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“Are You Ready To Meet Jesus’ Expectations?! Are You Watching?!” – Mark 13:33-37†


 

First Sunday of Advent

  

 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 the “National Day of Listening”.  I have come to realize that though we all “listen”, many of us have lost the grace of actually “hearing”.  I compare listening and hearing to another great sense: peripheral and central vision.  “Listening” is our peripheral auditory sense, making us able to navigate the verbal/audible environment subconsciously and with little effort.  “Hearing” is like our central vision, able to be focused and pinpointed.  Hearing is an active sense that needs to be honed through usage and training.  Remember, God gave us two ears and one mouth.  Use the ears twice as often as the mouth.

Т

I attended an excellent meeting/program last Saturday, put on by the Secular Franciscan, St. Clare Region, Executive Committee (REC), titled “Servant Leadership”.  I highly recommend all SFO’s take this program when it becomes available to you.  We had Franciscans participating from all three Franciscan Orders, and from three states (Missouri, Illinois, and Southern Indiana).  The Regions Justice and Peace Commissioner, Mike DePue, SFO, wrote a very excellent synopsis of this training program, which I would like to share below: 

 “Servant leadership” is a [daily] reflection on a conversion-based, Gospel-centered life.  Our models for “servant leadership” include Jesus, Saint Francis (with his characterizations of being detached, patient, fraternal and ‘in solidarity’, and flexible), and Saint Clare (being reverent, steadfast, and prayerful). [Put all 7-8 characterizations together, and you get a ‘parent’]  The three essential characteristics of Franciscan “servant leadership” are: 

1)  Having a call or commission,
2)  Commitment, and
3)  Vision.  

Leadership should be based on prayer, which flows from – – and results in – – conversion.  Servant Leadership requires a fundamental and genuine dialogue and focused listening skills [See the above article on hearing versus listening.].  The ability to share leadership tasks through delegation should be emphasized.  We should recognize the diversity of gifts, aptitudes, and talents that exists among us all, and be quick and creative in utilizing these graces.  Leaders come in different “flavors,” with each leadership style having certain advantages.  Remember,  a leader’s style will flow from background, personality, etc. ~ from Mike DePue, SFO

 Т

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Day.  With my wife’s work schedule (she is an Emergency Department Nurse in a large metropolitan area), our families “Turkey Day” is actually today (Sunday).  For me however, every day with her and my children is “Thanksgiving Day”; I love them all more each and every day – – even on the “fowl” [sic] days.

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 Today in Catholic History:    

†   399 – St Anastasius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope

†   640 – Death of Acharius, a 6th-century bishop in Gaul. Bishop of Noyon/saint

†   1095 – Pope Urban II declares the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont.

†   1775 – Birth of Joachim G le Sage ten Broek, Dutch notary/catholic foreman/publicist

†   1894 – Birth of Amphilochius of Pochayiv, Ukrainian Orthodox saint (d. 1971)

†   1934 – Birth of Lawrence Martin Jenco, Servite priest, taken hostage in Beirut by five armed men in January 1985, while serving as director of Catholic Relief Services there, being held for 564 days  (d. 1996)

†   1970 – Pope Paul VI wounded in chest during a visit to Philippines by a dagger-wielding Bolivian painter disguised as a priest

†   2004 – Pope John Paul II returned the relics of Saint John Chrysostom to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Roman Catholic); Barlaam and Josaphat, Apostle Philip, and Gregory Palamas  (Eastern Orthodox—Revised Julian 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 or Joke of the Day:

 

“Watch a child.  If a little boy falls in the park and scrapes his elbow, he instinctively runs to his father or mother to make it better.  More often than not, the parent can do nothing except gently kiss the bruised elbow and tell the little one that it is going to be OK.  The amazing thing is that often this is all the child needs.  The kiss doesn’t “fix” it; it just lets the little one know that he is loved, he is not alone, and he is going to be OK.  Sadly, as we grow up we begin to believe that a little kiss or a mere hug isn’t going to fix anything, so we stop asking.  God the Father is inviting you to run to Him with your cut elbows, broken heart or shattered dreams.  No hurt is too little and none is too great.” ~ Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, “Spiritual Freedom: God’s Life Changing Gift”, Servant Books

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning His disciples to be watchful and alert, so that they will be ready when the Son of Man comes.

 

(NAB Mark 13:33-37) 33 Be watchful! Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.  34 It is like a man traveling abroad.  He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.  35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today we begin the season of Advent, which marks the start of a new liturgical year for the Church.  The readings for Sunday Mass are arranged on a three-year cycle.  Each year features a different Gospel—Matthew, Mark, or Luke, with readings from the Gospel of John interspersed throughout all three years.  With this year’s first Sunday of Advent, we begin Cycle B of the Lectionary, focusing our attention on the Gospel of Mark throughout the year.  

Since this the first week of the new Liturgical Year (cycle “B”), let me give a little history on Mark’s Gospel, based on the introduction to his book from the NAB Bible.

Mark is the shortest of all four Gospels, and is most likely the first of the four to have been written.  His Gospel recounts what Jesus Christ did in a vibrant and dramatic style, where one incident follows directly upon another.  With Mark, Jesus is portrayed as immensely popular with the people in Galilee during His ministry (cf., Mark 2:2; 3:7; 4:1).

The framework of Mark’s Gospel is partly geographical: Galilee (cf., Mark 1:14 – 16:8).  Only rarely does Jesus go into “Gentile” territory (cf., Mark 5:1–20; 7:24–37).  Mark’s Gospel is more oriented toward Christology: Jesus being the “Son of God” (cf., Mark 1:1- 11; 9:7; 14:61; 15:39).

Although the book is anonymous, apart from the heading “According to Mark” in manuscripts, it has traditionally been assigned to John Mark, in whose mother’s house (in Jerusalem) Catholic Christians assembled:

When he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer.” (Acts 12:12).  

This “Mark” was a cousin of Barnabas (cf., Colossians 4:10), and accompanied Barnabas and Paul one of his missionary journeys (cf., Acts 12:25; 13:3; 15:36–39).  Traditionally, Mark’s Gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome, at a time of impending persecution, and when destruction by the Roman Armies loomed over Jerusalem and the Jewish people.  Mark’s audience seems to have been Gentiles unfamiliar with Jewish customs, as shown in the following verses:

“They [the Pharisees] observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].)  (Mark 7:2–4).

Mark was intended to prepare Catholic Christians to be faithful in the face of persecution (cf., Mark 13:9–13), while proclaiming the Gospel in Galilee (cf., Mark 13:10; 14:9).  In this difficult time, it helped to recall that Jesus had foretold of such difficulties, which Mark does.  Early Christian communities took courage from Jesus’ warning to remain alert and watchful, and they found in His words a way to persevere through suffering.

Т

To begin my reflection on today’s reading I’d like to start with two important Advent themes running though both this week’s and next week’s reading.  Today’s theme is about the Lord’s return at the end of time; and next week’s theme is centered on John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus.

Today’s reading is taken from the end of Mark’s Gospel, the chapter that immediately precedes Mark’s account of Jesus’ Passion.  Having been recently questioned repeatedly by the Scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus is now questioned by His disciples—Peter, James, John, and Andrew—who are seeking details about His prediction of the destruction of the Temple.  Jesus answers them with many warnings about the difficulties disciples and their followers and their followers will face in THEIR lives.

This portion of Mark’s Gospel is an “eschatological” discourse (dealing with the coming of the new age – the “eschaton” – in its fullness the “final stage”) about specific events which will precede it.  This Gospel deals also with how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves while awaiting that event which is as certain to happen as its exact time is unknown to all but God the Father:

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

Therefore, Jesus is teaching us the necessity for a continual – – and actively persistent – – alertness, attentiveness, and preparedness for His promised return.  

This vigilant waiting, emphasized in this reading, does not mean an ending of ordinary activity, with a concentration only on what is to come.   Instead, Jesus’ message reveals a continued and faithful accomplishment of present, ongoing, ordinary, day-to-day duties and responsibilities, with a continued and persistent awareness of the coming end, for which all (we ALL) must be ready – – continuously, persistently, and faithfully.  This “time to come” will initiate the “great judgment” (Parousia) in which the everlasting destiny of ALL will be made known to ALL!!

Т

For me, vigilance is another way of saying “LOVE”.  Let me explain what I mean by this statement.  A person who keeps God’s commandments, (big “C” and little “c”), and continuously looks forward to Jesus Christ’s return, rarely looking backward at his past life, is doing exactly what our “Trinitarian God” wishes for us to do!  Our lives are, and should be, a period of faithful hope and waiting, vigilantly: vigilance IS “the way, the truth, and the life” towards our encounter with Jesus Christ our Lord. 

The first Catholic Christians often repeated tenderly the hope, desire, and longing for His return.  That’s why they prayed so frequently:

Come, Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelations 22:20).

By expressing their faith, charity, and longing in this way, early Catholic Christians found the interior “core” strength, optimism, and confidence necessary for fulfilling their family and societal duties and responsibilities, while at the same time, interiorly detaching themselves from earthy (materialistic) goods, with the “self-mastery” which comes from the faith and the hope of eternal life (cf., 1Peter 1:3-9).  Remember, Mark’s audience lived in a time of trial and tribulation, at the cusp of the Temple’s destruction by the Roman Armies, and the severe persecution of any and all Jews and Jewish Christians believers.  I pray daily to grow into their “self-mastery”, their interior “core” strength, and their hope, desire, and longing for Christ’s return.  Eight hundred years ago, St. Francis called this “Daily Conversion”.  Today, Franciscans, indeed, all Catholic Christians, are being called, through this Gospel reading, to “Daily Conversion”.

Т

Jesus Christ entrusts us with His gifts and grace, and He expects us to be ready for action – – prepared for the future.  Our call is not only to believe, but also to watch; not only to love, but also to watch; not only to obey, but also to watch!  So, what are we to watch for?   Answer: the greatest event to come, and ever to happen – – the promised supernatural magnificent return of our Lord Jesus Christ – – when He comes again “in glory” at the end of the age (the Parousia).  

This type of watching which Jesus Christ has in mind is NOT a passive activity.  It is not a “wait and see what happens” approach to, and in, our lives.  Jesus urges us to be ever vigilant and persistent in “active” prayer that His “kingdom may come” and His “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (cf., the “Our Father”). 

We are not only to watch for Christ, but also, we are to watch with Christ!!  The Lord wants us to have our hearts and minds fixed on Him and His “Word” daily.  He wants us to be ever-ready for His action and grace in our present lives, and in our present world.  

Those who “wait” for the Lord will not be disappointed.  (That’s a promise: cf., Psalm 27:14, 37:7, and 40:1.)  He will surely come with His sanctifying grace and saving help.  Do you watch for Jesus Christ’s action in your present life? – – with a faith and joyful hope for your future? – – with vigilance and patient awareness?  Are you aware of yourself having “everlasting life” within you – – NOW?  If you’re curious about watching for Jesus in your present life, look up, read, and reflect on what John says in John 6:54, 56* (will be posted at the end of this reflection).

Т

To conclude, today’s Gospel reminds us that Advent is about more than OUR preparation for the Catholic Church’s celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas.  Advent is also about preparing ourselves for Christ’s RETURN “in glory” at the end of time: the Parousia!  Like the disciples and the faithful in Mark’s first-century community, we must also stay continuously and persistently vigilant, alert, and watchful for His return.  Our faithfulness to our Trinitarian God, through the good times, and especially through the difficult times, shows us to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In our lives, we try to prepare ourselves for many future events: the next vacation, a marriage, a child’s education, retirement, and so on.  We are careful not to allow ourselves to be caught by surprise.  We prepare so that we can handle any challenges we may face.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are called to be just as attentive and alert to the coming of the Son of Man so that event will not catch us by surprise and unprepared.  This means we are to attend to our spiritual life as carefully as we attend to other important matters we may encounter!!

Try to remember a time when you received surprise visitors at your house.  It could be a neighbor who stopped by, or a relative who arrived unannounced.  Were you prepared to receive this unannounced guest?  What might you have done differently, if you knew ahead of time that this visitor was going to arrive?  Jesus told His disciples that “no one knows when the Son of Man will return, except the Father”.   Are you prepared?!  Pray that through this Advent season you will become more prepared to receive Jesus Christ (in Holy Communion *) AND when He comes again “in glory” – – at the end time.  

 

(*)  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6: 54, 56)

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

“Optional Closing Prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet”

“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.  Amen”

 

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New Translation of the Mass

(This is the Last “New Translation of the Mass” segment.  It will be replaced with a new segment titled, “Catholic Apolgetics” next week) 

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 big change occurs in the text of the “Creed” (Our “Profession of Faith”).  The first obvious change is with the very first word.  Currently we begin with “We believe.” The new, revised text has “I believe” instead of “We”.

Another noticeable change comes in the tenth line, regarding the Son’s divinity.  We currently say Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  The new text will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.”  

Consubstantial is not really a translation.  In reality, It is a transliteration—the same Latin word, spelled in English— of the Latin “consubstantialis”, which literally means “one in being.”  Translation versus transliteration is not the point.  The point is that Jesus is God, one with the Father, co-equal and co-eternal.

A third noticeable change occurs in how we speak of Christ’s human nature.  We currently say, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” The new text will now say, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

Incarnate means “made flesh.” So, using the term here reminds us that he was human from the moment of His conception and not just at His birth. 

There are several other minor changes in the text of the “Creed” (new version is shown below).  It will certainly take us some time to commit the new version to memory, and to be able to profess it together easily.

The new missal also allows the option of using the “Apostles’ Creed” instead of this version of the “Nicene Creed”, especially during Lent and Easter.  The “Apostles’ Creed” is another ancient Christian creed, long in use by Roman Catholics in our baptismal promises and at the beginning of the Rosary. 

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

(Based on the original Latin versions from the Councils of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (AD 381).

“I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

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

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Francesco Antonio Fasani  (1681-1742)

 

Born in Lucera (southeast Italy), Francesco entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1695.  After his ordination 10 years later, he taught philosophy to younger friars, served as guardian of his friary and later became provincial.  When his term of office ended, Francesco became master of novices and finally pastor in his hometown.

In his various ministries, he was loving, devout, and penitential.  He was a sought-after confessor and preacher.  One witness at the canonical hearings regarding Francesco’s holiness testified, “In his preaching he spoke in a familiar way, filled as he was with the love of God and neighbor; fired by the Spirit, he made use of the words and deed of Holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance.”  Francesco showed himself a loyal friend of the poor, never hesitating to seek from benefactors what was needed.

At his death in Lucera, children ran through the streets and cried out, “The saint is dead!  The saint is dead!”  Francesco was canonized in 1986.

Comment:

Eventually we become what we choose.  If we choose stinginess, we become stingy.  If we choose compassion, we become compassionate.  The holiness of Francesco Antonio Fasani resulted from his many small decisions to cooperate with God’s grace.

Quote:

During his homily at the canonization of Francesco, Pope John Paul II reflected on John 21:15 in which Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other apostles and then tells Peter, “Feed my lambs.”  The pope observed that in the final analysis human holiness is decided by love.  “He [Francesco] made the love taught us by Christ the fundamental characteristic of his existence, the basic criterion of his thought and activity, the supreme summit of his aspirations” (L’Osservatore Romano, vol. 16, number 3, 1986).

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Vices

What is a VIRTUE?

Can you name them? (Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

How are the virtues tied together?

What are the vices contrary to these virtues?

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

 In the name of the Lord!

 Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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♫ “I Can See Clearly Now, the Sin Is Gone! I Can See All Obstacles In My Way!” ♫ – Mark 8:22-26†


            

Today in Catholic History:    

†   309 – Death of Pamphilus van Caesarea, Palestinian scholar/martyr, beheaded
†   600 – Pope Gregory the Great decreea saying “God bless You” is the correct response to a sneeze
†   1559 – Pope Paul IV calls for deposition of sovereigns supporting heresy
†   1560 – Death of Jean du Bellay, French Catholic cardinal and diplomat
†   1751 – 1st publication of Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard”
†   1903 – Birth of George-Henri Lévesque, Quebec priest and sociologist (d. 2000)
†   1912 – Death of St. Nikolai of Japan, Eastern Orthodox priest (b. 1836)
†   1933 – Catholic newspaper Germania warns against Nazis/communists
†   2009 – Death of Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, Korean Cardinal, Protopriest of the Holy Roman Church (b. 1921)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Abda of Edessa; Saint Elias and companions; Saint Juliana; Saint Gilbert of Sempringham; Saint Onesimus

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

A blind person asked St. Anthony: “Can there be anything worse than losing eye sight?” He replied: “Yes, losing your vision.”

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Proclaiming the Gospel is a service. There is no doubt that the effort to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today, who are buoyed up by hope but at the same time often oppressed by fear and distress, is a service rendered to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity. For this reason the duty of confirming the brethren – a duty which with the office of being the Successor of Peter (Cf. Lk 22:32) we have received from the Lord, and which is for us a “daily preoccupation,” (2 Cor 11:28) a program of life and action, and a fundamental commitment of our Pontificate – seems to us all the more noble and necessary when it is a matter of encouraging our brethren in their mission as evangelizers, in order that, in this time of uncertainty and confusion, they may accomplish this task with ever increasing love, zeal and joy.

A new period of evangelization. The church has the single aim of fulfilling her duty of being the messenger of the Good News of Jesus Christ – the Good News proclaimed through two fundamental commands: “Put on the new self” (Cf. Eph 4:24, 2:15; Col 3:10; Gal 3:27; Rom 13:114; 2 Cor 5:17) and “Be reconciled to God.”(2 Cor 5:20).  We wish to do so on this tenth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, the objectives of which are definitively summed up in this single one: to make the Church … ever better fitted for proclaiming the Gospel to the people ….  We wish to do so one year after the Third General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which as is well known, was devoted to evangelization. In fact, at the end of that memorable Assembly, the Fathers decided to remit to the Pastor of the universal Church, with great trust and simplicity, the fruits of all their labors, stating that they awaited from him a fresh forward impulse, capable of creating within a Church still more firmly rooted in the undying power and strength of Pentecost a new period of evangelization.

http://www.ciofs.org/ratio/2010/EN201102.htm

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus restoring sight to a blind man at Bethsaida.

 

22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, they brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him.  23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?”  24 Looking up he replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”  25 Then he laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.  26 Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”  (NAB Mark 8:22-26)

 

Question: What’s worse than bodily disease and infirmity?  Answer: Spiritual disease or infirmity of the heart and soul!  Disease of the body can only last for the duration of our human “bodily” lives; a mere 70 to 90 years for most.  Imperfections to our soul can last for all eternity!

Spiritual (and physical) cures can happen instantaneously, or can take a very long time to fruition.  Jesus granted cures immediately throughout Holy Scripture in all but this one case.  In reality, there were probably more “delayed” cures in Jesus’ ministry, but today’s Gospel reading is the only one reported in such detail.  This unusual “two-phase” healing is a great opportunity for Jesus Christ to teach on God’s graces, trust, hope, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

 

After His first “attempt”, Jesus asks the “blind” man if he could see.  He responds”

“I see people looking like trees and walking.”   

Walking trees immediately brings to mind scenes of animated trees from the movies “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Lord of the Rings”.  Now, think of “walking trees” from a spiritual/religious standpoint.  Could the poor blind man have been given a tiny glimpse of Jesus’ fate on a future “Good Friday”?  Could this man have been given the grace of seeing Jesus carrying the Holy Tree that ushers in a “new life” on earth and in heaven?

Jesus’ cure clearly did not completely work the first time – – WOW!  Why?!  Well, I believe this man’s sins were obstacles to Jesus’ loving and healing power – – His divine power of curing the soul and body.  The blind man was not only physically blind; he was also “blinded” in spirit and faith!  His faith was probably weakened through earthly temptations and frustrations of, and in, society.  We too are blinded by the same earthly temptations and frustrations of society, still prevalent today!  Satan never takes any time off.  It seems Satan’s temptations will only stop fifteen minutes after we are dead and in the ground.

The blind man’s sight is slowly restored, and in stages.  This poor blind man’s spiritual heart, soul, and physical body slowly respond to Jesus’ loving, healing touch.  In explaining the significance of this biblical event, a third century “Father of the Church”, St. Jerome, says:

Christ laid his hands upon his eyes that he might see all things clearly, so through visible things he might understand things invisible, which the eye has not seen, that after the film of sin is removed, he might clearly behold the state of his soul with the eye of a clean heart.” (St. Jerome)

 

Sometimes, God presents an immediate cure from our spiritual (and sometimes – physical) shortcomings.  At other times, we are afforded an opportunity to experience a gradual healing and deliverance from our imperfections.  What, – – We are afforded an OPPORTUNITY?!  Yep, God does not do anything haphazardly, or without a purpose!  We need to strive for His graces at all times, and especially in times of distress – ALWAYS!  The opportunity we are given by God is that of finding Him in all phases of our life, and the lives of others.  Not just in the good times, but also in the most “horrifying” of times as well!  Remember, God never leaves us; we choose to leave Him!

Spiritual insight is most often progressive in nature, and sometimes, in our earthly existence, it is may not be enjoyable at times.  Faith needs to grow, and with growth comes “growing pains”.  Many of the saints have called this the “dark night of the soul”.  But at all times, Jesus is there for us – supporting us.  Please remember, Jesus experienced the same physical and spiritual “human” pain that we all may have to endure as a disciple.  If Jesus HAD to go through this “purging through pain”, why should we not also?!

Does Jesus advocate a growth in spiritual faith, hope, and trust through tiny actions of mercy and liberation?  I believe He most definitely does work in very small ways at times.  As you can see, He did not give up on the blind man.  Jesus did not reject this man because of a weak faith.  On the contrary, Jesus not only stayed with this blind man, He repeatedly healing him and eventually alleviating his infirmities.  He repeatedly healed this man until fully and completely cured!  With more faith and more trust in God and His graces, comes more healing.  Through faith, trust, and love comes an increased removal of whatever is in the way of a complete and full restoration of our heart, soul, and body.

 

Look at today’s Gospel reading story as a model or representation in the spiritual (and possibly physical) healing we can receive in confession: the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  If you are like me, it seems that I repeat some of the same (or very similar) sins over and over at each “one-on-one” healing encounter I have in the confessional – – a broken record of sorts.  I admit, it can be discouraging and disparaging for me, but at least I’m past the stage of the “really juicy” stuff; I’m now ordinarily boring from a secular viewpoint.  However, the more one is exposed to this beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church (and of God), more and more of God’s healing graces we are exposed to with the Holy Spirit dwelling with, in, and through us – – helping and healing us.

Prior to confession, take some time and ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate and deepen our “mustard-seed” size roots.  Allow the Holy Spirit to take a strong hold in our souls, hearts, and lives to blossom into a bush producing much fruit for harvest for us AND others.  Repeated exposure to confession can “soften” our sometimes harden hearts, and strengthen our “sinful” souls. 

God cannot work miracles in and through us without a predisposition on our part.  We must allow, and freely use the graces bestowed to us from our heavenly Father.  The ironically truthful fact about God’s graces is that He gives us more graces as we respond to, and use, the graces He has given to us previously.  Graces not used, are graces wasted.  Point-in-fact: God is “eco-minded”!  He does not like meaningless waste.  

We must recollect on, and continuously remember, that God’s graces are essential for entrance to His everlasting and perfect paradise: heaven.  His graces are necessary for desiring anything virtuous, righteous, and divine:

Give us light, Lord.  Behold, we need it more than the man who was blind from his birth, for he wished to see the light and could not, whereas nowadays, Lord, no one wishes to see it.  Oh, what a hopeless ill is this!  Here, my God, must be manifested thy power and thy mercy.” (St. Teresa, Exclamations of the Soul to God, 8)

In today’s Gospel reading, a blind man is brought to Jesus by his friends.  Without their help, he could not have found Jesus and have his sight restored.  WE must support and help each other as this man’s friends had done: bringing others directly to Jesus! 

 

Jesus’ actions with the blind man of Bethsaida and His “measured” cure probably have the same purpose of instruction in faith, trust, and God’s power as in the case of the deaf man found in Mark 7:

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

 

Jesus never gives up on each of us – – in a personal way.  So, don’t ever give up on yourself!  Allow the Holy Spirit to peel away the “onion” layers of your life and faith to get deeper into your heart and soul.  Allow the Holy Spirit to “touch” you in a deeper and more personal way than you have ever before in your life.  Most importantly, allow the roots of the Holy Spirit to continually penetrate further into your heart, soul, and life – – a daily conversion to God!

 

I love the story of John Newton’s conversion, and his writing of the beautiful spiritual hymn, “Amazing Grace”.  This is a more modern version of today’s Gospel reading.  I would like to share this one, and someday I may even tell my “cradle Catholic” CONVERSION story.

John Newton was captaining of his own ship, one which was very active the slave trade.  Through various life situations (and God’s grace) he experienced a slow conversion of heart and soul.  So slow in fact, that John still continued in the slave trade for a period of time after his conversion.  However, he saw to it that the slaves under his care were increasingly treated humanely with his increasing conversion of faith.

John Newton ultimately left the “sea” and was eventually ordained a Anglican Minister.  His faith and zeal was so prominent that his church became so crowded during services, it had to be enlarged.  He continued to preach until the last year of life, although he was blind by that time.  He died in London December 21, 1807 at age 82.

Most scholars believe his hymn is based on two Biblical verses: 1Chronicles 17:16-17 and Ephesians 2:4-9:

“Then David came in and sat in the LORD’S presence, saying: ‘Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you should have brought me as far as I have come?  And yet, even this you now consider too little, O God!  For you have made a promise regarding your servant’s family reaching into the distant future, and you have looked on me as henceforth the most notable of men, O LORD God’”  (1Chronicles 17:16-17)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”  (Ephesians 2:4-9)

 

 “Amazing Grace

 

“Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Gilbert of Sempringham (c. 1083-1189)

 

Gilbert was born in Sempringham, England, into a wealthy family, but he followed a path quite different from that expected of him as the son of a Norman knight. Sent to France for his higher education, he decided to pursue seminary studies.

He returned to England not yet ordained a priest, and inherited several estates from his father. But Gilbert avoided the easy life he could have led under the circumstances. Instead he lived a simple life at a parish, sharing as much as possible with the poor. Following his ordination to the priesthood he served as parish priest at Sempringham.

Among the congregation were seven young women who had expressed to him their desire to live in religious life. In response, Gilbert had a house built for them adjacent to the Church. There they lived an austere life, but one which attracted ever more numbers; eventually lay sisters and lay brothers were added to work the land. The religious order formed eventually became known as the Gilbertines, though Gilbert had hoped the Cistercians or some other existing order would take on the responsibility of establishing a rule of life for the new order. The Gilbertines, the only religious order of English origin founded during the Middle Ages, continued to thrive. But the order came to an end when King Henry VIII suppressed all Catholic monasteries.

Over the years a special custom grew up in the houses of the order called “the plate of the Lord Jesus.” The best portions of the dinner were put on a special plate and shared with the poor, reflecting Gilbert’s lifelong concern for less fortunate people.

Throughout his life Gilbert lived simply, consumed little food and spent a good portion of many nights in prayer. Despite the rigors of such a life he died at well over age 100.

Comment:

When he came into his father’s wealth, Gilbert could have lived a life of luxury, as many of his fellow priests did at the time. Instead, he chose to share his wealth with the poor. The charming habit of filling “the plate of the Lord Jesus” in the monasteries he established reflected his concern. Today’s Operation Rice Bowl echoes that habit: eating a simpler meal and letting the difference in the grocery bill help feed the hungry.

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 16 & 17 of 26:

 

16.  Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.

  

17.  In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.

By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for His Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child.  

“Jesus Is Teaching How NOT to Get ‘Heartburn’!” – Mark 7:14-23†


 

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   1537 – Pope Paul III routes Cardinal Pole to England
†   1621 – Alexander Ludovisi is elected Pope Gregory XV, the last Pope elected by acclamation.
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Ansbert of Rouen; Saint Maron’s Day – Lebanon; Saint Apollonia, patron saint of dentists and dental technicians

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Cannibal:  “Doctor, I have terrible heartburn.”

Doctor:  “Well, what did you eat?”

Cannibal:  “Nothing special. A couple of missionaries with hooded robes.”

Doctor:  “How did you cook them?”

Cannibal:  “I always boil my food.”

Doctor:  “Well, no wonder you have heartburn. Those aren’t boilers. They’re friars!”

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 12 of  13 Parts

Love — “caritas” — is an extraordinary force which drives people to engage with courage and generosity in the field of justice and peace. It is a force which has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth.

Each person finds his good by adhering to the plan which God has for him, in order to accomplish it fully: in this plan, indeed, he finds his truth, and it is through adherence to this truth that he becomes free (cf. Jn 8:22). Defending the truth, proclaiming it with humility and conviction, and bearing witness to it in life are, therefore, exacting and indispensable forms of charity. (Caritas in Veritate, 1)

 

(Continued on next published blog)

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

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching about new Dietary regulations; and sin coming from the heart.

 

14 He [Jesus] summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.  15 Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”  16(*)  17 When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable.  18 He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)  20 “But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles.  21 From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.  23 All these evils come from within and they defile.”   (NAB Mark 7:14-23)

 

Do as I say, NOT as I do!  Have you ever felt like you were leading two completely different lives?  The outer public “you” is a pious and happy go-lucky person, without a problem in the world.  The inner private you – – the REAL you – – harbors hidden secrets such as addictions, infidelity, evil thoughts, theft, harm to others, greed, lies, trickery, envy, gossip, or arrogance.  These two lives directly oppose each other, and can make you seem like your losing control.  YOU COULD BE!!

Do you allow sinful thoughts and wants to invade your “being”?  Realize, we do not have to allow sinful behavior rule our lives.  Instead, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can condemn these unwanted and immoral behaviors rather than allow them to control us.  

Where does evil come from anyway, and how can we eliminate it from our lives?  Jesus dealt with this specific topic in today’s reading by answering concerns involving the topic of spiritual and dietary “defilement”.  During the time of Jesus, defilement of either type (spiritual or dietary) would make one ritually unfit for entering the Temple to offer sacrifice and to worship God. 

In the safety and privacy some time later in the day, Jesus’ “disciples questioned Him about the parable”.  The term “parable” usually refers to something hidden in a statement or story, yet revealed to the listeners.  In this case, the parables meaning is revealed to His disciples.  There are many such parables throughout most of Mark’s Gospel, with today’s reading positioning the current Mosaic food laws into the framework of the “new” kingdom of God.  These requirements are ended permanently with the new covenant established with, in, and through Jesus Christ.  Jesus restored the righteous conduct of “morality” in all its clarity, purity, and intensity.  He declared that moral “defilement” – – immoral thoughts, behaviors, and actions – – was (and still is) the only cause of “uncleanness”.

Jesus boldly “declared all foods clean”!  His bold decree seemed to go unnoticed initially by many of His followers.  Its power and influence was not realized even among the Jewish Christians of the early, first century, Catholic Church.  The proof of this statement can be found in the story of Peter’s vision.  He sees a “sheet” descending from heaven with all manners of animals (ritually clean and unclean) mixed together in the sheet, as found in the story of Cornelius’ conversion. (See Acts 10:10-11:18).

The vision Peter had in Joppa (Acts 10:10-16) showed him the full insight and wisdom of what Jesus taught in today’s reading about Jewish dietary requirements.  When he returns to Jerusalem, Peter himself tells us of this revelation in his account on the conversion of the Roman, Cornelius:

I remembered the word of the Lord.” (Acts 11:16) 

The now non- compulsory nature of such dietary instructions – – handed down by God in the Old Testament (cf., Leviticus 11) – – would obviously be something Peter would certainly include in his lectures and worship, wouldn’t he?

 

Local religious leaders were concerned with avoiding defilement in regards to dietary requirements as directed by Mosaic Law.  Jesus directed His followers – – His disciples – – to the actual cause of “true” defilement: evil desires which coming from inside a person’s deepest, intimate nature – – their heart.  Sin cannot “just” happen!  It must first emerge from the recesses of our thoughts and intentions.  Only our individual “sinful” hearts can conceive immoral thoughts.

 

We know the Word of God – – Holy Scripture – – is a living document:

The truth of the gospel is that God can set us free from the cancer of sin. Our freedom consists in being forgiven our sins. This is what the death of Jesus Christ means. God has proven faithful to us as a friend.” (Fr. Francis Martin, The Life Changer, St. Bede’s Publications)

God works in us (through the Holy Spirit) to make our hearts, and souls receptive to His word and grace.  The Holy Trinity makes our heart and souls clean and whole through the unique and supernatural powers of the Holy Spirit. 

In God’s magnificent and splendid mercy, He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to save us from our own sins.  To receive His mercy, we only need to become aware of our iniquities, to simply admit our faults to Him, and to confess our sins. 

If we say, ‘We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.’” (1 John 1:8-9)

 

Denial of our nature to sin is a self-deception.  It is even contradictory of divine revelation – WOW!  There is also the certainty of sin’s continued recurrence in our lives, through our action (or inaction) of denial.  Forgiveness and release from sin is through Jesus Christ!  Again, we are assured of forgiveness and release from sin through acknowledging our nature to sin, and repenting our sins to Jesus Christ (through the Priest “persona Christi” in the confessional).

Through His Word, and the actions of the Holy Spirit, God reveals that we may recognize His mercy and grace for pardoning and healing our sinful nature.  The Holy Spirit imparts to us the grace of consciousness – – knowing right from wrong, – – and the grace of certain salvation and redemption.  SO USE THESE GRACES!

The Lord Jesus Christ is ever ready to purify our hearts, and souls through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, and working in and through us.  Though His power and grace, He permits us to choose the good in our thoughts, words, and actions; and to reject evil.  We have the free-will to accept God’s love and grace, or to not to accept Him in our lives.  Do you want God to change and transform your heart and soul – – your spiritual and natural “being”?

Satan is a sly and evil spirit.  He never rests!  We have to be ever diligent.  We cannot become slaves to sin, but rather, slaves to righteousness.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)

 

Our “heart” is the way we open our self to the reality around us.  Attention has to be diligent and meticulous to what comes from our heart.  By the act of original sin etched into our hearts and souls we are, in essence, all “addicted” to the grasp of “sin” in nature.  We often act as if we are the center of the world, and that everything and everyone revolves around us.  We sometimes act and believe as if everything and everyone exists solely for our exploitation, profit, and pleasure.  We must submit ourselves regularly and often to the Sacraments of the Holy Catholic Church, especially the Holy and living Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to fight this addiction in our hearts.

So what is this talk about the “heart”?  Isn’t the soul the important “organ” of faith?

When we speak of a person’s heart, we refer not just to his sentiments, but to the whole person in his loving dealings with others.  In order to help us understand divine things, Scripture uses the expression “heart” in its full human meaning, as the summary and source, expression and ultimate basis, of one’s thoughts, words and actions.  A man is worth what his heart is worth…” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 164)

Jesus Christ Himself tells us today that sinful actions can come from the human heart.  The Council of Trent addressed how original sin has changed our bodies and souls.

We can understand how this can happen if we realize that, after original sin, man ‘was changed for the worse’ in both body and soul and was, therefore, prone to evil.” (Council of Trent, De peccato originali)

So, the origins of sin in our lives can be found in the nature, character, and temperament of our heart, plus its effect on our soul.  Outward acts of sin start as tiny thoughts and desires in our hearts.  However, the nature of sin can be as devious and scheming as the image of the proverbial “iceberg”.  A small portion of our sinful nature may be visible to others (or even our individual self’s); however a vast majority is still hidden beneath the surface.   The visible part, though dangerous in its own right, is not as dangerous necessarily as the much larger part hidden from view.  If we rationalize our petty sins as simple random acts of “being human”, and without dealing with the issues at root in the act of sin, coming from our hearts, we are only asking for trouble – – a true “Titanic” moment, to say the least!

Keeping tight hold of the urges and acts concerning sin within us will most certainly harm the heart and soul.  It will damage our spiritual clarity at the minimum.  And it could also damage our relationships with family, friends, and peers.  The tightly held inequities – – of which we choose not to rid ourselves – – may even cause physically harm to ourselves.  The “stress” from trying to keep secret, parts of our lives, along with the “lies” one must keep up for others, can cause both physical and psychological problems over a period of time (not to mention the immediately danger to ones eternal soul).

With that said, can you imagine the peace that would overwhelm your “being” when released from the dark recesses of sin?  Sin, our inequities, can be easily released through the beautiful and loving Sacrament of Reconciliation. (Do you get my hint to go to confession often and regularly?)  The confessional is the best place to receive the grace of repentance and forgiveness, so please start today – – right now – – by coming clean with Jesus.  Review your consciousness, and get back on that path to salvation.  God is waiting for you on your individually unique path, wanting so dearly to walk with you!

We must ask God regularly and often for forgiveness, mercy, and salvation from original sin, and we must ask it from all others as well.  WHAT!?  Yes, not only from God, but from ALL Catholics who believe and trust in the passion of Christ, who humble themselves before Him, who acknowledge their sinfulness to Him, and who also asks for mercy and forgiveness by the merits of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death on the Holy Tree of salvation.  Think of this the next time use pray the “Confiteor” at Mass (and posted as the prayer below).

 

(*) Some of your bibles may have a verse “16” that reads as follows, “Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”  It is officially omitted in the NAB version because it is actually absent in the better Greek manuscripts from which the New Testament is translated.  Most scholars have a belief that the verse was probably transferred from other locations such as Mark 4:9 and Mark 4:23, to this location, by “scribes” transposing copies of bibles by hand.

“He added, ‘Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.’” (Mark 4:9)
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” (Mark 4:23)

 

In Summary, God’s law is meant to help us live a good and proper Catholic life.  Yet, sometimes we can get stuck in the complexities of His law (Sounds like what the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees did.).  We need to remember that God’s laws are supposed to help us DO something.  The way we should measure our lives is by examining our consciousness to see if we are living the loving compassion that Jesus Christ lived and modeled for us.  Jesus Himself said (I am paraphrasing from today’s reading):

“It doesn’t matter what goes into a person that makes Him right with God; it’s what comes out that does.”

 

CONFITEOR

 

“I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.   Amen

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jerome Emiliani (1481?-1537)

 

A careless and irreligious soldier for the city-state of Venice, Jerome was captured in a skirmish at an outpost town and chained in a dungeon.  In prison Jerome had a lot of time to think, and he gradually learned how to pray.  When he escaped, he returned to Venice where he took charge of the education of his nephews—and began his own studies for the priesthood.

In the years after his ordination, events again called Jerome to a decision and a new lifestyle.  Plague and famine swept northern Italy.  Jerome began caring for the sick and feeding the hungry at his own expense.  While serving the sick and the poor, he soon resolved to devote himself and his property solely to others, particularly to abandoned children.  He founded three orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes and a hospital.

Around 1532, Jerome and two other priests established a congregation, the Clerks Regular of Somasca, dedicated to the care of orphans and the education of youth.  Jerome died in 1537 from a disease he caught while tending the sick.  He was canonized in 1767.  In 1928 Pius Xl named him the patron of orphans and abandoned children.

Comment:

Very often in our lives it seems to take some kind of “imprisonment” to free us from the shackles of our self-centeredness.  When we’re “caught” in some situation we don’t want to be in, we finally come to know the liberating power of Another.  Only then can we become another for “the imprisoned” and “the orphaned” all around us.

Quote:

“‘The father of orphans and the defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling.  God gives a home to the forsaken; he leads forth prisoners to prosperity; only rebels remain in the parched land’ (Psalm 68)…. We should not forget the growing number of persons who are often abandoned by their families and by the community: the old, orphans, the sick and all kinds of people who are rejected…. We must be prepared to take on new functions and new duties in every sector of human activity and especially in the sector of world society, if justice is really to be put into practice.  Our action is to be directed above all at those men and nations which, because of various forms of oppression and because of the present character of our society, are silent, indeed voiceless, victims of injustice” (Justice in the World, 1971 World Synod of Bishops).

Patron Saint of: Orphans, abandoned children

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

 
    

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

 


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

 

 

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

♫“Mary, Did You Know …?♫ Heck Yes, She Knew! – – Kinda!!” – Luke 1:46-56†


 

Two Days till CHRIST@mas.  I pray all have a blessed and specially unique day of joy and celebration.

 

 

 

 

In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice, sometimes known as “Yule”, occurs on or very close to this date. In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs around this time.

  

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   401 – St Innocent I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   795 – Leo III succeeds pope Adrianus I
†  1216 – Pope Honorius III delegates degree “Religiosam vitam eligentibus” announcing the Fifth Crusade.
†   1642 – Pope Urbanus VIII publishes degree “In eminente”
†   1419 – Death of John XXIII, [Baldassare Cossa], Italian Antipope (1410-15)
†   1815 – Spaniards execute Mexican revolutionary priest Jose Maria Morelos at San Cristóbal Ecatepec, State of México
†   1885 – Pope Leo XIII proclaims extraordinary jubilee
†   1945 – Utrecht (Netherlands): Catholic People’s party (KVP) established
†   1917 – Death of Mother Cabrini, first American citizen canonized by the Catholic Church (b. 1850)
†   1917 – Death Francesca Saveria Cabrini, US saint/patron of immigrant, at 67 years of age
†   1997 – Attendees at a prayer meeting of Roman Catholic activists for indigenous causes in the small village of Acteal in the Mexican state of Chiapas are massacred by paramilitary forces.
†   Feasts/Memorials: commemoration of Frances Xavier Cabrini; O Rex; Anastasia of Sirmium

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

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

The Franciscan vision is transformational, demanding change and conversion in its adherents, following the example of Saints Francis and Clare.

 

“A favorite saying of St. Francis was, ‘Let us begin for up till now we have done nothing.’  Francis saw his entire life as a continuing conversion into the vision of God, whom he saw as a loving parent.  Francis saw his life as a continuous conversion from sin to a life lived in gratitude for God’s love.  Many described the conversion of Clare from ‘the good to the better.’  The Franciscan life today remains one of on-going conversion.  There is always an unfinished quality to this conversion until we enter into the Reign of God.”

He gleamed like a shining star in the darkness of night and like the morning spread over the darkness.  Thus, in a short time, the appearance of the entire region was changed and, once rid of its earlier ugliness; it revealed a happier expression everywhere.” – Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis, 37

(From the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website:
http://www.franciscanaction.org)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

A little boy was listening to a long and excessively boring sermon in church. Suddenly, the red sanctuary lamp caught his eye.  Tugging his father’s sleeve, he said, “Daddy, when the light turns green can we go?”

 

 

Today’s reflection is about the “Canticle of Mary”.

 

46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.  (NAB Luke 1:46-56)

 

Today’s reading reveals the presence and powers of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s, Elizabeth’s, John the Baptist’s, and even Hannah’s lives.  The circumstances leading to the birth of Jesus Christ miraculously unfurls before us during this and every Advent/Christmas Season.  We discover the prophecies, promises, hopes, songs, and prayers of the Old Testament truly being fulfilled in the “New” simply because:

God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son” (John 3:16).

Filled with the Holy Spirit, when Elizabeth and Mary greeted one another they were also filled with a joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise.  They are filled with the Holy Spirit bringing forth a “Messiah” through the virginal conception of Mary, in order to bring forth a “Savior” for all mankind!

Yet to be born himself, John the Baptist pointed to the revelation of the “Messiah’s” coming by “leaping for joy” in the womb of his mother Elizabeth (A true kick of faith).  The Holy Spirit revealed to John (while still in the womb himself) the presence of the Savior Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary.

Mary is admired, honored, and praised by Christians throughout the world for being the mother of the Lord (the Theotokos: the God-Bearer) in addition to her profound, unrelenting and uncompromising faith, obedience, and belief in our almighty God.  She acted with unwavering focus, trust, and faith because she believed and trusted that God would fulfill the word he had spoken.

In today’s Gospel reading, Mary responds as the servant in this psalm of praise directed from her – to the world, and universally titled – “the Magnificat”.  The Magnificat is said every day during the evening prayers of the Divine Office by priests, consecrated religious, and other faithful Catholics. 

Mary “dedicated” her Son to the service of God, which ultimately would lead Jesus to the “Holy Tree” of salvation for all of us.

 

There is actually no proof, no specific correlation of this canticle – (a song, chant, or hymn containing words derived from the Bible, used in the Christian liturgy) – to the circumstance of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth other than in Luke’s Gospel.  In reality, the Magnificat (excluding verse 48: “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”) may have been an early Jewish-Christian hymn or poem that Luke found appropriate for this part in his infancy narrative.

However, even if it was not composed by Luke, it definitely fits in with his other themes found throughout his Gospel: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; and the fulfillment of Old Testament promises and prophesies.  

 

Several “barren” women in Holy Scripture – – including Elizabeth, Hannah, (and the teenage Mary) – – became pregnant and gave birth to healthy children via God’s intervention.  They all rejoiced that God had chosen them – the humble and austere as a source of new life. 

Mary’s great canticle of praise repeats – in essence and fact – the “Song of Hannah” from the Old Testament (and the “Hannah” of today’s first reading at Mass):

“And as she worshiped the LORD, she said: “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in my God.  I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory.  There is no Holy One like the LORD; there in no Rock like our God.  “Speak boastfully no longer, nor let arrogance issue from your mouths.  For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who judges deeds.   The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering girds on strength.  The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry batten on spoil.  The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes.   “The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again.  The LORD makes poor and makes rich, he humbles, he also exalts.  He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage.  He gives to the vower his vow, and blesses the sleep of the just.  “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he has set the world upon them.  He will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness.  For not by strength does man prevail; the LORD’S foes shall be shattered.  The Most High in heaven thunders; the LORD Judges the ends of the earth, now may he gives strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!”  (1 Samuel 2:1-10)

The “Song of Hannah” strongly proclaims and extols the goodwill of the Lord.  God pays tribute to the lowly, fills the hungry, and guards the faithful.  Like Mary and Elizabeth, Hannah was without child.  God gave her the grace of bearing a son she named Samuel.  Hannah also “dedicated” Samuel to the service of the Lord at any early age:

“Once he was weaned, she brought him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.”  (1 Sam. 1:24.) 

God can never be outdone in gratitude and generosity.  For her piety, reverence, and trust, He rewarded the “once-barren” Hannah with five (5) more children: three (3) more sons, and two (2) daughters. (1 Samuel 2:21)

As mentioned already, Mary also “dedicated” her son – – Jesus Christ – – to the service of God!  Just as Mary, Elizabeth, and Hannah had the honor of giving birth and dedicating their sons to God’s service, we have the honor of bearing Jesus (along with John and Samuel as part of the celestial court) in our hearts, minds, and souls.  In these last days of Advent, and still in the process of preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ, open your eyes, hearts, and souls to each other.  Let the light of Christ shine on each of us.

Like these great and beautiful women of the Bible, we should offer back to God the greatest gift He could ever give us.  Offer to Him the first fruits of our lives in and through the Holy Spirit by our words, deeds, and thoughts.  At Mass, bring your “best” to the Lord.  Bring your FULL attention, your love, and even your worries and concerns.  Offer it all to Him during the Offertory part of the Mass (along with your envelope).  As Vinny Flynn so elegantly writes in his book, “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” (and as I am paraphrasing here), see God and the entire celestial court receiving your gifts and concerns with open arms, and even a warm smile and hug.  By doing this, you will receive even more blessings at communion.

 

A gift to all mankind, the Holy Spirit is God’s grace (in the third person of the Godhead) making possible for us to experience and know the infusing (and emanating) presence of God – – and the awesome power of His kingdom in heaven AND on earth.  The Holy Spirit is the way in which God lives eternally in and through each of us.

 

 

Prayer to the Holy Trinity

 

“Glory be to the Father,
Who by His almighty power and love created me,
making me in the image and likeness of God.

Glory be to the Son,
Who by His Precious Blood delivered me from hell,
and opened for me the gates of heaven.

Glory be to the Holy Spirit,
Who has sanctified me in the sacrament of Baptism,
and continues to sanctify me
by the graces I receive daily from His bounty.

Glory be to the Three adorable Persons of the Holy Trinity,
now and forever.  Amen”

http://catholic.org

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Jacopone da Todi (d. 1306)

 

Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi.  He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna.

His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband.  One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament.  She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed.  Vanna was killed.  Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness.  On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life.

He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order).  Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or “Crazy Jim,” by his former associates.  The name became dear to him.

After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor) (First Order).  Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused.  He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278.  He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest.  Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular.

Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans.  The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis.  They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V.  These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII.  At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned.  Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later.  He had accepted his imprisonment as penance.  He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping “because Love is not loved.”  During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, Stabat Mater.

On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near.  He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna.  Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed “Sister Death” with one of his favorite songs.  It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas.  From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.

Comment:

“Crazy Jim,” his contemporaries called Jacopone.  We might well echo their taunt, for what else can you say about a man who broke into song in the midst of all his troubles?  We still sing Jacopone’s saddest song, the Stabat Mater, but we Christians claim another song as our own, even when the daily headlines resound with discordant notes. Jacopone’s whole life rang our song out: “Alleluia!” May he inspire us to keep singing.

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

 
    

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

“Joseph, Let’s See What We Can ‘Dream Up’ For You!” – Matthew 1:18-24†


 

Six (6) Days till CHRISTmas.  Are You Ready?!

  

   

Make plans to come home to your family, even if it involves some forgiveness.  Come home to the Catholic Church, even if it involves some forgiveness – perhaps in BOTH directions!  No home, NO Church is perfect.  It’s simply a place where imperfect people treat each other with a kindness no one has earned.

  

 

  

    

Yesterday was my youngest Son’s anniversary.  Sadly, an anniversary we do not necessarily celebrate.  My 11-year-old was diagnosed with type I diabetes 6 years ago. 

He is a typical, and sometimes VERY TYPICAL pre-teen.  The difference between him and his three brothers is that he wears a device on his belt with a catheter going under his skin, providing him with the required amount of insulin he has to have to metabolise the “sugars” in his food.

The flip side of this “coin of fate” is that he has become a very sensitive, intelligent, conceptual, and caring person, whom I often say is the most mature person in the family – – and that includes my wife and myself at times.

Thank you God for the grace of his diabetes.  (Now, please give a cure!)

  

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   401 – St Anastasius I ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1370 – Death of Urban V, [Guillaume de Grimoard], the first Avignon Pope (1362-70)
†   1744 – Birth of Jacobus J Cramer, priest of Holland/Zealand/West-Friesland
†  1749 – Death of Francesco Antonio Bonporti, Italian priest and composer (b. 1672)
†   1891 – Charles Uncles becomes the first Black Catholic priest ordained in US, in Baltimore
†   1914 – Death of Johann F Ritter von Schulte, German catholic lawyer, at age 87

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

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

The Franciscan vision stresses the right relationship of justice.

  

“From the very beginning, Franciscans were seen as ‘fraters’ (and ‘sorores’) ‘minors’, lesser brothers (and sisters).  The Franciscan tradition emphasizes a genuine meeting of justice and charity.  Franciscans do not try to domesticate the prophetic words of the Gospel but rather are called to live out a renewed vision of life and relationships based on justice. Like all Christians, Franciscans are called to read the Signs of the Times, critique abuses of power, and follow an ethic based on the inviolable dignity of all people.” 

The following is from St. Bonaventure’s reflection on St. Francis’ image of himself.  St. Bonaventure writes:

In his own opinion he was nothing but a sinner, though in truth he was a mirror and the splendor of holiness.  As he had learned from Christ, he strove to build himself upon this like a wise architect laying a foundation.”  – St. Bonaventure, Major Life, Chapter VI

(From the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website:
http://www.franciscanaction.org)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Two Jesuit novices both wanted a cigarette while they prayed.  They decided to ask their superior for permission.  The first asked but was told no.  A little while later he spotted his friend smoking and praying.  “Why did the superior allow you to smoke and not me?” he asked.  His friend replied, “Because you asked if you could smoke while you prayed, and I asked if I could pray while I smoked!”

 

 

(from http://www.thebricktestament.com Website)

Today’s reflection is about Gabriel appearing to Joseph and directing him to take Mary as his wife and telling him that the child she will bear will be called Emmanuel.

 

18 Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”  24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.   (NAB Matthew 1:18-24)

 

We are at the fourth (and last) Sunday of Advent.  Our Gospel reading at Sunday Mass finally permits us to begin contemplating the mysteries of the Incarnation Catholics love to celebrate at Christmas:

“Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” (Matthew 1:18).

The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective, and not Mary’s.  In the preceding verses, Matthew had listed the genealogy (family tree) of Jesus, following His family tree (or lineage) to King David; and then even further back to Abraham (Luke’s genealogy goes back to Adam).  In the chapter immediately following this one, Matthew recounts the visit and adoration from the Magi visitors from the “east”, the Holy Family’s rapid flight into Egypt after Jesus’ birth, and King Herod’s massacre of the “Holy Innocents” – the infants (two years of age and younger) of Bethlehem who were found and executed mercilessly in order to satisfy King Herod’s greed and selfishness and to relieve him of fear of another king replacing him.  The other stories we often associate with Christmas, – – the Annunciation, the Visitation, and the choir of angels appearing to the shepherds and sending them to the infant Jesus, – – are found only in the Gospel of Luke.

The virginal conception of Jesus is at work in the Holy Spirit: the third “person” of Godhead.  Matthew sees the virginal conception as the transcendent fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”

We should not skim too quickly over the difficult circumstances described in today’s Gospel.  Peel away the top layers of the “onion” of theology and bible study; look under these top layers to find a hidden message meant only for you to discover (a revelation)!  The way Joseph and Mary faced these circumstances tells us a humungous amount about the Holy Parents – and their faith, love, and trust in God.  I have high suspicions that Jesus’ earthly ministry was infinitely and definitely shaped by Mary and Joseph’s parenting and nurturing skills.  

Joseph and Mary are “betrothed.”  This is often described incorrectly as an engagement period; it is much more than an engagement.  In first century Jewish history, Mosaic Law, and cultural tradition, a “betrothal” was the first part of a marriage contract – – a covenant.  It established a couple (the man and woman) as husband and wife in a legal, but not in a physical way.  (Hmm; Sometimes I think my marriage is like that now! – only joking Honey Pie, Sweety, Snookums!)  A betrothal was followed at a later time, usually some months later, by the husband finally and physically receiving his wife into his home.  At this time a normal married life began (per our modern traditions) for the Jewish couple.  Any breach with infidelity or unfaithfulness to this covenant was considered “adultery”.  

A “righteous man” was the term for a devout observer and follower of the Mosaic Law and Jewish religion – – such was Joseph.  Joseph wanted to sever his marriage bond with Mary whom he initially suspected of a morally gross violation of sacred law and tradition.  In reality, the “law” required him to sever his relationship, however, the Mosaic Law used for this requirement or interpretation (Deuteronomy 22:20-21) did not clearly pertain to Joseph’s situation: The Deuteronomical reference flowing states:

“But if this charge is true, and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her unchasteness in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Mary was never “unchaste!”  She was a virgin, (and remained a virgin for her entire earthly life)!  The Law therefore did not truly apply to her, (and Joseph realized such after his dream revelation), even though Mary is truly found to be with child while still betrothed.  

Mary had to face an enormous challenge to her faith and trust in God.  She was asked to assume a burden of tremendous and unending responsibility.  Pregnancy outside of wedlock was not tolerated well, if at all, in those days.  She easily could have been rejected by Joseph, by her family, and by all her own people.  Mary probably knew that Joseph and her family would not understand without a revelation from God.  She nonetheless believed and trusted in God’s promises.  (Remember, she said to Gabriel, “May it be unto me according to your word!” – Luke 1:38)

   

  

Joseph had to be troubled with the situation, and most likely took this upsetting matter to God in his prayers.  He was not hasty to pronounce judgment or to respond with hurt and anger.  For this, God rewarded Joseph with direction and comfort, AND with a divine assurance that He Himself had “called” Joseph to be Mary’s husband.  God Himself had “called” Joseph to take on a duty that would require the utmost of faith, confidence, and loving trust in God. 

Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary was overcome by a heavenly command delivered by the Archangel Gabriel.  God intervened through this “messenger” in a way that Joseph could understand, believe, and act on.  After this divinely motivating dream, Joseph immediately not only took Mary into his home, but also accepted the child (Jesus) as his own legally, emotionally, fatherly, and spiritually.  

The “natural” genealogical line (on Joseph’s side) may have been broken in physical terms; however, the promises to King David are fulfilled primarily, naturally through Mary, and supported legally through Joseph’s “adoption” of his son Jesus.  Jesus belongs to, and is part of Joseph’s family.  Jesus is now rooted (Hmm, from the root of Jesse; see Isaiah 11:1), received, and welcomed into the line of David, and through the eyes of Mosaic Law.   Jesus is forever rooted in continuity, association, and relationship with all the notable figures of Israel.

In listing Jesus’ genealogy (in Matthew 1:-1-17), Matthew broke with the Jewish tradition of listing ONLY the male descendants.   He breaks tradition by mentioning four (4) women (and mothers): Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bethsheba.  Another split from Jewish tradition and heritage were these women’s behaviors and histories, which definitely did not reflecting the ideal models for womanhood (but neither do some of the men in this genealogical list).  Consider the following:

T   One woman was alleged to be a prostitute (Rahab),

T   Another became pregnant by a scam she played on her father-in-law (Tamar),

T   Three of these women were “foreigners” (Rahab, Ruth, & Bethsheba), and

T   One was a victim of lust, or a consenting collaborator to adultery and conspiracy (Bethsheba).

    

Joseph was unwilling to expose Mary to shame, for he knew she was still a virgin.  Joseph and Mary are both cooperating with God’s plan.  For this trust they both had in God, they are both recognized as the perfect models for Catholic and all Christian followers of Christ.  They both knew what it truly meant to be faithful servants of God.

Four (4) of the five (5) dreams in the birth story of Jesus found in Holy Scripture were Joseph’s.  It seems this man lived through his dreams!  The only other dream in the story of Jesus’ birth was directed to the “Magi” in Mathew 2:12. 

Gabriel, an “angel of the Lord” was the usual “messenger” in the Old Testament and now again in the New Testament.  He is the designated messenger by God for communication with human beings.  The message given to Joseph in his dream tells us much about the child that Mary bears and Jesus’ role in God’s plan.  

Joseph truly dreamed about his future.  As mentioned above, Gabriel came to Joseph four (4) times (see Matthew 2:13, 19, & 22).  Could these dreams be meant to recall the dreams of another Joseph (with the multi-colored dream coat), son of Jacob the patriarch from Genesis 37:5 and 48:19?  Could a closer parallel be found in the dream of Amram, who was the father of Moses, as related by Josephus in “Antiquities 2, 9, 3”
(http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/JOSEPHUS.HTM):

“A man whose name was Amram, one of the nobler sort of the Hebrews, was afraid … was very uneasy at it, his wife being then with child, and he knew not what to do.  … Accordingly God had mercy on him, and was moved by his supplication.  He stood by him in his sleep, and exhorted him not to despair of his future favors.  He said further, that he did not forget their piety towards him, and would always reward them for it, as he had formerly granted his favor to their forefathers, and made them increase from a few to so great a multitude.  … She was afterwards by him enabled to conceive seed, and bare him sons.  … He became well known to strangers also, by the greatness … make thee famous; for that child, out of dread of whose nativity … shall be this child of thine, and shall be concealed from those who watch to destroy him: and when he is brought up in a surprising way, he shall deliver the Hebrew nation from the distress they are under from the Egyptians.  His memory shall be famous while the world lasts; and this not only among the Hebrews, but foreigners also: – all which shall be the effect of my favor to thee, and to thy posterity.”

The name “Jesus” (a Greek form of the Hebrew “Joshua”) is interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”  Jesus IS the fulfillment of the prophecy heard in today’s first reading from Isaiah (7:14):

“. . . The virgin shall be with child . . . and shall name him Immanuel.”

Emmanuel” translates to “God is with us.”  Emmanuel was the “how” of God’s promise of deliverance to Judah to come, as prophesied by Isaiah seven (7) or so centuries before Jesus’.  In knowing prophesies of old, Matthew saw this biblical “Emmanuel” as being fulfilled in the personhood of Jesus.  To strengthen this position, the name Emmanuel is also alluded to at the end of Matthew’s Gospel wherein the Risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence:

I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

(Emmanuel versus Immanuel: WHAT GIVES?!  “I”mmanuel is a transliteration of the Hebrew (OT) and “E”mmanuel is the Greek spelling for the Hebrew (NT).  A simple way to remember the difference is “’I’ before ‘E’, except after the years B.C.!”

Whenever you’re sad, lonely, or afraid, how inspiring and mood elevating it is to have said to you, “I am with you!”  Out of an unlimited, endless, and vast love, God sent His only Son to share our destiny and to live, teach, die, and rise again, solely to save us from the causes of sin (which is spiritual death).  Jesus is “God – With – Us”!

Even when Joseph and Mary’s circumstances seemed unclear for them; when they felt inadequate for their roles, – – they trusted God.  They trusted God individually and together as a couple and family.  Healthy relationships and families are built on a solid foundation of mutual trust in, respect for, and love – – for God – – and for one another.

How important is trust in your personal and family life?  Do your children and spouse trust you?  Do you trust your children and spouse?  Do you trust God in everything?!  Are you ready to believe in the promises of God, even when confronted with circumstances that seem insurmountable?

Pray that your life is built on a SOLID foundation of trust, respect, and love – as was so perfectly modeled by Joseph and Mary.  Let us celebrate Christmas, – – the Feast of the Incarnation, – – with most joyful hearts.  Let us renew our faith, hope, and love in God, and how He works “in” and “through” us.

God thoroughly departed from human expectations of the time and brought about something new and different – – Jesus Christ!  During this Advent and CHRISTmas (or CHRIST@MASS) season, take some time to contemplate on how God is trying to accompany and guide you beyond your believed potential.  God wants to help you see all people and creation in a new, kinder, and loving way.  He wants you to see His face in all people, and especially in the poor, marginalized, and outcast of society.

It is never too late to get ready for God.  It is never too late to see God in others around you.  Just ask Him to give you a new perspective on the ordinary and unexpected (but always amazing) situations in your life.  When you feel “inadequate” for a role, task, or situation – – turn to Jesus.  Never, ever forget that God is with you – Emmanuel!

 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

 

“O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Pope Urban V (1310-1370)

 

In 1362, the man elected pope declined the office.  When the cardinals could not find another person among them for that important office, they turned to a relative stranger: the holy person we honor today.

The new Pope Urban V proved a wise choice.  A Benedictine monk and canon lawyer, he was deeply spiritual and brilliant.  He lived simply and modestly, which did not always earn him friends among clergymen who had become used to comfort and privilege.  Still, he pressed for reform and saw to the restoration of churches and monasteries.  Except for a brief period he spent most of his eight years as pope living away from Rome at Avignon, seat of the papacy from 1309 until shortly after his death.

He came close but was not able to achieve one of his biggest goals—reuniting the Eastern and Western churches.

As pope, Urban continued to follow the Benedictine Rule.  Shortly before his death in 1370 he asked to be moved from the papal palace to the nearby home of his brother so he could say goodbye to the ordinary people he had so often helped.

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 19 & 20 of 26:

 

19.     Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.  Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others. Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.

 

 

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

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


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

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

 

 

 

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

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

            

Today in Catholic History:

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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Serenity Prayer

 

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

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

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of: Savings & Weavers

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

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 24 & 25 of 26:

 

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

  

 

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

 

 

 

 

“When Lost, Hug HIS Tree!” – Luke 15:1-10†


 

God, Please Bless America!!

September 11, 2001 needs to be forever remembered!!

 

Individuals have the “right” to build a Mosque near “ground-zero,” or even to burn books such as the “Koran,” but that does not make it necessarily “Right!”

Remember the “Pieta” and “Our Lady of Sorrows.”  Picture the victims of this tragic act of violence in our loving Blessed Virgin Mother’s lap, instead of the usually pictured infant Jesus. (Taken, in part, from a letter by Fr. Pio Jackson, OFM)

 

 

Next week will be my first anniversary of writing these reflections.  With 258 postings as of today, my knowledge and piety for Holy Scripture has vastly increased.  I have grown to love reading my Bible (yes, I am a catholic WITH a Bible – actually I have several).  The 73 books of the Bible are amazing reads and valuable sources of information, inspiration, and spirituality.  I cannot tell you how many “God-winks” I have experienced in my journey through Scripture.  God truly does work in mysterious ways.

Thank you again for reading, and for commenting on my reflections.  I pray that you have been helped or inspired by my words.  Actually, I should not use the word “my” as I firmly believe that I am not creating these reflections.  I am allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me, and I love the fact that the Paraclete is so lovingly intertwined into my soul and body.  Thank you Lord, my God and my all; I love and trust in you always.

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

      
†   1690 – Birth of Peter Dens, Belgian Catholic theologian (d. 1775)
†   1960 – John F. Kennedy avers he does not speak for the Roman Catholic Church, and neither does the Church speak for him.

(From “Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Where will you stand in eternity?  Smoking or Non-Smoking!

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and Scribes criticizing Him for keeping company with the poor and dreads of society.

 

1 The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him [Jesus}, 2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  3 So to them he addressed this parable.  4 “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  5 And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 6 and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  7 I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.  8 “Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?  9 And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’  10 In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  (Luke 15:1-10)

 

Jesus in today’s Gospel relates two of three parables about losing, finding, and rejoicing.  There are two fairly obvious themes with these readings today.  The first focuses on God’s desire that all of us who may be lost will be found and return to Him.  The second spotlights on OUR calling to search for the “lost sheep or coin” and bring them home to God.

The Pharisees and Scribes were mumbling about Jesus’ followers.  Jesus wasn’t just drawing those interested in discussing religious matters on an intellectual level, or even the particulars of the temple law.  These followers were not only the regular synagogue and temple worshiping crowd, but also a “new” circle of people altogether.  Up till this point, many followers of Jesus would not have been considered a traditionally pious people.  These individuals of various piety levels were gathering to Him — like hair on soap, and it wasn’t just a few either. The outcasts of Jewish society like the lepers, Samaritans, Gentiles, tax-collectors, and other sinners all approached Jesus with a genuine eagerness to hear what he had to say and teach.  

Their “hearing” Jesus’ message started a movement towards conversion for these “outcast heathens.” This “hearing” stands in stark contrast to the “hearing” of Jesus’ fellow “chosen ones” who have heard and not believed.  These Pharisees and Scribes are being cautious and suspicious of Jesus; they complain about His associating with “sinners” and the other dreads of society.  These Pharisees and Scribes were not used to mixing with these “worthless” people following Jesus.  They considered these people as “unclean;” and to be in contact or involved with them would bring uncleanness on them as well.  Jesus’ insight about these “Pharisaical attitudes” is deliciously revealing in these three parables (only two of which are presented in this reflection). 

The parable of the lost sheep in today’s Gospel is also found in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 18:12-14); but Luke adds two additional parables: “the lost coin parable” in Luke 15:8-10, and “the prodigal son parable” found later in this chapter (Luke 15:11-32).  These two additional stories are from Luke’s own special tradition of faith.  Luke illustrates Jesus’ particular concern for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” and for God’s love for every repentant sinner.  In His parables, Jesus takes real life reactions and turns them into a spiritual understanding and application.

Jesus is acting out the very character of his Father, God!  He does much more than simply accepting these “lost” people; Jesus welcomes them and even eats with them, which in His time and culture meant much more than just a meal.  It is a special meal of welcome and recognition for that individual.  There’s nothing wimpy about Jesus’ actions, attitude, or love for all people, especially the poor and suffering. He actively welcomes people who might normally expect rejection from other “teachers”.  

In the first story of the lost sheep, the shepherd leaves behind the ninety-nine sheep to search for the lowly lost sheep that had left its flock.  When he finds it, the shepherd rejoices, but NOT just by himself, as suggested in Matthew’s version.  Instead, he rejoices with his friends and neighbors.  In this same way, God rejoices more over the lowly sinner, similarly lost, who repents.  In this group were the “heroes,” the non-Jews, outcasts, and tax collectors who have come to hear, really hear, Jesus.  Jesus reveals that there is joy in heaven; and that there is even more joy over the outcasts repentance than the righteous, unrepentant, ninety-nine who think they have no need for a change of heart.

The Jewish people have always been a shepherding clan of people, going all the way back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Sheep were raised for wool, meat, and for holy sacrifices.  A hundred sheep (99 + 1, Hmm) would be a fairly normal size for a herder.  In Jesus’ parable, the herder was probably counting his herd and finds one missing.  Leaving the ninety-nine, he goes off looking for the “one” lost sheep until he finds it.  There is no blame directed towards the sheep that went lost; the emphasis of the story is on the joyfulness of the event when the lost is found. The point Jesus was making is quite simple and elegant: the pious people of Israel are not necessarily the lost sheep in this parable!  The tax collectors and sinners are the real lost sheep for whom Jesus was sent!

The second story is about a woman who is so poor that she will not stop searching for her lost coins until she finds them.  How many of us have searched through the deep recesses of our furniture and cars, just for a little spending change?  This is an allegorical story to me; it makes a similar but much stronger point than the first parable. 

This lady in the parable was poor.  She was poor of materialistic needs and possibly poor of spiritual needs as well.  In her searching of all the deep recesses of her life (represented by her home), she made a total examination of her life, consciousness, spirituality, and immediate possible future.  She re-examined every part of her being (her home), and finally finding what she had lost: her conviction and belief in a loving and true God (represented by the ten coins).  In her repentance of the past, her conversion in the present, and a new belief in a loving God that is forever present with her in a unique way, she found a new freedom and wealth never before experienced.  This woman is now joyful and celebrates her “new” life with others, (her brothers and sisters in Christ) who believe as she.

In this second parable when Jesus talks about ten coins, He is literally talking about, “ten drachmas.”  A drachma was a Greek silver coin of the time period.  The drachma may not have been in circulation during Jesus’ time of public ministry in Israel, but Luke’s readers would know what a drachma was the few decades later when Luke wrote his Gospel. A drachma was worth about the same as a Roman denarius: an average day’s wage; so she was looking for ten days wages.

In studying the meaning of biblical numbers, “ten” is one of the “perfect” numbers.  It signifies the “perfection,” or fullness of divinity and a completeness of right order.  In other words, this number implies total and complete wholeness.  As I saw myself in these stories, I saw myself searching through the recesses of my memory, looking for something I know I need but don’t have; then I remembered finding my treasure: it being the love of, and for, Jesus Christ.  It was then that I realized that through these parables we all are being led to a totally perfected, complete, and wholesome soul full of joy at an eternal celebration with Him in paradise.

We are not covering the third parable in this reflection today.  You will have to wait; but I guarantee a doozy of a reflection with this story from Jesus.  All I can say is that it involves sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll!  It will make you laugh; it will make you cry.  It will be rated a five-star reflection on the “God-O-Matic” Meter!  How is this for a cliff-hanger to get you back for future reflections?!

When we are lost, God doesn’t wait for our return. He actively seeks us out. And when His “lost sheep” are found, how could He not celebrate and rejoice?  Jesus’ role is not only one of group redemption and salvation, but that it begins with a “one-by-one,” “person-by-person,” “search and rescue” mission.  That was Jesus’ undertaking on earth in His human AND divine fullness.

If you ask your children who are scouts, or if you are one of the few parents that volunteers as a scout leader, you have probably been taught what to do when lost in the woods: literally, “hug-a-tree.” You know that this means to stay put exactly where you are so others can find you more easily.  Just as any parent would go to any length to find a loved one and bring them home, so too would God.  That is what Jesus is telling us in these stories!  No matter what we do, no matter how bad or wrong we are, God, our infinitely good and loving Father, is always ready and anxious to find and forgive us.  He desires to welcome us back into His loving arms.  In fact, He actively draws us back to Himself.

Remember; Jesus is acting out the very character of his Father, God.  An essential part of God’s character is His extending mercy and love to the “undeserving” of society.  His mission is not only to welcome those who are searching for Him, but also to actually seek the injured, the sick, the oppressed, the blind, the imprisoned, and those who may not be searching for Him.  God really does go to great lengths in order to rescue us.  Our souls are worth all risks for Him.  How does Jesus live this role yet today?  The answer is, I believe a part of His initial plan unveiled two thousand years ago: the Holy Cross of our salvation and redemption — the message of true and active love for all creation still yet today.

If geographically lost, do not forget to “hug-a-tree.”  When lost on our faith journey, the same advice is true: “Hug a tree” — the tree of salvation and redemption — Jesus’ Cross!  He will be more than happy to hug you, and bring you to safety.

 

“St. Francis’ Prayer Before the Crucifix”

 

Most high,
glorious God,
let your light fill the shadows of my heart
and grant me, Lord,
true faith,
certain hope,
perfect love,
awareness and knowing,
that I may fulfill Your holy will.  Amen.

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

  

This feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 3); both have the possibility of uniting people easily divided on other matters.

The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary began in Spain in 1513 and in 1671 was extended to all of Spain and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1683, John Sobieski, king of Poland, brought an army to the outskirts of Vienna to stop the advance of Muslim armies loyal to Mohammed IV in Constantinople. After Sobieski entrusted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he and his soldiers thoroughly defeated the Muslims. Pope Innocent XI extended this feast to the entire Church.

 

Comment:

Mary always points us to God, reminding us of God’s infinite goodness. She helps us to open our hearts to God’s ways, wherever those may lead us. Honored under the title “Queen of Peace,” Mary encourages us to cooperate with Jesus in building a peace based on justice, a peace that respects the fundamental human rights (including religious rights) of all peoples.

Quote:

“Lord our God, when your Son was dying on the altar of the cross, he gave us as our mother the one he had chosen to be his own mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary; grant that we who call upon the holy name of Mary, our mother, with confidence in her protection may receive strength and comfort in all our needs” (Marian Sacramentary, Mass for the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

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

 

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 12 & 13 of 26:

 

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.

 

 

13.  As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

 

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.