Tag Archives: James

“Jesus, Can I Be The Right-Hand Servant, And My Brother The Left-Hand Servant?!” – Mark 10:35-45†


29thSunday 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:


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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that those who wish to be great must be the servant of all.  Jesus came to serve.  What about YOU?

(NAB Mark 10:35-45) 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  36 He replied, “What do you wish [me] to do for you?”  37 They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”  38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  39 They said to him, “We can.”  Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”  41 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.  42 Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  43 But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; 44 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  45 For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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Gospel Reflection:

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is still journeying to Jerusalem (3 weeks now).  Last Sunday, Jesus taught about the specific challenge to confront, and surmount, for those with many possessions, in order to enter the Kingdom of God.  Jesus then foretold of His passion to His “Twelve” close and faithful disciples, who then become “amazed and afraid” at His prophetic vision.  Jesus’ “Words” to His closest of His followers, I believe, are intended to prepare them for events that will occur in Jerusalem at the time of Passover, and also in their future lives and paths to martyrdom.

James and John, in today’s reading, ask to be given seats of honor when Jesus “enters into His glory”.  It seems that once again, the disciples are selective in what they hear Jesus say.  (It must be a male trait because my wife accuses me of having selective hearing quite often.)  James and John want to share Jesus’ “glory”, but do not appear to understand that Jesus’ glory will be preceded by His suffering and death.  James and John, though truly loyal and constantly dutiful followers to Jesus, were “wet behind the ears” – – inexperienced and idealistic – – in the understanding of Jesus’ specific mission.  Jesus notes their lack of understanding and foretells the suffering that they will also undergo for the sake of His “Word”, the Gospel.  

Jesus concludes today’s reading by saying that the “honor” they seek is not His to give.  When the other ten disciples hear what James and John have asked, they become “indignant” towards them, probably wishing they had asked first!  It is interesting that these twelve bickering men are the group to whom Jesus will entrust the entire leadership and “authority” of His community of believers and followers, the future Catholic Christian Church. 

Rather than scold His twelve “special” disciples, Jesus turns their squabble into a lesson about “servant leadership”.  Jesus takes the opportunity to teach all of them about the importance of service and sacrifice in the life of EVERY disciple.  In actuality, Jesus seems to be preparing the “Twelve” [Apostles] for their leadership roles in the emerging Catholic Christian community.  

Echoing the Gospel which we heard several weeks ago (cf., Mark 9:33-37), Jesus acknowledges that His teaching is deliberately very different from the cultural values of our earthly society and materialistic world.  His “WAY” in life is countercultural.  Jesus goes on, in today’s reading, to contrast and distinguish the dynamics – – the change producing force – – within the community of His disciples to those of the “rulers of the Gentiles”.

Mark’s description of this event is somewhat different than what is written in Matthew’s Gospel.  Matthew has the mother of the two disciples approaching Jesus:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Him with her sons and did Him homage, wishing to ask Him for something.  He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’  She answered Him, ‘Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.’” (Matthew 20:20–21).

These two men (or their mother) boldly asked Jesus to promote them to the top positions in His kingdom.  I think their desire for greatness seems to be inherent in all of us.  After all, who truly wants to be last or least in the group?  

The reason Matthew’s Gospel has “the mother” petitioning is not made clear.  Some bible scholars suppose that Matthew wanted to allude to Bathsheba’s seeking the kingdom for Solomon (cf., 1 Kings 1:11–21).  Bathsheba, as we all know (hopefully), was the wife of King David and the mother of Solomon.  In David’s old age, Bathsheba secured the succession of her son Solomon to the throne, instead of David’s eldest surviving son Adonijah.  James and John, and Solomon it seems, had good Jewish mothers who wanted the best for their children and “lent a hand” in facilitating the best position possible for their children.

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Jesus replies to the brothers (and probably their mother as well):

Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? (Mark 10:38).

Jesus is using a metaphor, a figure of speech, for the “drinking from the cup” used in Jewish Scripture, which refers to acceptance of the destiny assigned by God the Father:

 “The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, hates those who love violence, and rains upon the wicked fiery coals and brimstone, a scorching wind their allotted cup. (Psalm 11:5-6)

This “allotted cup”, given by God the Father to drink, is a common figure for destiny throughout both the Old and New Testaments:

LORD, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure” (Psalm 16:5);

“Yes, a cup is in the LORD’s hand, foaming wine, fully spiced.  When God pours it out, they will drain it even to the dregs; all the wicked of the earth will drink” (Psalm 75:9);

Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’  They said to him, ‘We can.’” (Matthew 20:22);

“He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39);

“A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice, ‘Anyone who worships the beast or its image, or accepts its mark on forehead or hand, will also drink the wine of God’s fury, poured full strength into the cup of his wrath, and will be tormented in burning sulfur before the holy angels and before the Lamb’” (Revelations 14:9-10).

Jesus’ “cup” is filled with the divine judgment on sin.  Jesus Christ – – the innocent one – – is to drink of this cup on behalf of the guilty:

“He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many’” (Mark 14:24);

Jesus was well aware of the Jewish Scripture prophecy found in Isaiah, chapter 53, in regards to drinking from this cup of salvation:

He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.  He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus’ destiny is to be crucified and die for the redemptive salvation of the human race, “His baptism”:

There is a baptism [His death] with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50).

So, you see, the request of James and John to share in Jesus’ “glory” (Mark 10:35–37) must also involve a share in Jesus’ sufferings as well – – their individual, personal, and intimate endurance of trial, tribulation, and suffering for the sake of the “Word”, the Gospel.

 Jesus ends His lesson with James and John by telling them that the “authority” of assigning places of honor in God the Father’s kingdom is solely reserved to God the Father Himself, and to NOONE else:

To sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared” (Mark 10:40)!!

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As I stated earlier, the other “Apostles” became rather upset, offended, and resentful toward James and John for making such a request of “honor”.  How dare they (or their mother per Matthew) have the nerve to ask for special treatment from Jesus!  Too bad they did not realize that eventually, they ALL, plus many more followers of Jesus’ WAY would be included in the drinking from Jesus’ “cup” – – dying for their Christian faith in horrendous and cruel ways.  They ALL would come to sit WITH Jesus – – in the seats allotted to them by God the Father.  And, ALL of them would be the Grade “A”, primo seats, for eternity.  

Dissention, it seems, was looming amongst the group, and the “boss’s son” knew.  So, Jesus called the group together in order to talk to them:

You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).

Wow, “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  Later, Jesus will again dramatize this very important lesson on the night before He dies, at the Last Supper, when He washes the feet of the Twelve Apostles.

Jesus is telling these future leaders within His group that whatever “authority” is to be exercised by them (and by US today), it needs to be in the example of Jesus’ service to them.  Their “authority” is to be rendered AS SERVICE to others (Mark 10:45).  Their “authority” is NOT to be for personal enrichment or embellishment (Mark 10:42–44).  

Saint Francis of Assisi understood this lesson of Jesus intimately well, and practiced it ALWAYS!  In his “rule of life”, Saint Francis stresses that the ministers – – the leaders of the Friar Minors (little brothers) – – should be:

“Admonish and encourage them with humility and love.… The ministers are to be servants of all.” 

Additionally, St. Francis wrote:

“No one is to appropriate any office or ministry as if it were a personal right.”

The same lesson holds true for today’s secular and religious leaders.  Leaders must give their “authority”, priority, energy, abilities, and commitment to the service of ALL others.  

Jesus stated, in a direct manner, that He came to serve His Father in Heaven by His passion and death – –  NOT for His sake – – but for the sins of the human race!  Later, at the “Last Supper”, He will again say of His service:

This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many” (Mark 14:24).

In both today’s reading and in the future “Last Supper” event, Jesus is AGAIN referring to prophesy found in Isaiah, chapter 53:

“Because of His anguish He shall see the light; because of His knowledge He shall be content; my servant, the just one, shall justify the many, their iniquity he shall bear.  Therefore I will give Him His portion among the many, and He shall divide the spoils with the mighty, Because He surrendered Himself to death, was counted among the transgressors, Bore the sins of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:11–12);

Jesus, what a man, what a leader, what a Lord He truly was AND IS!!  I can never say this little prayer enough:

“I adore you Jesus, I hope in you Jesus, I love in you Jesus, I trust in you Jesus!  You are my Lord, my God, and my ALL!!  Amen.”

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Following Jesus’ example of sacrificial love continues to be “countercultural” today.  Some days, I feel this difference between our societal values and that of God’s values is excruciatingly painful – – both physically and spiritually.  True Catholics, full with God’s grace, are truly at battle with the forces of evil in this world.  All of us need to keep in mind, during this time of spiritual warfare, that we already know the outcome of the war – – GOD WINS!!  And, I know that I personally want to be on the winning side with YOU!  Let’s take this opportunity, given to us by God, and consider our known models of “authority”, and compare them to our OWN use of “authority”.  Whose model of leadership are you using: Jesus Christ’s, or, the “rulers over the Gentiles”?  I know that in my life, I have used BOTH examples in the past, and I prefer the former than the latter.

Jesus did the unthinkable!  He reversed the path to gaining true greatness and glory, literally turning the ladder of success we climb upside down.  If we want to be first and great, then we must place ourselves at the disposal of others by putting their interests first and by taking on their cares and concerns as if they were our own.  Jesus attached “authority” to “unconditional love and service” – – to total sacrifice – – a willing sacrifice of one’s life for the sake of another.  In doing so, our service to others brings about, in ours and others lives, the model of perfect JOY:

J     –       Jesus first;
O    –       Then others.
  And finally; 
Y    –       Yourself last.

Authority”, without sacrificial love, is simply degrading and self-serving.  Jesus used blunt language to explain the kind of sacrifice He expected of Himself and for His disciples.  His disciples need to drink from His “cup” if they expect to reign with Him in God the Father’s kingdom.  The “cup” He described is a bitter one – – involving pain, suffering, and crucifixion – – laying down one’s life, even to the point of shedding one’s blood for the sake of Christ and His “Word”, the Gospel.

What kind of “cup” is prepared for each one of us?  For some, such a “cup” entails physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom.  However, for most of us, it entails the long routine of a pious Catholic Christian life, with all its monotonous daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and ever-present temptations.  

Christ offered His life for our sake, and He calls us to freely offer our lives in a daily sacrifice of love and service for others.  What makes sacrifice a JOY – – rather than a burden – – is love; the kind of joy-full love which has the power to transform and change our lives, as well as the lives of those around us.  Saint Paul tells us that this special kind of love is a pure grace which “God poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5).  If we allow God’s love to transform our lives, then no sacrifice – – no pain, no torment, no death – – will be too great or too difficult to endure.

Pope John XXIII – – who opened the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago this past week (October 11, 1962) – – was a true “servant leader”.  If parents, priests, bishops, politicians, and business leaders are to lead according to the Gospel, they must learn what the Gospel has to say in their particular circumstances, as Pope John the Great had done.  Only in this way can they exercise “servant leadership” in the manner of Jesus Christ.  

As we prepare to elect our nation’s leaders on November 6th, we should pray for all candidates that they may seek NOT political power and prestige, but the ability to be “servant leaders”, especially to those who are in greatest need.  It is also appropriate for us to ask of them – – to DEMAND of them – – that they BE “servant leaders”! 

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In the daily routine of life, power struggles are unavoidable.  Whenever two or more people are together, there will be occasions of disagreement and attempts to exert influence over each other.  However, when two or more are together, in HIS name, all there can be is LOVE, even during dissension:

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

Today’s Gospel is an invitation to reflect on how “authority” is applied in your life.  There is a temptation to use our “authority” in order to show power over others.  When conflicts emerge, many of us even rely upon the power we believe our role in life gives us in order to facilitate the situation to “our” favor.  However, Jesus teaches us that there is a more persuasive form of leadership to follow – – servitude.  In our daily “challenges” we have the opportunity to practice and teach the kind of service leadership Jesus modeled for us in His ministry, AND, in His passion and death.

Realize that conflicts based on “power struggles” seem unavoidable in our secular lives.  However, Catholic Christians are to display their authority over others in a unique, some may say unthinkable, way.  Think about Jesus’ unique message to His disciples (and to US) about how He wishes for us to apply “authority”.  Think about ways in which you might apply Jesus’ “Words” in your own life and in others lives.  We all need to remember a somewhat famous expression from the Church itself:

“To serve is to reign with Christ”.

Pray that we ALL may receive honor in God’s eyes by learning to serve others in love.  We share in God’s power, authority, and kingdom by loving others as He has loved us, AND, by laying down our lives in humble caring service for the sake of our neighbor’s welfare.  With God, all is possible.  Father Jacque Philippe, in his book, “Interior Freedom” said:

We do not all have in us the stuff of sages or heroes.  But by God’s grace we do have the stuff of saints

Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did?  I believe I do, even if it means for me a slow martyrs death by way of the everyday monotonous and drudging routine of a normal Catholic Christian life, with all its dull, repetitive, boring, and tedious daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and ever-present temptations.  How about you?

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Reflection Prayer: 

PARDON PRAYER of FATIMA

 

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee!  I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee!  Amen.

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“Two, For The Price Of One!” – Mark 5:21-43†


      

 

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

My oldest Son, Dan III, is leaving for Naval Basic Training today.  Please keep him and all Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guard personnel in your prayers each and every day.  They are fighting for OUR freedoms granted to us by God and Country.  BTW, this is a great introduction to my next comment about the “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign presently going on:

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Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For July:

 General Intention:

For “Work Security”: That everyone may have work in safe and secure conditions.

Missionary Intention:

 For “Christian Volunteers”:  That all volunteers in mission territories may witness effectively to the love of Christ.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   649 – Pope Martinus I elected to succeed Theodore I
†   1381 – Birth of Laurentius Justitianus, [Lorenzo Giustiniani], saint
†   1517 – Inquisitor Adrian Boeyens (pope Adrianus VI) becomes cardinal
†   1681 – Death of Oliver Plunkett, Irish saint (b. 1629)
†   1690 – Army of England’s Protestant King William III defeats Roman Catholic King James II in Battle of Boyne in Ireland
†   1995 – Death of Ronald Farrow, radio producer/priest, dies at 49

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

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Quote of the Day:

Jesus had no servants, yet they called Him Master; Had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher; Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer; Had no army, yet kings feared Him. He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world; He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him; He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today!!

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Today’s reflection: Jesus heals a woman afflicted with a hemorrhage and raises Jairus’s daughter from death.

 

(NAB Mark 5:21-43) 21 When Jesus had crossed again [in the boat] to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.  22 One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death.  Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”  24 He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. 

25 There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.  26 She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had.  Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.  27 She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  28 She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”  29 Immediately her flow of blood dried up.  She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.  30 Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”  31 But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”  32 And he looked around to see who had done it.  33 The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling.  She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.  34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

35 While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”  36 Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”  37 He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.  38 When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  39 So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead but asleep.”  40 And they ridiculed him.  Then he put them all out.  He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was.  41 He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”  42 The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.  [At that] they were utterly astounded.  43 He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel relates two stories of healing by Jesus Christ Himself.  One story tells us about a desperate woman who risks much as she seeks healing from Jesus.  The other tells us about a father’s great love for his dying daughter.  In each story, their request for healing is itself a courageous act of trust and faith.  However, very different circumstances are represented by the lives of each suffering person, both in desperate need of divine intervention. 

Jairus, a synagogue official, and a man of considerable standing in the Jewish community, is distraught over his daughter’s poor health.  He approaches Jesus and asks Him to heal her.  Although Mark doesn’t provide many details, we can imagine that his daughter has been ill for some time and that her condition is deteriorating.

The story of the raising to life of Jairus’s daughter is divided into two parts: Mark 5:21–24; 5:35–43.  Placed between these two parts of Jairus’ story, Mark inserts an account of the cure of the woman with a hemorrhage affliction (Mark 5:25–34).  Mark uses this technique of introducing or sandwiching one story within another at least 10 specific times: cf., Mark 3:19b–21; 3:22–30; 3:31–35; 6:6b–13; 6:14–29; 6:30; 11:12–14; 11:15–19; 11:20–25; 14:53; 14:54; 14:55–65; and 14:66–73.  Per the Lectionary for Mass, the story of the woman can be omitted when reading the Gospel at Mass; however, I hope it isn’t; this story has a teaching value and needs to be heard. 

In this “sandwiched’ story, Mark describes a person who also seeks healing from Jesus, an unnamed woman with a hemorrhage for twelve years (I bet she was anemic!).  This woman secretly touches Jesus’ “cloak” from behind and is immediately cured.  In response, Jesus turns and asks who touched Him.  Jesus’ disciples – – always a little clueless in Mark’s Gospel – – help us to visualize the scene and reactions of the people.  The crowds are infringing on – – literally pushing into and crowding – – Jesus’ “personal space”; and yet He, knowing the “power has gone out of Him” (Mark 5:30), asks who touched Him.  The woman could have remained anonymous, but she steps forward and acknowledges what she had done.  Jesus responds to her by acknowledging her as a model of a true faith and sends her away in peace.

Mark had reasons to parallel the two stories: both involve touch, trust, faith, and daughters (and an important status within Jewish society).  In both accounts, Jesus is concerned and compassionate to these women on the lowliest and bleakest margins of society – – a ritually “unclean” woman and a girl on the verge of adulthood within the Jewish religion and culture; both on the lowest rung of society’s social ladder.

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Today’s story opens with Jesus just recently crossing across the Sea of Galilee by boat, and being met by a large crowd:

“When Jesus had crossed again [in the boat] to the other side, a large crowdgathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.” (Mark 5:21)

Jesus frequently used a boat, crossing the Galilean Sea many times during His ministry.  There is a parallel verse about His crossing the Sea in Mark’s Gospel as well:

 “Once again he went out along the sea. All the crowd came to Him and He taught them” (Mark 2:13).

Not only did Jesus teach to them, He was called to heal as well.

Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” (Mark 5:23)

The “Lay[ing] your hands on her” is a purposeful and active “sacramental” outward action for an inward grace from God Himself.  This particular “action” was (and still is) for the purpose of healing – – through the Holy Spirit – – and is reported frequently in Mark’ Gospel:

So He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them” (Mark 6:5); ***

“And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then He looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (that is, ‘Be opened!’) And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly” (Mark 7:32–35);

“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  Putting spittle on his eyes He laid his hands on him and asked, ‘Do you see anything?’  Looking up he replied, ‘I see people looking like trees and walking.’  Then He laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly” (Mark 8:23–25);

And finally,

“They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”(Mark 16:18).

Further accounts of sacramental “Laying of handsis also found in the other Gospels and New Testament books as well:

While He was saying these things to them, an official came forward, knelt down before Him, and said, ‘My daughter has just died.  But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.’” (Matthew 9:18);

At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to Him.  He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.” (Luke 4:40);

He laid His hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.” (Luke 13:13);

“So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, ‘Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.’” (Acts 9:17);

And,

“It so happened that the father of Publius was sick with a fever and dysentery.  Paul visited him and, after praying, laid his hands on him and healed him.” (Acts 28:8).

*** Did you notice in the above Mark 6:5 verse, “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there”?  According to Mark, Jesus’ power could not take effect because of a person’s lack of faith.  What does that mean for us today?  We need to have trust and faith in Jesus in order to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us personally, intimately, and uniquely.

Also, notice that in both Acts’ accounts mentioned above, Jesus had graced this gift of healing to His disciples.  With faith as small as a mustard seed, one can actually move a mountain (cf., Matthew 17:20).

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Now, in verse 27-28 of today’s reading, a “woman afflicted with Hemorrhages for twelve years”

Heard about Jesus and came up behind Him [Jesus] in the crowd and touched His cloak.  She said, ‘If I but touch His clothes, I shall be cured.’” (Mark 5:27-28).

This woman, suffering from hemorrhages, believes that Jesus can cure her; and in desperation, she dares to touch – – but only His “cloak” – – aware of the taboo against being touched by an “unclean” person.  “Daughter“, says Jesus (meaning a daughter of Jerusalem, of God), “your faith has saved you” (Mark 5:34).  Jesus not only cures her affliction but gives her back her child-bearing ability; thus restoring her dignity personally and within the Jewish community.

For most people, touching one’s clothes to effect a “cure” seems to be idolatrous.  For a Jew of this time (and in the present day as well), the “cloak” was NOT a simple garment of fashion.  This “cloak” was probably Jesus “Prayer Robe” – – a tallit with Tzitzit attached at the four corners – – worn only by men at Jesus’ time.  For the pious Jewish person, the Tallit with attached Tzitzit (the four knotted strings, one at each corner), was (and still is today) considered as sacred and uniquely special to them as the Holy Eucharist is for us Catholic faithful.  To the dutiful Jewish person, this garment, not only represents the “true” physical presence of God’s divinity, the prayer robe effects the personal promises, presence, and power of God Himself.

So, in touching the tzitzit of Jesus’ Prayer robe, she was – – spiritually AND physically – – directly and trustingly touching and calling upon God Himself to help her in her time of need.  (Now that is awesomely cool indeed!!)

In both situations: Jairus and his daughter (Mark 5:23), and unnamed hemorrhage victim, their personal inner conviction of a physical contact (Mark 5:30) with the fully divine, and yet fully human, Jesus, accompanied by a proper and total faith and trust in His saving power, could both affect, and effect, a rewarded cure:

She said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.’” (Mark 5:28);

 He took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!’” (Mark 5:41).

Now, do you know we can also touch Jesus, and be touched by Him in a uniquely intimate and personal relationship with Him through prayer.  What a rewarding effect for both us and Him!!

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What fascinates me about today’s Gospel reading is the way words jump off the page while reflecting and meditating on them.  Verse 33b and 34 both remind me of another experience of Jesus’ personal presence in the Sacraments of Healing, and Reconciliation:

“She fell down before Jesus and told Him the whole truth.  He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.’” (Mark 33b-34).

In the Catholic Church today, there are multiple Sacraments of Healing available to the faithful.  The first to be received is Baptism, the effective removing of original (and any temporal [worldly]) sins and their negative effects.  Reconciliation is another great and wonderfully beautiful Sacrament, sadly not often used by most Catholics today (Sorry to say).  Confirmation stirs up the Holy Spirit within the individual, and is effected by the Bishop “laying his hands” on the person’s head.  Finally, the Anointing of the Sick, (AKA) “Extreme Unction” (last rights), is the Sacraments of healing for both the soul and body.  All of these “Sacraments” are outward signs of an inward working of grace from God Himself through the actions of the Holy Spirit working within both the people and priest.  Remember:

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

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Let’s get back to the original story (the bottom slice of the “bread” of the “sandwich”) of today’s reading (Mark 5:35- 43) about the synagogue’s official, “Jairus”, and his daughter “who died”.  Here, Jesus performs another miracle, a true “arising from the dead”.  Jairus, too, believes that Jesus can cure his daughter by “laying hands on her”.  When news comes that Jairus’ daughter has died, Jesus encourages him to “just have faith” (Mark 5:36).  Jesus clears out the house of the unfaithful, bringing in the faith-full, and then takes the child by the hand and tells her to “arise”.  Think about this: the young woman is twelve years old and just entering her child-bearing years.  She, through the actions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, rises to life AND to the capacity to bring new life into the world. (And what better grace is there than the grace of bringing a new life into the world!!)

It took considerable courage and risk for Jairus – – a synagogue official – – to openly go to Jesus, inviting the scorn and ridicule of his neighbors and kin.  Even his family and the hired mourners laughed at him in today’s reading.  Their grief was devoid of any true concern or hope for their child (or for themselves).

Jesus knew Jairus’ daughter was dying; yet, He did not immediately help him.  As if to build a sense of urgency and immediate need, Mark has messengers arrive and confirm Jairus’s (and any parent’s) worst fear – – his daughter had died.  Jesus ignores their message and reassures Jairus.  When they arrive at Jairus’s home, they find family and friends mourning the girl’s death.  Jesus told the mourners that the girl is only “asleep”; then enters the room of the dead girl, takes her by the hand, and instructs her to “arise”, AND she did just that!!

So, we need to realize that the trust and faith of Jairus was put to a twofold test:

(1) His daughter might be cured, and

Now that she had died,

(2) She might be restored to life

Jairus’s faith and trust in Jesus has not been in vain; his daughter is restored to life through Jesus’ intercession and the action of the Holy Spirit.

Interestingly, Jairus’ faith contrasts with the lack of faith of the crowd:

“When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, He [Jesus] caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  So He went in and said to them, ‘Why this commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead but asleep.’  And they ridiculed Him” (Mark 5:38-40).

Jesus said, “The child is not dead but asleep” (Mark 5:39).  Throughout the New Testament, various books of Holy Scripture often refer to death as “sleep”:

“Tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” (Matthew 27:52);

“He said this, and then told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.’” (John 11:11);

“After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:6);

 “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–15);

And, in today’s reading parallel verse from Matthew, Jesus says the girl is sleeping:

“He [Jesus] said, ‘Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.’  And they ridiculed Him” (Matthew 9:24).

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In Matthew 5:41, Jesus orders the girl to “Arise”.  The Greek verb “egeirein”, translated “to arise”, is the verb used to express resurrection from death IN ALL THREE Synoptic Gospels:

“The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Matthew 11:5);

“King Herod heard about it, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.’  But when Herod learned of it, he said, ‘It is John whom I beheaded.  He has been raised up.’” (Mark 6:14, 16);

And,

“He [Jesus] stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and He said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’” (Luke 7:14).

This word, “egeirein”, is also used to convey Jesus’ own resurrection later in the three Synoptic Gospels as well:

“He is not here, for He has been raised just as He said.  Come and see the place where He lay.” (Matthew 28:6);

“He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been raised; He is not here.  Behold the place where they laid Him.” (Mark 16:6);

And,

He is not here, but He has been raised.  Remember what He said to you while He was still in Galilee” (Luke 24:6).

“Sleep”, you probably realized by now, is a biblical “metaphor” for death.  Jesus’ statement is not a denial of the child’s real death, but an assurance that she will be roused from her sleep of death.  All of us will arise from our “sleep” at the Parousia event.  For some, there was no need to wait:

 “Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed.  Then he turned to her body and said, ‘Tabitha, rise up.’  She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.” (Acts 9:40).

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After these two miracles of healing, Jesus orders all to NOT speak of them.  The last verse of today’s reading is very explicit:

He gave strict orders that no one should know” (Mark 5:43).

Why?  Why would Jesus NOT want others to know of His divine nature?  Well, I presume the reason is that it was too early in His ministry for “the word to get out”.  Remember, He was being watched by both the Sanhedrin and the Roman officials (the proverbial rock and hard place).  If Jesus would have become too popular too fast, He would NOT have been able to complete His mission – – God the Father’s will and plan.  As He told His mother, Mary, at the Cana Wedding Feast:

My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

Well, His “hour” is here NOW, and is here for ME and YOU – – NOW!!!

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In Summary, in both stories today, we see Jesus’ personal and real concern for the needs of others AND His readiness to heal and restore life.  In, with, and through Jesus, we see the infinite love of God extending to each and every individual.  Jesus gives freely, wholly, and fully of Himself to each person He meets.  Do you approach our Lord Jesus Christ with a confident expectation that He will hear your request and act on it?  (He will!!)

The contrasts between Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage are stark and revealing.  One is a man; the other is a woman.  One is a public official, an important person in the community; the other is a poor woman who has lost everything to find a cure to a condition that separated her from the community (“Unclean” woman are barred from the synagogue and Jewish society.).  One approaches Jesus publicly; the other approaches Jesus secretly.  However, in each case, trust and faith leads them to seek out Jesus in their time of need.

The Gospel reading today concludes with Jesus’ instructions to remain silent about this miracle.  This is typical of Mark’s Gospel and is sometimes referred to as the “Messianic Secret”.  Repeatedly, those who witness Jesus’ power and authority are instructed to not speak of what they have witnessed.  These instructions appear impossible to obey, and it is difficult to understand the purpose of these instructions.  But in each case, they seem to emphasize the fact that each individual, including the reader of Mark’s Gospel, must, in the end, make his or her own judgment about Jesus’ identity.  Each individual must make his or her own act of faith in affirming Jesus as God’s Son, as the expected Messiah for ALL Israel, and as OUR PERSONNAL SAVIOR!!

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To conclude, there are many ways in which we can compare the request for healing made by Jairus and the request of the woman with the hemorrhage of twelve years.  One comparison helps us think about prayer.  Jairus asked Jesus for healing on his daughter’s behalf; the woman with the hemorrhage on the other hand, had no one to speak for her.  She bravely, but secretly, approached Jesus on her own initiative. 

In our prayers, we do both.  We intercede for others’ needs, and we also express our own needs of intercession, to God.  We find a trust, hope, and faith in Jesus’ response to both of these people in today’s Gospel reading.  They both sought Him out in their hour of need, and were rewarded with His healing grace. 

Think about some of the things you have prayed for recently.  Notice that some of your prayers may have been for other people, and some may have been for your own needs.  In today’s Gospel we find encouragement for both kinds of prayer.  What are the unique similarities and differences between the two people who presented their needs to Jesus – – personally and intimately – – in today’s Gospel?  Did you notice that both individuals received the “healing” they sought from Jesus through the direct actions of the Holy Spirit?  We should pray for the needs of others, and for our own personal needs, with as much trust, faith, and hope as did Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage.   Please say a prayer RIGHT NOW for thanks and praise to God, who hears our needs and answers them. 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

“Christ, Savior of all life,
you come to us always.
Welcoming you,
in the peace of our nights,
in the silence of our days,
in the beauty of creation,
in the hours of great combat within,
welcoming you is knowing
that you will be with us
in every situation, always. Amen.”

(Roger of Taize)

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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 who 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, Laying on of hands for 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 Trinity

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …’” (Genesis 1:26) RSV.

“God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …” (Genesis 1:26) KJV.

***

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) RSV.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Junipero Serra (1713-1784)

In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California.  That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows.  San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard.

Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper.  Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor.  He also became famous for his preaching.  Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America.  Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City.  On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life.  For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula.  He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory.  So the last two conquistadors—one military, one spiritual—began their quest.  José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California.  The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769).  That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition.  Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure.  On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander.  He arrived at the point of death.  The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions.  It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians.  The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns.

Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples.  Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn.  He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000.  His travels would have circled the globe.  He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living.  He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death.  He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.

Comment: The word that best describes Junipero is zeal.  It was a spirit that came from his deep prayer and dauntless will.  “Always forward, never back” was his motto.  His work bore fruit for 50 years after his death as the rest of the missions were founded in a kind of Christian communal living by the Indians.  When both Mexican and American greed caused the secularization of the missions, the Chumash people went back to what they had been—God again writing straight with crooked lines.

Quote: During his homily at Serra’s beatification, Pope John Paul II said: “Relying on the divine power of the message he proclaimed, Father Serra led the native peoples to Christ.  He was well aware of their heroic virtues—as exemplified in the life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha [July 14]—and he sought to further their authentic human development on the basis of their new-found faith as persons created and redeemed by God.  He also had to admonish the powerful, in the spirit of our second reading from James, not to abuse and exploit the poor and the weak.”

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 (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 1 & 2 of 26:

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

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

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

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“Just Like a Popular Detergent – – Jesus Gets the Stains Out!” – Mark 9:2-10†


Second Sunday of Lent

Today’s Content:

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

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for March, 2012

March 2012: 

General Intention: Contribution of Women; that the whole world may recognize the contribution of women to the development of society.

Missionary Intention: Persecuted Christians; that the Holy Spirit may grant perseverance to those who suffer discrimination, persecution, or death for the name of Christ, particularly in Asia.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   251 – Death of Pope Lucius I
†   303 – Martyrdom of Saint Adrian of Nicomedia.
†   480 – Death of Saint Landry, bishop of Sées
†   561 – Death of Pope Pelagius I
†   932 – Translation of the relics of martyr Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, Prince of the Czechs.
†   1215 – King John of England makes an oath to the Pope as a crusader to gain the support of Innocent III.
†   1303 – Death of Daniel of Moscow, Russian Saint, Grand Prince of Muscovy (b. 1261)
†   1484 – Death of Kazimierz, the Saint, Polish ruler/saint, dies at age 25
†   1484 – Death of Saint Casimir, Prince of Poland (b. 1458)
†   1493 – Explorer Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) arrives back in Lisbon, Portugal aboard his ship Niña from his discovery voyage to America. He returned to Spain on March 15.
†   1595 – Death of Robert Southwell, English poet, hanged for becoming a Catholic priest
†   1798 – Catholic women force to do penance for kindling sabbath fire for Jews (cannot find reference in wikipedia or elsewhere)
†   1853 – Pope Pius IX recovers Catholic hierarchy in Netherlands
†   1888 – Birth of Knute Rockne, Notre Dame Universities football player and coach (d. 1931)
†   1931 – Birth of William Henry Keeler, American Roman Catholic Archbishop and Cardinal
†   1934 – Birth of Gleb Yakunin, Russian priest and dissident
†   1979 – The first encyclical written by Pope John Paul II, “Redemptor Hominis” (Latin for “The Redeemer of Man”) is promulgated less than five months after his installation as pope.
†   2010 – Death of Bishop Hilario Chávez Joya, Mexican Roman Catholic prelate due to natural causes (b. 1928)
†   Feasts/Mmeorials: Saint Casimir, patron saint of Lithuania; Humbert III of Savoy; Saint Adrian of Nicomedia, bishop of Saint Andrew’s, and his Companions; Saint Basil and his Companions; Saint Basinus; Saint Efrem; Saint Lucius I; Saint Peter of Pappacarbone; Commemoration of Saint Lucius I, pope, martyr.

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Q: Why shouldn’t Christians watch TV?
A: At the transfiguration, Jesus said, “Tell-the-vision to no one.”

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus being transfigured in the presence of Peter, James, and John.

 

(NAB Mark 9:2-10) 2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.  4 Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.  5 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!  Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  6 He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.  7 Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.”  8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.  9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The context for Mark’s Transfiguration story, from today’s Gospel reading, is similar to the stories found in both Matthew’s (Matthew 17:1-8) and Luke’s Gospel (Luke 9:28:36).  The “Transfiguration” occurs after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the “Messiah”; and after Jesus’ prediction about His future “Passion”.  Soon to take place, in each of these three “Synoptic” Gospels, is a discussion of the “cost” of Apostleship (and discipleship) to Jesus Christ.  (NOTHING is free!  There is ALWAYS a price!)

Jesus took three of His Apostles’—Peter, James, and John—to a high mountain (Some believe it is Mt. Horeb – see last Sunday’s reflection blog for more information on Mt. Horeb).  While Jesus and His “notable” Apostles are on this “notable” mountain, Elijah and Moses appear to Jesus and converses – – “face-to-face” – – with, Jesus Himself.  Per Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospel, this dialogue is unknown to the reader.  However, in Luke’s Gospel, the detail of this tête-à-tête is accepted to be about what Jesus will accomplish in Jerusalem: His Arrest, Scourging, and Crucifixion.

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Both Mark and Matthew place the “Transfiguration of Jesus” six days after the first prediction of His “Passion” and death.  

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17:1);

Hmm, how many days did God the Creator take to form the world and all things on it?  I believe SIX!  I wonder if there is a connection of some sort between the two events.

The “Transfiguration” counterbalances the prediction of Jesus’ “Passion” by affording a certain group of His Apostles’ (I like to call them “the inner ring”) insight into the divine glory Jesus truly and fully possessed.  His glory will overcome His death, that of His Apostles’, and ALL who fully believe in Him:

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18);

And,

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majestyFor he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’  We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.  Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.  You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:16–19).

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The “heavenly voice” (Mark 9:7; and 2 Peter1:18 immediately above), heard “worldly” by the three Apostles of Christ, starts the preparation for THEM to understand God the Father’s divine plan: Jesus must die in a dreadful and appalling way before His Messianic glory is made gloriously revealed – –  made  manifest – – to all who believe:

He [Jesus] said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:25–27).

The account of the “Transfiguration” confirms to Peter, James, and John that Jesus is truly the Son of God the Father:

“Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, ‘This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.’” (Mark 9:7); 

The “Transfiguration” itself, points to a fulfillment of the prediction that He will come in His Father’s “glory” at the “end of the age”:

The Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Matthew 16:27).

The “Transfiguration” event has been explained by some biblical scholars as a “resurrection appearance” – – actually retrojected – – into the time of Jesus’ ministry beginning.   Instead, I believe this reading probably draws upon Old Testament and non-canonical Jewish literature in order to express the presence of divinity and heaven, such as those images conveyed in today’s reading: brilliant lights, white garments, and the overshadowing cloud.  Who knows for sure which belief on its origin is true (other than God Himself); does this point truly matter?

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What can “blind” us, keeping us from recognizing God’s “glory” in our individual lives?  Well, the obvious answer is sin and unbelief!  It is unquestionably awesome for ALL of us – – His disciples’ – – that having a “true faith” enables us to see what is hidden or unseen to our worldly blinded and naked eyes.  Through the eyes of “faith”, Abraham recognized God and His call for his future life.  With “faith”, Abraham saw not only what God intended for him, but also what God intended for his descendants: an everlasting covenant with the true, living, and eternal God.  Abraham is OUR father of faith; he put his hope, love, and trust in the infinite promises of his heavenly God.  “Faith” truly allows each of us to taste, in advance, – – individually, uniquely, and personally, – – the light of God’s glory, when we shall see Him “face-to-face”:

“At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12);

AND!; as He truly and fully IS – – IS – – IS the light of glory:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2).

God is eager to share this glory – – HIS glory – – with each of us!  We get a glimpse of His burning eagerness to share His “glory” when the three Apostles’ see Jesus “Transfigured” on the mountain.  What happened for them to recognize His “glory”?  Well, Jesus’ face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white.  In sorts, Jesus is re-living what happened to one of the other “heavenly witnesses” present with Him on that mountain.  When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai the skin of His face “shone” because he had been talking with God “face-to-face” as well:

 “The Israelites would see that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant; so he would again put the veil over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.” (Exodus 34:35).

Paul, in regards to the Moses event, relates that the Israelites at the foot of the mountain when Moses came down could not even look at Moses’ face because of its brightness:

The Israelites could not look intently at the face of Moses because of its glory that was going to fade” (2 Corinthians 3:7).

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In today’s event, Jesus appeared in glory WITHMoses”, the great “giver of the law” to Israel, AND, with “Elijah”, who for me is the greatest of all the prophets (Isaiah is a close second though).  These two great figures from “Israel of old” appear with Jesus Christ, in the presence of three of His “most loved” Apostles.  Why did this happen?  Hmm…!  Let’s think this out!  Jesus went to the mountain knowing already what was in store for Him in Jerusalem: His betrayal, rejection, trial, scourging, and crucifixion.  I see Jesus discussing this devastating choice – – “to die for OUR redemption” in a horrendous and painful death on the Holy Cross – – with Moses and Elijah; maybe to get advice, maybe to get some comfort in His decision.

 Why are these two particular men of Holy Scripture coming as “witnesses” to Jesus’ “Transfiguration”?  Elijah and Moses are significant figures in the history of Israel.  Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and received from “Yahweh” the Ten Commandments (the Biggies), among other Mosaic Laws.  In appearing with Jesus at His “Transfiguration”, Moses represented the Mosaic Law of “old” guiding the ways, rituals, and entire lives of the “chosen” Jewish people in the “new”..  

Elijah is certainly remembered by the Jewish people as one of the most important prophets of Israel.  He helped the Israelites stay faithful to “Yahweh” and not to pagan gods.  Some (and I believe most) Jews believed “Elijah’s” return would be the signal of the coming of the true “Messiah” returning to save the Jewish people.  This belief is evidenced in the question posed by Jesus’ Apostles’ after they have witnessed the Transfiguration:

Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (Matthew 9:11)

The appearance of Moses and Elijah, both crucially important and central figures from Israel’s history, – – with Jesus Christ – – signifies Jesus’ continuity with Mosaic Law and with the prophets.  Their appearance with Jesus also signifies His being the true fulfillment of ALL of God promises to His “chosen” people and nation, Israel – – old and new.

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Moses and Elijah represent law and prophecy respectively in the Old Testament AND each are linked to Mount Sinai, possibly Mt. Horeb (covered in last week’s reflection) in regards to covenants created between God the Father, Moses, and Elijah (cf., Exodus 19:16–20:17; 1 Kings 19:2, 8–14).

Now Moses and Elijah surprisingly appear on this mountain with Jesus as divine “witnesses” to the fulfillment of God’s law and plan, and what had been foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament, taking place – – in the person – – of the divine Jesus Christ as He radiates in magnificent glory.  Imagine the sight of this taking place in your actual presence.  Keep in mind; these three men were raised as devout and pious Jews.  They knew the prophets words in a reasonable (if not thorough) detail.  No wonder Peter, and the others, were so “terrified”, and did not know what to say:

He [Peter] hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.”  (Mark 9:6)

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On seeing Jesus with Elijah and Moses, and having witnessed Jesus’ “Transfiguration” before ALL their very eyes, Peter offered to construct “three tents” for them.  Peter’s reference to making “tents” refers to the Hebrew Feast called “Sukkot” (also called the “Feast of Booths” or “Feast of Tabernacles”).  This well-known first-century Jewish Feast (it is actually still a recognized Jewish Feast day to this day, yet not celebrated regularly) is a “biblical holiday” traditionally  celebrated in late September to late October (per our current day Gregorian calendar).  Sukkot is one of three mandated festivals wherein the Jewish people were “commanded” to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem(the other two being “Passover” and “Weeks” [Shavuot]).  There are many biblical references to Sukkot-type dwellings or tents in Holy Scripture, other than in the “Transfiguration” narratives:

Three times a year you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast to me… You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover]  … You shall also keep the feast of the grain harvest with the first fruits of the crop [Shavuot], … and finally, the feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you collect your produce from the fields [Sukkot].  Three times a year shall all your men appear before the LORD God. (Exodus 23:14-17);

“Tell the Israelites: The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the LORD’s feast of Booths, which shall continue for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:34);

“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you will declare a holy day: you shall do no heavy work. For the following seven days you will celebrate a pilgrimage feast to the LORD.(Numbers 29:12);

Three times a year, then, all your males shall appear before the LORD, your God, in the place which he will choose: at the feast of Unleavened Bread, at the feast of Weeks, and at the feast of Booths.  They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed, but each with his own gift, in proportion to the blessing which the LORD, your God, has given to you. (Deuteronomy 16:16?);

And,

The Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.” (John 7:2).  

A “Sukkot” was a “booth or tabernacle”: a walled structure covered with some plant material such as leafy tree overgrowth or palm leaves. The structure was intended to remind its inhabitants of the fragile and easily erected dwellings, in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years in the desert after their Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  

According to Zechariah, in the “Messianic” era, Sukkot will become a universal festival and ALL nations will make pilgrimages annually to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast there:

 “Everyone who is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem will go up year after year to bow down to the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the feast of Booths.  Should any of the families of the earth not go up to Jerusalem to bow down to the King, the LORD of hosts, then there will be no rain for them.  And if the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, upon them will fall the plague, with which the LORD strikes the nations that do not go up to celebrate the feast of Booths.  This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the feast of Booths.” (Zechariah 14:16-19). 

(Here is a little “side-line” trivia; there are Messianic Scholars who believe that Jesus was born on the “first day of Sukkot” in the year 4 BC.  If interested in learning how they came to figure this out, using math, astrology, and Holy Scripture, please go to the following website:

http://www.bereanpublishers.com/Jesus_Christ_Who_is_%20He/Messiah’s_Birth_at_Sukkot.htm.)

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God the Father chose this time to speak with Jesus, with the witness of others from both old and new covenants.  God gave His approval of Jesus and His public ministry:

This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)

The cloud which overshadowed Jesus and His Apostles fulfilled the dream of the Jews: when the “Messiah” came to save His people, the cloud of God’s presence would fill the temple again, and Jesus was the fulfillment in this cloud on that mountain top.  

At this moment of the event, with emotions high, a cloud comes upon them “casting a shadow over them”.  It was now time for God the Father to throw a little divine twist into this event; something that had happened only ONCE before (and is the last time in Holy Scripture this will happen).  God the Father SPEAKS!!  God tells all present that Jesus Christ is truly His Beloved Son, and that we are to LISTEN to Him:

This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)

Mark reports that the Apostles are “terrified” by what they had witnessed – the vision, the weather change, and the VOICE  from heaven!!  I feel certain that Peter’s offer to make these tents was made out of bewilderment and confusion on his part.  Peter was definitely confused at this point.  Have you noticed that Peter, in this reading, reverted from his earlier declaration that Jesus is “the Messiah”:

“And He [Jesus] asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter said to him in reply, ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:29).

Peter is instead, now calling Jesus “rabbi” (verse 5)!  What do you believe the reason is (?); is it simply a symptom or reaction of his bewildering confusion?  There is NO confusion on God’s part however!  A “voice” [from heaven] speaks from the lofty clouds, affirming Jesus as God the Father’s Son, AND ALSO commands the three Apostles’ to obey – – both this heavenly “voice” (implicitly) AND Jesus Christ Himself (literally)!!  This “voice” from heaven recalls the voice that was heard at Jesus’ baptism: 

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.  On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Mark 1:9-11).

These three Apostles had to be confused and perplexed; according to rabbinical interpretation of Messianic prophecies, Elijah was to come prior to the Savior:

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

My question: Could this voice have been a heavenly response to Peter’s bewilderment and confusion?  Or, was it to further reiterate what Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and God had already known: that Jesus Christ IS the true and only “Messiah”!!

Besides these two great people from “Israel old”, the three Apostles also enter into the “mystery” of Jesus’ glorification.  They most surely became what we call “Charismatic”.  They witnessed a gift, a grace from God, by co-witnessing holy figures from the Old Covenants relating and surrendering themselves to a holy and divine figure.  They all witnessed the bringing in of the new and fuller Covenant of His heavenly Father. 

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In the Old Testament, the “cloud” covered the meeting tent, the dwelling place of God during the Exodus, indicating the Lord’s presence in the midst of His people:

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  Moses could not enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34–35).

Again, in the Old Testament, the “cloud” also came to rest upon the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of its dedication, making this structure the dwelling place of God in His chosen land:

When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:10).

And now, the “cloud” has come to rest upon the new dwelling place of the full and NEW Covenant for ALL the worlds’ people and lands: no longer in a structure created by man, but in a structure created by God the Father Himself: Jesus Christ.

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Then, another twist happens.  In verse 8, Moses, Elijah, and the clouds disappear “suddenly” and unexpectedly.  I am sure these three “fishermen” wondered if they experienced a dream, and/or saw a mirage of sorts.  Actually, these three fishermen, – – Peter, James, and John, – – have simply not realized yet that “Elijah” had already come, – – in the form and person of a special individual known to ALL of them that inspiring day:

Then they asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’  He [Jesus] told them, ‘Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?  But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.’” (Mark 9:11-13)

Yes, Elijah was to (and had) come first!  Jesus’ response showed that Elijah truly had come in the person of John the Baptist, in order to prepare for the day of the Lord.  WOW!!  Just like a “good book” (excuse the pun), I love a great mystery, especially when I know the ending already: God the Father WINS!!!

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To summarize, in Jesus’ “Transfiguration”, we see a future anticipation of the “glory” found in, and from, Jesus’ Resurrection.  In each of the three Synoptic narratives covering the “Transfiguration”, Jesus instructs the three Apostles’ “to keep secret” what they have seen that day, on that mountain, until after the Son of Man had “Risen” from “the dead”.  The Apostles’ bewilderment and confusion continued (and probably grew) as they wondered what Jesus meant by “rising from the dead”.  

The Apostles could – – in NO WAY possible – – understand Jesus’ “Transfiguration” until they also witnessed His passion and death later; future events, the details of which they cannot comprehend at this point.  In our understanding of Jesus’ “Transfiguration”, we truly have the opportunity to anticipate – – to look forward to – – Jesus’ Resurrection as we prepare to remember Jesus’ passion and death in a few short weeks.

I wonder, do we miss God’s glory, graces, and action because we are perhaps “numb or dead” spiritually?  There are many things and ways challenging our minds to become “numb or dead” to God: Mental weariness, and our own “materialistic” priorities and values, can keep us from thinking through our choices and facing our own internal doubts.  Even our “easy to get anything” life may hinder us from considering the “personal cross” Jesus Christ has for each of us to carry.  

Are you spiritually numb or dead?!  Peter, James, and John were privileged witnesses of the “glory” of Jesus Christ.  As disciples’ of Christ, WE TOO are called to be witnesses of His glory NOW!  We are capable of being changed – – “Transfigured” – – into His likeness and glory:

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Lord wants dearly to reveal His face, His glory, and His LOVE to each of us – – His beloved disciples – – personally, uniquely, and intimately!!  Do you seek His presence, His affirmation and approval, His kingdom, with a faith, trust, love, and reverence worthy of HIS faith, trust, and love?!!   

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To conclude: everyone has moments they remember in a special and fond way on a regular basis.  The meaning and importance of these special moments of life possibly even deepen in “feeling and passion” over time.  I believe this is how the three witnessing Apostles’ remembered Jesus’ Transfiguration for the rest of their earthly lives.  The festival of the harvest, “Sukkot”, has now taken on an intimate, unique, and personal meaning to each of them.

The full significance of what they had seen and experienced could only be understood after Jesus’ death and Resurrection.  Yet, they still KNEW something special had indeed happened before their eyes.  Can you imagine how they told Jesus’ other disciples about this event, and their recollections and feelings while recording this experience – – for us – – in their  letters and books?  Because of them, OUR understanding of what it means to call Jesus Christ, – – the ‘true’ Messiah, and God the Father’s own Only-Begotten Son – – has also deepened (at least for me).

The Holy Bible is filled with many important memories about Jesus (both old and new) – – so richly and intimately unique in each account – – so that WE CAN believe that Jesus Christ is truly God the Father’s Son.   What can (and do) we learn about Jesus from this Gospel reading?  For me, Jesus fulfills the promises God made to Israel through two sources: Mosaic Law AND the prophets.  God the Father, in speaking these few “Words” – – heard by earthly Peter, James, and John, – – truly “glorified” Jesus in His Resurrection.  JESUS CHRIST IS – – IS – – IS, God the Father’s true and only-begotten” Son.

I pray you continue to delve into the Holy Bible passionately.  It will definitely deepen your understanding of, and your love for, Jesus Christ.  After all, if it can change MY heart and understanding, you’re a shoe-in for finding that deepening meaning just under the layer you are on right now!  Just like a fragrant and sweet tasting onion, peel back the layer to find out what gets exposed in your search for the Lord God in your life!! 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer for Transfiguration

“Father of mercies, you glorified your heavenly Son and revealed yourself in the bright cloud, grant that we may listen in faith to have a love for the word of Christ.  Amen.”

(http://www.ewtn.com)

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Servant of God Sylvester of Assisi (d. 1240)

 

Sylvester was one of the first 12 followers of St. Francis of Assisi and was the first priest in the Franciscan Order.  A descendant of a noble family, Sylvester once sold Francis stones which were to be used to rebuild a church.  When, a short while later, he saw Francis and Bernard of Quintavalle distributing Bernard’s wealth to the poor, Sylvester complained that he had been poorly paid for the stones and asked for more money.

Though Francis obliged, the handful of money he gave Sylvester soon filled him with guilt.  He sold all of his goods, began a life of penance and joined Francis and the others.  Sylvester became a holy and prayerful man, and a favorite of Francis—a companion on his journeys, the one Francis went to for advice.  It was Sylvester and Clare who answered Francis’ query with the response that he should serve God by going out to preach rather than by devoting himself to prayer.

Once in a city where civil war was raging, Sylvester was commanded by Francis to drive the devils out.  At the city gate Sylvester cried out: “In the name of almighty God and by virtue of the command of his servant Francis, depart from here, all you evil spirits.”  The devils departed and peace returned to the city.

Sylvester lived 14 more years after the death of Francis and is buried near him in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.

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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 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.

Christ’s Divinity, Part 3:

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power …” (Hebrews 1:1-3) RSV

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high …” (Hebrews 1:1-3) KJV

**

But of the Son he says, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom.  … And, “Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands.” (Hebrews 1:8, 10) RSV

 

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.  … And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.” (Hebrews 1:8, 10) KJV

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule Article #’s 4 & 5 of 26:

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

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

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

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

“Hey, Let’s Go Fishing; We Have The Best Hook Possible: ‘J’esus!” – Mark 1:14-20†


 

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

It is less than 290 days till the day we elect President of the United States, and many other Legislative positions for Federal and State offices.  I would like to share a prayer I have been praying daily since before our last election for President, in 2008.

An Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA 

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.

Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.

Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.

Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.  Amen.”

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1588 – Pope Sixtus V decrees “Immense AeterniDei” (Reformed curia): Reorganized the Roman Curia, establishing permanent congregations of cardinals to advise the pope on various subjects.
†   1850 – Death of Vincenzo (Vincent) Pallotti, Italian saint, dies at age 54; He was the founder of the Pious Society of Missions (the Pallotines)
†   1913 – Birth of William Cardinal Conway, Northern Irish clergyman (d. 1977)
†   1922 – Death of Benedictus XV(Benedict XV), [Giacomo Markies D Chiesa], pope (1914-22), dies at 67 (b. 1854)
†   2007 – Abbé Pierre, French priest (b. 1912).  He was a French Catholic priest, member of the Resistance during World War II, and deputy of the Popular Republican Movement (MRP). He founded in 1949 the Emmaus movement, which has the goal of helping poor and homeless people and refugees.
†   Feast/Memorial: St. Vincent, Anastasius of Persia.

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus calling “fishermen”: Simon and Andrew, along with James and John, to be His disciples and “fishers of men”.

 

(NAB Mark 1:14-20) 14 After John had been arrested,Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  16 As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  18 Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.  19 He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They too were in a boat mending their nets.  20 Then he called them.  So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

When a “king” had “good news” to deliver to his subjects, he sent messengers throughout his kingdom making a public announcement.  Examples would include the birth of a new king, the winning of a major battle, or the defeat of an invading army.  God the Father sent His prophets (Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist just to name only a few) to announce the coming of His “Messiah” (meaning “anointed one”) “King”.  After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River – – and “anointed” by the Holy Spirit – – He begins His public ministry: teaching and preaching the “Good News” – – the Gospel – – AND proclaiming the “kingdom of God” was NOW at hand for any and ALL ready to receive it.

Mark’s Gospel begins by reporting on the preaching and ministry of the last “prophet” prior to the Messiah, John the Baptist.  He is “the voice in the wilderness” who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord.  Immediately after describing the works and “words” of John the Baptist, Mark reports on Jesus’ “baptism in the Jordan River”, and His “temptation in the desert”.  Mark wants his audience to understand the important connection between the end of John the Baptist’s ministry and the beginning of Jesus’ own earthly ministry.  We need to remember that Mark’s audience was predominately “Gentile” and unfamiliar with Jewish customs, hence:

The Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves.  And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds]. … Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’ (meaning, dedicated to God).”  (Mark 7:3–4, 11).

Jesus preaches the “Kingdom of Godin continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist.  Like John the Baptist, Jesus’ pronouncement of the “kingdom” is a “call to repentance”.  

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Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus called His first disciples.  Today’s reading also stresses the immediacy with which these men dropped everything to follow Him.  We can only begin to imagine what Jesus’ presence must have been like in invoking such a response in these four disciples.  While a few of us might relate to such a radical conversion, many of us would find such a sudden change in ourselves, or in another person, troubling and worrisome (Wow!  Would we say in response to this happening: “He became a ‘bible thumper’”!).  There are very few things for which we would willingly drop everything.  Yet, this is the immediacy with which these first disciples responded to Jesus.  These first disciples were willing to drop everything, making Jesus Christ and the “Kingdom of Godthe most important things in their lives.

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Today’s reading starts with John the Baptist. We are told that he had just been arrested.  In God’s plan, Jesus was not to proclaim the “good news” of salvation prior to the termination of John the Baptist’s “active” mission. (Hmm, think about that one.)  There is very little over-lapping between the two.

The “calling” of the first disciples of Jesus Christ promised them a share in Jesus’ work and entailed abandonment of family, and their former way of life.  Three of the four Disciples, “Simon (Peter)”, “James”, and “John”, are distinguished among all the other “Apostles” in having a closer, more intimate, relationship with Jesus:

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” (Matthew 17:1);

And

He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee [James and John], and began to feel sorrow and distress.” (Matthew 26:37). 

Andrew is the one disciple from today’s reading not mentioned often in Holy Scripture.  In reality, he is only mentioned three times.  However, when mentioned, Andrew is performing an interesting and especially unique function in his ministry: bringing people TO Jesus, and instituting an important “function” in the Universal (Catholic) Christian Church:

1)  Andrew brings Simon to Jesus, the one to be the leader of the Catholic Church:

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’  He brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).”  (John 1: 40-42);

2)  At the Multiplication of the Loaves, Andrew brings to Jesus the boy having the bread and fish used in instituting the Holy Eucharist and the first Mass:

There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish …” (John 6:9)

And

3) When Andrew and Phillip brought some “Greeks”, who had “come to worship” – – with Jesus – – at the Passover festival.  In actuality, they were probably Gentiles, signifying Jesus’ role of bringing ALL mankind to God the Father, and not just the Jewish “chosen people”.

Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. … They asked, ‘Sir, we would like to see Jesus.’ … Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.” (John 12:20-22)

In today’s reading, the disciples’ response is motivated by Jesus’ personal and direct invitation, an element that emphasizes His mysterious power and divinity.

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The first sentence, the first two verses (14 & 15), have important facts and statements of faith within these few words

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15)   

As I said in my opening, the last “prophet” prior to Jesus Christ: John the Baptist had just been arrested and in prison.  I am sure Jesus was upset, disheartened, and concerned personally for John the Baptist and for His (and John’s) disciples’ welfare.  Both Jesus and John the Baptist were in “Galilee”, the location for the major portion of Jesus’ “public” ministry prior to His arrest, trial, scourging, and death on the cross outside the gates of Jerusalem.  Interesting for me is that John the Baptist’s enemies had sought to silence him.  However, God the Father’s “good news” could not (and cannot be silenced).  As soon as John the Baptist had finished his testimony, Jesus began His testimony in Galilee, His home district.   

Jesus proclaimed the time is “fulfilled” and the “kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus takes up John the Baptist’s message and mission of “repentance”, calling His disciples to “believe in the gospel” – – the “good news” – – which He came to deliver PERSONALLY!!  

What is the “good news” which Jesus is STILL delivering?  It is the “good news” of:

1)  Peace and restoration of OUR personal relationship with God the Father:

Stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15),

2)  The hope of heaven and everlasting life:

Provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am a minister.” (Colossians 1:23),

3)  The truth in God the Father’s “Word” being true and reliable:

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven.  Of this you have already heard through the word of truth, the Gospel” (Colossians 1:3-5),

4)  The promise of reward to those who seek Him:

When you read this you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to human beings in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:4-6),

5)  Everlasting life:

He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10),

And,

6)  The “good news” of salvation: liberty from sin, and freedom to live as children of God the Father:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:13).

The “Gospel” (the “good news”) which Jesus “proclaimed” is God the Father’s “Word”.  It is not only the “good news” from God the Father, but is also “about” God the Father “at work” in Jesus Christ Himself.  

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What did Jesus mean by saying, “this is the time of fulfillment”?  Well, He is expressing the time of “God the Father’s promises” being fulfilled – – in, with, and through – – Jesus Christ, the Messiah Lord.  “Fulfillment” includes not only human obedience to God the Father’s “Word”, but also the triumph of the Godhead over physical and spiritual “evils”; especially over physical and spiritual death.  

Jesus’ preaching is GREATER than John the Baptist’s preaching.  Jesus is beginning the “time of fulfillmentNOW!  The “Kingdom of God” is already here!!  Jesus’ “fulfilling” God the Father’s promises was demonstrated many times by Jesus, both in His “Words” and in His actions.  Jesus’ “healings” and “forgiveness” of sins were (and still are) truly magnificent, exceptional, and revealing signs of the “Kingdom of God”.

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So what is the “kingdom of God”?  The word “kingdom” means much more than a territory or land mass.  It literally means “sovereignty” or “reign”, and the power to “rule”: to employ authority.  The many “prophets” announced that God the Father would establish a “kingdom”, not just for one nation or people, but for the entire world and for ALL peoples!!

Holy Scriptures tell us God the Father’s “throne” is in heaven and His rule and power is over ALL:

Bless the LORD, all you His angels, mighty in strength, acting at His behest, obedient to His command.” (Psalm 103:19).

His “kingdom” is far bigger, greater, and more powerful than anything we can imagine; it is TRULY “universal” (Catholic) and everlasting:

So I issued a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me to give the interpretation of the dream.” (Daniel 4:3).

God the Father’s “kingdom” is full of glory, power, and splendor:

“They speak of the glory of your reign and tell of your mighty works, making known to the sons of men your mighty acts, the majestic glory of your ruleYour reign is a reign for all ages, your dominion for all generations.  The LORD is trustworthy in all His words, and loving in all His works.” (Psalm 145:11-13).

In the Old Testament Book of Daniel, we are told that His “kingdom” will be given to the “Son of Man (Hmm) and to the saints:

He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.  But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingship, to possess it forever and ever.  Until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived for the holy ones to possess the kingship.  Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High, whose kingship shall be an everlasting kingship, whom all dominions shall serve and obey.” (Daniel 7:14,18,22,27).

Jesus goes on to say, “The kingdom of God is at hand ….”  He is literally meaning, “heaven”.  “Heaven” is a Jewish proxy for the name “God”, which was strictly avoided by devout Jews, out of respect and reverence.  The expression, “the kingdom of God”, in reality, means the effective rule of God the Father over His people.

Per Jewish apocalyptic literature, the “kingdom of God” is to be ushered in by a “judgment” in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  This was the message of John the Baptist: to repent for the “kingdom of God” is coming SOON!!  The Christian understanding of the “kingdom of God” is seen as being established in stages, concluding with the “Parousia” of Jesus’ return (the Second Coming).

NO ONE knows when this “Parousia” event will happen, including Jesus Christ:

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

So, we must follow John the Baptist’, AND Jesus’ instruction, “RepentNOW, NOW, NOW!!

Repent, and believe in the gospel”  (Mark1:15).

John the Baptist called for a “change of heart” (a daily “conversion”), and also, a change of conduct.  He called for a turning of one’s life from rebellion, upheaval and revolt to a life of obedience, humility, and trust towards, and in, God the Father.  

How do we enter the “kingdom of God”?  The answer is in announcing the “good news”.  Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do to in order to receive the “kingdom of God”: repent and believe.  When we submit to Christ’s power and rule in our lives, and believe His “good news” message, Our Lord Jesus Christ will give us His grace and power to live a “new” and specially unique way of life – – as residents of His “kingdom”.  

Through repentance and belief in His power and majesty – – His “Word” – – God gives us the grace to renounce the evil and sad kingdom of darkness, ruled over, and powered, by sin and Satan (the father of lies):

You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). 

This is “why” true repentance is the very first step to entering His “kingdom”.  Jesus Christ needs to be the Lord, King, and Master of one’s heart and soul, – – instead of sin, selfishness, and greed.  If we are only sorry for the consequences of our sins, we will very likely keep repeating the sin which is controlling us.  True repentance requires a contrite heart, sorrow for sin, and a firm resolution in order to avoid repeating the sin in the future:

Lord, you will open my lips; and my mouth will proclaim your praise.” (Psalm 51:17).

Jesus gives us grace to see sin for what it really is: a rejection of His love and wisdom in and for our lives, and a refusal to do what is good in accord with His “will”.  Jesus’ grace brings pardon and help for turning away from everything keeping one from His love and truth.  

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In contrast to last week’s Gospel in which the first disciples seek Him out, Jesus takes the initiative in calling His first disciples.  As mentioned last Sunday in the Gospel reading, it was more typical of first-century rabbinical schools for students to “seek out” rabbis, asking to be their disciples.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus breaks with this tradition and “invites” His disciples to learn from Him.  

Jesus is said to have first called four “fishermen”: Simon, Andrew, James, and John (Two sets of brothers).  Jesus promises that He will make them “fishers of men.”  .  Mark does not report Jesus’ words of invitation verbatim, but He does report they left their fishing “immediately”, leaving their father, Zebedee, behind in the boat.  It was obviously an urgent request for these four men to leave everything NOW.  Is it of urgency to you to follow Jesus Christ as well?

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To conclude: to believe is to take Jesus at His “Word” and to recognize that God the Father loves us so much He sent His Only-begotten Son to free us from the dreadful bondage of sin, destructive desires, and everlasting death.  God made the supreme sacrifice of His beloved Son on the holy cross in order to “ransom” us back to a relationship with Him.  

God is our heavenly Father, and He wants us to live as His children.  God the Father loved us first, still loves us dearly, and invites us in, and with love, to surrender our lives to Him.  Do you believe that the Gospel – – the “good news” of Jesus Christ – – has power to free you from the bondage to sin, fear, and death?

When Jesus preached the Gospel message, He “called” many others to follow as His disciples (including each of us).  He gave them (AND US) a mission: “to be ‘fishers of men’ for the kingdom of God”.  

Why did he choose these ordinary people like these fishermen (Smelly, slimy, dirty fishermen!), and even each of us, to be disciples?    In the choice of the first “Apostles”, we see a characteristic feature of Jesus’ work: He purposely chose very ordinary people!!  These first Disciples of Christ were non-professionals, having no wealth or position in society.  They were chosen from the “common people”, doing ordinary things, having no special education, and with no social advantages in life.  

Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well.  He chose (and STILL chooses) individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming with His grace, direction, and power.  When the Lord calls us to serve, we need not think we have nothing to offer.  The Lord takes what we can offer and uses it for greatness in His “kingdom”.  Do you believe that God the Father truly wants to work through, with, and in YOU – – for His glory?

As I just inferred, Jesus Christ is still speaking this same message to us today.  We should strive to “fish”, and “catch” people for the “kingdom of God”.  All we need do is to simply allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine in and through each of us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  God the Father wants others to see the light of Christ in each of us in the way we live, speak, and witness to the joy of the “good news” in our daily lives.  Paul the Apostles says:

Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the odor of the knowledge of him in every place.  For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

Do you “witness” the joy of the Gospel to those you meet?  Do you pray for your neighbors, co-workers, and relatives so they may come to know Our Lord Jesus Christ and to grow in knowing of His love?

Jesus calls us to seek the true “good” and “light” of each person, including those complicit in social sin.  Let us testify that God’s justice flowing through and from us with love and joy:

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way” (Psalm 25:8).

Let us turn from sin and invite others to journey with us on the way to the “fulfillment” of, and in, God’s “kingdom”.

For me, Mark’s Gospel is conveyed with a great feeling of urgency and immediacy.  Jesus Christ is a person of “action”, and events in Mark’s Gospel occur in rapid succession.  Time is of essence; the fishermen “immediately” put aside their livelihood to become Jesus’ first “Apostles”.  The “Kingdom of God” is here and now!!  The “time of fulfillment” is here and now!!  How might your life be different if you more fully shared this sense of immediacy in God fulfilling His “kingdom” with Jesus’ “Second Coming” (the Parousia)?  (The fuse is lit!  Are you ready for the “big bang”?)

Think of circumstances in which you have had to “drop everything.”  It could be the call to pick up a sick child from school, the cry of a hurt or angry child, or something else.  How did you feel about having to change your plans in each of these situations?  How do you feel when someone asks you to drop everything to help him or her?  For many, it is not easy to drop everything in order to respond to the needs of another.

Imagine what Jesus’ presence and invitation to these first followers must have been like.  Remember, they “immediately” responded by leaving their business, their occupation, and their livelihood, to become one of His disciples.  How might OUR life change if we understood the “Kingdom of God” to be as important and immediate in our lives as did these first disciples?  Let’s ask God to help each of us personally experience and encounter the “Kingdom of God with such immediacy as these first disciples.

Here I am Lord!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Our Father

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

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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.

 

Christ’s Divinity, Part 1:

 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’” (Isaiah. 9:6). RSV

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah. 9:6). KJV

*

“Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16-17).  RSV

“Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17). KJV

*

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). RSV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. (John 1:1). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Vincent (d. 304)

When Jesus deliberately began his “journey” to death, Luke says that he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem.  It is this quality of rocklike courage that distinguishes the martyrs.

Most of what we know about this saint comes from the poet Prudentius.  His Acts have been rather freely colored by the imagination of their compiler.  But St. Augustine, in one of his sermons on St. Vincent, speaks of having the Acts of his martyrdom before him.  We are at least sure of his name, his being a deacon, the place of his death and burial.

According to the story we have (and as with some of the other early martyrs the unusual devotion he inspired must have had a basis in a very heroic life), Vincent was ordained deacon by his friend St. Valerius of Zaragossa in Spain.  The Roman emperors had published their edicts against the clergy in 303, and the following year against the laity.  Vincent and his bishop were imprisoned in Valencia.  Hunger and torture failed to break them.  Like the youths in the fiery furnace (Book of Daniel, chapter three), they seemed to thrive on suffering.

Valerius was sent into exile, and Dacian, the Roman governor, now turned the full force of his fury on Vincent. Tortures that sound like those of World War II were tried.  But their main effect was the progressive disintegration of Dacian himself.  He had the torturers beaten because they failed.

Finally he suggested a compromise: Would Vincent at least give up the sacred books to be burned according to the emperor’s edict?  He would not.  Torture on the gridiron continued, the prisoner remaining courageous, the torturer losing control of himself.  Vincent was thrown into a filthy prison cell—and converted the jailer.  Dacian wept with rage, but strangely enough, ordered the prisoner to be given some rest.

Friends among the faithful came to visit him, but he was to have no earthly rest.  When they finally settled him on a comfortable bed, he went to his eternal rest.

Comment: The martyrs are heroic examples of what God’s power can do.  It is humanly impossible, we realize, for someone to go through tortures such as Vincent had and remain faithful.  But it is equally true that by human power alone no one can remain faithful even without torture or suffering.  God does not come to our rescue at isolated, “special” moments.  God is supporting the super-cruisers as well as children’s toy boats.

Quote: “Wherever it was that Christians were put to death, their executions did not bear the semblance of a triumph.  Exteriorly they did not differ in the least from the executions of common criminals.  But the moral grandeur of a martyr is essentially the same, whether he preserved his constancy in the arena before thousands of raving spectators or whether he perfected his martyrdom forsaken by all upon a pitiless flayer’s field” (The Roman Catacombs, Hertling-Kirschbaum).

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:

 

Prayer

Create an image, in your mind, of St. Francis in prayer.  What is he offering in prayer in your image?

St. Francis does not picture himself alone in loving God.  He sees himself as a partner with all the members of the whole “Communion of Saints”.  Is this a wholesome way to approach prayer and living the Christian faith?

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

 

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

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

“It Just Goes To Figure – – No, TRANSFIGURE!” – Matthew 17:1-9†


 

“Second Sunday 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:

 

Only in St. Louis can one’s children shovel snow on one day, and wear swimming trunks and playing in the sprinklers the very next.  I love the St. Louis area. 

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I hope everyone had a great (and safe) St. Patrick’s Day and Feast of St. Joseph (Yesterday); I did.

 

  Т

  

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   687 – Death of St. Cuthbert, patron saint of Northumbria (born 634)
†   1191 – Death of Clement III, [Paolo Scolari], Pope (1187-91, 3rd crusades), dies
†   1393 – Death of Johannes Nepomucenus, [Jan Nepomucky], Czech saint, killed
†   1619 – Death of Matthias II, Holy Roman Catholic emperor (1611-19)
†   Feast/Memorials: Feast of St. Cuthbert; Abdon and Sennen at Soissons; Saint Herbert; Saint Wulfram; Saint Alexandra

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

 

  Т

 

Joke of the Day:

  

(from http://thebackpew.com)

 

 Т

 

Today’s reflection is Matthew’s account about Jesus’ Transfiguration.

 

 

 

(NAB Matthew 17:1-9) 1 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  2 And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.  4 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  6 When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.  7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”  8 And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.  9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

 

Wow, we are at the second Sunday of Lent already.  We move from Jesus’ forty day “retreat” in the beautiful and warm Palestinian desert, to His “Transfiguration” on a “cloudy” mountain top.  Today’s story of Jesus’ Transfiguration is told in each of the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  And, in each of the three Gospels, the Transfiguration follows Jesus’ initial prediction of His death, and His teaching about the cost of being His disciple such as temptations from evil and from worldly influences.  

While praying on a mountain top (High Prayers?), a voice pronounces that Jesus IS God’s “Son” in words not unlike those heard “from the heaven’s” at Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River.  In addition, the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus on the mountain connects this “Transfiguration” story with God’s relationship to the people of Israel – – His “chosen” people.  Moses and Elijah represent the “Law” and the “Prophets”, respectively.  Together with Jesus, they represent God’s “complete and fulfilled ‘Word’”.

Jesus very likely discussed with Moses and Elijah His crucial and earth-shattering (and creation saving) decision to go to the Holy Cross – – the Holy Tree – – of salvation and redemption. 

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The Transfiguration occurs in the presence of just three of Jesus’ disciples.  Peter, James, and John always seemed to be with Jesus.  Matters of fact, in Matthew’s Gospel, these three disciples are among the first whom Jesus calls to be His Apostles.  These men had a very special relationship among Jesus’ chosen group of men – – The Apostles – – who, as a group, all had a uniquely special relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  These twelve particular men – – the Apostles – – are identified as the “inner circle” among Jesus’ disciples. 

Peter, James, and John were obviously Jesus’ “BFF’s” (Text talk for “Best Friends Forever”) as these three Apostles were also with Jesus at a later [important] date, while He was at prayer on another hilltop – – Gethsemane, just prior to His arrest:

“He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.” (Matthew 26:37).

The “Transfiguration” confirms to the three Apostles accompanying Jesus (and all who believed and still believe) that Jesus is truly the “Son of God”.  The Transfiguration also points to a fulfillment of prophesy that “He will come in His Father’s glory at the end of the age”:

“For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Matthew 16:27).

Jesus goes up “a high mountain” (verse 1).  This mountain has been identified with Mount Tabor, or possibly Mount Hermon.  The meaning of “a high mountain” may be a theological, rather than geographical, statement.  Some scholars say “a high mountain” may have been used in a literary way to recall the revelation of God given to both Moses and Elijah (at separate times) on Mount Sinai; and linking that relationship to the New Covenant brought in by Jesus.  The Lord was with both on their mountain tops, and is now again with them on His mountain top:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and, while you are there, I will give you the stone tablets on which I have written the commandments intended for their instruction.’  So Moses set out with Joshua, his aide, and went up to the mountain of God.  The elders, however, had been told by him, ‘Wait here for us until we return to you.  Aaron and Hur are staying with you. If anyone has a complaint, let him refer the matter to them.’  After Moses had gone up, a cloud covered the mountain.  The glory of the LORD settled upon Mount Sinai.  The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.  To the Israelites the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop.  But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights.” (Exodus 24:12-18)

And,

“He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb [Sinai].  There he came to a cave, where he took shelter.  But the word of the LORD came to him, ‘Why are you here, Elijah?’  He answered: ‘I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.’  Then the LORD said, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.’  A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake–but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was fire–but the LORD was not in the fire.  After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.  When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.  A voice said to him, ‘Elijah, why are you here?’  He replied, ‘I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts.  But the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.’  ‘Go, take the road back to the desert near Damascus,’ the LORD said to him. ‘When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram.  Then you shall anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king of Israel, and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed you.  If anyone escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill him. If he escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill him.  Yet I will leave seven thousand men in Israel–all those who have not knelt to Baal or kissed him.’” (1 Kings 19:8-18).

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I have been embarrassed a few times, and sunburned many, many, times in my life (I never seem to learn).  My face has glowed red with anger a few times as well.  But, never has my face been described as “shining like the sun”!  This physical description reminds me of two events in the Old Testament; Moses on Mount Sinai, and Daniel’s prophesy:

Then the Israelites would see that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant; so he would again put the veil over his face until he went in to converse with the LORD. (Exodus 34:35)

 “His body was like chrysolite, his face shown like lightning, his eyes were like fiery torches, his arms and feet looked like burnished bronze, and his voice sounded like the roar of a multitude.” (Daniel 10:6).

Jesus’ garments became glistening and intensely white.  Jesus’ face shined and “His clothes became white as light”.  Just as Jesus is manifesting God now, Moses skin shined when he met with God on Mount Sinai as he experienced God directly:

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the LORD.” (Exodus 34:29). 

White clothes are a prominent image associated with God’s manifestation.  Daniel’s prophecy (about 600 years earlier) states that the clothing of God appeared “snow bright”:

“As I watched, Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne.  His clothing was snow bright, and the hair on his head as white as wool; His throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire.” (Daniel 7:9)

The Evangelist Paul said the Jewish people could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness after spending time with God:

“Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, was so glorious that the Israelites could not look intently at the face of Moses because of its glory that was going to fade.” (2 Cor. 3:7).

And, even the book of Revelations is fairly active with “white garments” for heavenly beings:

“Surrounding the throne I saw twenty-four other thrones on which twenty-four elders sat, dressed in white garments and with gold crowns on their heads.”  (Rev 4:4)

“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.” (Rev 7:9)

“The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen.” (Rev 19:14)

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The cloud which eclipsed Jesus, His apostles, Moses, and Elijah fulfilled the Jewish peoples prophesy of God’s presence, when the true “Messiah” came to His “chosen” people, in the form of a cloud.  This cloud would again fill the temple, as the cloud did in the Old Testament:

“When Aaron announced this to the whole Israelite community, they turned toward the desert, and lo, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!  (Exodus 16:10).

The LORD also told him, ‘I am coming to you in a dense cloud, so that when the people hear me speaking with you, they may always have faith in you also.’  When Moses, then, had reported to the LORD the response of the people.” (Exodus 19:9). 

As Moses entered the tent, the column of cloud would come down and stand at its entrance while the LORD spoke with Moses.”  (Exodus 33:9). 

“When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:10). 

“Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord will be seen in the cloud, just as it appeared in the time of Moses and when Solomon prayed that the Place might be gloriously sanctified.”  (2 Maccabees 2:8). 

Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus Christ as God’s representatives and witnesses to the fulfillment of the Old Covenant laws and prophecies.   These laws and prophesies are being fulfilled in the person of Jesus as He appears in glory before theses two Old Covenant representatives, His three much loved Apostles, and His magnificent Father in heaven.

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Peter asked Jesus if he should make “three tents”.  “Tents” were places in which the Israelites lived during the “Feast of Tabernacles” while in their travels to Jerusalem from their home towns; in essence biblical era mobile homes.  The reference to “tents” in today’s Gospel reading is meant to recall the Jewish ancestors’ living in tents (also called “booths”) during the Exodus journey from Egypt to the “promised land”.  The words “tents” is a translation of the original Greek word, “skene”.  It is used interchangeably with the word “booths” which is sometimes used instead in reference to the “Feast of Tabernacles”. 

Per “Bible-truth.org”, the “Feast of Tabernacles”, also called “Sukkoth” or “Booths”, starts on the fifteenth of “Tishri”, the seventh month of the Jewish (biblical) calendar (sometime in the Gregorian calendar month of September or October).  This feast is the third of seven Jewish feasts in the Hebrew calendar year.  The “Feast of Tabernacles” required a pilgrimage of the Jewish peoples to Jerusalem in order to worship in the Temple, and to offer sacrifices and offerings to the Lord.  The Feast of Tabernacles is explained well in the book of Leviticus, and is also vaguely mentioned in John’s Gospel:

“On the fifteenth day, then, of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast of the LORD for a whole week.  The first and the eighth day shall be days of complete rest.  On the first day you shall gather foliage from majestic trees, branches of palms and boughs of myrtles and of valley poplars, and then for a week you shall make merry before the LORD, your God.  By perpetual statute for you and your descendants you shall keep this pilgrim feast of the LORD for one whole week in the seventh month of the yearDuring this week every native Israelite among you shall dwell in booths. (Leviticus 23:39-42).

And,

The Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.” (John 7:2)

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Jesus went to the mountain in full knowledge of what awaited Him in a short amount of time in Jerusalem: His betrayal by Judas, His rejection by all His Apostles, His scourging and humility, and His crucifixion on the Holy Tree of redemption. 

Jesus was in prayer on this mountain top when a “cloud cast a shadow over them” and the “Word” emanated from the clouds.  (I wonder if they brought umbrellas and a tape recorder.)  The Gospel of Mark parallels Matthews account in a nearly identical way:

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, ‘This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.’” Mark 9:7.

Jesus’ most loved and closest friends – – three of His Apostles – – enter into the mystery of Jesus’ glorification on that mountain top.  (Wow!  Can you just imagine their feelings?!)  

Peter, James, and John were privileged witnesses of the glory of Jesus Christ.  Remember though, we too, as followers of Jesus Christ are also called to be witnesses of His glory in today’s world.  In witnessing to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, we change into His likeness little by little, as this possible as a grace from our Lord, – – and in, with, and through the Holy Spirit:

“All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18).  

Why a cloud, and “words” coming from the cloud?  Well, in the Old Testament, a cloud covered the “meeting tent” during the 40 year exodus (had to be high quality tents), indicated the Lord’s presence in the midst of His people.  This same “cloud” came to rest upon the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of its dedication.  Verses from the Books of Exodus and 1 Kings are being revealed again:

“Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.” (Exodus 40:34-35)

And,

“When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:10).

 

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” is identical to Matthews’s earlier statement of God’s word at the time of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River:

“And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:17).

In both cases, God the Father’s voice speaking from the “heavens” is a reflection of God’s words heard in several Old Testament encounters:

“Then God said: ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.’”  (Genesis 22:2);

“Then speaks to them in anger, terrifies them in wrath: ‘I myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’  I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, who said to me, ‘You are my son; today I am your fatherI will proclaim the decree of the LORD, who said to me, ‘You are my son; today I am your father”.  (Psalm 2:5-7);

And,

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

The voice of God heard by Peter, James, and John not only repeats the baptismal proclamation about Jesus; it adds the commandlisten to him”.  “Listen to Him” makes reference to a particular verse from the book of Deuteronomy:

“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen.” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

The command “’listen’ to Jesus” is a simple and generally academic command.  However, in the context of today’s Gospel reading, it may apply particularly to the past prophesies of His “Passion”, His “Resurrection”, and of His coming again – – IN GLORY!  Matthew exemplifies this belief later on in his Gospel:

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

And,

“For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.  Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:27-28).

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How powerful is this statement from verse 7: “Rise, and do not be afraid“?!  The Old Testament typography found in this verse is amazing and comforting for me.  I use a very similar verse from the book of Daniel quite often, especially when stressed.  Please write down these verses from Daniel, and use them as a prayer and meditation when in need of comfort, courage, and strength: 

“When I heard the sound of his voice, I fell face forward in a faint.  But then a hand touched me, raising me to my hands and knees.  The one who looked like a man touched me again and strengthened me, saying, ‘Fear not, beloved, you are safe; take courage and be strong.’”  (Daniel 10:9-10, 18-19).

For me, it is apparent that Jesus was not only well-versed in this particular book of the Old Testament (Daniel), He internalized, loved, and emitted this beautifully “prophetic” book. 

 

Matthew is the sole Gospel writer using the words, “the vision” to describe the ‘Transfiguration’.   It was impossible for these three men (the Apostles) to fully understand the importance of the “Transfiguration” event that happened before their very eyes UNTIL the “Son of Man” – – Jesus Christ – – had been raised from the dead on that one Sunday morning!  Only in the light of, the illumination of, and the radiance of Jesus’ “Resurrection” can the true and full meaning of His life and mission on earth be completely and justly understood.  Prior to Jesus’ Resurrection, – – happening three days after His horrific torture and demise on the Holy Tree, – – NO testimony, declaration, or evidence to the “vision” presented to these three Apostles would be able to lead people wholeheartedly to faith in Jesus Christ, as the “Messiah”, without the works of the Holy Spirit.

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I am certain the Apostles’ had questions about the appearance, – – the return to earth – – of the Old Testament’s law giver – Moses, and the Old Testament’s leading prophet – Elijah.  In addressing any questions, Jesus unravels the mission and actions of the “greatest” Law-giver and prophet from the Old Covenant.

  Through Moses, God brought His law to His “chosen” people.  Jesus is not only continuing the law of God, but through Jesus Christ, the law is completely and fully revealed.  Elijah’s expectations and prophecies are brought about and fulfilled in Jesus Christ when baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.  God’s “Law” is fulfilled, and ALL the “Messianic” prophesies are fulfilled – – Through Jesus Christ!!

I find it interesting that the role in salvation history which John the Baptist played, – – and revealed many centuries before in Elijah’s prophesies – – was not suspected by those individuals who vehemently opposed John’s message, and also those individuals whom ultimately had him killed. 

Jesus ends this Gospel reading with a fact yet unknown, yet to berevealed, to man. He tells of a human fate for Himself, similar to Elijah and John the Baptist – – death.

 

Have you ever been able to use the memories of previous “good times” and “positive experiences” to sustain you in the difficult times?  Jesus’ Transfiguration was certainly an event from which Peter, James, and John drew courage when facing the difficult events of Jesus’ Passion, and in their own personal “passions” later in their lives.  

Are you prepared to see God’s glory?  Do you seek, search out, His presence with faith and reverence in all we do, we experience, and we see?  The Lord wants to reveal His glory to us, His much loved disciples.  Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the good times and experiences that you have had in your life.  Pray to use these experiences to sustain you during the difficult times.  

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Psalm 33”
(from today’s Mass)

 

“For the LORD’S word is true; all his works are trustworthy.
The LORD loves justice and right and fills the earth with goodness.
But the LORD’S eyes are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for his gracious help, delivering them from death, keeping them alive in times of famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and shield.
May your kindness, LORD, be upon us; we have put our hope in you. Amen.”

Psalm 33:4-5,18-20,22

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Salvator of Horta (1520-1567)

 

A reputation for holiness does have some drawbacks.  Public recognition can be a nuisance at times — as the confreres of Salvator found out.

Salvator was born during Spain’s Golden Age.  Art, politics and wealth were flourishing.  So was religion.  Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus in 1540.

Salvator’s parents were poor.  At the age of 21 he entered the Franciscans as a brother and was soon known for his asceticism, humility and simplicity.

As cook, porter and later the official beggar for the friars in Tortosa, he became well known for his charity.  He healed the sick with the Sign of the Cross.  When crowds of sick people began coming to the friary to see Salvator, the friars transferred him to Horta.  Again the sick flocked to ask his intercession; one person estimated that two thousand people a week came to see Salvator.  He told them to examine their consciences, to go to confession and to receive Holy Communion worthily.  He refused to pray for those who would not receive those sacraments.

The public attention given to Salvator was relentless.  The crowds would sometimes tear off pieces of his habit as relics.  Two years before his death, Salvator was moved again, this time to Cagliari on the island of Sardinia.  He died at Cagliari saying, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”  He was canonized in 1938.

Comment:

Medical science is now seeing more clearly the relation of some diseases to one’s emotional and spiritual life.  In Healing Life’s Hurts, Matthew and Dennis Linn report that sometimes people experience relief from illness only when they have decided to forgive others.  Salvator prayed that people might be healed, and many were. Surely not all diseases can be treated this way; medical help should not be abandoned.  But notice that Salvator urged his petitioners to reestablish their priorities in life before they asked for healing.

Quote:

“Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.” (Matthew 10:1).

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

During the Preparation of the Gifts, the prayers of the priest has several changes, but the only change for the assembly is the addition of the word “Holy” to the response just before the Prayer over the Offerings.  Where we now say, “for our good and the good of all his Church,” the new text will say, “for our good and the good of all His Holy Church.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Prayer III

Read the explanations about contemplative prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church?  Does this help your understanding of contemplative prayer?

How many paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church are devoted to instructing us about prayer?  Have you we read these pages, and reflected on them?

Why do you think the Catholic Church has devoted this amount of space to publish the aforementioned section on prayer in the Catechism?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 20 & 21 of 26:

 

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

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21.  On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.  

“You Want Authority?! You Can Have It, But With Authority – Comes Responsibility!” – Mark 10:32-45†


  

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for March, 2011

 

General Intention:

That the nations of Latin America may walk in fidelity to the Gospel and be bountiful in social justice and peace.

 

Missionary Intention:

That the Holy Spirit may give light and strength to the Christian communities and the faithful who are persecuted or discriminated against because of the Gospel.

 

 

            

Today in Catholic History:


†   1459 – Birth of Adrian VI, [Adriaan F Boeyens], Netherlands, Pope (1522-23)
†   1589 – Death of Alessandro Cardinal Farnese, Italian cardinal (b. 1520)
†   1758 – Death of Pierre Guérin de Tencin, French cardinal (b. 1679)
†   1810 – Birth of Leo XIII, [Vincenzo G Pecci], 256th pope (1878-1903)
†   1876 – Birth of Pius XII, [Euhenio MGG Pacelli], 260th Pope (1939-58)
†   1928 – Birth of Father John Romanides, Greek priest and professor (d. 2001)
†   1939 – Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli is elected Pope and takes the name Pius XII.
†   Catholic Church: Saint Jovinus; Blessed Charles the Good, Count of Flanders (+Bruges 1127) 

(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:

 

It is better to be hated for what you are then to be loved for what you are not ~ unknown

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

POVERTY

What is poverty to you? 

How is poverty expressed in the SFO Rule? 

Can you recall any examples by people which you can imitate in regards to poverty?

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching on authority, submission, and service.

  

32 They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them.  They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him.  33 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles 34 who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.”  35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  36 He replied, “What do you wish (me) to do for you?”  37 They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”  38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  39 They said to him, “We can.”  Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”  41 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.  42 Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  43 But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; 44 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  45 For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NAB Mark 10:32-45)

 

 

Five separate times (in this Gospel reading, plus four others) in Holy Scripture, Jesus foretold of His suffering greatly at the hands of Jewish and Roman officials.  He was betrayed, rejected, humiliated, and tortured.  He finally experienced the punishment of a cruel and extremely painful death on that Holy Tree of redemption and salvation outside the gates of Jerusalem.  

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

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

Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Matthew 20:18-19)

Then he took the ‘Twelve’ aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; and after they have scourged him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise.’” (Luke 18:31-33)

The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, had foretold that it was “God’s will” (His plan).  Jesus Christ, the “Suffering Servant”, atoned for OUR sins and transgressions through His suffering and death (cf., Isaiah 53:5-12).  Jesus paid the price for OUR redemption with His own human body, blood, soul, and divinity.

The Jewish people used stoning, and the Roman government used crucifixion to condemn people to death.  For me, either way (rock or wood) is a painful and humiliating death.  Our Lord Jesus Christ, labeled a criminal, went through a humiliating and torturous death, devised by man for not only physical torture, but for psychological torture and family disgrace as well.  With this fact in mind, no wonder Jesus’ disciples, His Apostles, were greatly distressed at Jesus’ foretelling of these events, five separate times!  You probably know what was going though their minds.  If their teacher, their Master, and their friend, – – Jesus Christ, – – was to be put to death, then would they receive the same horrendous treatment by the Jewish people and/or Roman government?.

The price Jesus paid for OUR redemption liberated (and still liberates) us from the worst oppression and cruelty possible – the oppression and cruelty of sin and the “worry and fear” of death.  Jesus became a victor, triumphing over death.  He defeated the powers of death through His own demise and through His glorious and magnificent resurrection from the tomb three days later.

Jesus had an unquenchable and intense desire to make certain that all He had foretold about His arrest, passion, and death (and His ultimate rising and ascension) would come about.  Jesus had previously told His disciples that He would physically and emotionally suffer intensely and terribly in Jerusalem.  His disciples certainly were confused and perplexed in comprehending His “eagerness” at wanting to hurry the process of His murder along.  In doing so, Jesus, in His humble example, is teaching us to carry our individual crosses with joy.  We should not to try to avoid carrying our crosses, but rather, to ask for Him to make our load lighter and easier to manage – – through continual adoration and prayer.

When we ask for anything in prayer, we should be always ready to accept God’s will, even if it does not coincide with our own:

His Majesty knows best what is suitable for us; it is not for us to advise Him what to give us, for He can rightly reply that we know not what we ask.  All that the beginner in prayer has to do — and you must not forget this, for it is very important — is to labor and be resolute and prepare himself with all possible diligence to bring his will into conformity with the will of God. (St. Theresa, Interior Castle, 2, 8).

 

James and John ask for special places in God’s kingdom; for a “share” in the glory of Jesus Christ.  To do so, did they not realize that they would have to share in Jesus’ sufferings, tribulations, and sacrifice of self?  The authority of assigning places of honor in the kingdom is reserved solely to God the Father.  A place of such honor is not freely given, but must be earned through a life of prayer, penance, alms-giving, sacrifice, and suffering. (I just pray to be let in the “back” door of heaven.  I don’t want anything special, for I am not worthy such an honor.)

God wanted Holy Scripture to record the weaknesses in those of Jesus’ followers (including the Apostles); those who will become unshakeable pillars of the “Catholic” (universal) Church.  The grace of God produces spectacular and awesome wonders in the individual souls of His people!  So, we should never be pessimistic in the face of our own trials, misery, unhappiness, and depression:

“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” (Philippians 4:13).

 

Jesus asks a serious and profound question to James and John:

“Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38)

In asking the phrase “drinking the cup”, Jesus is using an Old Testament figure of speech, referring to one’s acceptance of God’s future destiny and providence in their life.  An “allotted cup” is the cup given to drink by God in three separate Psalms:

And rains upon the wicked fiery coals and brimstone, a scorching wind their allotted cup.” (Psalm 11:6)

“LORD, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure.” (Psalm 16:5)

Yes, a cup is in the LORD’S hand, foaming wine, fully spiced.  When God pours it out, they will drain it even to the dregs; all the wicked of the earth must drink.” (Psalm 75:9)

In Jesus’ case, drinking from God’s “cup” involved accepting, – – through His actions, suffering, and death, – – a divine “sentence” for OUR sins.  Jesus, though innocent of any crime or sin, is the one that came to do penance and make amends, on behalf of the sinful “guilty” – – US!!  Jesus’ crucifixion and death was (and is) for the salvation of the human race:

But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” (Mark 14:24)

Jesus joined “authority” with “selfless service” and “loving sacrifice”.  Authority without sacrificial love is impolite, vulgar, and self-serving.  Jesus used severe language to explain what kind of sacrifice He had in mind for His followers; one of absolute and total surrender to God’s will.  For some followers, the “cup” we must drink may entail true physical pain and suffering, and may ultimately include the painful act of martyrdom. However, for many (if not most) Christians, it entails the long (sometimes boring) everyday regularity of Catholic life; its daily surrender, sacrifices, regrets, disappointments, impediments, struggles, and temptations.  A follower of Jesus Christ, – – a disciple – – must be ready, and willing, to lay down one’s life for God and faith (martyrdom).  A follower of Jesus Christ, – – a disciple – – must be ready to surrender to Jesus Christ every single day in little, and big, sacrifices and loving service required by God.

A prayer I say every morning is:

“Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little, since I do them with your power; and little things as though they were great, since I do them in your name.”

Whatever authority His disciples – – Jesus’ followers – – carry out, it must be like that of Jesus Christ Himself.  They must execute their authority as one of service to others and not for personal enhancement and/or motives.  Keep in mind, Jesus’ humble service to others involved His arrest, passion, and death on the Holy Tree for OUR (not His) sins.  Can you follow in His path to salvation?

“Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.  Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, Because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; And he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses. (Isaiah 53:11-12)

With Jesus, and His new covenant with us, we no longer live in a system of retribution (eye for eye, tooth for tooth, etc).  We no longer “get even” with someone who does evil toward us.  Retribution and retaliation simply adds MORE evil into the world.  Instead, we need to “absorb” the evil, and respond with unrelenting forgiveness.  Instead of making war, we are to make PEACE!  This is how the kingdom of God comes about, and is how we gain a place in the kingdom.  This is how we are to “drink from the cup”!

Our attitude should mimic that of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We need to seek opportunities to serve God, mankind, and the earth, with a truly supernatural and divinely inspired outlook and passion.  We should not expect anything in return for our service.  We should serve those who do, and do not, appreciate the service we perform, and with them in mind and prayer as we perform it. 

Serving others not appreciative may not make any sense as judged by human standards.  However, a Catholic identified with Christ is satisfied and delighted precisely in serving others, including those not appreciative.  By doing so, we share in Jesus Christ’s mission, and thereby attain true dignity:

This dignity is expressed in readiness to serve, in keeping with the example of Christ, who ‘came not to be served but to serve’.  If, in the light of this attitude of Christ’s, ‘being a king’ is truly possible only by ‘being a servant’ then ‘being a servant’ also demands so much spiritual maturity that it must really be described as ‘being a king’.  In order to be able to serve others worthily and effectively we must be able to master ourselves, possess the virtues that make this mastery possible.  Our sharing in Christ’s kingly mission – His ‘kingly function’ (munus) is closely linked with every sphere of both Christian and human morality.” (John Paul II, Redemptor hominis, 21)

Those who do follow Jesus on His path of total submission, – – including His agony, pain, and death, – – will be rewarded by the Lord in a personal and unique way.  They will enjoy happiness and joy while basking in the warmth of the light emanating from God’s love.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” (Ephesians 5:8-9)

We can experience this warmth and glow – – RIGHT NOW!  We can experience a little taste of heaven at each Eucharistic celebration.  When we become one with Jesus Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion, we enter into a unique and special relationship with the Holy Trinity, the angels, the saints, and the entire celestial court.  AWESOME!  With reception of His Body and Body in the Holy Eucharist, we experience Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection; and OUR release from venial sin, all at the same time.

“For this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)

He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” (Mark 14:24)

 “Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.” (Luke 22:19-20.)

At Mass (and specifically at Communion) we approach Jesus, in the Holy Eucharist, with a “list” of wishes, wants, petitions, and intentions.  We approach this special and living Sacrament asking for favors and forgiveness.  In doing so, we believe we are honoring Him, – – but, are we?

We need to remember that at the same time we are approaching Jesus, He is also approaching us!  How do you imagine Jesus approaching us at Mass?  I believe Jesus comes to us with a broken body; a body broken out of love for us.  He comes to us as the “loving servant” who stoops down, washing our feet.  He is our individual and collective “lover” who knows the deepest needs of our hearts, minds, and souls – – and is ready and willing to fill them completely full!  All He asks for, in return, is our hope, love, trust, and obedience.  So, come to Him as He comes to you; as the one who gives as well as the one who receives.  Along with petitions and intentions, offer your deeds, works, talents, and accomplishments to Jesus as a “loving servant” gift for Him.

 

An early church father (unknown to me) summed up Jesus’ teaching with a simple expression: to serve is to reign with Christ.”  With this in mind, we share in God’s “reign” by surrendering our lives, – – spiritually, mentally, and physically, – – in one of humble service, just as Jesus did for OUR sake.  Are you willing to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus Christ did so completely and lovingly?  Are you willing to plead guilty to being a Christian, – – A Catholic?!  Are you willing to be sentenced to a life of eternal service for God’s kingdom?

 

Prayer of Selflessness

 

“O Dearly beloved Word of God,
teach me to be generous,
to serve You as You deserve,
to give without counting the cost,
to fight without fretting at my wounds,
to labor without seeking rest,
to spend myself without looking
for any reward other than that
of knowing that I do Your Holy will.  Amen.”

http://www.yenra.com/catholic/prayers/

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Agnes of Bohemia (1205-1282)

 

Agnes had no children of her own but was certainly life-giving for all who knew her.

Agnes was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia.  At the age of three, she was betrothed to the Duke of Silesia, who died three years later.  As she grew up, she decided she wanted to enter the religious life.

After declining marriages to King Henry VII of Germany and Henry III of England, Agnes was faced with a proposal from Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor.  She appealed to Pope Gregory IX for help.  The pope was persuasive; Frederick magnanimously said that he could not be offended if Agnes preferred the King of Heaven to him.

After Agnes built a hospital for the poor and a residence for the friars, she financed the construction of a Poor Clare monastery in Prague.  In 1236, she and seven other noblewomen entered this monastery.  Saint Clare sent five sisters from San Damiano to join them, and wrote Agnes four letters advising her on the beauty of her vocation and her duties as abbess.

Agnes became known for prayer, obedience and mortification.  Papal pressure forced her to accept her election as abbess; nevertheless, the title she preferred was “senior sister.”  Her position did not prevent her from cooking for the other sisters and mending the clothes of lepers.  The sisters found her kind but very strict regarding the observance of poverty; she declined her royal brother’s offer to set up an endowment for the monastery.

Devotion to Agnes arose soon after her death on March 6, 1282. She was canonized in 1989.

Comment:

Agnes spent at least 45 years in a Poor Clare monastery.  Such a life requires a great deal of patience and charity.  The temptation to selfishness certainly didn’t vanish when Agnes walked into the monastery.  It is perhaps easy for us to think that cloistered nuns “have it made” regarding holiness.  Their route is the same as ours: gradual exchange of our standards (inclination to selfishness) for God’s standard of generosity.

Quote:

“Have nothing to do with anyone who would stand in your way and would seek to turn you aside from fulfilling the vows which you have made to the Most High (Psalm 49:14) and from living in that perfection to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you” (Clare to Agnes, Letter II in Murray Bodo, O.F.M., Clare: A Light in the Garden, p. 118).

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)

 
    

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 “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely.  More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal.  It will now say, “I have greatly sinned” and later adds “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

“Yo; Drop That Stuff and Come With Me! We Have Places To Get To, People To Save, and Lots of Bread To Break!” – Matthew 4:12-23†


            

Today in Catholic History:
    


†   909 – John of Rila (aka Saint Ivan) was the first Bulgarian hermit, known for the “fable of two pies”.
†   1350 – Birth of Vincent Ferrer, Spanish missionary and saint (d. 1419)
†   1492 – The “Pentateuch” (Jewish holy book) is first printed.
†   1789 – Georgetown College becomes the first Roman Catholic college in the United States in the city of Washington, D.C.
†   1929 – Birth of Patriarch Filaret (Mykhailo Denysenko) of Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate
†   1936 – The Catholic People’s Party (KVP) of Curacao (a Caribbean Island) is formed
†   1998 – Pope John Paul II condemns the US embargo against Cuba
†   Memorials/Feasts: St. Raymond of Peñafort, confessor, d. 1275; St. Emerentiana, virgin and martyr, d. 305; Blessed Marianne of Molokai

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

  

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 07 of 13 Parts

The Church expects us, urges the Cardinal, to have an attitude and conduct of authentic evangelical parrhesia  spent in the city of man. In the city of concrete human relations, of ‘humanity in situ’, not in a virtual, purely academic city, one of theoretical situations and obliging conformity towards the powers that be – out of fear or, worse still, for one’s own personal advantage.

What is parrhesia  ?

It is speaking clearly, without fear and hesitation, giving uncompromising witness to the Truth of the Gospel, explaining the hope that lives in us, sowing with humble courage the seed of the Word.

Today, more than ever, we should ask the Lord for the grace of parrhesia, for each one of us, for the whole SFO and for our churches.

In order to rediscover our prophetic mission and not be silent about violence perpetrated on the poor.

In order to intervene with courage every time human rights are violated.

In order not to be afraid of threats and to speak with honesty, without betraying the Word of God and making compromises, when the rights of God are made subordinate to the interests of men and of the idols which would claim His place.

 

(Continued on next published blog)

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

 

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus beginning to preach in Galilee.  He also and calls His first disciples.

 

12 When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.  13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”  17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.  19 He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.  21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.  23 He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.   (NAB Matthew 4:12-23)

 

Today’s Gospel records the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ ministry begins after His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, and after his forty-day retreat to the desert where He was tempted by Satan.  When Jesus returns from His sojourn in the desert, he learns that John the Baptist had been arrested and was imprisoned.

 

Isaiah’s prophecy of the light rising upon Zebulun and Naphtali and Jesus’ residence at Capernaum is realized and fulfilled in the opening verses of today’s reading:

“They look to the earth, but will see only distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into thick darkness. But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.  In the former time he brought them into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.”  (Isaiah 8:22-9:1)  

Galilee was at the crossroads of the “world” and much traffic passed through this little region.  This territory was devastated politically and religiously around the mid-700’s B.C., with the Assyrian invasion.  At this time a segment of the Jewish population was exiled to other regions, and a substantial number of “foreigners” were moved into the territory, forcibly taking possession of the land from the Jewish people, and then inhabiting in it.  For this reason, the area is referred to in Holy Scripture hereafter as the “Galilee of the Gentiles”.  This same land that was devastated and abused in Isaiah’s time will also be the first to receive the light, mission, and salvation of Jesus Christ’s life and preaching.

In order to fit Jesus’ move to Capernaum into Isaiah’s prophecy, Matthew speaks of Capernaum as being “in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali“, though it was actually “only” in the territory of Naphtali.  Matthew also somewhat “tweaked” his understanding of the “sea” in the messianic prophecy as the Sea of Galilee instead of the original Mediterranean Sea, as in Isaiah.

 

 

At the beginning of His teaching and preaching ministry, Jesus takes up the words of John the Baptist:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  (Matthew 3:2)

Jesus made two rather simple and direct demands: repent and believe!  The Holy Spirit gives us grace to see our sins for what they are – – denial, refusal, and a rejection of the love of God.  God wants to change our ways of thinking and transform our lives by the power of His ever-living word, and through the actions of the Holy Spirit.

However, Jesus Christ takes up John’s words of repentance and penance with a different meaning than John’s.  In Jesus’ ministry on earth, the kingdom of heaven had already begun to be present (and still is present today and forever).

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  (Matthew 12:28)

Jesus’ enduring, permanent, and redeeming efforts usher in a “new” age and covenant in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ brought such an enhancement and improvement through His salvation, that what is now required from us to be part of His kingdom, is a true and radical daily change in our behavior towards God and others.  God, in and through Jesus Christ, intervened in a special way to save all mankind.  We must now be open to God’s grace, and reform our ways in this same special way – – DAILY! 

We are obligated to make a stand – – either for God, or against Him!  (There are NO grey areas here!)  We must purposefully stop our moving (or slipping) away from God, and instead purposefully and lovingly move closer to Him.  With the coming of Jesus Christ, penance and a turning toward God on a daily (maybe even hourly) basis are absolutely essential!

Repentance is of such exceptional importance for Jesus that He preaches on this issue as the very first subject in His public ministry.  His words not only echo John the Baptist’s proclamation, it is the same – – word-for-word – – with John’s (as found in Matthew 3:2).  Both John and Jesus demanded repentance and penance as a precondition and qualification for receiving the Kingdom of God, which Jesus Christ has brought in and established in its fullness in, with, and through Him.  Jesus will present, illustrate, and reveal the Kingdom of God to be a Kingdom of love and holiness.

“We must submit our sins to the Church with a contrite heart in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that we may be daily more and more converted to the Lord, remembering His word: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand’”. (Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 5)

Mankind fell into darkness with Adam and Eve’s sin.  Yet, God never abandoned His “chosen” people.  When His Son, Jesus Christ, was scourged and crucified, God raised Him up!  And this is our personal story, our future, as well.  We are sinners who are saved through the light of Jesus Christ.  We die in, and with, Christ – – and we rise with Him!  We go from the darkness of sin, to the light of His salvation.

 

 

These four men chosen by Jesus to be His first disciples, (and even His first Apostles), had already met the Lord, Jesus Christ, prior to His choosing them:

“The next day John [the Baptist] 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.  Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’  They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’  He said to them, ’Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.  It was about four in the afternoon.  Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed).  Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter)”.  (Jn 1:35-42)

Their brief meeting with Jesus must have had an extremely powerful effect in their hearts and minds, as well as on their souls.  The effect Jesus had on these four fishermen moved them to immediately leave everything behind so as to follow Him, and to be His first disciples – – traveling with Him unfailing for three years and over many, many miles of ministry.  Can you envision the powerful presence that Jesus had on the people He met in order to elicit such an immediate and complete response as that of these first disciples?  Rising above their own personal and spiritual human faults and shortcomings (which the Gospel does so well at never hiding), we can see the great and wonderful promptness and generosity of these men (and hopefully ours) in answering God’s call.

“God draws us from the shadows of our ignorance, our groping through history, and, no matter what our occupation in the world, He calls us in a loud voice, as He once called Peter and Andrew”. (St. Josemaria Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 45)

The promptness, enthusiasm, and eagerness with which these disciples (and future Apostles) follow Jesus were remarkable.  They immediately leave their nets and past lives, and follow Him.  God comes into all of our lives just as He did with these four fishermen; coming to us individually, He personally calls us to do His work in our lives and witness.  If we do not answer Him “immediately”, He may “continue” on His way, and we could easily turn our back on Him, and lose sight of Him. 

He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power.  When the Lord calls us to be his disciple and benefactor of His grace, we should not think that we don’t have anything to offer Him in exchange.  The Lord takes the little we can offer and uses it for a sign and greatness of, for, and in, His kingdom in heaven and on earth.

Were these men more special than any of us?  HECK NO!  These were men had little education, and laboring as fishermen, when called by Jesus Christ.  More so than not, Jesus Christ seems to call ordinary men to perform extraordinary feats, while in the midst of their ordinary labors, actions, and lives.  The Wise Men were “called” in their ordinary glimmering occupations of studying and dreaming in the flickering stars; Moses was shepherding his flock when told to start a travel export company of sorts; Elisha was plowing his land when summoned to help another prophet, and to take care of a “jezebel”; and Amos was looking after his herd of sheep, his grove of fig trees, and counting his money when was given his mission.

Jesus’ calling of the first disciples gave to each of them a part in His work and mission.  Their “calling” entailed an abandonment of family, friends, and their former ways of life.  (Note: later bible verses suggest that the first disciples’ separation from their families may not have been as complete as the verses in today’s Gospel might lead us to believe.)  Is it surprising that three of the four chosen today (Simon, James, and John) are prominent among Jesus’ disciples (and Apostles) as having a closer and more personal relationship with Him than any others following Him?  They had the privilege of witnessing events in Jesus’ life and ministry which the other disciples did not see and experience.

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” (Matthew 17:1; 26:37) 

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’  He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.”  (Matthew 26:36-37).

 

 

The reading today ends Jesus’ first ministry actions as reported in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapters 3 and 4).  His ministry activities of teaching, proclaiming the good news of God (the Gospel), and healing will continue for the next three years on earth, and still continues today through the actions of the Holy Spirit working in and through each of us in a personal way.

 

Today’s Gospel reading ends with a description of Jesus’ ministry – – as it is beginning – – in that small fishing village of Galilee.  

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.”  (Matthew 9:35)

Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God with his life and work.  He teaches in the synagogue and preaches of the “kingdom”.  Jesus’ ability to cure people’s diseases and illness is a “sign” of God’s kingdom.  In Jesus’ ministry, we can already begin to see the Kingdom of God among us.

 

Could it be that the message for us today is to balance the fundamental “call” to be a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ with the challenge to be “fishers of men”, even within our own little circle of families and friends?  Initiating, and maintaining this balance will probably necessitate that we – – change some of our “priorities” – – in respect to our own families, friends, AND GOD!

Itemize and list the duties and activities of your typical day.  What are your “priorities” in your daily details and schedule?  How do you respond and react when your daily plans are interrupted or must be changed?  With your daily life in mind, reflect on the faith, trust, and example of the first disciples who “immediately” dropped everything they had and knew to follow Jesus.  Does your “priorities” and schedule give witness and evidence of placing God first in your life?  What might you do in order to better reveal and expose that God is your priority?

Do you show others around you the joy of the Gospel – – God’s “LIVING” Word?  Do you pray for your friends and family, co-workers, and the marginalized to come to know Jesus Christ?  Do you pray for them to grow in the beauty and acknowledgement of His eternal and unending love?  Please pray that you will always give witness, confirmation, and external signs that God comes first in your life.

“Only when a person is struck and opened up by Christ can true community grow.”  (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI] “The Theological Locus of Ecclesial Movements”)

 

 

Psalm 27

 

“The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom do I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom am I afraid? 

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’S house
all the days of my life,
that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord
and contemplate his temple. 

I believe that I shall the bounty of the Lord
in the land of the living. 
Wait for the Lord with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord. 
Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Mother Marianne Cope (1838-1918)

 

Though leprosy scared off most people in 19th-century Hawaii, that disease sparked great generosity in the woman who came to be known as Mother Marianne of Molokai.  Her courage helped tremendously to improve the lives of its victims in Hawaii, a territory annexed to the United States during her lifetime (1898).

Mother Marianne’s generosity and courage were celebrated at her May 14, 2005, beatification in Rome.  She was a woman who spoke “the language of truth and love” to the world, said Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. Cardinal Martins, who presided at the beatification Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, called her life “a wonderful work of divine grace.”  Speaking of her special love for persons suffering from leprosy, he said, “She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus.  Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother.”

On January 23, 1838, a daughter was born to Peter and Barbara Cope of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany.  The girl was named after her mother.  Two years later the Cope family immigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York.  Young Barbara worked in a factory until August 1862, when she went to the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York.  After profession in November of the next year, she began teaching at Assumption parish school.

Marianne held the post of superior in several places and was twice the novice mistress of her congregation.  A natural leader, three different times she was superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, where she learned much that would be useful during her years in Hawaii.

Elected provincial in 1877, Mother Marianne was unanimously re-elected in 1881.  Two years later the Hawaiian government was searching for someone to run the Kakaako Receiving Station for people suspected of having leprosy.  More than 50 religious communities in the United States and Canada were asked.  When the request was put to the Syracuse sisters, 35 of them volunteered immediately. On October 22, 1883, Mother Marianne and six other sisters left for Hawaii where they took charge of the Kakaako Receiving Station outside Honolulu; on the island of Maui they also opened a hospital and a school for girls.

In 1888, Mother Marianne and two sisters went to Molokai to open a home for “unprotected women and girls” there.  The Hawaiian government was quite hesitant to send women for this difficult assignment; they need not have worried about Mother Marianne!  On Molokai she took charge of the home that Blessed Damien DeVeuster (d. 1889) had established for men and boys.  Mother Marianne changed life on Molokai by introducing cleanliness, pride and fun to the colony.  Bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women were part of her approach.

Awarded the Royal Order of Kapiolani by the Hawaiian government and celebrated in a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mother Marianne continued her work faithfully.  Her sisters have attracted vocations among the Hawaiian people and still work on Molokai.

Mother Marianne died on August 9, 1918.

Comment:

The government authorities were reluctant to allow Mother Marianne to be a mother on Molokai.  Thirty years of dedication proved their fears unfounded.  God grants gifts regardless of human short-sightedness and allows those gifts to flower for the sake of the kingdom.

Quote:

Soon after Mother Marianne died, Mrs. John F. Bowler wrote in the Honolulu Advertiser, “Seldom has the opportunity come to a woman to devote every hour of 30 years to the mothering of people isolated by law from the rest of the world.  She risked her own life in all that time, faced everything with unflinching courage and smiled sweetly through it all.”

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 23 & 24 of 26:

 

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

  

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