Tag Archives: honor

“Love Doesn’t Calculate; It Spends Lavishly Instead – – And Boy, Does My Wife ‘LOVE’ Spending!” – Mark 12:38-44†


32ndSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Now that the elections are over, it is our duty as Catholic Christians to help bring all people – – all our brothers and sisters in Christ together in peace and HARMONY.  Let us all pray for our country’s leaders, for our country itself, and for each of US. 

A friend gave me the following intentions for prayer during the election period; however, I tweaked it to be used as a way of praying daily.  Please let me know what you think about the following set of various bible verses:

SCRIPTURE VERSES TO PRAY FOR OUR NATION

It is critical that Christians pray for our nation.  There is amazing power in united prayer.  Pray with others whenever possible.  The power of prayer can overcome any obstacle or ungodly influence and, indeed, do great things!

II Chronicles 7:14– If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, will heal their land.
Acts 17:30 – Pray for repentance for yourself and for our nation.

Psalm 32:6-7
– Pray that Christians will be motivated to pray faithfully for our nation and that the Lord would deliver us from the wrong leaders.
Proverbs 16:13
– Pray that our nation will listen to the truth and not be led astray.
Psalm 125
– Pray that those who trust in the Lord will not be shaken.
Psalm 86:14-17
– Pray that the Lord would defeat those who have no regard for Him in this election.
II Kings 13:16
– Pray that the Lord would put His hands on the president (and his team) and guide them.
Daniel 2:20-22
– the Bible tells us that God sets up kings and God deposes kings. God is in control.
Luke 12:54-57
– Pray that our nation will do what is right.
Psalm 16:7-8
– Pray that the Lord would give wise counsel and guidance to the president.
Proverbs 1:5-6
– Pray that the President will listen with discernment, add to his knowledge, and receive wise counsel.
John 16:33 – Pray that the President would be given wisdom and ability from the Lord to overcome any obstacle or difficulty.
Philippians 4:13
– Pray that the President will have special strength and unusual ability from God.
Psalm 18:32-36
– Pray that the Lord would arm the President with strength; would guide him in battle; and would sustain him and give him victory.
2 Corinthians 12:9
– Pray that the Lord would empower and enable the President in any area of weakness.
Habakkuk 1:5 and 3:2
– Pray that the Lord would do something that would utterly amaze us and grant the country true freedom.

 Please print out this prayer guide and pray daily.  Please forward this to every Christian you know!

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 Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus notices a poor widow’s offering and commends her great sacrifice.  What’s your commitment to “tithing”?

(NAB Mark 12:38-44)  38 In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums.  42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The context for today’s Gospel continues to be one of mounting tensions between Jesus and the Jewish authorities.  In today’s reading, Mark tells of Jesus’ teaching specifically in the Temple area where He could observe His Jewish brethren putting in their offering to the Temple treasury.  

Today’s Gospel reading is what my children call a “twofer”: the denunciation of the Scribes, and the poor widow’s contribution, combined into one teaching.

In the first part, we hear Jesus warn the crowds to not follow the example of the Scribes in seeking honor and coveting attention from others by their actions and religious behavior.  It is important for us to recall that Jesus taught these things while in the vicinity of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Scribes “home court” territory.  Mark, in this first part of his Gospel today, is setting the stage for Jesus’ arrest, passion, and crucifixion.  While the tradition of a deep hostility between the Pharisees and Jesus is well founded, this reading reflects a growing animosity which goes beyond that of Jesus’ personal ministry to that of the bitter conflict between Jesus, His followers, and the Temple leaders, in their religious practices.  

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Jesus’ first teaching is about the Scribes (and, I am sure, the Pharisees and Sadducees as well), and their very public and overt attention which they purposely bring onto themselves.  The Scribes’ narrow, legalistic, and external practices of piety in matters of public worship, and observance of the commandments, with their own interpretations, places them in opposition to Jesus’ teaching of the TRUE moral intent of God the Father’s divine law.   

Per Jesus and divine law, the following practices and tradition of the Temple leaders are dubious, questionable, and untrustworthy:

    •  going around in long robes
    • accept greetings in the marketplaces,
    • having seats of honor in synagogues, and
    • holding places of honor at banquets”.  

So, Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes for their lack of humility.  In their misguided zeal, the Scribes desired and sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”.  They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and religious “rulers”.  They unfortunately made the practice of their faith one of a place of honor rather than “humbly serving” the “chosen people” of God.

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues (humility and piety) actually leads one to increased greed and further separation from God the Father.  Mark actually warns of the consequences of greed and arrogance in today’s reading:

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

The Scribes are “acting” in order to impress others and earn praise.  Their actions were solely for the purpose of making their “piety” more noticeable.  The hypocrisy of the Scribes (and the Pharisees and Sadducees) is in their “long prayers” and public actions – – in their purposeful, very public demonstrations of “piety” – – having no other purpose than to enhance their ego’s and reputations as the paramount and BEST religious persons in the area (and beyond).

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The Scribes “place of honor and worship” was the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was the center of Jewish worship from the time Solomon built it in 957 BC – – and rebuilt after its first TOTAL destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC – – until shortly after the time of Jesus when it was destroyed completely by the Romans in 70 A.D. and never rebuilt.  Jesus observed how Jewish “pilgrims” were making their required contributions to the Temple treasury.  It was expected that observant Jews would make pilgrimages to the Temple to offer prayer and sacrifices.  These visiting pilgrims also were expected to make a financial contribution to the Temple treasury.  (See, Catholics aren’t the only ones who are expected to contribute financially to their “parish”!)

As we would expect, Jesus observed that those who were rich contributed large sums to the treasury, while those with less funds made smaller contributions.  A similar situation exists in most of our parishes as well today, especially in our financially depressing times which we are currently experiencing now.  

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Jesus, in His second teaching from today’s reading, calls attention to a “poor widow” who makes the smallest of contributions – – a paltry sum of money, just two coins of very little value.  Jesus give His approval to the poor widow’s offering, commending her because her small offering was an act of profound love and generosity.  She was giving from “her livelihood” rather than from her surplus.  WOW!!  Do you trust God enough to do such an act?  I admit, I have difficulties in doing this quite often.  (This is something to truly work on for me.)

Jesus says of her that she is “blessed”, not only for her actions, but especially for her attitude, intentions, and because she gave “from her poverty”.  This “poor widow” had “contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”.  This “widow” is an example of the poor ones – – such as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis of Assisi – – who detached from material possessions, showed her dependence on God; which led to her (and their) blessedness (and the wonder & admiration from Jesus Himself):

Calling His disciples to Himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury” (Mark 12:43).

Her simple offering provided a striking contrast to the pride and pretentiousness of the Scribes who were “censured” by Jesus in the preceding verses (Mark 12:38-40).

Jesus is extolling the fortunate condition of this poor woman who is, at the same time, favored with the blessings of God the Father because of her true, deep faith.  She was a REAL disciple of Christ who appreciated the real values of God’s kingdom.  The present condition of this “poor widow” will ultimately be reversed in God’s kingdom.  She will inherit the riches of eternal life – – in the everlasting presence of God – – at the bountiful and eternal banquet in heaven.

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In Jesus’ denunciation of the Scribes, He warns against three things: 

  • the desire for prominence rather than selfless service;
  • the desire for admiration and recognition (seeking esteem from others) rather than seeking to promote the good of others through humble service and love;

and thirdly,

  • attempting to use one’s position (even a religious position) for self-gain and self-advancement.

True faith means relating to God – – and to one’s “neighbor” – – with love, honor, and reverence.  God places the Holy Spirit within each of us, filling us with the joy of His presence, the joy of true worship, and the joy of selfless giving and love for, and to, others.  This true love, honor, and reverence for God frees our heart to give freely, generously, and abundantly both to God AND to neighbor.

To give from our livelihood is not only an act of love and generosity, it is also an act of trust in God’s mercy, love, and providence.  We can only give from our need if we trust in God providing for us.  Jesus Himself demonstrated the ultimate act of loving generosity and trust in God when He gave His life – – for US – – on the Holy Cross.

Jesus, through His Passion and death, taught His disciples a dramatic lesson in giving with love.  Love doesn’t calculate; it spends lavishly instead!  (And boy, does my wife “LOVE” spending!!)  Jesus drove this point of “love giving more than it takes in” home to His disciples while sitting in the Temple, observing and commenting on the people offering their contributions to the Temple treasury.  

Jesus’ teaching seems to be very simple: this “poor widow” trusted with all she had, believing God would provide for her.  Jesus reveals to her that love for God is more precious than any amount of money!  Jesus taught that real giving must come from the heart.  A “gift” which is given – – for show or with conditions – – loses most of its value.  However, Jesus reveals that He is impressed by a gift given out of love, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice, is truly invaluable – – priceless – – in God’s eye and His kingdom.  

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The amount or size of the gift doesn’t matter as much as the cost to the giver.  The “poor widow” could have kept one of her coins, but instead she gave away ALL SHE HAD!!  Jesus praised this person who gave the Temple barely anything of monetary value, solely because it was everything she had in life, “her whole living”.  

What we have in life to offer to God and neighbor may look very small and not worth much in our eyes, and even in others’ eyes; but if we put ALL we have towards God’s will and plan, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you and others, God will certainly do with it – – and with us – – what is beyond our feeble consideration and understanding.  

Today’s Gospel leads us to think about our family’s financial contributions to our personal parish communities, the diocese we live in, other Church-sponsored organizations, and even other charitable groups.  Good stewardship (the way in which someone organizes and takes care of something) invites us to share our time, talents, and treasures.  

Sometimes, our decisions about charitable giving are made without the knowledge of others in our family.  However, we need to remember that we can teach a valuable lesson when we make family members aware of HOW we are contributing to our Church and to other charitable organizations.  We can pass on our knowledge of God’s gifts for others imparted to us in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.

Think about your family’s financial contributions to your parish and to other Church functions and activities, as well as other charitable organizations.  Think about why it is important for you to share your resources with these organizations.  Finally, reflect on what Jesus observed in the generosity of the “poor widow”.  In what ways might you make a sacrificial gift to support your parish or other charitable organization through a donation of time, talents, or treasures (it does NOT have to be money!).  Then, participate in the action you choose to take for the organization you chose to support.  Finish your reflection on the generosity of the “poor widow” with a prayer, asking for God’s help to be “generous” like the generous “poor widow” in today’s Gospel.  Thank you.

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 Reflection Prayer:  

STEWARDSHIP PRAYER

Generous God, I give thanks to you for the gifts you have given me: my life, my family, my friends; my time, talents, and material possessions.  All that I have comes from you. Help me to remember this and rejoice in your goodness.

Walk with me, my God. Help me on my spiritual journey, so that I may constantly renew my relationship with you and all the good people in our parish and throughout the world.

Renew in me your Spirit.  Give me the strength and courage to become a better follower of Jesus, to be a disciple.  Help me hear the call to “Come, Follow Me.”

I give glory to you, my God, as I make stewardship a way of life.  Amen.”

http://www.stewardshipli.org/main/prayer.html

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“Is it YOU to God, or, God to YOU, Who IS Saying ‘YOUR will be done’?!” – Mark 10:17-30†


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Sunday of the Year of Faith

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

The following is a letter I wish to convey to you from my OFS Regions Justice and Peace Commissioner, Mike DePue, OFS:

During October we have the Feast of Francis.  October is the month of the Rosary [as well]. October 11th, in the traditional calendar was the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary, and Pope Benedict has noted that when Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council on this day in 1962, he “wanted to entrust the entire council to the motherly hands, to the motherly heart of the Virgin Mary.”  Also in October, the Eastern Churches celebrate the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God.

Sadly, our society still has many persons who need the protection of Our Mother – – and of those of us willing to express concern.  So, we need to note that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed a web page called When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/domestic-violence/when-i-call-for-help.cfm).  The bishops address this statement to several audiences, including “society, which has made some strides towards recognizing the extent of domestic violence against women.”

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that your locality is immune from this social ill.  The only fundamental question is: What will be your Franciscan response?

Pax et Bonum,
Mike DePue, OFS

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PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR THE “YEAR OF FAITH”

Per a decree made public on October 5th, 2012 in Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI will grant a Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the “Year of Faith”.  The indulgence will be valid from the opening of the Year on 11 October 2012 until its end on 24 November 2013.

The day of the fiftieth anniversary of the solemn opening of Vatican Council II”, the text reads, “the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decreed the beginning of a Year especially dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation, through the reading of – or better still the pious meditation upon – the Acts of the Council and the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church”.

“During the Year of Faith, which will last from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013, Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of sins, imparted by the mercy of God and applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful, may be obtained by all faithful who, truly penitent, take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

“(A) Each time they attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.

“(B) Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.

“(C) Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, … in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.

“(D) On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.

“Diocesan or eparchal bishops, and those who enjoy the same status in law, on the most appropriate day during that period or on the occasion of the main celebrations, … may impart the papal blessing with the Plenary Indulgence”.

The document concludes by recalling how faithful who, due to illness or other legitimate cause, are unable to leave their place of adobe, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence “if, united in spirit and thought with other faithful, and especially at the times when the words of the Supreme Pontiff and diocesan bishops are transmitted by television or radio, they recite … the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and other prayers which concord with the objectives of the Year of Faith, offering up the suffering and discomfort of their lives”.

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: A man with many possessions asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life.  What must YOU DO to gain eternal life?  Are you ready to give up ALL, to become a “slave” for Christ to gain eternal life … REALLY?!

(NAB Mark 10:17-30)  17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  18 Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.  19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’”  20 He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”  21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  24 The disciples were amazed at his words.  So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  25 It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”  27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  28 Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.”  29 Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today, we continue reading in Mark’s Gospel from where we left off last Sunday.  In last Sunday’s reading, Jesus was tested by the Pharisees in regard to the requirements for divorce per Jewish Law.  At this time period, Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem.

Still travelling, in today’s Gospel, an “unnamed man” approaches Jesus and inquires about what he must do to “inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17).  Jesus replies that he must follow the commandments of the Law of Moses.  This is not an unusual statement as this command had been followed for centuries by pious Jews.  So, the man acknowledges that he has obviously observed all of these Laws since his childhood.  Jesus then says to the man that only one thing is lacking: he must give his possessions to the poor and follow Him [Jesus].  The man leaves Jesus in sadness because he owned many possessions which he obviously cherished greatly. 

My question to you: “Is it surprising that Jesus put a condition on what had been ‘Mosaic Law’ for centuries prior to Jesus’ arrival?”  My answer is NO, it is not surprising at all!  Jesus had added “conditions” in the past when teaching the beatitudes, and even added conditions in last week’s dialogue in regard to divorce. 

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So, this “unknown man” approaches Jesus and says:

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)

Jesus answered him,

Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). 

Jesus is rejecting the term “good” for Himself and directs it instead to God the Father, the true source of all goodness – – and, who alone can grant the gift of eternal life.  The theme Jesus is going to reveal is that if you wish to enter into life in the kingdom of God, you need to keep the commandments of paramount importance in your life:

“You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother’ (Mark 10:17-30).

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The “unknown man” had the best the secular world could offer – wealth and security.  However, he came to Jesus because he lacked something.  He wanted a lasting peace and happiness which NO money could buy him.  The answer he received from Jesus however, was not what he was looking for in his quest for peace.  (Remember, God has a unique sense of humor at times.)  This “unknown man” swore to Jesus that he kept all the required commandments.  However, Jesus spoke to him of the underlying dilemma in his heart and soul.  Only one thing kept him from giving himself totally and completely to God.  While he lacked for nothing materialistically, he was nonetheless selfishly overprotective of what he had acquired in his life.  He placed his hope and security in what he possessed materialistically, not spiritually!  His priority was values of this world, not the next!

Jesus makes two requirements of this wealthy man who approached Him (and even for all of us today):

Sell what you have, and give to [the] poor … then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).

The first requirement is that he must give up his possessions in order to “inherit eternal life”.  Throughout history, many Christians have taken this requirement literally word-for-word.  Those who have given up ALL possessions, like St. Francis of Assisi, have showed witness to a fundamentally extreme commitment to the Gospel of Jesus.  Others have read this passage as a particular requirement directed solely to this specific “unknown man” in today’s reading.  And, still others have sought to explain the meaning intended in this passage as giving up those things and items preventing one from following Jesus (I believe this is the most popular and common belief).  

Christians have generally understood that following Jesus required believers to hold material possessions “with a loose knot”, and to remain vigilant against seeking security in accumulating material possessions.  The Rule for Secular Franciscans mentions freeing oneself from material needs in two of its 26 articles: 11 and 12:

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

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

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.

The second requirement for inheriting “eternal life” is the exact same invitation given to this “unknown man” as is extended to ALL would-be disciples, then and NOW:follow me” (Mark 10:21).  Jesus very much wants this “unknown man” to be a disciple of His; Jesus wants ALL of us to be disciples of His!!  The Catholic Christian faith is one in which each distinct and unique individual believer is in a personal, intimate, and unique relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.  Just as today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus loves the “unknown man” and is sad when this man departs, so too, Jesus loves us and is saddened when we are unable to follow Him – – when we turn our backs to Him.

When Jesus challenged the “unknown man” to make God his one true possession and treasure, he became troubled and saddened.  With distress and sadness in his heart and on his soul, he turned his back on Jesus, walking away from Him.  Hmm, why did he turn away from Jesus with sadness rather than stay with Him with joy?  I believe his treasure and his hope for happiness were certainly mislaid; his treasure and hope were in his material items.  Out of a deep, underlying fear for losing what he had gained in this world, he was afraid to give to others.  This “unknown man” sought happiness and security in his worldly items rather than in Jesus Christ, whom he could love, serve, and give of himself in a devotion of true faith.

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The words of Jesus about entering the kingdom of God surely provoked a jaw-dropping, bewildering shock among His disciples:

’How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ … It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23-25).

Do you know why I say these Men (and women) were confused and unnerved by Jesus’ “Words”?  Because His “Words” seem to contradict Hebrew Scriptures concept in which wealth and material goods were considered a sign of God’s favor.  Here are just three examples:

“Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection?  You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land”  (Job 1:10);

“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, and who walk in his ways.  What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper” (Psalm 128:1–2);

Happy the just, for it will go well with them, the fruit of their works they will eat.” (Isaiah 3:10).

The Old Testament often speaks of God offering material rewards for observance of His laws.  This, I believe, was because the “future life” was not yet revealed to them receiving the “heavenly” reward prior to Jesus’ role as redeemer of the world.  It was therefore taken for granted, in spite of opposing evidence, that riches were a sign of God’s favor.  (One very popular television evangelist still preaches this exact notion every Sunday.)

So, why does Jesus tell His followers to “sell all” for the treasure of “eternal life” in His kingdom?  Well, “treasure” has a special connection to the heart; it is the thing we as human-beings most set our heart on to be our highest treasure.  Jesus Christ Himself is the greatest treasure we can ever obtain and can ever possess, and should be our HIGHEST possession.  

Since wealth, power, and advantage generated a false sense of security and sanctuary among God’s children, Jesus rejects them outright as a claim to enter God’s kingdom.  In reality, achievement of God’s salvation is beyond any human capability.  God’s salvation depends solely on the mercy and goodness of God the Father, who offers His claim to salvation and heaven freely TO ALL – – as a gift to be accepted:

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  (Mark 10:27).

Those who are generous towards God – – and His children, our neighbors – – will find they cannot be out-given in return by God.  His generous return to us will always be greater than what we give to others of His “children”.  God blesses us, and graces us NOW, with treasures from His kingdom.  They are:

(1) Freedom from the clutching force, fear, and power of sin; from selfishness and pride opposing His love and grace in our lives;

(2) Freedom from loneliness, isolation, and rejection keeping us from living together in love, peace, and unity; and,

(3) Freedom of hopelessness, despair, and disillusionment blinding our vision of God’s magnificent power to heal every hurt, to bind every wound, and to remove every blemish injury the image of the Trinitarian God within each of us.  

God the Father offers to each of us – – personally, intimately, and uniquely – – a treasure which any amount of money can never buy.  God – – And ONLY God – – satisfies the deepest longing and desires of our heart, soul, and being.  PLEASE, be willing to part with, to separate yourself from, anything keeping you from seeking the true and completely full JOY in, with, and through Jesus Christ?

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Wealth can make us falsely independent creatures.  The church at Laodicea * was warned about their attitude towards wealth and its false sense of security:

“For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. “ (Revelations 3:17).

* Laodicea was a Christian community established in the ancient city of the same name (on the river Lycus, in the Roman province of Asia).  The church was established in the earliest period of Christianity, and is probably best known for being one of the seven churches addressed by name in the Book of Revelation (Revelations 3.14-22) ~ per Wikipedia.

Per one of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles written to the administrator of the entire Ephesian** community, wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness:

Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains”  (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

** Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey.

Giving up ALL we have in order to have Jesus Christ as OUR treasure is not to be considered as a sorrowful act; it is the greatest act of joy, one can lovingly do for others.  Selling all that we have may mean many different things.  It could mean letting go of attachments, friendships, influences, jobs, status, entertainment, or even you’re your manner or means of life.  Anything standing in the way of our loving and making God first and foremost in our lives, AND, anything standing in the way of giving Him the best we can with our time, talents, and treasures, should be removed from our presence and lives.  Do we truly want God saying to us “YOUR will be done” instead of us saying to Him “thy will be done”?  I know I don’t want Him saying this to me!!

Jesus is offering a further condition in this reading from Mark’s Gospel today: a condition which challenges disciples following Him who are materialistically wealthy and trying to enter the Kingdom of God.  (Give it up and follow.)  In reply to the disciples’ astonishment at the strictness of the two requirements Jesus speaks about in today’s reading, He reminds His followers:

For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” (Mark 10:27).

Our eternal salvation is determined by our ability to rely completely upon, to trust completely in, and to hope completely for – – God in our lives ALWAYS!!

Peter replies to Jesus by boasting that the disciples have already given up everything.  Jesus acknowledges that those who have given up everything for the sake of the Gospel will be rewarded.  This is not a FUTURE HOPE – – IT IS HAPPENING NOW!!  This reward begins NOW, in the new community one gains in this present life, and continuing into the eternal age to come.  Our personal relationship with Jesus is also an invitation to the community of faith, in its fullest, the Catholic Church.  So, if you have left the Catholic Church, for whatever reason, please come home today!

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Today’s Gospel might make us uncomfortable about our personal materialistic possessions.  This discomfort actually may offer each of us an opportunity to consider what we have in relation to our commitment to the poor and marginalized.  Without any doubt, material possessions are truly a necessity in our society and way of life.  However, our amount and use of these possessions, and our attitude about their importance, IS our choice.  We have a “free will” to choose who or what, we truly worship – – God or manna.  In making this choice, we must be aware of our love, trust, and faith in Jesus Christ who commits each of us – – personally, intimately, and uniquely – – to care for the poor and marginalized of this world.

I would reason that there are items in each of our houses we no longer need or use.  Reflect on Jesus’ remarks about material possessions and how you feel about Jesus’ teaching today.  Tomorrow, choose an action showing your commitment to the poor.  It could be as simple as donating some of your extra or unused items to another in need.  Repeat this process often.

Holy Scripture gives us a paradox: we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away.  Generosity will be abundantly repaid, both in this life and in eternity:

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce; then will your barns be filled with plenty, with new wine your vats will overflow (Proverbs 3:9-10);

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:38).

Jesus offers us an incomparable, never-ending treasure which NO money can EVER buy; a treasure NO thief can ever steal.  I want to share His treasure with you!  God’s gift to us is the gift which keeps on giving.

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Reflection Prayer:  

Prayer of Surrender

 

“Loving Father, I surrender to you today with all my heart and soul. Please come into my heart in a deeper way.  I say, “Yes” to you today.  I open all the secret places of my heart to you and say, “Come on in.” Jesus, you are the Lord of my whole life. I believe in you and receive you as my Lord and Savior. I hold nothing back.

Holy Spirit, bring me to a deeper conversion to the person of Jesus Christ.  I surrender all to you: my time, my treasures, my talents, my health, my family, my resources, my work, relationships, time management, successes and failures.  I release it and let it go.

I surrender my understanding of how things ‘ought’ to be, my choices and my will.  I surrender to you the promises I have kept and the promises I have failed to keep.  I surrender my weaknesses and strengths to you.  I surrender my emotions, my fears, my insecurities, my sexuality.  I especially surrender ______ (Here mention other areas of surrender as the Holy Spirit reveals them to you.)

Lord, I surrender my whole life to you, the past, the present, and the future.  In sickness and in health, in life and in death, I belong to you.  (Remain with the Lord in a spirit of silence through your thoughts, a heart song, or simply staying in His presence and listening for His voice.)

Read more: http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2011/06/25/a-prayer-of-surrender#ixzz290gBY9rZ

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“Dying Is The Easy Part. The “New Life” Is the Hard Part!” – John 12:20-33†


Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

We are already in the fifth week of Lent already.  Just a little bit longer till Easter Sunday and celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Birth.  Easter doesn’t end on April 8th.  Easter Sunday is followed by a fifty-day period called Eastertide or the Easter Season, ending with Pentecost Sunday, May 27th

Easter Sunday follows Holy Week.  Easter also follows the third and final day of the “Paschal Triduum”.  The Paschal Triduum is also called the Holy Triduum or Easter Triduum, and begins the evening of Holy Thursday, and ends the evening of Easter Day. It commemorates the heart of our faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

More about the Paschal Triduum will be discussed in next week’s blog.

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Today in Catholic History:

    708 – Constantine begins his reign as Catholic Pope
    
752 – Death of Pope-elect Stephen (died before taking office)
    
1297 – Birth of Arnost of Pardubice, Archbishop of Prague (d. 1364)
    
1347 – Birth of Catherine of Siena, Italian saint (d. 1380)
    
1409 – The Council of Pisa opens.
    
1571 – Catholic Italian businessman Roberto Ridolfi leaves England
    
1593 – Birth of Jean de Brébeuf, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
    
1634 – Lord Baltimore founded Catholic colony of Maryland
    
1655 – Protestants take control of the Catholic colony of Maryland at the Battle of the Severn.
    
1847 – Pope Pius IX publishes encyclical “On aid for Ireland”
    
1917 – The Georgian Orthodox Church restores its autocephaly abolished by Imperial Russia in 1811.
    
1939 – Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli becomes Pope Pius XII.
    
1954 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Sacra virginitas” (On consecrated virginity)
    
1991 – Death of Marcel Lefebvre, French Catholic prelate (b. 1905)
    
1995 – Death of Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest, dies at 73
    Feasts/Memorials: March 25th is typically celebrated as the day of the Annunciation so long as it does not fall on a Sunday, during Holy Week, or Easter Week; Saint Dysmas, the ‘Good Thief’; Saint Humbert  

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching His disciples about the way in which He will be glorified by God, and a voice from heaven is heard to affirm this teaching.

(NAB John 12:20-33) 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast.  21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.  25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.  26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.  The Father will honor whoever serves me.  27 “I am troublednow.  Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”  29 The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.  31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world  will be driven out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from John (Probably my most favorite of the Gospel writers).  Chapter 12 of John’s Gospel is a preparation for the “Passion” narrative to soon follow.  Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), a truly important “sign” (and miracle) in John’s Gospel.  The miracle involving Lazarus inspired many Jews and Gentiles alike to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  

The “Lazarus” event also marks the turning point in Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish authorities.  John’s Gospel relates to us how the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish judicial, ecclesiastical, and administrative council in ancient Jerusalem) met after Lazarus’ resurrection, creating plans to kill Jesus, whom threatens their materialistic way of life.  This 12th chapter of John has Jesus previously being “anointed” at Bethany, and then entering Jerusalem “in triumph”.  We also see allegorical evidence of the significance of the raising of Lazarus in today’s incident.  Keep in mind, John reported crowds gathering to “see” Lazarus in Chapter 11:

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother” (John 11:19).

These “many Jews” became witnesses to the “glory” of Jesus’ divine being though Lazarus’ being resurrected.

Today’s Gospel Reading is about the coming of Jesus’ hour.  This announcement of “glorification” by death is a revelation of “the whole world” going after Jesus Christ.

So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after Him.” (John 12:19)

There is much hidden, and needing to be explained and discussed, in today’s reading, so grab a cup of coffee and find a comfortable seat.

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In verse 20, the word “Greeks” was not used in a nationalistic sense, those who came from Greece itself.  They were probably simple Gentile proselytes (new converts) to Judaism;

So the Jews said to one another, ‘Where is He going that we will not find Him?  Surely He is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks to teach the Greeks, is He?” (John 7:35).

In the next two verses (12:21–22), “Philip went and told Andrew …”, we see an approach made through Jesus’ Disciples who had distinctly Greek names.  Could this suggest that access to Jesus was mediated to the Greek world through His disciples?  Philip and Andrew were from Bethsaida (which means “house of fishing”) in the most northern part of Galilee:

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.” (John 1:44);

(Trivia time: Galileans were mostly bilingual.)

These men who were “new” to the Jewish religion asked Philip:

  “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” (John 12:21)

The word “see” seems to mean “have an interview with Jesus”, and not just merely observing Him.  Why?

Well, it may be that following His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus predicted His suffering, death, and Resurrection.  He also prepared His disciples to believe in the “salvation” that His death would accomplish, allowing them (and us) entry into God’s Kingdom, the paradise of heaven.  

Using the image of “the grain of wheat”, Jesus presented the idea that His dying would be beneficial for those believing in Him.  He also taught disciples that they must follow His example of personal sacrifice.  This theme of “personal sacrifice” will be repeated in John’s account of the “Last Supper” when Jesus washes the feet of His disciples (John 13) as an example of how they must serve one another:

Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” (John 13:8).

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Jesus’ response to these new converts to Judaism (verse 23) suggests that only after His Crucifixion could the Gospel – – His WORD – – encompass Jew and Gentile alike; ALL nations and ALL peoples.

Jesus described His approaching death on the cross as His “hour of glory”:

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (John 12:23).

He would then be “lifted up from the earth” and would “draw all men to himself”:

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32).

Jesus saw His death on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation as a triumph over the powers of sin and darkness: Satan, Sin, and Evil.  Jesus illustrated an image of the “grain of wheat” to those hearing in order to show how this principle of dying to live truly works in God’s kingdom.  Seeds cannot produce new life by themselves.  They must first be planted in the soil, and DIE, before they can grow, then “producing much fruit”.  

Some may still ask: what is the spiritual comparison Jesus is conveying to His audience (then and now)?  Is this simply a veiled reference to His own impending death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead? … Or, is Jesus imparting to us another kind of “death and rebirth” for His disciples?  I believe Jesus had BOTH meanings in mind.  Jesus’ obedience to God’s plan for OUR salvation by His death on the cross obtains for each of us – – individually and intimately – – a freedom and “new” life in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ death on the Holy Cross truly frees us from the tyranny and destruction of sin and death (both physical and spiritual), and shows us the way of (and to) perfect love for God, each other, and ourselves.

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You know, I have come to learn that when Jesus says “Amen, Amen” (Verse 24), He is going to say something profound and usually mind (and soul) bending.  In today’s Gospel, He says:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24)

This verse reveals a profound truth: through His death, Jesus Christ will be accessible to ALL who seek Him and believe in Him.  (I cannot repeat this enough!)

But what does Jesus mean by His saying, “it remains just a grain of wheat” (verse 24).  I believe this particular saying is found all through Synoptic Scripture.  The wheat dying and then “producing much fruit” symbolizes that through His death, Jesus will be accessible to all:

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39);

“ For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25);

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

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”  (Luke 9:24);

And finally,

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” (Luke 17:33).

John however adds the phrases “in this world and for eternal life”.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (John 12:25).

I love John’s Poetic nature of writing.  His additions truly make Holy Scripture JUMP to life in my mind, heart, and soul.

In these multiple verses from the Synoptic and John’s Gospels, “His life” (verse 25) is a translation of the Greek word “psyche”, referring to a person’s natural life; and not meaning “soul”.  Hebrew anthropology (the study of humankind culture and development) did not imagine a “body versus soul” dualism (two distinct parts or aspects, which are often opposites) in the way familiar to us.  For first century Hebrew, the Body and soul were intertwined.

With this little fact in mind, what does it mean to “die” to oneself?  For me, it means that what is in opposition to God’s will and plan for each of us must be crucified, put to death.  God gives us an extraordinary gift, a grace to say “YES” to His will and plan; to reject whatever is in opposition to His loving plan for our lives.  

Jesus also promises we will “produce much fruit” for Him, IF we choose to deny ourselves for His sake.  In today’s reading, Jesus used powerful words to describe the kind of self-denial He wanted from His disciples.  

Using this powerful speech I just mentioned, what did He mean when by saying one must “hate” himself?  (I hate the word hate!)  Jesus says nothing should get in the way of our preferring Him or with the will and plan of our “glorious” Father in heaven.  Our hope is not in an earth-based, materialistic world, but rather one of a heaven-bound hope.  St. Paul reminds us that:

What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 15:42) RSV.

Do you hope and trust in the Lord, and follow joyfully on the path He has chosen for you to follow?  Are you truly following in Jesus’ example in ALL you do and say?  I, at least, try!!  I hope and pray that you do as well!   

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Let us continue on with John’s Gospel reading.  In verse 27, Jesus states, “I am troubled”!  Jesus is perhaps giving a foretelling of what He will endure later: agony at Gethsemane:

I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” (John 6:38);

Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its scabbard.  Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (John 18:11).

Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews of Jesus’ troubles in a very direct way:

“In the days when he was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.  Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered” (Hebrew 5:7–8).

This final section of today’s Gospel should be read as John’s parallel to the “agony in the garden”.  Unlike the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John does not record Jesus’ anguished prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, prior to His arrest.  It is interesting and comforting that Jesus gives a confident response to the question He raises when asking God to save Him from His impending death.

What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27-28)

After announcing His conviction of “glorifying” His (and our) Father’s name IS the reason, the purpose that He came, a voice from heaven speaks, as if in answer to Jesus’ prayer:

Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again.’” (John 12:28).

This “voice”, like the one heard at Jesus’ baptism and at Jesus’ Transfiguration – – both reported in the Synoptic Gospels, but not in John’s Gospel – – affirms that God the Father welcomes the sacrifice Jesus will make on behalf of each of US – – PERSONALLY!!  In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches this “voice” was sent for the sake of those who would believe in Him.

At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the “Ruler of this world”.  Surprising for some, it is not God; it is instead Satan.  Remember, though God is everywhere, He is not “OF” this world, but is IN this world to save us.  Remember, there are no worldly items in paradise.  You can either be of this world, or of His kingdom, but not both:

My [Jesus’] kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”(John 18:36)

Satan and his angels (a “third of the stars”), were “thrown to earth”:

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon (Satan).  The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels (the “third of the stars” – – the “fallen” angels) were thrown down with it.” (Revelations 4:7-9)

They had “free will”, as we do, and chose to turn their back on God.  For such a choice, they were barred from everlasting paradise.

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In today’s Gospel, we “hear” Jesus speak about the “worldly” framework against which we are to understand His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Through His death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ conquered Satan, “the ruler of this world” (verse 31).  In this way the “world” is judged, yet, the judgment is NOT necessarily one of condemnation.  Instead, through Jesus’ dying and rising from the dead on third day, “salvation” is lovingly and “gloriously” brought to the world for OUR sake.

If we want to experience the “new” life Jesus offers, then the outer shell of our old, sinful nature must be broken, rejected, and put to death.  In Baptism our “old nature”, enslaved by the darkness of sin, is buried with Jesus Christ.  We then rise as a “new creation”, also in Jesus Christ.  This process of death to the “old sinful self” is both a one-time event such as in our personal baptism, and a continuous – – daily and on-going – – cycle in which God buries us more deeply into Jesus’ death to sin, so we might rise anew and bear more fruit for God.  This concept is my impression of the Franciscan notion of “Daily Conversion”.  WOW, have you realized yet that there is a great, and on-going, paradox presented to us today: “death leads to life”.  When we “die” to OUR – – individual, sinful, and “worldly” – – selves, we “rise”, with Christ through the Holy Spirit, to brand new and more fulfilling life in Jesus Christ.  Again, WOW!!

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To conclude, our lives are often balancing acts in which we “prioritize” and attend to a variety of sometimes overwhelming and competing needs.  In time, most of us learn the value of putting others’ needs ahead of our own when necessary.  We also learn that when we make personal sacrifices to serve others, we gain so much more than we may have lost.  In these times, we are living up to what Jesus asks of us: to follow His example of personal sacrifice.  

Reflect on how important it is to you to gladly serve one another, especially those you do not know or personally like.  Consider the last time someone asked for help.  What was your response?  Did you “cheerfully” try to honor their request, or, did you ask, “Why me?”  How do you think Jesus would want us to respond when someone asks for help?  Realize “the help” may not be the “help” the requester wanted; it may be helping in a way they NEED instead.  Make a commitment for the next week (or more) to try to respond cheerfully to requests for help.  Ask for God’s help with this commitment; He WILL respond in a way which may surprise you!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The “Papacy”

“‘Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32) RSV.

“’Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) KJV.

***

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (John 1:42) RSV.

He brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone. (John 1:42) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The feast of the Annunciation, now recognized as a solemnity, goes back to the fourth or fifth century.  Its central focus is the Incarnation: God has become one of us.  From all eternity God had decided that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity should become human.  Now, as Luke 1:26-38 tells us, the decision is being realized.  The God-Man embraces all humanity, indeed all creation, to bring it to God in one great act of love.  Because human beings have rejected God, Jesus will accept a life of suffering and an agonizing death: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Mary has an important role to play in God’s plan.  From all eternity God destined her to be the mother of Jesus and closely related to him in the creation and redemption of the world.  We could say that God’s decrees of creation and redemption are joined in the decree of Incarnation.  Because Mary is God’s instrument in the Incarnation, she has a role to play with Jesus in creation and redemption.  It is a God-given role.  It is God’s grace from beginning to end.  Mary becomes the eminent figure she is only by God’s grace.  She is the empty space where God could act. Everything she is she owes to the Trinity.

She is the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined.  She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38).

Together with Jesus, the privileged and graced Mary is the link between heaven and earth.  She is the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the possibilities of human existence.  She received into her lowliness the infinite love of God.  She shows how an ordinary human being can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life.  She exemplifies what the Church and every member of the Church is meant to become.  She is the ultimate product of the creative and redemptive power of God.  She manifests what the Incarnation is meant to accomplish for all of us.

Comment:

Sometimes spiritual writers are accused of putting Mary on a pedestal and thereby discouraging ordinary humans from imitating her.  Perhaps such an observation is misguided.  God did put Mary on a pedestal and has put all human beings on a pedestal.  We have scarcely begun to realize the magnificence of divine grace, the wonder of God’s freely given love.  The marvel of Mary—even in the midst of her very ordinary life—is God’s shout to us to wake up to the marvelous creatures that we all are by divine design.

Quote:

“Enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendor of an entirely unique holiness, the virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28).  To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38).  Thus the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly and impeded by no sin to God’s saving will, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

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

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

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.

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26.  As a concrete sign of communion and co- responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.

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


 

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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  Joke of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

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 Gospel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 131

We find peace in the Lord.

 

 

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

Have you ever thought of Christ as your brother?

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

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

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

 

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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).

“My Two Brothers and I Are Guilty of Being the ONE True God!” John 5:17-30 †


   

 

Wednesday of 4th Week of Lent

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I received well over 100 Birthday wishes from my friends on Facebook.  I hope I said thanks to each and every one, but if I missed anyone – – THANKS.  It’s great being 39 again (13th time).

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I wish to thank Mary Wainscott, PhD, SFO for giving such a fantastic talk/PowerPoint presentation to members of my local Fraternity this past week.  It was on Sts. Francis and Clare, and on Franciscan history and spirituality.  If you get a chance to hear her presentation, please do so.  It is well worth it. 

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    
†   1252 – Death of Peter of Verona, [Peter Martyr], Italian inquisitor, at age 45
†   1483 – Birth of Raphael, Italian painter and architect (d. 1520)
†   1830 – Birth of James Augustine Healy, Macon Ga, 1st black Roman Catholic bishop|
†   1901 – Birth of Pier Giorgio Frassati, Italian Catholic (d. 1925)
†   2003 – Death of Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter, Canadian religious figure (b. 1912)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Marcellinus of Carthage (d. 413);  St. Sixtus

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

 

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Joke of the Day:

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus claiming the same authority to work as God the Father.

  

(NAB John 5:17-30) 17 But Jesus answered them [the Jews], “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”  18 For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.  19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also.  20 For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed.  21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.  22 Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son, 23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  24 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.  25 Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself.  27 And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man.  28 Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. 30 I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.

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Do you recognize God’s work in your life, – – His sanctifying grace, His love, and His trust in you?  Through the actions of the Holy Spirit indwelling in us, we can be converted, – – transformed into His likeness, — if we simply allow. 

The Jewish religion belief, law, and teachings on the “Sabbath observance” were based on God’s resting on the seventh day as found in the Torah:

“Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.”  (Genesis 2:2-3),

And,

“In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11).

 

“Philo” (an early first century AD Jewish Biblical philosopher from Alexandria), and some rabbis were firm in believing that God’s providence remained active on the Sabbath, keeping care of all things in existence, giving life in birth, and taking away life in death.  Other rabbis taught that God rested from creation, but not from judging, ruling, and otherwise governing.  

Jesus claimed the same authority to work as God the Father in today’s story.  Also, Jesus asserted the same authority over “divine” choices, privileges, and sanctions: an authoritative power over life, death, and judgment. 

The religious authorities of Jesus’ time period of fully human yet fully divine existence refused to accept Jesus’ authority to heal and to speak for God; an authority given to Him in the name of His (and ours) heavenly Father.  He answered their “criminal” charge by indicating God’s purpose for creation, redemption, and salvation: – – to save and restore life.  When they continued, and charged Jesus of making Himself equal to and with God, He replied that He was not acting independently of God because His relationship is that of an affiliation of a Father and Son.  The mind of Jesus is the mind of God, and the words of Jesus are the words of God.  

Jesus’ identity to God the Father is based on complete obedience.  Jesus always did what His Father in heaven wanted of Him.  His obedience was not based on submission or power but on a pure and true love of His Father: God.  The union between Jesus and the Father is a harmonious union of total love.  We too are called to submit our lives to God with the same love and obedience which Jesus demonstrated.  

They charged Jesus as a “Sabbath-breaker“, as a “blasphemer“.  They wanted to eliminate (kill) Jesus because He claimed the same authority and power as God.  They needed to remove His threat of power (from the inhabitants in the area) over them. 

Jesus Christ answered the Jews charges with the following specific proverb:

Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also.”  (John 5:19)

This proverb (or it may be a parable) is taken from the long-held Jewish tradition that an apprenticeship in a trade is modeled on that of his father’s trade.  Jesus’ dependence on God the Father is enough justification for doing what the He does.  He is not acting apart from God; He IS God on earth.  The Holy Trinity is ONE in three distinct persons and two distinct natures: truly and fully human, and truly and fully divine!  They cannot be separated, yet are separate.  (Confused?  That’s why it is called a “mystery”!  As THE true agent of God the Father, Jesus never acted on His own authority, but only on what He “received” from His Father. 

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Jesus is teaching His followers, His disciples the importance of listening to God in all our daily activities; regular and mundane, and especially in the extraordinary and surprising behaviors and actions that we experience in our earthly human existence.  We are to do what God wants us to do, without any explanation required or solicited from Him.  We are to surrender ourselves to Him and His will.

Jesus’ mission, which was given to Him by His heavenly Father, is to “give life” to those who believe in Him.  Anyone choosing to not follow Jesus, refusing to believe in His teachings, trust, and love, needs to remember that they will be judged by Jesus, along with those following His path, when He returns.

In verse 21, Jesus is stating a divine right and choice when He says God the Father “gives life”.  In the Old Testament, I found six such divine prerogatives mentioned:

“Learn then that I, I alone, am God, and there is no god besides me.  It is I who bring both death and life, I who inflict wounds and heal them, and from my hand there is no rescue.” (Deuteronomy 32:39);

The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again.” (1 Samuel 2:6);

“When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man should send someone to me to be cured of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!” (2 Kings 5:7);

“For he scourges and then has mercy; he casts down to the depths of the nether world, and he brings up from the great abyss.  No one can escape his hand.” (Tobit 13:2);

“But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.  For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.” (Isaiah 26:19);

And,

“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.” (Daniel 12:2).

Judgment” (verse 22) is yet another divine prerogative.  In the Old Testament, it is often expressed as a concept in which a person is either acquitted or condemned.  Here are two such examples from Deuteronomy and the Psalms:

“Surely, the LORD shall do justice for his people; on his servants he shall have pity.  When he sees their strength failing, and their protected and unprotected alike disappearing ...” (Deuteronomy 32:36);

And,

Grant me justice, God; defend me from a faithless people; from the deceitful and unjust rescue me.” (Psalm 43:1).

 

In today’s Gospel reading, John presents a realized eschatology (the body of religious doctrines concerning the human soul in its relation to death, judgment, heaven, and hell), through Jesus Christ and His mission and teachings.  John also predicted a future eschatology or divine prerogative found in an Old Testament prophesy from the book of Daniel:

“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.” (Daniel 12:2).

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In conclusion, we will see more and greater marvels, teachings, and miracles from Jesus in upcoming Gospel readings.  He raises Lazarus from the dead.  He confronts His accusers.  He is tortured by scourging.  And finally, He is crucified on the Holy Tree of salvation and redemption.  He did all this SOLELY as a payment for our sins, and for our salvation.

For me, the greatest thing He did however was on an early Sunday morning three days after His death on the cross.  His resurrection showed us that eternal life with Him is not only possible, not only achievable, it is promised to those who truly and fully love, trust, and worship our magnificent Lord Jesus Christ in all ways, and always! 

Redemption has been paid for us by Jesus.  Not only did Jesus pay for our sins, there was enough “change” left over to give it out to anyone wanting.  Take and use this “change” in your life.  Our conversion must be an ongoing daily event, a daily “change”!  

God’s love and mercy is without end.  Even on the Sabbath, God’s love and mercy must be paramount in our lives.  Jesus continues to show God the Father’s love and mercy, including on the Sabbath days rest.  

 

To accept the Holy Trinity is life,
and,
To reject the Holy Trinity is death!

 

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Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

When the priest invites us to share in the Lord’s Supper, we now say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  With the new Missal, we will respond:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

The use of “under my roof” is a reference to the Gospel passage where the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant but says he is not worthy for Jesus to enter his house (Luke 7:6).  The other change is “my soul” instead of “I”, which focuses more clearly on the spiritual dimension of the healing we seek.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Crescentia Hoess (1682-1744)

 

Crescentia was born in 1682 in a little town near Augsburg, the daughter of a poor weaver.  She spent play time praying in the parish church, assisted those even poorer than herself and had so mastered the truths of her religion that she was permitted to make her holy Communion at the then unusually early age of seven.  In the town she was called “the little angel.”

As she grew older she desired to enter the convent of the Tertiaries of St. Francis.  But the convent was poor and, because Crescentia had no dowry, the superiors refused her admission.  Her case was then pleaded by the Protestant mayor of the town to whom the convent owed a favor.  The community felt it was forced into receiving her, and her new life was made miserable.  She was considered a burden and assigned nothing other than menial tasks.  Even her cheerful spirit was misinterpreted as flattery or hypocrisy.

Conditions improved four years later when a new superior was elected who realized her virtue.  Crescentia herself was appointed mistress of novices.  She so won the love and respect of the sisters that, upon the death of the superior, Crescentia herself was unanimously elected to that position.  Under her the financial state of the convent improved and her reputation in spiritual matters spread.  She was soon being consulted by princes and princesses as well as by bishops and cardinals seeking her advice.  And yet, a true daughter of Francis, she remained ever humble.

Bodily afflictions and pain were always with her.  First it was headaches and toothaches.  Then she lost the ability to walk, her hands and feet gradually becoming so crippled that her body curled up into a fetal position.  In the spirit of Francis she cried out, “Oh, you bodily members, praise God that he has given you the capacity to suffer.”  Despite her sufferings she was filled with peace and joy as she died on Easter Sunday in 1744.

She was beatified in 1900 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Comment:

Although she grew up in poverty and willingly embraced it in her vocation, Crescentia had a good head for business.  Under her able administration, her convent regained financial stability.  Too often we think of good money management as, at best, a less-than-holy gift. But Crescentia was wise enough to balance her worldly skills with such acumen in spiritual matters that heads of State and Church both sought her advice.

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:

 

Franciscan Spirituality II

 

As a Secular Franciscan, how are you finding ways to spread the faith of Jesus Christ?

By what means can you accomplish this goal today?  

Whom does the Church tell us to evangelize? (see Pope Paul VI: “Evangelii Nunciandi“.)  Do we do it?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 6 & 7 of 26:

 

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

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

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

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

“Walk the Talk; That Is All I Ask Of You!”–Luke 11:42-46†


 

ENCOURAGING PREDICTIONS FOR 2011: With all the problems the World is facing, it can be unsettling!

 
The Top 10 Predictions for 2011:

 1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
 2. Prayer will still be the most powerful thing on Earth.
 3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
 4. God will still honor the praises of His people.
 5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
 6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
 7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
 8. There will still be room at the Cross.
 9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.

 
Isn’t It Great To Remember Who Is Really In Control, and that; “the Word of the Lord endures forever.”  ( 1 Peter 1:25 )
 
I hope you found this encouraging!   I did!  Sometimes we need a reminder of just “WHO” is really in control.

     

Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1492 – Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) and his crew land in the Bahamas
†   1582 – Because of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar this day does not exist in this year in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
†   1878 – Birth of Patrick Joseph Hartigan, Australian Roman Catholic priest, educator, author and poet. (d. 1952)
†   1917 – The “Miracle of the Sun” is witnessed by an estimated 70,000 people in the Cova da Iria in Fátima, Portugal.
†   1958 – Burial of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII on the 41st anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun”.
†   In the Roman Catholic Church – translation (1163) of Saint Edward the Confessor; memorial of Saint Gerald of Aurillac; optional feast of Our Lady of Fatima

(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:

 

Sweep first before your own door, before you sweep the doorsteps of your neighbors. — Swedish Proverb

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus confronting the Pharisees and Scribes for their hypocrisy.

 

42 Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.  These you should have done, without overlooking the others.  43 Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.  44 Woe to you!  You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”  45 Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.”  46 And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.  (NAB Luke 11:42-46)

 

Do you think Jesus is angry?  This is the first of three woes against the Pharisees found in Luke’s Gospel.  But, it is actually as much an expression of sorrow and pity as much as it is anger towards the temple officials.  Jesus was angry with the Pharisees because they failed to “hear” God’s word, and they failed to lead the people in the “true” ways of God’s personal love and relationship with each of His people.

(Trivia time: Do you know the origin of the expression “Oh woe is me?”  It is straight from the Holy Bible.  You can find it Job 10:15, “If I am wicked, woe to me!”–NRSV.)

What was meant by Jesus calling the Pharisees “unseen graves?”  Well, any contact with the dead or with human bones and/or graves brought upon that person a ritual impurity, separating him/her from worshiping in the temple.  Spelled out in Numbers 19:16: “everyone who in the open country touches a dead person, whether he was slain by the sword or died naturally, or who touches a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean for seven days.”  This Biblical book called “Numbers” is one of the five books of the “Pentateuch.”    The Pentateuch (Greek for “having five books”) is itself, the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – and enjoys a particular prestige among the Jewish people as the “Law,” or “Torah.” It is considered the concrete expression of God’s will in regard to Judaic faith.

Jesus portrays the Pharisees as ones who have slowly and subtly led the Jewish people astray through their misconceived perception and attention to the “law.”  To me, Jesus is calling out the Pharisees as hypocrites who profess one doctrine, and live another of selfishness and elitism.

The “Scholars of the law” were experts in the Mosaic Law, the Torah, and were probably a member of the group identified in Luke 5:21 as the Scribes.  The Scribes devoted their lives and “vocations” to the study and interpretation of the “Torah:” the Law of Moses.  The Scribes took the Ten Commandments and expanded their interpretations, creating over fifty large books of instructions containing thousands of specific rules, regulations, and practices.  So exacting were their interpretations of these instructions and directions, that in attempting to “live them out,” it left very little time for anything else, including worship and prayer!  In the Pharisees and Scribes foolish fervor, they required superfluous and taxing rules and practices which obscured the more important matters of religious life: love of God and neighbor.  

In response to the remark from this Jewish legal expert, the probable Scribe, about Jesus daring to insult them and the Pharisees, Jesus illustrates the superiority of God in recognizing the Pharisees and Scribes movement away from the personal relationship with God through Jesus, and towards only “following rules” without regard to a deeper meaning and reason for the laws.  Jesus is literally “calling out” the Pharisees as ones that He considered “ritually impure” through their own misconceived actions and attitudes.

Jesus wants people to “walk the talk.”  He wants people to lead by example; to love – unconditionally – both Him and all others of His Creations.  Unfortunately, the Pharisees and Scribes in today’s Gospel have forgotten this very basic tenet of their faith.  There are still many of these types of “pseudo-Pharisees and pseudo-Scribes in our midst even today.  Could any of us reading this reflection today possibly be considered “ritually impure” by Jesus?  Hmm – food for thought!!

 

For the Lord’s Cleansing, Defense, and Governance of the Church 

 

“May your continual pity, O Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church; and, because without you she cannot endure in safety, may she ever be governed by Your bounty.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690)

 

Margaret Mary was chosen by Christ to arouse the Church to a realization of the love of God symbolized by the heart of Jesus.

Her early years were marked by sickness and a painful home situation. “The heaviest of my crosses was that I could do nothing to lighten the cross my mother was suffering.” After considering marriage for some time, Margaret entered the Order of Visitation nuns at the age of 24.

A Visitation nun was “not to be extraordinary except by being ordinary,” but the young nun was not to enjoy this anonymity. A fellow novice (shrewdest of critics) termed Margaret humble, simple and frank, but above all kind and patient under sharp criticism and correction. She could not meditate in the formal way expected, though she tried her best to give up her “prayer of simplicity.” Slow, quiet and clumsy, she was assigned to help an infirmarian who was a bundle of energy.

On December 21, 1674, three years a nun, she received the first of her revelations. She felt “invested” with the presence of God, though always afraid of deceiving herself in such matters. The request of Christ was that his love for humankind be made evident through her. During the next 13 months he appeared to her at intervals. His human heart was to be the symbol of his divine-human love. By her own love she was to make up for the coldness and ingratitude of the world—by frequent and loving Holy Communion, especially on the first Friday of each month, and by an hour’s vigil of prayer every Thursday night in memory of his agony and isolation in Gethsemane. He also asked that a feast of reparation be instituted.

Like all saints, Margaret had to pay for her gift of holiness. Some of her own sisters were hostile. Theologians who were called in declared her visions delusions and suggested that she eat more heartily. Later, parents of children she taught called her an impostor, an unorthodox innovator. A new confessor, Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit, recognized her genuineness and supported her. Against her great resistance, Christ called her to be a sacrificial victim for the shortcomings of her own sisters, and to make this known.

After serving as novice mistress and assistant superior, she died at the age of 43 while being anointed. “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”

Comment:

Our scientific-materialistic age cannot “prove” private revelations. Theologians, if pressed, admit that we do not have to believe in them. But it is impossible to deny the message Margaret Mary heralded: that God loves us with a passionate love. Her insistence on reparation and prayer and the reminder of final judgment should be sufficient to ward off superstition and superficiality in devotion to the Sacred Heart while preserving its deep Christian meaning.

Quote:

Christ speaks to St. Margaret Mary: “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this sacrament of love…. I come into the heart I have given you in order that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament” (Third apparition).

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 13 & 14 of 26:

   

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.

  

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

 

 

 

“Jesus was Caught by a Red-Light Camera, But Who Is Going to Give HIM the Ticket?!” – Luke 14:1, 7-14†


  

 

Today is going to be a beautiful day in the St. Louis area.  I hope all have a spiritual day as well.  On Facebook yesterday, I was drawn into a “debate” over abstinence education versus prophylactic education.  Someone I consider a long-term friend, and already known as ultra-“progressive,” felt strongly that abstinence education is not only wrong, but also considered abstinence a joke in today’s society. 

When given information from LDI (Life Decisions International) that abstinence education was proven effective, and that the US Government tried to cover up its own study, he still persisted that abstinence will not work.  He wrote: “so ignore the facts, cloak sexuality in some divine gifting scenario, and hope such a priority will resonate with teens.  Good luck with that.  My children understand that sexual activity leads to parenthood, so if they are willing to accept that… consequence, then they are ready to understand contraception and why that is a good idea.  Marriage is not about sex.  Marriage is about money, assets, property and security. I think your values are awesome to attain and to maintain.  If they work for your family then good for you. But abstinence programs don’t work unless condoms are readily available…” 

My concern is that he left out the most important aspect of marriage: LOVE!!  And, sexuality IS a divinely magnificent gift, a grace, from God!  With love, anything is possible.  Please keep this person in your prayers and LOVE today.

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

 
    
†   1799 – Death of Pope Pius VI (b. 1717)
†   1844 – Death of Edmund Ignatius Rice, Irish founder of the Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers (b. 1762)
†   Liturgical Feast Day: Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholic Church commemorate the beheading of John the Baptist with a feast day.

 

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

 

   

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Q:     What brand of car does Jesus drive?
A:     A “Christ-ler!”

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ parable on humility; instructing us that when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.

 

1 On a Sabbath he [Jesus] went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.  7 He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.  8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor.  A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, 9 and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.  10 Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.  11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  12 Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.  13 Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  (NAB Luke 14:1, 7-14)

 

Was there such a thing as “red-light” cameras during the days of Jesus’ time on earth in human form?  Probably not, BUT he still had many “video cameras” trained on Him continuously during His adult ministry.  People observed Him incessantly, carefully, and with an eye (excuse the pun) to find any error, as well as any revelation that He uttered.  With many eyes trained on Him, many tongues followed; and these tongues wagged continuously, especially at lunch and dinner time. 

Meals played an important role in the society in which Jesus lived. More than just a time for sharing nourishment, meals were a time to share ideas and to develop and shape different aspects of social relationships.  A great deal of societal life — business, politics, romance, and religion — was discussed, argued, and debated over meals.  “Banquets” such as a wedding feast, could last for seven days.  That’s a lot of food and discussion!  In my home, I live by the “fresh fish” philosophy for guests:  Guests, like fresh fish, are always welcome, but after three days they both start to smell!

Jesus sets a banquet and invites us to this actual place of honor every day of the week; and it is here on earth right now!  It is the EUCHARIST, and Jesus is our host!  Imagine this: When you’re at Mass, let the image of Jesus hosting a banquet fill your imagination, letting it seep into your being.  In the presence of the Eucharist — JESUS, we are sitting next to the Lord, the angels, and all our loved ones that have preceded us to His heavenly glory.  How will the image of a heavenly banquet here on earth at this moment change the effect of the liturgy on you now, and in the future? (For a preview please read Hebrews 12:22-24.)

In Luke’s Gospel, the places where a person ate, such as at the home of a tax collector as in Luke 5:29; the people with whom a person ate, like the sinners in Luke 5:30; whether a person washed before eating such as in Luke 11:38; and, as in the case here, the place where a person reclines while eating, are all important.  Luke discloses that Jesus tells a parable; but this “story” is in reality prudent advice to both guests and hosts about finding true happiness at the heavenly banquet.

This banquet scene, this parable, is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Luke provides an opportunity for Jesus to teach on humility and presents a setting to display his interest in Jesus’ attitude toward the rich and the poor of society.  The poor in Luke’s gospel are associated with the downtrodden, the oppressed, the afflicted, the forgotten, and the neglected; it is they who accept Jesus’ message of salvation.  Hmm, “the meek will inherit the inherit earth!” (Matthew 5:5)

Jesus’ ministry to the poor and downtrodden is evident in other writings of Luke.  In Luke 4: 18-19, Luke describes Jesus reading: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

Jesus, in reading that “the Lord is upon Him” is declaring Himself as a prophet whose ministry is similar to the great prophets Elijah and Elisha and all the prophets recognized as the one’s anointed to speak and reveal God’s law.  Jesus did so when He said, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)

In another of his chapters, Luke 6: 20-26, Jesus — during His “Sermon on the Mount” (the “Beatitudes”) and the parable of the “two houses” — described blessings and woes as relevant today as then, with the current economic and social conditions of humanity.  Today there are still the poor and the rich, the hungry and the satisfied, those grieving and those laughing, the outcast and the socially acceptable.  In the sermon, the word “blessed” extols the fortunate condition of persons who are favored with the blessings of God.  The “woes,” addressed as they are presented to the disciples of Jesus, reveals God’s profound displeasure on those so blinded by their present “fortunate” situation that they do not recognize and appreciate the real values of God’s kingdom: the willingness on the part of the poor to believe God’s faithfulness in the words of Jesus.  In both the blessings and woes of people in the present condition of success on one hand, and those being poor, disposed, and outcast on the other, faith tells us the presentation of all these people addressed will be reversed in the future.

Also, in Luke 12:13-34, the parable of the “landowner with the bountiful harvest,” Jesus joined together two specific moral sayings, contrasting individuals whose focus and trust in life were on material possessions as symbolized by the rich landowner of the parable, with those who recognize their complete dependence on God, those whose radical detachment from material possessions symbolized their heavenly treasure (The real values of God’s Kingdom).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches His guests to choose the humble place at the table.  In this way they can avoid the fear of embarrassment that Jesus observed. This parable is more than just a lesson about earthly dinner etiquette.  It is sage advice on how to find your “true place” in the Kingdom of God, and relationships with others.  Jesus advises His hosts not to invite people who would be expected to repay them with an invitation to another greater and more elaborate dinner (the normal process at that time in history).  Jesus encourages them to invite those who could not repay: the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  This is where real blessings can be found and given!

We are all poor, lame, or blind (either physically or spiritually).  No matter how tough we are, we all want peace, healing, and love.  Jesus wants to shower us with these gifts every time we receive Him in the Holy Eucharist of Communion.  We need to receive His presence in Communion with an admonition and humility, and by reflecting on and saying, “Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.” (Mt 8:8)

In these four parables I have reflected on today, we are given not only advice on how to approach the future, but also on how to live according to Jesus’ vision of a good, Catholic-Christian society.  Luke’s Gospel also advises us how the Catholic Church must be part of bringing about Jesus’ vision for us.

Trivia time: I purposely said “Catholic-Christian society.”  When you break the words down, it translates into “a ‘universal’ (Catholic) society of ‘little Christ’s’ (Christian)!”

To summarize, we often “negotiate” over various issues in our lives.  Children try to squeeze as much allowance out of their parents as possible at certain times throughout their youth.  Teens vie for the use of the family car, extended curfews, and even permission to go to certain concerts and events.  As adults, we typically negotiate for various monetary and non-monetary compensations in bidding work requirements and expectations.  And, with today’s economic situation, sometimes we even negotiate FOR a job!

Typically, when someone seeks an increase in their income, it is usually attached to an increase in job requirements and/or responsibilities.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus talked about doing good deeds for others and expecting nothing in return.  

How would you feel if you were told to take on responsibilities or a work-load without ever expecting another raise in income or benefits?  Jesus teaches us that it is our duty as his followers, His disciples, to take care of the needs of others and to do so without any financial or compensatory expectations.  

We sometimes fall into the trap of wanting too many things, especially from others.  In the great prayer taught to us by Jesus, the “Our Father,” we pray for “our daily bread.”  This means that we pray for only what we really need in life.

 

“The Our Father”

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Martyrdom of John the Baptist

     

 

The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honor, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist.  The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom.  The “voice crying in the desert” did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth.  But why?  What possesses a man that he would give up his very life?

This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah.  His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh.  “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).  Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power.  John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory.  He knew his calling was one of preparation.  When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’  The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37).  It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ.  John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people.  His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions.  His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart.  Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.

 

Comment:

Each of us has a calling to which we must listen.  No one will ever repeat the mission of John, and yet all of us are called to that very mission.  It is the role of the Christian to witness to Jesus.  Whatever our position in this world, we are called to be disciples of Christ.  By our words and deeds others should realize that we live in the joy of knowing that Jesus is Lord.  We do not have to depend upon our own limited resources, but can draw strength from the vastness of Christ’s saving grace.

Quote:

“So they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.’  John answered and said, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.  So this joy of mine has been made complete.  He must increase; I must decrease’” (John 3:26–30).

 

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)

 

    

Prologue to the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO):

 

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).