or fund] of piety”) in Naples—one of many charitable, nonprofit credit organizations that lent money on the security of pawned objects.  The purpose was to help the poor and protect them against usurers.  Cajetan’s little organization ultimately became the Bank of Naples, with great changes in policy.

Comment:

If Vatican II had been summarily stopped after its first session in 1962, many Catholics would have felt that a great blow had been dealt to the growth of the Church.  Cajetan had the same feeling about the Council of Trent. But, as he said, God is the same in Naples as in Venice, with or without Trent or Vatican II (or III).  We open ourselves to God’s power in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, and God’s will is done.  God’s standards of success differ from ours.

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Role Models

 

How is Saint Francis a good model for the norm by which we can judge ourselves, and even others?

(This leads to honesty with God, and serves us well with our examination of conscience – to see how we are in the sight of God – not how other persons see us).

How is the Blessed Virgin Mary a great model for the virtue of humility?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 7 & 8 of 26:

 

07.  United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.”  Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

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08.  As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

 

“John and James, Your Mother Is Asking For Favors! Doesn’t She Know I Have Pressing Issues On My Mind Right Now? BTW, Has Anyone Seen My Cup?!” – Matthew 20:17-28†


  

“Wednesday of the
Second Week of Lent”
 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History

  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day 
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Satan is laughing his “tail” off right now.

The devil hates and despises priests, but I bet he LOVES this “de facto guilty” policy the Magisterium has taken in regards to the clergy automatically being permanently suspended without a proof of guilt.  It seems all someone has to do to get rid of a member of the clergy, and/or to destroy the reputation of a (usually good) person is to simply accuse him of sex and/or drugs (even anonymously from what I understand).  The accuser knows that the Church will do the rest: simply remove the clergyman from any type of service, permanently, – – even if not credible. 

Satan also knows an important SACRAMENT of the Holy Catholic Church – – Holy Orders – – the (Deacon, Priest, and Bishop) – – can’t stand a chance with this ease in destroying a good person’s reputation.

We need to remember that we are a Church of faith, mercy, and charity (love).  Let us all please pray for the accuser and accused; each is a victim in one way or another.  We need to place our trust and hope that “truth” will prevail. 

I do have a question with this policy, which I believe needs to be tweaked or fixed in some way.  Don’t we owe it to our clergy to support them until certain they have broken their vow, promise, and position of respect?

 

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Have you donated to the Catholic Relief Service (CRS) for the victims of the Japanese Tsunami and earthquake relief efforts?  If not, please go to the following address and give.  It’s the right thing to do!

http://crs.org/japan/ 

 

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Today in Catholic History:


    
†   1153 – Treaty of Konstanz signed between Frederik I “Barbarossa” & Pope Eugene III.
†   1174 – Jocelin, abbot of Melrose, is elected bishop of Glasgow.
†   1555 – Death of Julius III, [Giovanni M del Monte], Pope (1550-55), at age 67.
†   1568 – Peace of Longjumeau ends the Second War of Religion in France. Again Catherine de’ Medici and Charles IX of France make substantial concessions to the Huguenots.
†   1752 – Pope Stephen II elected to succeed Zacharias, and thendied 2 days later.
†   1914 – Death of Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès (Saint Rebecca), Lebanese saint (b. 1832).
†   1966 – 1st official meeting between Catholic & Anglican Church, after 400 years.
†   1980 – “Servant of God” Archbishop Óscar Romero (August 15, 1917 –    March 24, 1980) of El Salvador gives his famous speech appealing to men of the El Salvadoran armed forces to stop killing the Salvadorans.  A short time later, he was assassinated while celebrating Mass, – – in the process of elevating the chalice at the end of the Eucharistic rite.  (His blood spilled over the altar along with the contents of the chalice.)

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

 

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

“Imagine what a harmonious world it could be if every single person, both young and old, shared a little of what he is good at doing.” ~ Quincy Jones

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ third prediction of His Passion as related by Matthew.

  

(NAB Matthew 20:17-28) 17 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve (disciples) aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, 19 and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”  20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.  21 He said to her, “What do you wish?”  She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”  22 Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?”  They said to him, “We can.”  23 He replied, “My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left (, this) is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”  24 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers.  25 But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.  26 But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; 27 whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.  28 Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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Today, Jesus connects His notion of authority with service and sacrifice of one’s life – – for the sake of another. We all have to remember that authority is self-serving and selfish without sacrificial love

Jesus used simple, blunt, unembellished, and glaring language to explain what kind of sacrifice He had in mind for Himself, and for others choosing to follow Him.  His disciples were, and still are obligated to drink from His “cup” if they expect to reign with Him in His kingdom. 

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Today, we are presented with the third, and the most detailed of the passion predictions from Matthew’s Gospel.  The two others are from chapters 16 and 17:

“From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21),

And,

“As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.’ And they were overwhelmed with grief.” (Matthew 17:22-23).

 

Jesus’ prediction speaks of being “handed over to the Gentiles“:

“They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.” (Matthew 27:2),

Of His being “mocked“:

“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him.  They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.  Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand.  And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’  They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.”  (Matthew 27:27-30),

Of His being “scourged“:

Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:26),

Finally ending with His “crucifixion“:

“And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.  After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots.” (Matthew 27:31, 35).

The Evangelist and Gospel writer Mark mirrored his Gospel exactly with Matthew in all but the last of these four events involving Jesus’ passion.  Whereas Matthew speaks of Jesus being specifically “crucified”, Mark only speaks of Jesus being “killed”:

“Who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.”.” (Mark 10:34).

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Don’t you just love a Jewish mother at work pushing for the best in regards to her children!  They could have been doctors or lawyers, but chose to follow Jesus instead.  Yet, their mother is still trying to get the best position for them.

The request of the sons of Zebedee (John and James), made through their mother, Salome, for the highest places of honor in the kingdom, – – and at the “indignation” of the other ten Apostles, – – shows that neither John and James, nor the other ten Apostles, truly understood that what makes for greatness in God’s kingdom is not “power” or a high status.  Greatness in God’s kingdom comes from a position of humble service to God and to His creations.  

Jesus gives the example of what their request to sit next to Him would mean:

“Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus’ “ministry of service” will reach its highest point – – the SUMMIT – – when He gives His life – – a ransom – – on that Holy Tree outside the walls of Jerusalem, for the liberation of the human race from sin.

 

It isn’t absolutely clear the reason Matthew has the men’s mother, Salome, being the petitioner.  I wonder if John and James were embarrassed.  Did you think they said, “Oh mom, stop interfering with our lives!”

So, how do I know the “two disciples” are John and James?  Matthew does not mention the two Apostles name directly.  However, Mark does:

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’” (Mark 10:35)

Was Matthew alluding to Bathsheba’s seeking the kingdom for Solomon in having Salome (Her name is found in Flavius Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities”) being the person asking for a place of honor for her children?  Doing this would then link King David’s wife and son to the wife of Joseph and her son, Mary and Jesus.  What an interesting linkage of the Old and New Testaments for Matthew to make; see for yourself:

“Then Nathan said to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother: ‘Have you not heard that Adonijah, son of Haggith, has become king without the knowledge of our lord David?  Come now, let me advise you so that you may save your life and that of your son Solomon.  Go, visit King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, lord king, swear to your handmaid: Your son Solomon shall be king after me and shall sit upon my throne?   Why, then, has Adonijah become king?’  And while you are still there speaking to the king, I will come in after you and confirm what you have said.’  So Bathsheba visited the king in his room, while Abishag the Shunamite was attending him because of his advanced age.  Bathsheba bowed in homage to the king, who said to her, ‘What do you wish?’  She answered him: ‘My lord, you swore to me your handmaid by the LORD, your God, that my son Solomon should reign after you and sit upon your throne.  But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord king, do not know it.  He has slaughtered oxen, fatlings, and sheep in great numbers; he has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest, and Joab, the general of the army, but not your servant Solomon.  Now, my lord king, all Israel is waiting for you to make known to them who is to sit on the throne after your royal majesty.  If this is not done, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, I and my son Solomon will be considered criminals.’”  (1 Kings 1:11-21).

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In verse 21, Salome answers Jesus’ question about her wish she had for her sons with these words:

Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” 

I wonder what she meant by “your kingdom”?  We know it now as “the world and heaven”, but did she?  Jesus’ sovereignty preceded His final coming in glory.   The preceding of His sovereignty and His kingdom is extolled much earlier in Matthew’s Gospel:

The field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one.” (Matthew 13:38)

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.” (Matthew 13:41)

The word “coming” does not mean the “parousia” event – – the “final” coming.  Instead, it is the manifestation of Jesus’ rule after His resurrection, and the granting to Him of “all power in heaven and on earth” as foretold later in Matthew:

“Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” (Matthew 28:18).

 

Let me throw a “wrench” into the discussion!  Jesus’ kingdom is set apart from that of God the Father!  WHAT – – SAY WHAT!!!  Relax; read the two verses below and what follows:

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Matthew 13:43);

“Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.  For He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24-25).

So, where, and what, is Jesus’ kingdom?  Answer: The church is the place where Jesus’ kingdom is truly and fully manifested.  However, His royal “authority” embraces the entire world.

 

Ignorance is bliss!  We all jump into situations with both feet, not realizing where the “quick sand” is in our path.  Jesus said to Salome (along with John and James):

You do not know what you are asking” (Matthew 20:22)

The original Greek verbs in this verse are plural.  With the rest of the verse, it indicates that Jesus’ answer was addressed – – not to the mother, Salome, – – but to her sons, John and James.

Jesus asked John and James (and probably the other ten Apostles present as well) if they could “drink the cup that He was going to drink”?!  Mark relates an identical question in His Gospel.  But, Mark also ties baptism into a commitment of discipleship, and a willingness to serve God and others; – – to give oneself as a ransom for Jesus’ kingdom on earth: 

 “Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’  They said to him, ‘We can.’  Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.’” (Mark 10:38-40).

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Ransom” (verse 28) is a noun.  It is an active action word.  To ransom is to do an action.  Jesus came to actively redeem us, and to bring us to His Father’s paradise in heaven – – AND STILL IS!!  This noun occurs only here in the New Testament, and in the Mark’s parallel Gospel reading:

“For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45),

Mark’s verse uses the word, “many”.  This word can be confusing for English language people.  This word is used in regards to the numbers of people liberated by Jesus’ redemption.  Isaiah also says that the liberation bought by Jesus’ “ransomed” death will be for many:

“Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses. (Isaiah 53:12).

The word “many” in Mark’s Gospel and Isaiah’s prophecy does not mean that some are excluded.  Instead, it is a word designating a united benefit of all – – from the service of one.  In this usage, “many” is equivalent to “all”.  Reread the verses substituting the word “all” for “many”.

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The “fourth Servant Song” of Isaiah is an extraordinary description of the “sinless Servant” (Hmm, who could that be?).  His voluntary suffering atoned for the sins of His people (need another hint).  He saves His people from a just punishment at the hands of God.  (OK, enough hints – now the answer,) Only in Jesus Christ is Isaiah’s prophecy perfectly fulfilled.

There are links between today’s Gospel reading and the last of the four “Servant-of-the-Lord” visions.  The fourth Servant Song, (cf., Isaiah 52:13-53:12) shows the particular aspects of Isaiah’s vision being reflected again in today’s reading.

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Jesus’ “cup” involved crucifixion.  What kind of “cup” does the Lord have in mind for you?  I suspect that for some of His followers, thecup” that we must drink entails physical suffering and even the painful struggle of martyrdom.  However, for many of us, it will entail a long Christian life of simple routines and practices, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, struggles, frustrations, hurdles, and temptations.  A disciple – – a follower of Jesus Christ – – must be willing, able, and ready to lay down one’s life as a martyr.  One must be ready to do this every day, every moment, by embracing the little and big sacrifices required of a disciple.

“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.  Amen” (unknown author) 

We share in God’s reign by living and laying down our lives in humble service to one another exactly as Jesus did for our sake.  Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did?  Are you ready to serve and to reign with Christ?  I know I am, I am, I am!!

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Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament

 

“We adore You,
O Lord Jesus Christ,
in this Church and all the Churches of the world,
and we bless You,
because,
by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Turibius of Mogrovejo (1538-1606)

 

Together with Rose of Lima, Turibius is the first known saint of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for 26 years.

Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada.  He succeeded too well.  But he was not sharp enough a lawyer to prevent a surprising sequence of events.

When the archdiocese of Lima in Peru required a new leader, Turibius was chosen to fill the post: He was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area.

He cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled.  He was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst.  The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population.  Abuses among the clergy were flagrant, and he devoted his energies (and suffering) to this area first.

He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with neither bed nor food.  He confessed every morning to his chaplain, and celebrated Mass with intense fervor.  Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was St. Rose of Lima, and possibly St. Martin de Porres.  After 1590 he had the help of another great missionary, St. Francis Solanus.

His people, though very poor, were sensitive, dreading to accept public charity from others.  Turibius solved the problem by helping them anonymously.

Comment:

The Lord indeed writes straight with crooked lines.  Against his will, and from the unlikely springboard of an Inquisition tribunal, this man became the Christ like shepherd of a poor and oppressed people.  God gave him the gift of loving others as they needed it.

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

to the first line of the opening dialogue.  The last line of that dialogue also changes.  We now say, “It is right to give him thanks and praise,” but with the new text, it is simply:

It is right and just.”

This will lead more clearly into the opening of the prefaces, which will commonly begin with the words:

It is truly right and just.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscan Spirituality I

At every Mass, immediately after the Consecration, we all proclaim the “mystery” of faith.  Is this the mystery of YOUR faith?  How much of a disciple are you?  

How can you use the devotion of the Way of the Cross (the Stations) to enrich your meditation on the Lord’s Passion- which he suffered for me?

Do you think about, and appreciate the great price that Jesus underwent so that you might be reinstated in the holiness of God?  How might you express this appreciation?

How does our SFO “TAU insignia” compare to the “habit” St. Francis adopted as his public sign of commitment?

 

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

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

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