Tag Archives: John

“The ‘Sign’ Read: ‘If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!’” – John 2:1-11†


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2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

T. table_of_contentsoday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveris, & Declarations:

 

Please let me explain why I did not publish a blog Wednesday.  I have a chronic eye condition known in the medical field as “keratoconus”.  Patients with this condition have misshaped globes of the eye.  Instead of the ckeratoconus-demoorneas being round and smooth, my eyes are shaped like the ends of footballs, and with ridges on their surfaces.  Thus, I wear specially made (very expensive) contacts in order to see well enough for daily living.  Without these contacts, my vision is like looking through a very thin layer of petroleum jelly.  Eventually, I will have to have corneal transport surgery on both eyes, but obviously, I wish to postpone this surgery as long as is reasonable.

One of my eyes has started to develop blood vessels on the cornea; some2816_2835_3thing very bad for future corneal transplant surgery.  Thus, I have to use four different medications on the eye throughout the day and night, and I am unable to wear a contact in this eye until some point after my surgery.  Laser surgery is scheduled for late February (He will burn the blood vessels on my cornea with the laser). 

For now, it is difficult to read due to the resultant blurriness of not wearing the contact.  For this reason, I have to limit my reflection blog to Sundays – – only FOR NOWI am also asking for your prayers in this matter.  Thank you in advance.

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Quote of the Day:

To turn water into wine, and what is common into what is holy, is indeed the glory of Christianity.” ~ Frederick William Robertson

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Today’s reflection: Jesus performs his first sign at a wedding feast in Cana.  Jesus heard and obeyed His mother, Mary – – the mother of God; Do YOU?!

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(NAB John 2:1-11)  1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.  3 When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  4 [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.  7 Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.”  So they filled them to the brim.  8 Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”  So they took it.  9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  11 Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs * in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

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Gos. Reflectionpel Reflection:

This Sunday we begin the liturgical season of Ordinary Time.  For many Sundays in this lectionary cycle (Cycle C), our readings will be taken from the Gospel of Luke.  Occasionally, however, we will read from John’s Gospel [as we do in every lectionary cycle].  Today’s Gospel reading comes from John, describing the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and His first miracle – – His first “sign”.

To situate today’s reading within the context of John’s Gospel, we need to know that this event follows Jesus’ call of His first six disciples (cf., John 1:35-51).  John tells us that Jesus and His disciples were invited to this wedding at Cana, along with Jesus’ mother, Mary.  This event is unique to John’s Gospel.  There are no parallel reports of this miraculous “sign” at Cana in any of the Synoptic Gospels.

Today’s Gospel is about “Signs (“sēmeion” in Greek).  John uses “signs” to re5030826-directional-signs-vector-or-xxl-jpeg-imageveal Jesus as the true promised Messiah to ALL “Israel”.  John uses “signs” to symbolize Jesus’ wondrous actions, His deeds.  We need to remember that the Gospel according to John is quite different in character from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  His writing style is highly literate and symbolic in nature.  It does not follow the same order, nor reproduce the same stories, as the other three Gospels.  To a much greater degree as that of the three other Gospel writers, it is the product of a theological reflection growing out of a different circle of readers, and their different traditions.  John’s Gospel was probably written in Ephesus during 90’s AD. 

John’s Gospel narrative contains a series of “signs”, seven to be exact (They will be listed near the end of this reflection.).  John’s Gospel’s relates God’s “Word” through a series of wondrous deeds – – actions – – by Jesus Himself.  It gives the impression that John is primarily interested in the “significance” of these actions. 

The first sign in today’s Gospel reading, is the “transformation of water into wine” at a wedding feast in a place called Cana (John 2:1jesus_wine1–11).  This first “sign” represents the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings (John 2:6), and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus then, and still today.  He is still actually transforming US ALL through our hearing of His “Word” and the fellowships of our Church’s seven Sacraments.

So, the Old Testament exodus stories provide the background for today’s reading:

“Recall today that it was not your children, who have neither known nor seen the discipline of the LORD, your God—His greatness, His strong hand and outstretched arm; the signs and deeds He wrought in the midst of Egypt, on Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and on all his land; what He did to the Egyptian army and to their horses and chariots, engulfing them in the waters of the Red Sea as they pursued you, so that the LORD destroyed them even to this day … Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all His servants and to all His land(Deuteronomy 11:2-4; 29:1-2).

God’s intervention in human history is anew again – – in a new, fulfilled, and fulfilling way – –  through Jesus Christ in the midst of His brethren today.

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The first verse talks about Jesus being in a place called “Cana”:

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there” (NAB John 2:1-11). 

Cana is NEVER mentioned in the Old Testament.  The only other (two) biblical references to “Cana” can be found(1) in John 4:46, which mentions Jesus, while in “Cana”, being asked to heal the son of a royal official at Capernaum; and (2) in John 21:2, where the Apostle Nathanael (Bartholomew in the Synoptic Gospels’) comes from “Cana”.  Cana of Galilee is not mentioned in any other book of the Bible, or in any other contemporary literary source.  So where is “Cana”, and why is this place significant to John?  I do not know with certainly.  Speculation is rampant among bible scholars, but I would love to find this place someday when finally discovered with certainty.  I hear the wine there is truly divine!

Also in the first verse, “The mother of Jesus” is never mentioned by name.  Matter of fact, Mary is never mentioned by name in John’s Gospel.  And, on tsecret-rosary13aop of this, Joseph is not present at the wedding feast as well.  I suspect Jesus’ earthly “father” had died sometime between his finding his lost Son in the Temple and this event some eighteen years later.

Jesus, per John, addressed His mother by saying “Woman”:

Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

This was NOT a ‘diss (slang word for “treat with contempt”) on Mary!!  Today, a child would possibly be given the “eveyesil eye” for calling his/her mother “woman” in this way.  However, in actuality, this was a normal and POLITE form of addressing one’s mother during Jesus’ time.  He also calls her by this SAME title while dying on the Holy Cross, at His most intimate – – and final – – time with her:

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son’” (John 19:26).

The word “woman” was a revealed word which was highly exulted (like the word “king”) amoung the Jewish peoples.  Jesus is “the Word made Flesh”.  When Jesus Christ calls His mother “woman”, He is revealing the promised fulfillment in Genesis:

 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Genesis 3:15).

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Wine was running low, a good “sign” of the celebration being in full force, but a bad sign because – – they are RUNNING OUT OF WINE!  So, Mary, probably helping at the celebration, goes to her son and says:

When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine” (John 2:3).

Jesus replies to “His mother”:

Woman, how does your concern affect meMy hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

If itwasn’t His time”, why did Jesus do what His mother asked?  After all, Jesus never worked miracles solely to help His family and friends.  I believe He performed this first miraculous “sign” out of OBEDIENCE to His mother, ObedienceToTheWordknowing the importance of [what we today know as] the Fourth Commandment and its great importance in God’s kingdom:

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you … Take to heart these words which I command you today…  Bind them on your arm as a ‘sign’ and let them be as a pendant on your forehead” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:6, 8)  

I wish people today saw and appreciated the need and JOY to be obedient to God’s Commandments, and not to subjugate them – – to de-prioritize them – – out of personally selfish wants and desires. 

Now, let’s go on to discuss the second (of three) points about His reply to His “mother”: 

How does your concern affect me?” (John 2:4)

Everything Jesus says is a fulfillment of Holy Scripture.  He is telling His mother that if He does what she implies, the “cats are ‘gjesusturnedwaterintowineonna be out of the bag”!  Mary is hastening God’s will, My source and My authority by doing a miracle to meet the wedding parties need.  That’s why, I believe, the third revealing point in this one verse relates to Jesus saying: 

My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

The “hour”, I believe Jesus is referring to, is His Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven:hourglass

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved His own in the world and He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

I wonder how much Jesus knew about His future at the time of the wedding feast miracle.  Did He know every single detail about His gruesome torture and death to come?  Did He know the beauty He will find in His ascension?  I believe He did.  Do you?  However, Jesus was focusing on His mother’s concern for the wedding couple.  He moved up the clock, revealing His divine authority.  So, He begins a series of seven signs here at “Cana”.

Only after John has Jesus fulfilling these seven “signs”, does the “hour” of Jesus fully arrive.  The whole Gospel of John is a progressivglory-to-god-by-brandon-halliburton-free-photo-11978e “revelation” – – a REVEALING – – of the glory of God’s only begotten Son.  At “Cana”, Jesus is beginning to reveal God the Father fully; which will ne fulfilled later when He returns – – in “glory” – – to His heavenly Father on our behalf.  Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

Jesus’ reply was tjohn2_5SCruly revealing in nature.  However, Mary was not going to take an implied “no” for an answer.  She simply looks at the “servers” and says:

Do whatever He tells you(John 2:5).

Mary knew her Scriptures well; she helped teach them to Jesus.  Mary, in her reply, may have been referencing a verse from the Book of Genesis:

When all the land of Egypt became hungry and the people cried to Pharaoh for food, Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians: ‘Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you’” (Genesis 41:55).

What I believe was important about Mary’s reason for wanting Jesus to perform a “sign” before His “time”, and His willingness to obif_mama_aint_happy_aint_nobody_happy_magnet-p147594797048165970b2gru_400ey her fully, may have been one of simple logic and survival for Jesus:

If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Do not forget the Fourth Commandment.  Jesus didn’t!!

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John goes on to report that:

There were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons” (John 2:6). 

Twenty to thirty gallons” is a litermarriageincanaal present day translation for the “two or three measures” of Jesus’ day.  This vast quantity of wine recalls prophecies of “abundance in the last days” from Jewish Scripture:

Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, flocks of sheep and cattle; They themselves shall be like watered gardens, never again neglected” (Jeremiah 31:12);

 “Yes, days are coming—oracle of the LORD—When the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps and the vintager, the sower of the seed; The mountains shall drip with the juice of grapes, and all the hills shall run with it. will restore my people Israel, they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, Plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits.” (Amos 9:13–14).

With this “first sign”, the changing of the water to wine, Jesus is replacing the “Jewish ceremonial washings” with His divine body, blood, soul, and divinity washing away all affects of original sin.  This event also presented the initial revealing – – the initial revelation – – of Jesus’ divine nature and authority at the outset of His public ministry.  

Jesus’ action in this reading points to the “wine of the new covenant” and the “bread of life” He establishes in the “Last Supper” anjesusfirstLOGOd in our present Eucharist.  It also points to the Messianic banquet which Jesus personally will host at the end of time.  (Behold the Lamb of God … Hapy are those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!)

The miracles of Jesus’ public ministry – – His “signs” – – demonstrate the power of God’s love and mercy for His people.  God’s kindness knows no limits!  And the ultimate expression of His love is revealed in the person of His Son, our Lord – – Jesus Christ.  He became flesh for OUR sake; He died for OUR redemption; He rose from the dead for OUR glorification!! 

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John ends his Gospel today by going to the beginning: the beginning of Jesus’ “signs”, the beginning of His revealed “glory”, the beginning of His public ministry, and the beginning of His disciples truly believing in Him as the true promised Messiah:

Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

God reveals His “glory” in the most unlikely places: in a stable at Bethlehem, at a wedding party in Cana, in the muddy waters of the Jordan River, and on a blood stained crosto-god-be-the-glory_137_1024x768s outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Jesus’ first public miracle – – His first “sign” – – was performed at the confident “invitation” of His mother.  In doing as His mother requested of Him, Jesus blessed a young couple, bringing JOY to their wedding feast: first, by His presence, and second, by His surprising response to Hhis mother’s concern, saving them from an embarrassing situation. 

Changing water into wine was a remarkable act of kindness; but saving the best to last was unheard of in Jesus’ day.  In Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament) wine was often seen as a gift anDo-Whatever-He-Tells-You-1024x1024d symbol of God’s blessing (cf., Deuteronomy 7:13; Proverbs 3:10, Psalm 105).  With Jesus miraculously producing 180 gallons or so of the best wine possible, and many times more than what actually was needed for the feast, He showed the superabundance of the blessings He Himself came to offer to All “Israel”, to ALL peoples.

What other signs will Jesus go on to do during His public Ministry?  Well, now would be a good time to list the seven “signs” John reveals through his Gospel:seven-signs

  • The first sign is the transformation of water into wine at Cana (Jn 2:1–11); this represents, as I mentioned earlier, the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus.

  • The second sign, the cure of the royal official’s son (Jn 4:46–54) simply by the word of Jesus at a distance, signifies the power of Jesus’ life-giving “Word”.  

  • The third sign, the cure of the paralytic at the pool with five porticoes in John 5, continues the theme of water offering newness of life.  In the preceding chapter, to the woman at the well in Samaria Jesus had offered living water springing up to eternal life, a symbol of the revelation Jesus brings.  Here Jesus’ life-giving “Word” replaces the water of the pool which failed to bring life.

  • John 6 contains two signs: the multiplication of loaves and the walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.  These signs are related to the “crossing of the Red Sea” and the manna” of the first exodus, manifesting a new exodus in process.  The multiplication of the loaves anticipates the future revelation of God in Jesus which the bread of life is His visible “sign” which we call the “Eucharist”.  

  • The sixth sign is presented in John 9, the sign of the young man born blind whom Jesus heals. This is a narrative illustration proclaiming the triumph of light over darkness.  Remember, this event takes place in the Temple during the Feast of the Tabernacles (aka, the Feast of Lights) at which there were a multitude of candelabras lighted throughout the “Holy Place”.  Jesus is presenting Himself as the Light of the Temple, and of the world.  The young man had been given his sight by Jesus.  This “sign” was an object lesson, revealing the divine power of Jesus to give light to the eyes, and at the same time, subtly revealing the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and Levites attending to the Menorah.

  • And finally, the seventh sign, the raising of Lazarus in John 11, is the climax of signs.  Lazarus is presented as a token of the real, spiritually alive, life which Jesus, THE Resurrection and THE Life, who will now ironically be put to death because of His gift of life to Lazarus, desires to give ALL to those believing in Him then, and after He was seen raised from the dead.  Notice the irony of Jesus raising Lazarus and then enduring His own death in place of Lazarus.

John’s purpose in describing these seven signs in their unique order is clearly expressed in what some bible scholars say was the “original” ending of his Gospel, at the end of Chapter 20.  Besides these seven just described:

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [His] disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

Amen!!  Amen!!          

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In the Church’s lit. summarize titleurgical history, the “wedding feast at Cana” is closely associated with the “adoration of the child Jesus by the Magi” and the “Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The “sign” Jesus performs at the wedding feast is an “epiphany” (manifestation) of Jesus’ divinity to be celebrated.flickr-3699162219-hd

With these epiphanies in mind, awareness of Jesus’ Passion and death looming future on the Holy Cross is ever present in John’s Gospel.  Even in today’s narrative of Jesus’ “first sign”, the language used by John anticipates Jesus’ future Passion.  When Jesus says to His “mother” that “His hour has not yet come”, Jesus protests against her wishes in words John used again when describing Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His disciples in John 13:1.  When introducing the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet [also only found in John’s Gospel], John writes that Jesus knew His “hour had come”.  Per John, Jesus is very much in command and extremely aware of ALL that is to happen to Him, from the very beginning.

Throughout John’s Gospel, Mary is never mentioned by name, but is referred to instead as “the mother of Jesus”.  Mary is overridingly influential in Jesus’ first “sign”.  She will never abandon her Son, even being present at Jesus’ Crucifixion.  Mary was (and still is) a faithful and constant witness to the final manifestation – – “sign” and epiphany – – of Jesus’ divinity.

John’s Gospel describes seven “signs” indicating Jesus’ true divine nature and identity to His disciples.  He never speaks of these “signwordsandeedslogosas miracles because their importance is not in the deed – – the action – – which Jesus performs, but instead in what these deeds indicate in regard to Jesus’ true nature and identity.  In today’s reading, Jesus’ disciples are said to “begin to believe”.  However, no mention is made as to whether the other wedding guests are even aware of what has happened.  (But, they thought the wine was heavenly in deed!)

Here, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, John’s Gospel seeks to establish that Jesus is going to re-define and fulfill God’s promise to “Israel”.  Jesus is establishing the New Covenant promised to the Water_Wine_Renderprophets.  A hint about what this New Covenant will be like is made evident in His deed – – the action Jesus performs.  Asked to do something about the awkward situation that a lack of wine at the wedding feast would create, Jesus’ miraculous “sign” produces vast quantities of wine: six jars overflowing with over 180 gallons of superior wine.

This overflowing response to a simple human request is a vision for us – – a “sign” – – about the vast abundance of God’s kingdom.  It challenges us to respond generously when confronted with our needs, and others’, today.  Responding as best as we can, fully confident that, like the mother of Jesus, God can transform our efforts, brings the Kingdom of God to fulfillment among us here and now!

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We. conclusionddings are magnificent and breathtaking celebrations.  We go out of our way to make the occasion festive and extraordinary.  People work hard to please one another with a special kind of JOY.  What better image of the Kingdom of God can there be than070114_weddinggift a wedding feast!  Wedding celebrations are not an everyday occurrence.  ut we can anticipate the Kingdom of God each and every day through our kindness, attention, and care to one another’s needs.

Reflect about weddings and other feasts and HOW they are used as images in Holy Slove others_t_nvcripture for the Kingdom of God.  Consider how these festive occasions are images of God’s tremendous, overflowing, love for us – – and examples of how we can show our love for one another.  Think about Mary’s attentiveness to the needs of the wedding hosts, and about Jesus’ response to His mother’s request.  What can you learn from today’s Gospel story?  Reflect on, and consider ways – – actions or deeds – – in which you might show these same sort of generous and loving values in your daily life.  Create your own “sign” for God’s plan in your life and for His kingdom on earth!!

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Reflecti. prayer sfon Prayer: 

Prayer for Generosity

(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

“Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity. generosity-revolution-revisited-graphic
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.
Amen.”

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“Is ‘Baptism’ By ‘FIRE’ As Painful As it Sounds? For Some, It Just May Be! We Call Them Martyrs” – Luke 3:15-16,21-22†


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“The Baptism of the Lord”

 

. table_of_contentsToday’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:

 

Postures and Gestures at Mass: Catholic Calisthenics

So, why all the exercising at Mass: genuflect, kneel, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, bow, kneel, sit, stand, and finally, genuflect?  Wow, I’m tired just writing the sentence!  Well, in the celebration of Mass we are to raise our hearts, thoughts and voices to God.  Being creatures composed of “body” as well as 00000000000000063560“spirit”, our “prayers” are not confined to solely our thoughts, hearts and voices; it is also expressed by our bodies as well.  When our bodies participate in praying – – we truly and fully pray with our “whole person” – – as the embodied spirits God created us to be.  This engagement of our whole being in prayer helps us to pray with greater attention

During Mass we assume different postures: standing, kneeling, sitting, and make a variety of gestures.  These postures and gestures are far from being merely ceremonial in nature.  They truly have profound meaning, and can certainly enhance our personal participation in Mass.  In fact, these actions ARE the way in which we engage our entire self, body and soul, in the prayer that we know as “Mass”.  Each posture underlines and reinforces the meaning of the action in which we are taking part during that specific moment in our worship.  

Standing is a sign of respect and honor, so we stand as the celebrant who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly.  This posture, from the earliest days of the Church, has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above.  When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us.  By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift.  We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord, and the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, the sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible with Christ who, now gloriously risen from the dead, is the cause of our salvation.

The posture of kneeling signified penance in the early Church: the awareness of sin casts us to the ground!  So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter Season when the prevailing spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving.  In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify the homage of a vassal to his lord, and more recently 00000000000000063360this posture has come to signify adoration.  It is for this reason that the bishops of this country have chosen the posture of kneeling for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.  

Sitting is the posture of listening and meditation, so the congregation sits for the pre-Gospel readings and may also sit for the period of meditation following Communion.

Gestures too involve our bodies in prayer.  The most familiar of these is the Sign of the Cross with which we begin Mass and with which, in the form of a blessing, the Mass concludes.  Because it was by his death on the cross that Christ redeemed humankind, we trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips and hearts at the beginning of the Gospel.  But there are other gestures that intensify our prayer at Mass.  During the Confiteor the action of striking our breasts at the words through my own fault can strengthen my awareness that my sin is my fault.  

In the Creed we are invited to bow at the words which commemorate the Incarnation: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.  This gesture signifies our profound respect and gratitude to Christ who, though God, did not hesitate to come among us as a human being, sharing our human condition in order to save us from sin and restore us to friendship with God.  This gratitude is expressed with even greater solemnity on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord and on Christmas when we genuflect at these words.

The Our Father is followed by the Exchange of Peace, the gesture through which we express a prayerful greeting of peace, that we are at peace, not enmity, with others.  This exchange is symbolic.  The persons near me with whom I share the peace signify for me, as I do for them, the broader community of the Church and all humankind.

Finally, with the new General Instruction for the Roman Mass (GIRM), we are asked to make a sign of reverence, to be determined by the bishops of each country or region, before receiving Communion standing.  The bishops of this country have determined that the sign which we will give before Communion is to be a bow, a gesture through which we express our reverence and give honor to Christ who comes to us as our spiritual food.

In addition to serving as a vehicle for the prayer of beings composed of body and spirit, the postures and gestures in which we engage at Mass have another very important function.  The Church sees in these common postures and gestures both a symbol of the unity of those who have come together to worship AND a means of fostering that unity.  We are not free to change these postures to suit our own individual piety, for the Church makes it clear that our unity of posture and gesture is an expression of our participation in the one Body formed by the baptized with Christ, our head.  When we stand, kneel, sit, bow and sign ourselves in common action, we given unambiguous witness that we are indeed the Body of Christ, united in heart, mind and spirit.

http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/resources-bulletins3.shtml

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

 Luke03v15to17&21to22_2010

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is baptized by John.  What is the difference between John’s and Jesus’ Baptisms?

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(NAB Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, l “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.  21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord”.  In today’s the other Gospel accounts of Je040111_ssus’ baptism, we hear “John the Baptist” address, and correct the confusion of the people who thought that he might be the “Messiah”.  In his response, John contrasts the baptism that he performs with that of the Baptism which Jesus inaugurates – – with water AND the Holy Spirit.  The type of Baptism that John performed during his ministry mission was not yet a full Christian Baptism.  Instead, it was the preliminary foundation for the Christian Baptism of, through, and in Jesus Christ – – through which OUR sins are forgiven AND the gift of the Holy Spirit are received.

The baptism of Jesus is reported in each of the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke (but not in John’s).  Noticeably, the three Synoptic Gospels report the same event is quite rare and revelational. 

Both Mark and Luke report the story from Jesus’ perspective, with “the voice from heaven” addressed to Him.  However, Matthew’s Gospel has instead “the voice from heavenspLOI-Voice-of-Godeaking to everyone.  Also, in Luke, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus during His time of “prayer” – – after His “baptism”.  Through His Gospel today, you will notice Luke shows Jesus to be a person of prayer who withdraws regularly from the crowds AND His disciples as well, in order to pray to His heavenly Father privately.  Jesus goes on to teach His follows “HOW” to pray.

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Today’s reading begins with the people at the scene of the event wondering and questions whether JJohn_the_Baptist%20imageohn the Baptist may actually be the promised “Savior-Messiah”:

“Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15). 

And so, John knew their questions, and he responded to their inquiries by saying:

I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is comingI am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandalsHe will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). 

Luke even reiterates John the Baptist’s response in his other book, “The Acts of the Apostles”:

“John heralded his [Jesus’] coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am?  I am not He.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet’” (Acts 13:24-25).

So, what does John mean by saying about Jesus:Through_Water_and_Fire_MAIN

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Well, John is stating that he only gives a “baptism with water” representing repentance.  Jesus, however, will “baptize with the Holy Spirit AND with fire”.  From the point of view of the early [1st Century] Catholic-Christian Community, the “Holy Spirit and fire” was understood as a representation of the “fire” poured out from the Holy Spirit in the desert, in the Temple, and finally, in the upper room at the time of Pentecost (the Jewish remembrance  of the “fire” and brimstone on Mt. Sinai):

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

There are two core symbolisms in these four verses from the above passage from Acts (Acts 2:1-4); I’ll cburning_bushomment on both.  I’ll start with “fire”.  Fire” in biblical times was associated with God and with His action in the world AND , His personal presence in the lives of His people during their exodus, and during His enduring personal presence in the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) of the Temple.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of “fire”, such as in the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (cf., Exodus 3:2). 

The figure of “fire” was also used to represent His holiness (cf., Deuteronomy 4:24), His protective presence (cf., 2 Kings 6:17), God’s glory (cf., Ezekiel 1:4, 13), His wrath against sin (cf., Isaiah 66:15-16), and His righteous judgment (cf., Zechariah 13:9),.  

So, writers of the New Testament books were inspired by the Holy Spirit to use “fire” to represent the actions of the Holy Spirit – – Himself (cf., Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3).  God’s “fire” both purifies and cleanses; and it inspires a reverent fear of God – – and a reverence for His “Word”.  

The second core symbol is the “strong driving wind”.  The sound of the “strong driving wind” heralded a “new action of God” in His history of, and plan for, the salvation of all the human race.  tonguesThe “tongues as of fire” symbolizes the presence of God initiating again – – renewing – – His covenant on Mount Sinai:

Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had come down upon it in fire.  The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently” (Exodus 19:18).

At Pentecost, the “Holy Spirit” acts upon the Apostles, preparing them to “proclaim” the spirit-of-pentecost-the_t_nvNEW covenant, with its unique gift from the Holy Spirit, “to speak in different tongues”.  This gift of “speaking in tongues” is a grace of ecstatic prayer – – in praise of God.  This gift of the Holy Spirit is appreciated (cf., in Acts 2:6, 11) through a speaking in foreign languages, and thus symbolizing the worldwide mission of the Catholic Church.

However, as part of John the Baptist’s preaching, the “Holy Spirit and fire”, he is relating them to their Jewish Scripture references about their “purifying” and “refining” natures:

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

 “But who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand firm when he appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lye.  He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malichi 3:2–3).

So, as a quick summary of the differences and representations between Jbaptism_of_jesusohn the Baptist’s and Jesus Christ’s Baptism’s is that the “water baptism” of John the Baptist will be followed by either an “immersion” of the repentant in the “cleansing power” of the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) – – OR, an “immersion” of the “unrepentant” in the devastating fiery wrath of God at their final judgment.  

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Today’s event in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the heavenly message identifying Jesus as God the Father’s “Son” – – AND, through a reference by “Isaiah”, as being the “Servant of Yahweh”:

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

Three other passages have also popularly been called “Servant of the Lord” verses (cf., Matthew 49:1–7; 5pbwu-servant0:4–11; 52:13–53:12).  Ultimately however, the description of the “mission” of the “servant” has been applied ONLY to Jesus Christ:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.  And in his name the Gentiles will hope (Matthew 12:18–21).

I can’t help but think of the Passion narratives when thinking of Jesus as the “sent” “Servant”.  Jesus proclaimed the “Word”; He never was contentious or cried out; He was struck many times with reeds; and He brought justice into our world.  WOW!!  With all this (plus many other connecting verses from Holy Scripture), who can deny the divine “Servant-hood” of the man, Jesus Christ!!

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Through the life-giving “baptism with water and the Holy Spirit”, Jesus has been, and is still creating a NEW people of God, both Jew AND Gentile alike.  In doing so, Jesus identifies Himself with the pebranch2ople of Israel by submitting to John’s “baptism of repentanceAND in His bearing, on their behalf, and OURS, the burden of God’s decisive judgment:

“He [John the Baptist] went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sinsAfter all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:3, 21).  

In His humble submission to John’s “baptism”, we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” found in His ge0274ruesomely bloody death upon the Holy Cross of Redemptive Salvation.  Jesus’ “baptism” signifies His acceptance to, and the beginning of, His earthly mission as God’s “suffering Servant”.  Jesus allowed Himself to be numbered among sinners, and to die as one, without being one!!  Jesus submitted Himself entirely to His Father’s will of redeeming His human creatures, Jews and Gentiles alike.  Out of love, Jesus consented to this “baptism” of death – reflections on Christ - crucifixion– “baptism” by “fire” – – for the remission of OUR sins. So, please realize, understand, and know the JOY of trust and submission Jesus had to His heavenly Father, God, even to that of a known death in His name, a Martyrdom of Salvation.   

At the Jordan River, in the desert of Sinai, in the wilderness of Judea, “Israel’s” Sonship with God is to be renewed through JesuthCAW7PLKLs’ “baptism”.  And, the “descent of the “Holy Spirit” on Jesus Christ anoints Him for His public ministry:

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD … Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations … The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners … in their every affliction.  It was not an envoy or a messenger, but his presence that saved them.  Because of his love and pity the LORD redeemed them, Lifting them up and carrying them all the days of old (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; 63:9).

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Luke regularly presents Jesus “at prayer” during important points in His public ministry:

  • ·        Here, in today’s reading, at His baptism; jesus-at-prayer
  • ·        Jesus’ choosing of the Twelve (cf., Luke 6:12);
  • ·        Before asking His disciples “Who do the people say that I am?”, and “Who do you say that I am?”(cf., Luke 9:18);
  • ·        On the Mountain of the Transfiguration (cf., Luke 9:28);
  • ·        When teaching His disciples to pray (cf., Luke 11:1);
  • ·        During the Last Supper (cf., Luke 22:32);
  • ·        In the garden on the Mount of Olives (cf., Luke 22:41); and finally,
  • ·        On the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation (cf., Luke 23:46).

A uniqueness found in Luke’s Gospel, and not in any other Gospel, is Jesus praying immediately following His Baptism:

“After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21). 

Jesus’ actions and prayers are answered in a unique, intimate, very personal – – AND often times PUBLIC – – ways:

Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a doveAnd a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22)

The Father proclaimed His entire delight in His “Son”, speaking audibly for all present to hear.  The HLOI-Voice-of-Godoly Spirit was also present as He “anointed” Jesus for His public ministry beginning on that day – – as He rose from the waters of the Jordan River.   

Jesus’ Greek brethren publically were aware of a previous declaration of God, through David, concerning not only David himself, but also of the future “King of the Jews”, revealed as God’s “Servant Son”, today “begotten” by God the Father:

“I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:7).

God the Father acknowledges Jesus as His divinely unique Son, the object of His love.  His expressing of His delight in, approval of, Jesus Christ is the assurance that He, Jesus, will fulfill His messianic mission of redemption and salvation – – for ALL people – – Jew and Gentile alike!!

Luke goes on to write:Desceding Dove b_w

The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). 

The “dove” is a symbol of the NEW creation in the flood, talked about in Genesis, and well-known in Jesus’ community of “Israel”:

“He [Noah] released a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth” (Genesis 8:8);

“Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like birds, like doves, from the land of Assyria; And I will resettle them in their homes, oracle of the LORD” (Hosea 11:11).

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T. summarize titlehe “baptism” of Jesus is considered a “manifestation” of God in Jesus HIMSELF – – another “epiphany.”  Today, on this last day of the Christmas Season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ true relationship to God the Father.  The “son” (little “s”) of Mary and Joseph is also God’s OWN “Son” (big “S”)!!  

Jesus came to give us the “fire” of His Spirit so that we may radiate the JOY and truth of His Gospel to a world desperately needing God’s lightpenti and truth.  His “Word” has power to change and transform our lives, making us “flaming lights” pointing others to Jesus Christ.  We are called to follow Jesus in His public ministry of teaching, healing, and loving.  We are also called to oppose unjust and violent powers in the world today.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ in all of our endeavors.  Let Jesus Christ’s power, grace, and love burn brightly in your life!  Ask Him to “fill” – – “fulfill” – – you with His Holy Spirit.  As we follow Jesus into the Catholic Church’s Season of “Ordinary Time”, identify what needs to be “filled” – – “fulfilled” – – in your life, and in others.  Amen; Amen!!  (“Selahi”, which means “Take breath, relax, rejoice, and saver what you just read – – the truth.)

In today’s Gospel, notice that all three “persons” of the Holy Trinity are manifested:  God the Father in the voice, th1983254601_3cd17489a9_oe Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and Jesus the Son in the one being “Baptized” and “Anointed” for His unique public ministry.  

Luke is communicating to us the crucial information about the true identity of Jesus Christ.  In verses following today’s reading, Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to thbrazzers-adam-evee first person of creation, Adam, who is also identified as the “son of God” (cf., Luke 3:23-38).  We – – the children of Adam and Eve – – are again made children of God – – made NEW – – through Jesus’ Baptism.

Examine Jesus’ humility in today’s Gospel reading.  Ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude of humility in your own heart.  As you do so, “heaven will open” for you as well.  The Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to renew and refashion each of us th2012-LT-Theme-Wallpaper-1600x900rough His Holy Spirit, AND also to anoint us for OUR special and unique mission – – as His ambassadors.  The Lord wants His love and truth to shine through us so that others may see the goodness and truth of God’s message of Redemptive Salvation.  Ask Jesus Christ to “fill” you with His Holy Spirit, allowing YOU to radiate the JOY of His Gospel to ALL those around you.

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Every. conclusion person has a unique identity which is defined by their behaviors, attitudes, and expectations governing their daily lives and existence.  Each aspect of our identity is influenced by our personal history; eaidentity_52205ch expression is unique within him/her self.  In today’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus’ behavior, attitudes, and expectations were governed by His identity as God’s beloved Son.  In our personal “Baptism”, we were made from above, were made true, and are made children of this very same heavenly Father.  So, your individual identity – – as a living member of the “family of God”, and as a “brother or sister” of Jesus – – also shapes your own daily life and existence.  Think about this!  Selahi!!

Identify some of the expectations and behaviors that govern your life by answering the following question: “What are some of the things that make your life unique?”  Once you know the answer, once it is revealed to you, celebrate these things about your life.  How does this identity as a member of the family of God govern and shape your life?  Conclude today’s reflection with a prayer that we ALL will remain faithful to our baptismal identity as children of God and as brothers or sisters of Jesus Christ.  Amen!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Our Father

 

Our Father,
Who art in Heaven, pray-lord-teach-us-to-pray-e1347301783151
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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 Our%20Father2

“Are You The Wheat, Or Are You the Chaff? Got Me, I Grew Up In The City!” – Luke 3:10-18†


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3rd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

The history of the Christmas tree has many stories of origin, and has had quite of few adaptations to its usage throughout history.  In my research of the Catholic aspect to Christmas tree history and origin, I left no [xmas] “leaf” unturned.  I hope you enjoy.

 

The Christmas Tree

 

Despite many historians’ attempts to link the Christmas tree to an ancient pagan practice, it is actually “Christian” in origin.  Whoa, how is that fact for a baited hook to get you to read on?!

Although it is highly unlikely that the Christmas tree – – as we know it today – – was first used in the 8th Century, some people believe the idea for the tree was invented by St. Boniface at that time.   Legend holds that St. Boniface 14was the first to co-opt the “tree” tradition for Christianity in the 8th century.  He was attempting to convert the Druids who worshipped oak trees as the symbol of their idol.  He instead offered the balsam fir tree, using its triangular shape to describe the Trinity and the fact that the evergreen branches pointed to heaven, as a symbol of God.  These new “converts” then began worshiping the Balsam fir tree as a Christian symbol. 

There are also claims that the first proper Christmas tree was erected in Riga, Latvia (one of the Baltic States) in 1510.  Today, there is a plaque in the Town Hall Square, in Riga, that is engraved with the text “The First New Year’s Tree in Riga in 1510“.  It is believed that this tree was possibly decorated with paper flowers, and then burned during the New Year’s celebration. 

Another legend has Martin Luther as being credited with bringing the popularity of the Christmas tree to Germany.  2011-11-13_10-48-16_573_288x287Out on a winter evening one night, while composing a sermon, he was awed by the beauty of the stars.  When he returned home, he attempted to recreate the beauty for his family by putting candles on an evergreen tree in his home.

We do know with certainty that the Christmas tree goes back to medieval German mystery plays.  One of the most popular “mysteries” was the “Paradise play”, representing the creation of man, the sin of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from Paradise.  It usually closed with Christmas-Fir-Branches-2457977the consoling promise of the coming of the Savior, and referencing to His Incarnation.  These plays were performed in the open, on the large town squares in front of churches, or, sometimes even inside the house of God.  The Garden of Eden was indicated by a fir tree with apples hung on the branches.  It represented both the “Tree of Life” and the “Tree of KNowledge of Good and Evil”, which stood in the center of Paradise:

“Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

When the pageant was performed in church, the “Paradeisbaum” (German for “Tree of Paradise”) was surrounded by lighted candles.  Inside a ring of lights surrounding the tree, the play was performed. 

In the 15th century, after the suppression of the “mystery plays” in the German churches, the symbolic object of the play, the tree itself, found its way into the homes of the faithful, and the Christmas tree then became a symbol of christmas_tree_albert2-747156the “Tree of the Savior”.  During this same time, the custom of a “tree” in the home developed into decorating the “Paradise Tree”, already bearing apples, with small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist.  These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of pastry cut in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells.  Finally, other cookies were introduced to this tradition, bearing the shapes of men, birds, roosters and other animals.

The first known documented use of the fir tree as a Christmas tree is found in a description written by a German traveler visiting the city of Strasbourg (in the Alsace region of France, but formerly part of Germany) in 1605.  In this description, he tells of trees being planted in rooms, and that they were ornamented with “roses of colored paper, apples, tinsel, sugar cubes, and cookies”.

Until the 17th century the “Christbaum” (as the tree is called in German, meaning “Christ tree”) had no lights.  The Christmas candles, generally used in medieval times, were placed on a Christmas “pyramid”, made of graduated wooden shelves.  As time went on, the tree replaced the pyramid in its function of representing Christ as the “Light of the World”.  The candles and glittering decorations were eventually transferred from the pyramid to the tree.  

In the 1700’s the Christmas tree custom had spread throughout northern Germany.  People began decorating the tree with candles that were lit on Christmas Eve, a practice still done today in many homes across Europe.  As the 108n-grChristmas tree custom spread through Germany, the Roman Catholic Church eventually recognized the tradition in the early 1800’s.  It was introduced to Vienna in 1816, quickly spreading across Austria, and in 1840 to France by the duchesse d’Orleans.

German immigrants were most likely to have set up the first few Christmas trees in America, as early as 1710.   During the Revolutionary War, Hessian (German) soldiers were responsible for rapidly disseminating the practice throughout the entire US Eastern seaboard.  However, the Christmas tree did not become the principal symbol of Christmas in America, and was not used generally throughout American homes until late in the 19th century. 

treeIn 1846, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who was actually German) were pictured in the London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree.  As a result of this picture, the popularity of Christmas trees soared both in England and America.  By 1920, the custom of having a Christmas tree was almost universal.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, pioneer families who settled in areas where evergreen trees were scarce made Christmas trees out of bare branches, painting them green, or wrapping the branches with green paper or cloth.  Sometimes a “tree” would be made by drilling holes in a broomstick and inserting branches of cedar or juniper into it.  Often the only Christmas tree in the community would be in the Church or school.  In the absence of a Christmas tree, presents were often hung by ribbons from a decorated clothesline strung across the corner of a room.

While many Christmas trees are set up in the home around the first of December (or earlier!), and are in the dumpster by January 2, many Catholic families often delay decorating the tree until Christmas Eve, still today.  It is thCAGLANJNappropriate, and a popular custom, to delay lighting the tree and to put gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve when we celebrate the coming into the world of the infant Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

On Christmas Eve, parents might adorn the tree after small children are asleep, so that the first sight of Christmas morning is the gloriously adorned tree.  Families with older children could even make the decorating of the tree a family affair.  Many families bless their Christmas trees.  A Blessing for the Christmas tree could be said on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Through the use of the Christmas tree, we are reminded that our first parents (Adam & Eve) were not allowed to eat from one tree, and that Christ paid the great price for our redemption – – by hanging on a tree.  Being reminded that Christ is the “Light of the World” and that His light is everlasting, bringing joy and light into our dark world – – a christmas_angel_tree1-150x150blessing truly appropriate for this great Christian symbol of faith.  Here is a simple blessing for your Christmas tree:

“Holy Lord, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of your Son, who rescued us from the darkness of sin by making the cross a tree of life and light.  May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, which we may always rejoice in the new life which shines in our hearts.  Lord God, may the presence of this tree remind us of your gift of everlasting life.  May its light keep us mindful of the light You brought into the world.  May the joy and peace of Christmas fill all our hearts.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Information obtained from the following sites:
http://www.wf-f.org/04-4-Traditions.html
http://www.christmastreehistory.net/christian
http://catholicexchange.com/the-history-of-the-christmas-tree/

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Let us submit ourselves to His guidance and sovereign direction; let us come to Him that He may forgive us, cleanse us, change us, guide us, and save us.  This is the true life of saints.” ~ Blessed John Henry Newman, “Life’s Purpose”, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist teaches the path of repentance and announces Christ.  Did you hear what I heard?

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(NAB Luke 3:10-18) 10 And the crowds asked him [John the Baptist], “What then should we do?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.”  12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  13 He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”  14 Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?”  He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  18 Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

This Sunday’s Gospel continues last week’s focus on John the Baptist and his role in preparing “the way” for Christ.  Recall last week’s reading describing John’s appearance in the desert and establishing his connection with the prophetic tradition of Israel.  If we were to read Luke’s Gospel continuously, we would learn about John the Baptist challenging the crowds who came to him, and John’s calling upon them to show evidence of their repentance.  

With this in mind, I am starting with a few verses prior to this week’s reading (and also situated between last Sunday’s Gospel and 1211-gospel-lthis Sunday’s, Luke 3:7-9).  In this way, I would like to describe to you the three types of preaching by John the Baptist: (1) eschatological, (2) ethical, and (3) messianic.  An eschatological preaching (1) concerns the human soul (the person) in its relation to His death, judgment, and destinies – – either heaven or hell.  John the Baptist urges the crowds present around him – – getting their feet wet in the faith (and maybe their entire bodies as well) – – to reform their lives in view of the coming “wrath” expected with the appearance and coming of the Lord:

“He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7,9).

John tells his listeners that they cannot rely on their lineage as Israelites.  Why (?): because true, authentic “children of Abraham can be raised up from stones” (Luke 3:8).  Rather, repentance must be observable in one’s actions.  So, the crowds, probably now questionfrightened by his words, ask John the Baptist:

What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10)

Hmm, I wonder how often I ask this same question: What am I to do Lord?  I know the answer, and sadly, I don’t like my answer.  Forgive me Lord, please!!  I will try to do better in the future with your help.  Amen.

John answers the crowds by drawing attention to, and preaching on, concrete ethical standards (2) (principles of correct moral conduct) for reforming their social behavior:

He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food shoul03advientoC3d do likewise.’  Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’  He answered them, ‘Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.’  Soldiers also asked him, ‘And what is it that we should do?’  He told them, ‘Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages’” (Luke 3:11–14).

Interestingly, Luke mentions in particular two groups of people who came to John the Baptist for spiritual advice: tax collectors and Roman (some even Jewish) soldiers.  Both groups were regarded as “dangerous” by the Jewish authorities – – and society as whole.  They were treated as outcasts among both the Jews and the Romans.

John, in his instructions, is saying we must do six seemingly simple, but rather complex, things in order to have a true conversion of heart, body, and soul:

  • ·        SHARE what we have with others: wealth and food;
  • ·        STOP  doing wrong: don’t cheat, extort, or make false accusations;
  • ·        BE SATISFIED with what you have; 
  • ·        BE CHARITABLE;
  • ·        BE JUST; and,
  • ·        BE HONEST.

John does NOT tell them to adopt his desert way of life. He does NOT tell them to make sacrificial offerings or wear sackcloth and ashes.  John the Baptist doesn’t try to purposely upset the existing social order.  However, John DOES call for a real concern for a person’s “neighbor”.LetsBeHonest

The concern for justice is a hallmark of Luke’s Gospel and for John the Baptist.  John tells the soldiers to make no false arrests, to be content with their pay, not to take bribes, and not to bully anyone.  When talking to the tax collector, he knew that they were outcasts among the Jewish people, though Jewish themselves.  John knew they were detested as “traitors” by the Jewish people and as nothing more than “robbers” approved by the Roman Government.  As for as the Roman government was concerned, if the tax collectors wanted to collect a little bit more than the government required, that was fine with them.  They could keep the extra money for themselves; all the Roman government was concerned about was getting their tax money!!  

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John obviously knew how to get his message across to these groups of people.  Through his divinely-inspired words – – and witness – – to God the Father and to others around him:

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15).

The people recognized John as an extraordinary man of God and a prophet for their times.  John broke the prophetic silence of the pJohn_the_Baptist%20imagerevious centuries when he began to speak the “Word” of God.  His message was similar to the message from the earlier Jewish prophets who scolded the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who cried out BOLDLY to awaken true repentance within them.  

John proclaims his water baptism of his followers to be clearly in immediate preparation for the coming of the actual, true Messiah.  John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s plan of salvation.  He announces to the crowds his messianic preaching (3) (relating to the Messiah instituting of the promised golden age of peace, truth, and happiness), the coming of the “ONE” mightier than he:e0274

John answered them all, saying, ‘I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fireHis winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’  Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:16–18).

When John the Baptist talks about someone coming who is “mightier and more powerful than he”, John is ultimately speaking NOT of the “earthly” Jesus (though he may not have realized this fact), but the Risen Christ, third_advent_cgrwho baptizes us with the Holy Spirit in a very personal and intimate way.  When John says “He [the Messiah] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16), he is contrasting his prophetic baptism – – just with water – – to Jesus’ additional messianic baptizing with both the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit’s “refining fire”.   When this Gospel was written decades after the Pentecost event, the early Christian community’s point of view understood,  “the Holy Spirit and fire” to be seen in light of the “fire symbolism” found in the “pouring out of the Holy Spirit” at Pentecost:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

Jesus’ “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire” fulfilled John’s “water baptism” mission on earth.  Jesus’ baptism will also be accomplished by an “immersion”, an immersion of the repentant in water, and in the cleansing power of the Spirit of God.  There will also be an immersion the unrepentant in the destroying power of God’s wrath and judgment of them!! 

John’s preaching of the “Holy Spirit and fire” is revealed in, and related to, the purifying and refining characteristics found in Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament):  First, from Ezekiel – –

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of fleshI will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

Now, from Malachi – – refiners-fire-c

“Who can endure the day of His coming?  Who can stand firm when He appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lyeHe will sit refining and purifying silver, and He will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2–3).

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John the Baptist goes on to describe the actions of the coming Messiah Savior in terms this “well entrenched urban city” boy just cannot understand:

“His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).

Iwinnowing_fork_2 am pretty certain I know what wheat is, but a “winnowing fan” (?), “threshing floor” (?), and “chaff” (?) – – what the heck are these??!!  I definitely had to  research these items, and the why and how they are related to the actions of the coming Messiah Savior.

A “winnowing fan” was a forklike shovel with which the “threshed” (separated) wheat was thrown into the air.  The wheat kernels fell to the ground – – to the “threshing floor” to be picked up later – – while the light “chaff” (the dry covering bracts [modified leafs] of grains being separated by the process of threshing) were “blown off” by the wind, gathered later, and then burned in a nearby fire.

Fire” in Old Testament times was associated with God and with His purifying action in the world, His cleansing actions in the lives of His people.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of fire, such as in the example in the story of the “burning bush” burning_bushwhich was not consumed when God spoke to Moses:

“The angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush.  When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed (Exodus 3:2). 

John, in describing the procedure by which a farmer separates wheat and chaff, is using the image as a comparison for what will happen to the “good” and the “bad” in this world by God when He returns with His judgmental and saving actions in the person of the RISEN CHRIST!

In the New Testament, the image of fire is also used with regard to the Holy Spirit, who comes to cleanse us from sin and to make utongues-of-fires holy:

 “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them” (Acts 2:3).

God’s fire purifies and refines.  This refining purification, through baptism, confirmation, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also increases our desire for holiness and for the joy of meeting the Lord when He comes again.  Our baptism in Jesus Christ by water and the Holy Spirit results in a “new birth” and entry into God’s kingdom as His beloved sons and daughters:

Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). 

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John the Baptist ends his preaching in today’s Gospel with a message of hope:

Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:18)

For me, God’s “Word” ALWAYS offers hope, even in the most dismal of circumstances characters in the bible seem to get into.  After all, they enter those bad circumstances, usually, not because of God Himself, but because of them turning their backs on BIBLEHim!!  God was (and is) always with them, even in the BAD times; they just did not believe in his “word”, nor could they realize His presence!  So, read the Bible, re-read the Bible with YOU as the character in these stories, and then re-re-read the Bible so that you realize that the 73 books which make up this great “Bible” (in the Catholic edition) are truly “instructions” on how to live as a Catholic Christian and an honorable son or daughter of God in the world!!

The third Sunday of Advent is also called “Gaudete Sunday”.  “Gaudete”, a Latin word – – meaning “rejoicthCA2A51IGe”, with its form being a “command” – – is another way of exhorting hope.  This command to rejoice is taken from the entrance antiphon for Sunday’s Mass, which is also echoed in today’s second reading from the Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:4-6).

The Catholic Church obeys this command by lighting a pink candle instead of another purple one already on the Advent wreath.  In doing so, it is a reminder that the Advent season is a “Season of JOY” and “Re-Joy-Sing” [rejoicing] because our salvation is truly already at hand.

John the Baptist’s message of “good news” inspired many to believe God was about to do extraordinary things in their midst.  John the Baptist’s task – – his mission – – was simply to awaken the interest of his people to God’s “Word”, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough “good will” to recognize and receive the Messiah when He appearance on the scene.

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. summarize titleToday, Luke is continuing to set up two important themes of his Gospel message: (1) the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and (2) the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.

John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  John’s teaching to the crowd suggests that each person has a role to play in God’s salvation.  He is encouraging them to follow his model of faith and hope in their own personal Horizontal_Logo9life’s positions and status.  It is our personal, human cooperation in His divine plans that is THE great mystery of God’s initiative to empower and to encourage each of us to participate – – through our believing and rejoicing – – in His plan.

John the Baptist basically called the people to turn back to God and to walk in His way of love and righteousness.  Whenever the Gospel is proclaimed it has the power to awaken the faith in people, thepathofsinandrighteousnessand to change their lives for good.  John’s baptism was for repentance; a turning away from sin and taking on a new way of life according to God’s “Word”.  

Hmm, my life has its own temptations, and its own opportunities to take advantage of others, using them for my own personal gain.  Does yours?  As I prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas, I will consider my own life situation, my own temperament, and my own personality in heeding John the Baptist’s words from today’s reading.  I believe I may need to make some adjustments.  How ‘bout you?

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. conclusionThe theme of the season for Advent is sometimes described as “a period of waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ”.  However, today’s Gospel reading suggests something much different.  John the Baptist did not tell the crowds to wait for the Messiah.  Instead, he told them to prepare for the Messiah through acts of repentance.  If RepentBelieveTheGoodNewsBwAdvent is a time of waiting, it is not the “sitting in waiting room or office lobby” kind of waiting.  It is a busy time of preparation, more like the waiting we might do when “preparing for dinner guests”.  Our challenge as Catholic Christians is NOT to make this season a frantic, disordered, and/or apathetic time, but rather a time of “joyful anticipation”, making ready for God who comes to dwell among (and in) us, changing our lives with His gift (grace) of redemptive salvation.

Think about the preparations you are making during this season of Advent period.  Reflect on these activitiechanges, not only on what you are doing but WHY you are “choosing” to do these things.  Remember, Advent is a time for making ourselves ready to receive Jesus Christ – – anew and more – – in our personal lives.  Could you make some changes in your Advent activities so that you are MORE prepared to celebrate the gift of salvation at Christmas?  Hmm, I think I can for sure.  Pray that you, and your family and friends, will be able to live the “spirit” of Advent as it should be, and not as a secular time of the year.  Heck, why not sing an Advent song, such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” as you light the third candle on your Advent wreath this evening at dinner.  I will, and I’ll possibly report on the interesting looks I receive from my family members who ALL say I have a voice made for paper!!

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

An Advent Prayer

 

“Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Chuprayerrch: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to His return at the end of time.  Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which His presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever.  Amen.”

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“Bible History: 103! How Well Do You Know Your Bible Rulers and Prophets?!” – Luke 3:1-6†


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2nd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

 

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D. pencilan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

 

The Real and TRUE Santa Claus

 

Santa Claus is also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and simply “Santa”.  Santa Claus is also known as “de Kerstman” in Dutch (“the Christmas man”), and “Père Noël” (“Father Christmas”) in French. 64680_535815893112792_1263747424_n He is a figure with legendary, mythical, historical, and folkloric origins.  In many western cultures, he brings gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24. 

As you see in the picture of “Santa”, he is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man – – sometimes with spectacles – – wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and.  This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” along with caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast’s depiction.  This image has been maintained and reinforced in contemporary society through song, radio, television, children’s books, and films.

However, that is not the TRUE “Santa Claus”!! 

The modern “Santa” was derived from the Dutch figure of “Sinterklaas”, which, in turn, is partly based on hagiographical (reverent or saintly) tales concerning the historical figure of a Christian Bishop and gift giver: “Saint Nicholas”.  Greek Orthodox and Byzantine Christian folklore has a nearly identical story, attributed to Saint Basil of Caesarea.  Basil’s feast day, on January 1, is considered the time of exchanging gifts in Greece.

Saint Nicholas of Myra” is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of “Sinterklaas”.  He was a 4th cSaint_Nicholasentury Greek Christian Bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia (now in Turkey).  Bishop Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, and, in particular, presenting three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. 

Nicholas was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity.  In the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Germany, he is still usually portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes.  “Saint” Nicholas is the patron saint of many diverse groups including archers, sailors, children, and pawnbrokers.   He is also the patron saint for two major metropolitan cities, Amsterdam and Moscow.

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Saint Nicholas (“Sinterklaas“, often called “De Goede Sint” – – “The Good Saint”) is depicted as an elderly, stately, and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard.  He wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop’s alb and sometimes red sinterklaasstole, dons a red miter, and holds a gold-colored crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top.  He traditionally rides a white horse.  His feast, on December 6th, came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts, and is still called “St. Nicholas Day”.  Saint Nicholas is believed to ride his white horse over the rooftops at night, delivering gifts through the chimney to the well-behaved children, while the naughty children risk being caught by Saint Nicholas’s aides who carry jute bags and willow canes for that specific purpose.

Later, in another location, older images of the “gift-giver” from both church history and folklore – – notably “St Nicholas” and “Sinterklaas” – – merged with the British character “Father Christmas”.  This merger produced a character known to Britons and Americans as “Santa Claus”.  As an example, in Washington Irving’s “History of New York” (1809), “Sinterklaas” was Americanized into “Santa Claus” (a name first used in the American press in 1773); however, this image portrays Santa Claus without  his bishop’s apparel (Can you guess why?!).  So, in Great Briton and the United States, Santa Claus was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat.  Washington Irving’s book was a satire of the Dutch culture of New York of his era; and much of this satirical portrait is his joking invention.

With all this information in mind, let’s not forget the REAL HERO of the CHRISTinMASS Season:

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(Information from Wikipedia)

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Quote of the Day:

 

“John the Baptist was supposed to point the way to the Christ.  He was just the voice, not the Messiah.  So everybody’s ‘calling’ has dignity to it – – and God seems to know better than we do what is in us that needs to be called forth.” ~  James Green 

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist preaches repentance, baptizing in the region of the Jordan.  Ready to get wet?

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(NAB Luke 3:1-6)  1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.  3 He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

This Sunday and next, our Gospel readings invite us to consider John the Baptist’s relationship to Jesus.  John the Baptist is part of the tradition of the great prophets, preaching repentance* and reform* to the people of Israel.  To affirm this, Luke purposely quotes – – at length – – from the prophet Isaiah.

**       (The process or “repentance”, and the beginning of “reform”, is a four stage, step-by-step, process:

1)    Acknowledging faults and endeavors to give a lesser good, or something harmful – – IS SIN!
2)    Confessing what you did (or DO), and what you are not happy about.
3)    Believing in God’s IMMEDIATE mercy and forgiveness.
4)     Receiving – – through faith – – the confidence’s in God’s faithfulness to forgive.)

The Synoptic Gospels – – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – – attest to the importance of the baptism of Jesus by John in Jesus’ pJohn_the_Baptist%20imagereparation for His earthly mission.  However, only in the Gospel of Luke, do we see the connection between these two men, Jesus and John, related to their births. The first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel contain the “Infancy Narrative”, relating each of their births.  

In today’s Gospel reading, John the Baptist is presented as THE preeminent prophetic figure who bridges the time before Christ the Messiah Savior, to the first prophet who prepares the pencil-pusher-564x272way for the expected Jewish Messiah, who John the Baptist knew to be Jesus Christ in His saving and redemptive ministry of salvation, not only to the Jews, but also to the whole world.

Just as Luke’s Gospel began with a long sentence (cf., Luke 1:1–4), so too does this opening verse of this section:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1–2).   

Here, Luke reveals the “calling” of John the Baptist in the form of an Old Testament prophetic calling:

“…the Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert(Luke 3:2)’

This calling of John extends and amplifies similar verses, from the same “prophet” of Old, when Luke reports:

A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his pathsEvery valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made lowThe winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’” (Luke 3:4-6).

250px-Isaiah_(Bible_Card)This prophet, which John the Baptist is amplifying, is Isaiah:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; the rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5).

In doing so, Luke presents his theme of the “universality of salvation”, which he announced in an earlier chapter – – in the words of Simeon:

My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:30–32). 

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Luke relates the story of “salvation history” to events in contemporary world history of Jesus’ time.  He is connecting his “salvation’ narrative with the current events happening right in front of their eyes, portraying Jesus in the light of tsistinehese prophetic events.  There is a cornucopia of historic information given solely in the first sentence of today’s reading:

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1-2). 

This one sentence, two bible verses, has seven items of historical and prophetical significance for discussion.  They are underlined above and I will discuss each one individually.

(1) “Tiberius Caesar” (born Tiberius Claudius Nero in 42 B.C.) succeeded Augustus as emperor of ALL Roman territories in 1steve11/people25/134 A.D., and reigned until his death in 37 A.D.   Therefore, his “fifteenth year of reign”, depending on the method of calculating his first regal year, would have fallen somewhere between 27 A.D. and 29 A.D.  Tiberius was one of Rome’s greatest generals.  However, he is remembered as a dark, reclusive, and somber ruler.  A renowned Roman person of influence, “Pliny the Elder”, describes Tiberius as a “tristissimus hominum”, “the gloomiest of men” (Pliny the Elder, “Natural Histories” XXVIII.5.23).   Eventually, Tiberius exiled himself from Rome and left his governments administration largely in the hands of his unscrupulous “Praetorian Prefects”.  Caligula, Tiberius’ grand-nephew and adopted grandson, succeeded the emperor upon his death in 37 A.D.

(2) “Pontius Pilate” , mentioned next, was the “prefect” of Judea from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D.  The Jewish historian “Josephus” describes Pontius Pilate as a “greedy and ruthless prefect” who had little regard for the local Jewish PilatePicpopulation and their religious practices.  Luke describes Pontius Pilate’s sacrileges behavior:

At that time some people who were present there told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices” (see Luke 13:1).

The slaughter of the Galileans by Pilate is reported much later in Luke’ Gospel.  However, Josephus reports that such a slaughter would be in keeping with the “character and personality” of Pontius Pilate.  Pilate even disrupted a religious gathering of Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, slaughtering the participants (Antiquities 18, 4, 1 #86–87).  On another occasion, Pilate killed many Jews who had opposed him when he appropriated money from the Temple treasury in order to build an aqueduct in Jerusalem (Jewish War 2, 9, 4 #175–77; Antiquities 18, 3, 2 #60–62).

(3) Next in descending order of royal importance is “Herod Antipas”, the son of Herod the Great.  Antipas ruled over Galiherodantipaslee and Perea from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D.  His official title, “Tetrarch”, literally means, “Ruler of a quarter”.  It came to designate any subordinate prince of the Roman Empire.  

We are now half-way through the first sentence from today’s Gospel.   A huge sum of political/societal/historical information has been given; and there is still more to come.  We need to remember that, when reading Holy Scripture, we should do so while keeping the following four principles in mind:

  • The social and historical circumstances;
  • The relationship between allegorical truths (Parables and other stories) and literal truths;
  • The past and present theological beliefs, their influence on faith’s perspective; and,
  • Application, how this reading applies to me and you NOW, today, – – and in the future.

So, let’s mosey on to the fourth person mentioned in this first verse of today’s Gospel:

(4) “Philip” was a son of “Herod the Great”, as was Herod Antipas.  His birth name was Philip “ben” (son of) Herod.  The Herod family line was partially Jewish.  As a “Tetrarch” over a large portion of territory – – to the north and east of the 552758Sea of Galilee – – from 4 B.C. to 34 A.D., Philip had a bad reputation.   

He married “Salome”, who was a member of the Herodian dynasty, as he was.  Thus, Salome was his niece.  She will become more well-known in connection with the execution of John the Baptist (cf., Matthew 14:3-11).

It is known that Philip the Tetrarch rebuilt the city of Caesarea Philippi, calling it by his own name to distinguish it from the Caesarea on the sea-coast, which was the seat of the Roman government.  He died in the year 34 A.D. (only one year after Jesus’ Crucifixion and death).

(5) “Lysanias” is an aloof character in history and in the Bible.  Nothing is truly known about him other than He is believed to have been Tetrarch of “Abilene”, a territory somewhere northwest of Damascus.

After situating the call of John the Baptist in the time of the “civil rulers” of Jesus’ era, Luke now goes on to mention the “religious leadership” of this same time period.

(6) “Annas and Caiaphas” were the “high priests” at the time of Jesus’ public ministry.  “Annas” had been high priest frhigh priestsom 6 A.D. to 15 A.D.  After being deposed by the Romans in the year 15 A.D., Annas was succeeded by various members of his family and eventually by his son-in-law, “Caiaphas”, who was the Jewish high priest from 18 A.D. – 36 A.D.  Luke refers to “Annas” as “high priest” at Jesus’ time of public ministry, possibly because of the continuing influence of Annas or because the title continued to be used for the past-high priest’s.  According to John’s Gospel:

The band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas firstHe was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.  It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people” (John 18:12-14). 

We finally get to the seventh – – and main character – – of this first verse, “John the Baptist”.  He is the true predecessor and herald of Jesus Christ. This is the one about whom scripture says: john-baptist-001

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you” (Luke 7:27).

John the Baptist was God’s chosen transitional figure, inaugurating the period of “the fulfillment of prophecy and promise”:

“The child [John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80).

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The last aspect I wish to discuss in regard to this lengthy first verse is about “the Word” coming to John:

The Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:2).

Luke, among the other New Testament writers, is alone in linking the preaching of John the Baptist as a true “calling” from God the Father.  Therefore, Luke is thereby identifying John with the prophets of Jewish Holy Scripture – – our Old Testament – – whose own individual ministries also began with very similar calls.  Luke amplifies John the Baptists calling however.  In later verses from Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist will be described, by Jesus Himself, as “more than a prophet”:

“Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I [Jesus] tell you, and more than a prophet (Luke 7:26).

Wow!! Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, his brother Tetrarch Philip, Tetrarch Lysanias, High Priests Annas agods-redemptive-plan1nd Caiaphas, along with John the Baptist are all truly historically correct people.  All had important roles in the salvation mission of Jesus Christ among His Jewish Brethren AND His Roman neighbors.  Some roles were more pronounced and more important than others.  Some roles were to be truly cruel and callous in fact, but they ALL hold a place in the historically REAL redemptive mystery of Christ dying in order to save us from Adam’s and Eve’s sins.

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Let’s go on with the rest on today’s story (which will not be as long as the first part).  John travelled throughout ALL of Jordan, acting out and living out his special mission:02advientoC2

He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3).

John knew his role in Christ’s plan; he knew he would be the predecessor to herald – – to proclaim – – the messiah’s coming, with an enthusiasm and excitement only he could harbor and exhibit.  Also, he knew his mission of baptizing and preaching forgiveness made him a strong focus and religious figure in his 1st century society.  John probably also knew the religious authorities would recognize the prophets meaning of his beginning at the “Upper Jordan River”.  This is the exact location where Joshua led the Jews out of the desert, across the Jordan River, into the Promised Land, thus initiating a new phase of prophecy and promise “fulfilled” (cf., Joshua, Chapters 3 and 4)!  Moreover, with pious humility, John the Baptist still knew God’s royal role was NOT for him, but for the one coming AFTER him:

“John heralded His {Jesus} coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I amI am not He.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet’” (Acts 13:24-25);

What did John the Baptist mean by his preaching of repentance and forgiveness?  Well, I believe he was (and still is) calling for a change of heart and conduct in one’s life – – a “true” conversion.  He is insisting that everyone continuously turn from a life of rebellion to that of obedience towards God the Father – – on a daily, even hourly basis!! 

John, being a strongly pious Jew, was very familiar the expectations found in Jewish apocalyptic writings: God’s kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  This was also THE expectation shared by John the Baptist.  

JohPrepareTheWayn the Baptist (and Luke) were well-versed in Prophetic literature, especially those of Isaiah:

As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths”’” (Luke 3:4).

This verse from Luke, in today’s reading, is nearly identical to a verse found in the Book of Isaiah:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORDMake straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3–5).

Isaiah is actually describing the return, to Jerusalem, of the Jewish exiles from Babylonian captivity.  The language used by the prophet Isaiah is figurative, describing the route the ex-exiles will take home.  In this allegorical description,captivity “the Lord” leads them, so their route lies straight across the wilderness rather than along the well-watered routes usually followed from Mesopotamia to Israel.  Luke, in his Gospel, parallels this allegory, symbolizing his verses to represent the witness of John the Baptizer and his mission to that of Jesus’ redemptive mission of salvation for ALL.  John is leading the Jewish faithful across the dangerous wilderness, both physically and spiritually, to that of the true Savior Messiah of Israel, Jesus Christ.

John’s Gospel, unlike Luke, even goes so far as to not only imply this mission, but also to say it desertwww_washington_edunewsroomdirectly:

“He [John the Baptist] said: ‘I am “the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’”’” (John 1:23).

The last two verses continue this allegorical, symbolic, description which Luke is borrowing from Isaiah:

Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:5-6).

Again, Luke’s words are nearly identical to Isaiah’s:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3–5).

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I. summarize titlen today’s Gospel we note Luke’s attention to political and historical details.  Luke shows that “salvation” is for all people and is situated in world events.  Therefore, Luke lists the political and religious leaders at the time of John the Baptist’s appearance in the desert.  “Salvation”, for Luke (and me), is understood as God’s encroaching into this political and social history, and working Salvation2intimately from within this historical background.

John the Baptist stood at a pivotal juncture in the history of God’s dealing with His “chosen” people.  He was responsible for bridging the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets whose mission was to point the way to the Messiah Savior.  He is also the first of the New Testament “witnesses” AND “martyrs”.  John was a “prophet” – – a “called spokesman” – – for God Himself, and was the preeminent “Servant of the Word”, Jesus Christ – – the true “Word” of God who became flesh for our sake and for our salvation (cf., John 1:1).  

John the Baptist’s preaching of the coming of the Lord is a key theme of our present Advent season.  As John’s message prepreparepared the way for Jesus, we too are called to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming.  We respond to John’s message by repentance and reform in our daily lives (hopefully).  We, as John the Baptist was, are also “called” to be “prophets” of Christ, announcing and witnessing by our personal and public lives the coming of the Lord, just as John did in his life.

We know that during the Advent season, we celebrate the promise of fulfillment in the coming of Emmanuel (“God-with-us”) manifested in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ AND in His return in glory at His second coming (the Parousia).  We see so much around us – – and within us – – contradicting the “selfless love” of the infant Jesus Christ.  We see so much in this world contradicting the authority of the Universal “Christ the King”.  At the same time, we also want so very much to experience the “fullness of this fulfillment” – – Christ Himself – – and to see the salvation of God the Father as well.

Let’s joyfully remember the Apostle Paul’s faith, and how it can encourage us: t_1cb51300-5993-11e1-bb75-053d1da00004

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Although we cannot achieve this completion on our own, we can join in Paul’s prayer:

That your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (Philipians1:9-11)

May our EVERY thought, word, and deed “witness” to Jesus Christ as we prepare for Christmas and for ALL times.  Let’s keep Christ in Christmas – – CHRISTinMASS!!

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Durin. conclusiong the season of Advent, we choose to add many activities to our schedules in order to prepare for our Christmas celebration.  John the Baptist reminds us that our “repentance” is another way in which we can and SHOULD prepare for the Lord’s coming – – as significant and substantially a vital part of our celebration for each and every Christmas Season.  Parish communities often offer a communal celebration of the prioritiesSacrament of Reconciliation during the Advent season.  You can choose to participate in the communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or you can seek out this Sacrament on an individual basis.  Whichever you choose – – DO IT – – please!!!

Reflect on how John the Baptist called upon the people to prepare the way of the Lord through repentance.  On a nightly (or daily) basis, in a peaceful and prayerful area (perhaps near the Advent wreath), pray silently, asking God to forgive your sins.  Then, finish by praying your own version of the “Act of Contrition”.  (If you do not know one, you can use to old “tried and true” version below. 

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Act of Contrition

 

“My God377983_10150459373288643_96426468642_8348446_1692711191_n, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy.  Amen.”

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“Who’s the Royalty Here, Me or You?!” – John 18:33-37†


 

The Solemnity of Our Lord
Jesus Christ the King

 Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

The Five Stages  of Persecution

by Dan Halley, OSF

This article is strongly based on a web-blog posting by Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington [State].  Here is the link to his article:

http://blog.adw.org/2012/11/some-thoughts-on-the-five-stages-of-religious-persecution.

It is a mystery for me to see how once respected segments of American life – – Catholics and other Christians – – are becoming vilified and hated, almost overnight.  The Catholic Church, along with many Protestant denominations, have become increasingly “marginalized” and out-right “hated” by many in society today.  I believe things are only going to get more difficult for the Catholic Church in, at least, the near future. 

This is a significantly rapid, and scary, transformation.  Usually, the time for transformation – – from “respect” to one of “vilification” – – moves in stages over long periods of time, growing in intensity as it follows its destructive path. 

There are five general or basic stages of persecution.  The first is “stereotyping”.  Not everyone engages in stereotyping to the same degree, but there are basic catchphrases of stereotyping to look out for when talking to, or observing others.  The general environment, conditions, and perception of stereotyping set the foundation for each of the next four stages which follow.  They are at the heart of all stereotyping, and then feed off of the stereotyping dynamic building upon each step. 

These “Five Stages of Religious Persecution” originated with a talk given to a group in Washington DC, by Johnette Benkovic of the “Women of Grace” show (shown on EWTN).  Ms. Benokovic puts across a sober vision of how we have come to this current place wherein our Countries culture is increasingly, and overtly, “hostile” to Christians – – and to Catholics particularly.  These stages are from her talk:

1. Stereotyping the Catholic Church & other Christians, individually, & as a group

  • We are exaggerated in the media as “Bible thumpers”, haters of science, hypocrites of others, self-righteous, old-fashioned, and many other negative metaphors;
  • We are accused of harboring a phobic guilt, a hatred and an aversion to sexuality” and, of being part of a “sexist tradition”; 
  • Catholics are “stuck in the past”, having too many rules, being rigid, controlling, and even dictatorial in the “rules”; Catholic clergy are categorized as sexually repressed; and are further stereotyped as ALL being homosexuals or pedophiles;
  • We are seen as a sad, angry, boring, backward, and repressed group.  Moreover, we are seen as a laughable group who are tragically caught in a superstitious mindset and an out-dated past, incapable of throwing off the shackles of an “old and antiquated” faith.

Sounds bad already; and we just started!  From here, we go to the second step: “vilification”:

2.  Vilifying the Catholic Church with alleged crimes and/or misconducts

  • Catholics are described as “close-minded” and “harmful” to others’ dignity and freedom; 
  • We are labeled as “intolerant”, “hateful”, “bigoted”, “unfair”, “homophobic”, “reactionary” – – and just plain “mean”;
  • The Catholic Church’s past actions, such as the crusades and inquisitions, are constantly brought-up in conversations, intended to demean the Church, while forgetting about ALL the good works produced by people of the Catholic Church; 
  • We Catholics supposedly “feared” and “hated” Galileo – – and ALL of the physical sciences. 

After “stereotyping” and “vilifying” the Catholic Church and its members, it is a very easy step to “push” us out of the way – – leading to disconnecting and separating the Catholic Church from public intervention.  This leads us to the third step, cited by Ms. Benokovic:

3.  Marginalizing the Catholic Church’s role in society

  • Society (Government, other groups, and/or individual people) will only allow us to have our hymns, worship, rituals, etc. – – as long as they are hidden within the four walls of our own Church buildings, PERIOD!  Displays of any kind of faith must be banished from the public square, and from the public’s eye; 
  • We are told that nativity sets must go; we must remove Christmas trees from the public view; some schools and government buildings even bar the colors green and red at “holiday time”; 
  • In many public schools, students are not allowed to say the words “Christmas” or “Easter” anymore; 
  • Mentioning Jesus, or publicly thanking Him in a valedictorian address, could very well have a Circuit Court Judge forbidding, even penalizing the Catholic Christian for doing so – – BY LAW; 
  • Thanking the “Madonna” is fine, as long as you are referring to “the singer”, a cultural “role model” who publically exhibits approval for sexual promiscuity, public nakedness, pornography, adultery, and so on;
  • Catholic and Christian groups and clubs are forbidden from high schools and colleges, but a “LGBT” (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender) group or club is welcomed;
  • These organizations are allowed to set up displays and pass out “rainbow colored” condoms; in contrast, Christian groups are FORBIDDEN to pass out bibles, rosaries, crosses, or any other “Propaganda”; 
  • Here’s a fact!  NO Bibles or Christian pamphlets can see the light of day anywhere in public schools or other government buildings.  Walter Reed Military Hospital had BARRED Bibles and other Christian reading materials and artifacts (for a short time) from the property, not even allowing items to be given away or used during a visit. (This rule was rescinded after a major outrage and protest was made public by veterans groups, citizens, and military clergy – – during an election year!)

The hair on my neck is now standing up.  We have now gone from “stereotyping”, through “vilification”, to “marginalizing”, to an increasingly serious step of not just pushing followers of Christ out of the way, but actually “criminalizing” aspects of our faith:

4.  Criminalizing the Catholic Church and its works

  • The HHS mandate (Need I say any more!);
  • Local governments and courts are attempting to COMPEL Catholic hospitals and “pro-life” clinics to provide information and/or referrals for abortions, even going further, actually demanding these organizations to provideemergency contraceptionupon request; 
  • Catholic Charities throughout the United States have already been “de-certified” by various State and US authorizes.  They are no longer allowed to perform adoption work because these Catholic organizations will not allow children to be adopted by single-sex “couples”; 
  • The State of Connecticut, in 2009, sought to regulate the organization and administration of Catholic parishes itself.  (Is that “separation of Church and state?!  I think not!!  Luckily, the attempt was unsuccessful.); 
  • Recently, a number of Christian valedictorians in various States of the Union were presented with legal “injunctions” – – court rulings and court orders – – when it was discovered that they intended to mention God and/or Jesus specifically in their talks.  These legal injunctions banned them from doing so under severe penalty of law!!

Not only are Catholics and other Christians being “stereotyped”, “vilified”, “marginalized”, and “criminalized” for being “seen” displaying our faith, but also, Catholics can be (and are) sought out specifically FOR persecution by the government and the larger society.  This leads us to our last step:

5.  Persecuting the Catholic Church out-rightly and overtly, as a single religious group, as well as independent individual citizens of faith

If current trends continue:

  • Catholics and other Christians, especially the religious leaders – – out-spoken Priests, Bishops, and even the Pope – – will be straining under their personal cross of heavy fines and incarceration for their faith, and for their “sheep”. 
  • Already, in Canada and parts of Europe, Catholic clergy have been arrested and charged with “hate crimes” for preaching Catholic Doctrine and other teachings on such topics as homosexual activity.
  • Individuals in St. Louis, Washington DC,  and or cities have been arrested and charged with various trespassing, loitering, and “hate crimes” for “praying, and witnessing” – – PEACEFULLY – – at abortion clinics, and in front of the White House and other government buildings as well.

There are more examples for each of these progressive steps.  After reading this SHORT list of anti-Christian, anti-Catholic stages of persecution, I feel disheartened about our current societies’ (and politicians’) approach in scrutinizing and segregating the Catholic Church as a societal and political ENEMY of the American society at-large.  Many believe true Christians and Catholics are an “out-dated” group no longer needed – – or wanted – – in America today.  Even supposed “Catholic” politicians – – and not just Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Biden – – have decided to “pick and choose” which tenets and Catholic beliefs to follow within the changing culture of America.

In closing, let’s keep always on our lips the following prayer, given to us by an angel who appeared to three children of Fatima (Portugal) in 1916, just before the outbreak of WWI in 1917:

O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly.  I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the OUTRAGES, SACRILEGES, and INDIFFERENCES by which He is offended.  By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

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 Joke of the Day:

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 Today’s reflection: Jesus is questioned by Pilate about the charge brought against Him – – that He is “King of the Jews”.  So, who’s the true “Royalty”?

(NAB John 18:33-37) 33 Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?”  35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?  Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.  What have you done?”  36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”  37 So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”  Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

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  Gospel Reflection:

Today is the last Sunday of the Catholic Church’s liturgical year. On this specific Sunday, we celebrate (and reflect on) the “Solemnity of Christ the King”.  On this day in the Church year, we read a portion of the “Passion” from John’s Gospel, the very same reading proclaimed each year on Good Friday.

In today’s reading, Pilate questions Jesus about the accusations brought against Him by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish “Supreme Court” that He is a “king”.  Caiaphas, the Roman-appointed Jewish high priest, and Jesus’ major antagonist, along with the other high priests, have charged Jesus with a religious and political crime – – a crime requiring a death penalty.  

Pilate, in his words and actions, seems to be attempting to distance himself from the Jewish leaders who are accusing Jesus of a very heinous crime: blasphemy.  Pilate is a Roman and not a Jew.  In reality, he probably wanted very little to do with this Jewish affair, but was forced to participate over a fear of rebellion.

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Pilate asks THE question many in Jerusalem were asking to themselves or under their breaths:

Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33)

In response, and in knowing of the “rumors” and accusations rampantly spreading among the populace, Jesus answers by asking:

Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” (John 18:44).

Pilate, a proud Roman, in saying he is “not a Jew”, is relating to Jesus that he had even heard the talk about Jesus’ claim of being a “king” in His own right.  Pilate also wanted to make clear to Jesus that His OWN people – – Jewish people – – have brought the Roman government’s wrath upon Him, for execution purposes:

“I am not a Jew, am I?  Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.  What have you done?” (John 18:35).

I love Jesus’ response to Pilate’s finger pointing; his putting the blame for Jesus’ arrest (and future crucifixion) on others of His “clan”:

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

Jesus is identifying a final proof that His kingdom is not of this world.  If His kingdom were of this world, then there would be people fighting to save Him (and winning).  In this regard, we hear echoes of John’s “theme” – – salvation is worked out through a cosmic battle.  It is helpful to return to the first chapter of John’s Gospel to understand the context for Jesus’ words to Pilate:  

He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him” (John 1:10).

I personally believe this statement in today’s Gospel, about being “not of this world”, had to throw a bit of mental confusion into Pilate’s thinking.  For me, and probably for Pilate as well, this statement from Jesus was a verbal puzzle, a divine “head trip” of sorts.  In reality however, Jesus is simply speaking the truth.  John reiterated this fact of faith twice before: the aforementioned verse (John 1:10), and this verse from chapter eight of his Gospel:

 “He said to them, ‘You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above.  You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world” (John 8:23).

In John’s symbolic language, the “world” he mentions prefers the darkness, and that the light will not be overcome by the darkness:

Through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

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I believe Pilate tired of the “head games” and the humbleness being presented to him by Jesus while questioning Him.  Pilate wanted a simple “yes or no” answer to his questions.  He also perplexed about the accusation being brought against Jesus by His fellow Jews and Temple leaders.  So, Pilate sarcastically concedes, inquisitively, to Jesus:

Then you are a king?” (John 18:37).

However, Jesus is not done with His teaching of the faith through this unique moment of opportunity graced to Him by His Father in heaven.   He does not actually say He ISthe king”, but this verification is inferred and hinted to in His word dynamics:

You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37)

By saying, “You say I am a king”, Jesus is, in a way, offering a veiled affirmative answer to Pilate’s (and many others) inquiry about Him and His “nature”.

Jesus also states another revelation, to Pilate, along with His “vague” “yes” answer during this dialogue:

“You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truthEveryone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice (John 18:37)

Jesus Christ is testifying to His truth, AND to the “truth” found in “hearing” and following Him, belonging to Him in every way possible:

Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God” (John 8:47);

John is not the only one in Holy Scripture to write about “truth”.   Paul writes in His awesome first letter to Timothy, warning against “false teachers” who stress knowledge, teaching Timothy to focus on the persistent “hearing” of Jesus’ truetruth”:

I charge [you] before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:13).

How good are YOU doing at following His true “truth”?  Personally, I find it very difficult quite often; but then I ask Him for help.

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In Jesus’ responses to Pilate’s questions, Jesus distinguishes His kingdom from the political powers of this world.  “King” and “kingdom” may be appropriate terms for Jesus’ mission and promise, but only by similarity.  Jesus ISking”, but not the kind of king we typically imagine or expect!  And, He certainly was not the kind of “king” Pilate worried about or feared.

 Jesus submits to Pilate His [Jesus’] “kingdom” is “not of this world”.  Recall, in His prayer during the Last Supper discourse (cf., John 17:6-18), Jesus prayed for His disciples who are in the world – – but do not belong to the world: His faithful believers.  However, like Jesus, they also were (and are) sent into the world – – for the world’s salvation.  (I feel humbly important now, um, I think?!)

OK, let’s go on.  “Truth” is an important theme in John’s Gospel.  We see it emphasized in today’s conclusion during the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate.  Those who “know the truth” will recognize Jesus as “king” and will know how to interpret this truthful perception and self-awareness given to us by Him personally.  However, Jesus’ kingship was hidden from many of His contemporaries, even His own disciples and Apostles.  His kingship is still hidden to many even today.  Only the “chosen”, those who have the “eyes” and “ears” of faith, are able to see and hear the “truth”.   As contemporary disciples of Jesus, we also struggle at times to recognize Jesus as “MY” “king”, personally.  We are being invited to “see” and “hear” with eyes and ears of faith so that we might recognize that Jesus, through His crucifixion and death, truly is indeed the true “king” of me, and for me, and the “Messiah Savior King” of ALL mankind.

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Understanding today’s “Feast of Christ the King” may be particularly challenging for some of us “faithful”.  While most of us do not have a direct experience with kings or royalty (such as me), we possess a sense and image of kings and royals (again, such as me).  We know that royalty have sovereignty (rule and power) over their “kingdoms”.  We know that those who are subjects (someone ruled) to royalty offer them allegiance and honor.  (Who hasn’t seen a knights and damsels in distress movie?  That’s the way it works – – in this world!)  

To understand how Jesus Christ is “our king”, we need to extend and magnify – – amplify – – what we know to be proper and “true” from the best of human royalty.  Jesus Christ’s kingship extends to ALL places, ALL people, and ALL times – – past, past, and future.  Jesus manifests His kingship through His death on the Holy Cross, a death He offered to us for redemption and salvation to EVERYONE who believes and hears Him.  Those who can see and hear with eyes and ears of faith truly recognize Jesus Christ to be the proper and “true” heavenly king we need.

As you celebrate today the “Feast of Christ the King”, let’s ask, what does it mean to be a king or queen – – royalty (such as me)?; How do those who are subjects behave toward royalty?; Does Pilate treat Jesus like royalty? [Nope.]; What does Jesus say about His kingdom? [It is not of this world.].  

So, how then do you honor and obey our “king”, Jesus Christ?   (Yea, I can improve as well.)  Let’s ask God the Father to help us act in ways which show we do truly recognize and honor His Son, Jesus Christ, as “King”, as our “King”,  and as “MY Personal King”.

P.S. – – Re-read the title of today’s blog posting:

“Who’s the Royalty Here, Me or You?!”

What was your FIRST impression of this title?  Has it NOW changed? 

Please let me know

I would like to know for a special reason.  Remember, I feel there is basically NO wrong answer because it comes from the Holy Spirit working though YOU, if reflected on, and answered, sincerely.

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Reflection Prayer: 

Prayer To Christ The King

Christ Jesus, I acknowledge You King of the universe.
All that has been created has been made for You.
Make full use of Your rights over me.

I renew the promises I made in Baptism,
when I renounced Satan
and all his pomps and works,
and I promise to live a good Christian
life
and to do all in my power
to procure the triumph of the rights of God
and Your Church.

Divine Heart of Jesus,
I offer you my efforts
in order to obtain that all hearts
may acknowledge your Sacred Royalty,
and that thus the Kingdom of Your peace
may be established throughout the universe.

Amen.”

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“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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“You Cannot Mention My Father’s Name. However, I Truly Want You To Use MINE!” – Mark 9:38-48†


 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

As Catholics, we are to achieve a “unity of life”, letting our faith form our political decisions as we prepare to vote this November:

“We have important obligations as citizens.  But we have to carry out those obligations always in light of our duty to God” (Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles).

We, per Jesus’ “Word”, are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”  We are called to work for the common good of society, to obey just laws, and to respect society and government.  These responsibilities are what we render unto Caesar. 

What we render unto God – – IS FAITH. This means that “we can’t forget about the Church’s teachings and the demands of God’s law.  We have to make sure our participation and our contributions ALWAYS reflect the moral and religious values we find in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church.

When Catholics go to the voting booth, there are NON-negotiable aspects of Catholic social teaching.  Abortion, euthanasia, and marriage between a man and a woman, are among those that are non-negotiable!!

However, many issues ARE, and can be, debatable among Catholics.  Such issues include the economy, taxes, government spending, immigration, foreign affairs, and helping the poor and marginalized.  All these topics are matters for careful judgment – – careful CHOICE.  In such areas, we are always going to have legitimate differences of opinion over how best to apply the Church’s moral principles and teachings among members of our faith community.

So, what is a Catholic to do this November when we go to vote for our future?  What is important to remember is that we are always think and act with the mind of Christ and the mind of the Church in voting and in other civic responsibilities.

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We want with all our hearts to love, to BE “love”.  When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them.  God sees Christ, His Son, in us and loves us.  And so we should see Christ in others.” ~Dorothy Day, “My Wounded Hands“, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that whoever is not against Him – – is FOR Him.  Are YOU a fan, or a follower?

(NAB Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48)  38 John said to him, l “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  39 Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  40 For whoever is not against us is for us.  41 Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.  42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.  45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.  47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last week we heard Jesus rebuke His disciples for their arguing about who among them was the greatest.  Jesus taught them that the greatest among them will be those who serve the least among us.  Today, Jesus’ closest disciple, John, questions Jesus about an “unknown exorcist”, driving out demons in Jesus’ name.  John’s question to Jesus, in today’s reading, looks to have been motivated by simple jealousy:

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us (Mark 9:38). 

I believe John’s question is evidence that Jesus’ disciples have not completely grasped the meaning of Jesus’ “Words”.  These twelve extremely close followers of Jesus continue to compare themselves to others, especially others who appear to have greater healing powers than they possess.  They DO NOT want to share the power of Jesus’ name with others.  John and the other “disciples” even try to stop the man “because he was not following us“.

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Jesus’ reply is, in itself, filled with wisdom:

Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me (Mark 9:39).

Jesus strongly warns against jealousy and intolerance toward others who do not follow in His and our particular ways of faith, and leading to making false judgments.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian’s:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Let me ask you all a question: “Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to stand out more than us?”  I remember as a child being told by the Nuns teaching at my parochial school that ONLY Catholics would go to heaven.  All others would go to Hell, purgatory, or the infamous “limbo” (with the un-baptized infants), and going no further towards a full glory found in heaven.  Thank God (literally) that our closed-minded misunderstanding of dogma no longer exists in the Catholic faith today. 

All of us have to keep in mind that the Catholic Church was established by Christ Himself, at the “Last Supper”, and it has continued without a break in Apostolic Succession to the present day.  Yet, this “perfect” Church is filled with imperfect, sinful souls.  All can achieve the glorious perfection of heaven through their individual actions in this world, even without ever hearing the “Words” of Christ.  Christ knows all of us BY our works:

I [God] know your works (Revelations 3:15);

Christ knows all of us BY our faith and HOW we show our faith through our works:

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

With this in mind, there are many Catholics walking on the much easier road to Hell than much more difficult path to paradise.  These materialistic, jealous, judgmental people think they will be saved simply because they attend Mass when necessary, by sending their children to a parochial school, and by supporting their parish and diocese.  At the same time, they cheat, steal, tell lies, look at pornography, and so on.

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In today’s more medically advanced society, the “demon possession” described in Mark, might be seen as only a form of mental illness.  However, the need for healing, including for those with mental illness, was as real for them in the first-century, as it is for us still today.  “Exorcism” was a common practice during Jesus’ time on earth.  We know some people had the power to heal the symptoms of possession then, just as priests are able to do so now.  One of the strategies used in “driving out demons” was, and is still, by invoking the name of a person or figure believed to have the divine power and authority to heal: e.g., Jesus Christ.

The disciples observed that the “unknown exorcist” invoking Jesus’ name was potentially successful in his healing of others (hot-diggity-dogma!!).  This unknown healer recognized the power of Jesus’ name as truly having a divine power in itself, even though this “healer” who was not a member of the clan following of Jesus.  Even though this “healer” was an “outsider”, he must have believed in Jesus, by the fact of using His name. 

In Jesus’ reply to His disciples, He acknowledges that deeds of faith certainly can – – and DO – – precede the words of faith.  Our actions are more powerful than words alone.  Jesus continues teaching His disciples that they should not be reluctant to share Jesus’ healing powers with others.  In other words, we should “spread the wealth” of His grace and its power!!

In Mark 9:40, Jesus’ axiom truly demonstrates a broad attitude, belief, and tenet found in displaying His divine patience, lenience, and charitable tolerance toward others:

Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).

Even the smallest of considerations are shown to those who teach in Jesus’ name: – – and they will not go unrewarded!!  This axiom, this saying, compels a warning: there is NO position for a “neutral” stance where Jesus is concerned.  He Himself states to ALL present that they are either for or against Him – – they are either hot or cold.  NO lukewarm faith is allowed in His Kingdom:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot.   So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Revelations 3:15-16).

Jesus goes on further to speak about the positive effects in works of faith; in other words, those who act their faith in their love for God and others are those who are “hot”:

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward (Mark 9:41).

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Was Jesus’ exaggerating when He urged His followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences found in the last half of this reading (Mark 9:42-48)?  (I believe not.)  The last six verses (Mark 9:42-48) of this Gospel relate to the consequences of sin on one’s life.  Tying a heavy stone and being thrown into the sea, cutting your hand or foot off, or plucking your eye out, in order to save yourself from Hell, is an extremely vivid and morbid image to contemplate.  These images make me think of the idea of ALL of His children being part of His Church body.  If one of us sins, it truly affects ALL of us.  If a “sinner” remains unrepentant, they separate themselves from the Church body (Self-excommunication, which means they are out of fellowship with Christ – – until they choose to acknowledge their sin and repent). 

Just as a doctor might remove a limb, or some other part of the body, in order to preserve the life of the whole person, so too must we be ready to part with anything causing us to sin, leading to a spiritual death.  Jesus warns His disciples of the terrible responsibility of not putting stumbling blocks in the path of another.  Jesus warns us to not give offense or bad example, which may lead another to sin.  Even the first-century Jews understood that giving offense, or giving a bad example, is sinful since leads another TO sin.  If we lead another to sin, that person in turn may lead still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end – – and with assured devastation occurring – – unless someone harkens to an inspired conscious and grace, then to acknowledge their behavior as sin, and finally, to ask God’s forgiveness and mercy. 

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Remember: Christ came to heal; He was the first “medic” coming into – – and onto – – the field of battle: the Jewish nation, PLUS, ALL our individual souls, i.e., the whole human race.   His salves and bandages are the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.  They all heal our wounds of sin and strengthen our moral character.  Jesus treats ALL who come to Him (His practice is open 24 hours per day) with a pure love.  He expects us to treat people with His healing example of love.

With Jesus, there is no longer a need to cut off, or pluck out, anything to gain entrance to heaven.  Instead, we are to put on a great gift which Jesus gave to each and every one of us: the sanctifying grace of Himself and His Spirit!!  Through a proper faith in Jesus, we no longer have to worry about eternal misery with Satan.  After all, “Gehenna” does not sound like a fun place to be:

 “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

Ironically, it is interesting the number of people who end up going to Hell, even though they are aware of the consequences to their earthly actions.  There is not much, if anything, written about Hell that is positive.  So, why do we sin, knowing our action puts us on this road?  The answer is “Satan”  Satan is always wanting another soul – – NOT – – to go to paradise in heaven, but instead, to come to eternal misery and pain in HIS kingdom.  This is his only goal: JEALOUSY – – to take a soul away from GOD!!

The word, “Gehenna” (Mark 9:44, 46), is an interesting word indeed.  It refers to a valley just southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  To the Hebrew’s, this valley is known as the “Valley of Hinnom” (pronounced “gê-hinnōm”), or the “Valley of the son of Hinnom” (“gê ben-hinnōm”).  Gehenna was at one time the center of an idolatrous cult during a monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice.  This specific place is mentioned in two books of Jewish Scripture, our present-day Old Testament:

The king also defiled Topheth [a place of torment and punishment where the wicked are sent after death] in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be any immolation [killing; sacrifices] of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech [a Semitic deity]” (2 Kings 23:10);

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they go on building the high places of Topheth to sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire, something I never commanded or considered”(Jeremiah 7:31).

The concept of punishing sinners by fire, either after death, or after the final judgment, is found in Jewish apocalyptic literature:

Seventy shepherds were judged, and found guilty, and they also were thrown into that abyss of fire.  And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned.  And that abyss was on the south of that house. (Enoch 90:25-26**)

** (The “Book of Enoch” is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah.  It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from a group known as “Beta Israel”.  It is regarded however, as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church, but no other Christian group. ~ From Wikipedia)

“Gehenna” is traditionally used as an image of the invisible reality of the place of eternal punishment written about in the New Testament – – HELL!  Saying either Gehenna or Hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”, reminds me of another morbidly vivid description found in the book of Isaiah:

 “They shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against me; For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be extinguished; and they shall be an abhorrence [revulsion] to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24).

Per Isaiah, God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the “New Jerusalem” – – understood to be heaven.  As in the time of Isaiah, Jesus’ time on earth also had huge cemeteries of dead and decaying corpses, filth of every type, and societal/human waste scattered about in this “Valley of Hinnom” – – Gehenna – – JUST outside the city.  There still are many of God’s enemies surrounding us today – – the “living dead” who have rejected Jesus Christ.

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Jesus teaches us NOT to create obstacles for those who are just beginning to have faith, but to encourage even the smallest signs of faith.  In the vivid terms of today’s reading, Jesus teaches His disciples the consequences of putting obstacles before people on their road to faith.

The second part of today’s Gospel (Mark 9:42-48) contains a strong message for those sharing the responsibility of fostering faith in Jesus to others, an AWE-some responsibility.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that “FAITH” is a continuous, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, lifelong journey toward happiness – – which is God Himself!!  We don’t always understand our journey, or even stay on-track at times.  However, we should pray daily for the grace – – His grace – – to acknowledge and build upon even the smallest signs of faith, in ourselves, and in others.  This is what HOPEIS for Catholic Christians.   In today’s world, there are plenty of obstacles preventing the growth of faith in many individuals.  Pray you are not contributing to the obstacles, thus hindering another person’s continuously growing faith in Jesus Christ; instead continue to choose to encourage and strengthen that faith in others as well as ourselves.

We have a calling to confront obstacles to faith.  In dealing with obstacles confronting you, you may be called upon to use courageous, bold, outspoken word, and unpopular actions in order to surmount and break down that obstacle.  Perhaps God is calling YOU to break down that obstacle for another.  Saint Francis, a loyal member of the Catholic Church, and a radical challenger to Church of his day, broke down many obstacles in his public ministry, always with a sincere love, and with definite actions of faith and love.   Saint Francis routinely said:

Preach the Gospel, and at times, use words”.

Are you being called for a “challenge”, just as Saint Francis was called?  In a little, dilapidated, weathered chapel known as San Damiano, Jesus Christ spoke to him with the following words:

Francis, rebuild my church”!

What is Christ saying to YOU?!

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There are many people and things in our daily lives nurturing our faith, and, also attempting to hinder our faith.  Those nurturing our faith include: healthy family relationships and friendships, good literature, EWTN, Healthy Church life, retreats, and so on.  Those things that might be obstacles to our faith may include: improper relationships, scandals, bad habits, sin, and so on.

Jesus teaches us, in today’s Gospel, that we are to do everything possible to help another HAVE faith in Jesus Christ.  We are also to do everything possible to avoid creating obstacles hindering another’s faith life.  Pray that you will be a faith-filled Catholic Christian, helping others grow in faith, that you do not create obstacles for others obtaining or growing in faith.  YOU ARE the next “unknown exorcist” to proclaim God’s Word and Plan by your actions, and by passing on your faith to the next generation!

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen. 

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