Tag Archives: Joseph

“Those Who Do Not Believe Develop Heart and Soul ‘Murmurs’!” – John 6:41-51†


 

Nineteenth Sunday in OrdinaryTime

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:

 

This next Wednesday, August 15th, is the “Feast of the Assumption of Our Mother Mary”.  Each year for the past 6 years, on this date, I have completed my preparations and renewing my “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”.  This devotion was created by St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and takes 33 days of preparation by means of prayer, reading, meditation, reflections, and personal promises – – a true “metanoia” (conversion process)!  (But then again, each and every day, I try to convert myself to God’s will, even if ever so slightly.)  Each time I have completed this particular devotion, the experience and journey itself seems to “taste “a little sweeter.  I’ll take this as a good sign to continue this yearly practice.

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There will no Reflection next Sunday, August 18th.  I will be on my yearly Franciscan (OFS) Retreat at King’s House in Belleville, IL.  Our OFS Region (about 100 Secular Franciscans) will get together there for the weekend to celebrate, learn, rejoice, pray, contemplate, and enjoy each other in community.  It is truly an awesome, up-lifting, powerful, and exciting time for me, both personally and spiritually.

Anytime spent with friends, family, and God – – all rolled into one experience – – is a true grace from God Himself.  Amen, Amen, Amen!!!

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 Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus responds to the murmurs of the crowd, who wonders what He means when He says, He “came down from heaven”.  What are your “murmurs” towards Jesus?

 (NAB John 6:41-51) 41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42 and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.  44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  45 It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.  46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.  47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  48 I am the bread of life.  49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On this Sunday, we continue to read from the “Bread of Life discourse” found in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.  We have been reading from this chapter for the past two Sundays and will continue to read from it for another two.  (Since I have grown to love John’s unique multi-dimensional viewpoint of Jesus Christ, one month of solely John’s Gospel (at the Sunday Mass) is totally awesome.).  Last week, the crowd with whom Jesus had been dealing for two liturgical weeks now asked Him for a sign which would show that He truly came from God. (So, He’s not a magician or con-artist).  Jesus replied by saying that “HE” is “THE” sign ANDthe bread of life” truly sent by God!

Today’s Gospel begins with a report that the Jews (the crowd) are “murmuring” about Jesus’ claim regarding His identity.  After all, they knew Jesus’ family (Mary and Joseph). So, they could not comprehend what Jesus meant when He said that He “came down from heaven” (John 6:41).  Jesus responds to the crowds request by saying, “Only those who are chosen by God will recognize Him” (John 6:44) as the one sent by God; this is (and will be) a recurring theme in John’s Gospel.  WOW!  Reflect on the fact that God chooses those who will have faith in Jesus. (And He always chooses those who wish to follow Him – – to come to Him!!)

In the verses which follow in today’s reading, Jesus talks more about His unique unity, His personal union, with God the Father.  He is the “One” who has seen God the Father and, therefore, truly and fully knows God the Father, and as His Father.  (But let me ask: “Was He the ONLY one?” The answer will come a little later.)  Those who listen to God – – and HEAR Him and BELIEVE (John 6:47)- – will recognize Jesus as being the “One” sent from God the Father Himself.  Those who believe this will have eternal life according to Jesus’ proclamation.  

Jesus will conclude today’s reading with the essential principle of our Eucharistic theology – – the Source and Summit of our Catholic Faith – – Jesus, “the bread of life”, will share ETERNAL life to those who believe Him!!  Jesus promises that His “bread of lifewill bring ETERNAL life to those who come to, and partake of it.  Jesus also prophetically tells us “the bread of life” will be “His own flesh, given for the life of the world” (John 6:51).  The flesh Jesus is referring to is the reality of His “Risen” self to a new life.

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In Capernaum (the location of today’s reading), Jesus is rejected solely because His origins are known to the people there.  By their “murmuring” (John 6:41), Jesus’ audience (the crowd who followed Him to Capernaum from Bethsaida) behaved like the Israelites of the Exodus, while lingering in the desert.  If you recall, their own “murmuring” provoked the gifts of water and manna being delivered to them from God the Father:

As the people grumbled against Moses, saying, What are we to drink?’ he cried out to the LORD, who pointed out to him a piece of wood.  When he threw it into the water, the water became fresh.” (Exodus 15:24-25);

Here in the wilderness the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. … in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, when he hears your grumbling against him.  But who are we that you should grumble against us? …[God says] I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, and then you will know that I, the LORD, am your God.” (Exodus 16:2,7,12).

This crowd’s “murmuring” was an example of the unbelief as prophesied in Isaiah and the Psalms:

But when the LORD has brought to an end all his work on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, I will punish the utterance of the king of Assyria’s proud heart, and the boastfulness of his haughty eyes.” (Isaiah 10:12);

Next they despised the beautiful land; they did not believe the promiseIn their tents they complained; they did not heed the voice of the LORD (Psalm 106:24-25).

Familiarity with His family and societal background led them to regard Him as pretentious and boastful in His claim.  They saw Jesus as a person they felt they knew completely and intimately; yet they were truly blind.

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Jesus’ command to “stop murmuring” (John 6:43) is followed by a short series of sayings.  The next two verses of today’s reading reiterate that only those “drawn by God” will believe in Jesus:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6:44-45) 

John is demonstrating the claim that God Himself is responsible for the faith of those who believe in Jesus.  There is NO knowledge of God the Father apart from Jesus:

Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46).

John is repeating Holy Scripture, reminding his readers of verses found in both Exodus and earlier in his own Gospel:

But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20);

No one has ever seen God.  The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1:18);

This belief reflects the Jewish tradition: to see God meant instant death!!   However, this belief is contradicted by others who DIDsee God”, yet live:

To the LORD who spoke to her [Hagar] she gave a name, saying, ‘You are God who sees me’; she meant, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after he saw me?’” (Genesis 16:13);

Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘because I have seen God face to face,’ he said, ‘yet my life has been spared.’” (Genesis 32:31).

In seeing Jesus Christ, this crowd truly SAW God.  Yet, we see the Holy Eucharist; we are also truly witnessing the Risen “God” is being revealed to us in a unique visible and spiritual (supernatural) way.  “Seeing”, and partaking of God in the Holy Eucharist, does not bring death, but everlasting life through Jesus Christ!!  “Seeing” is believing in and partaking of – – participating in – – God’s communion (co-union)!  This “seeing” God by faith does not bring death but everlasting life through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Jesus concludes His series of sayings with this final affirmation:

 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47) 

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The following “final” verse from today’s reading is an extremely powerful revelation:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51),

At the end of this sixth chapter of his Gospel, John will shift his Gospel from the topic of Jesus as “the revealer of God the Father” – – to Jesus as the “living bread” which He Himself gives to us as a gift, revealing to us the grace, which we have learned to call “the Holy Eucharist”. 

Here follows is the next portion of John’s sixth chapter.  The verses which immediately follow today’s reading are also the verses for next week’s Gospel reading at Mass:

“The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’  Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.’  These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.” (John 6:52-59)

These verses definitely say, and identify, the “Holy Eucharist” to me!  Does it to you?

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In today’s reading, we hear Jesus say again, as He did in last week’s Gospel, that “HE” is “the bread of life” (John 6:48).  We also hear Jesus adding that HE is “the living bread” (John 6:51).  Both of these statements help us understand better the gift Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist.  We celebrate this special and unique gift (grace) of Jesus each time we gather for Mass.  We, as Catholics, truly and fully believe that receiving the “Risen” Jesus in the Eucharist will lead us to our eternal life in the paradise of heaven, with our Trinitarian God.  (His “bread” is truly divine – – truly “heavenly”!!)

Today’s Gospel draws our attention to the faith in Jesus’ real, true, full, and Risen presence in the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus IS then, truly and fully “the bread of life”.  He gives us His Body and Blood as “the living bread” so that we may have eternal life.  When we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, with the proper attitude, our lives reflect the reality that our communion – – our unique union – – with the divine Jesus Christ Himself, is truly preparing us to see the way to reach His kingdom.  Our Holy Eucharist leads us to live as His people of promise, confident we will one day share the fullness of life with, and united to, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit!!  (Not a bad deal for us sinners!!)

The crowd in today’s story despised Jesus because they thought they knew who He was – – understanding Him to be an uneducated laborer from a rural “Hick” town called Nazareth.  They regarded His mother, Mary, and His “foster” father, Joseph as ordinary people with no particular distinction to their name or identity.  Their collective thoughts were: “How could such a common man claim to be God’s spokesman?”

This crowd surrounding Jesus became even more offended when Jesus claimed something only God could claim.  His claim which He revealed to them is that He is the very source of life who comes from God the Father, and who lasts forever and ever (John 6:51).

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I am sure we all make the same mistake as did the crowd in today’s Gospel.  We sometimes (maybe even oftentimes) refuse to listen to others solely because we think they are inferior to us?  (No humility in thinking such thoughts, is there?  NOT!!!!)   We can miss what God may wish to speak to us through others, especially when He speaks through these “inferior beings”.  We can miss what God says to us, if we despise and spurn the “instrument” God chooses to work through.  John states that the Jews from today’s reading “murmured” at Jesus.  They listened to Him, but with a critical spirit rather than “hearing” Him with faith, with an open ear, and with an earnest desire to learn and believe what God the Father wanted (and still wants) to speak to them (and us) – – through His Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  There are many different ways people can choose to listen to others: with an attitude of superiority, with indifference, or with a teachable spirit, wishing to learn, believe, grow, and ultimately, to be transformed.  Let me ask: With what “way” do you listen to God’s “Word”?

God is offering His people an abundant life; yet, we can miss out on this unique gift.  What is “the bread of life” which Jesus offers us?  When Jesus offers us a true life, He brings us into a new relationship with God the Father – – a relationship of trust, love, and obedience.  Jesus offers us a true, abundant, ever-sustaining life – – lasting forever and ever.  Jesus offers us a life of enduring love, fellowship, communion, and union with the “One” who made us “in love” to be uniquely united with Him forever and ever!!  

Think about your hope that one day you will share eternal life with God in heaven.  This “hope” can transform the way you (and we) live out our daily experiences and lives.  We are called to BE people “of hope”; we are taught to believe in God’s promises and to have confident “hope” that we will experience the fulfillment of those promises in our daily lives.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises us this gift of eternal life in and through the Eucharist.  Jesus taught us that those who listen to God know that He had been (and is still) sent by God the Father – – for the life of the world – – and for ALL creation.  Jesus is fulfilling His promise to us through His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Jesus Christ gave (and still gives) us the gift of HIMSELF in the Holy Eucharist – – in His Body and Blood – – given so we may have, and grow in, eternal life with Him.  Ask God to increase your faith in His true and full presence present in each morsel of the Holy Eucharist, and each sip of the cup of salvation, which we experience with all our senses.  (Doesn’t smell fishy to me at all!!)

There is NOTHING to “murmur” about when it comes to God the Father’s Salvation plan FOR US!!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Peace 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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“If We Emulate Mary, We Shall Never Lack God’s Grace!!” – Luke 2:16-21†


 

The Octave** Day of the Nativity
of the Lord Solemnity of Mary,
the Holy Mother of God

(** An eight day celebration: “Octave” is the eighth day or last day of a particular feast)

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions
for January, 2012:

General Intention: Victims of Natural Disasters.

That the victims of natural disasters may receive the spiritual and material comfort they need to rebuild their lives.“

Missionary Intention: Dedication to Peace.

That the dedication of Christians to peace may bear witness to the name of Christ before all men and women of good will.”

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Today, this first day of a new year, we celebrate an extremely important Feast Day, the Solemnity of Mary, OUR Blessed and Holy Mother of God. 

Early Christians gave Mary the title “Theotokos”, meaning, “God-bearer” (Council of Ephesus 431 AD).  We still celebrate Mary as the Mother of God, and the Mother of ALL mankind, because, in bearing Jesus Christ, she bore the fullness of the “Godhead” within her.  On this day, we are reminded of the role that Our Blessed Virgin Mary played in God the Father’s salvation plan.  Christ’s Birth was made possible by Mary’s personal and fully complete fiat:

Be it done unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 38:1).

Today, this first day of a New Year is a great day to stop and reflect on both the past year and what’s ahead on your person path to salvation.  Have you followed Mary’s example in living your life according to God’s “will”, His intention, and His purposeful plan?

May your new year – – and ALL new years – – be filled with the love, joy, peace, and hope of being fully “one” with our loving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

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Last week’s reflection blog was the most awesome one I believe I have ever written.  The Holy Spirit allowed me to break through to a new level of understanding the “Word”.  I feel truly blessed to have the Holy Spirit inspiring me to see Holy Scripture from a different perspective.  Thank You my dear Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for allowing me to spread your good news.

Please let me know what you think of His grace working in me.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   379 – Death of Basilius the Great, of Caesarea, Saint (Moralia)
†   404 – Death of Saint Telemachus
†   1431 – Birth of Alexander VI [Rodrigo Borgia], Spanish/Italian pope (1492-1503)
†   1502 – Death Gregorius XIII, [Ugo Buoncampagni], Italy, pope (1572-85)
†   1970 – Revised calendar for Western (Roman Catholic) Church goes into effect
†   1982 – Pope John Paul II prays for an end to martial law in Poland
†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of Jesus’ Circumcision (Old calendar); Final Day of Octave of Christmas, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (New calendar); Fulgentius of Ruspe; Odilo of Cluny; Telemachus; Orthodox Christian Churches – Feast Day of the Circumcision of the Lord in the Flesh; also the feast day of St. Basil, Bishop of Caesaria.

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

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Quote of the Day:

 

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God.” ~ Pope John Paul II

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Today’s reflection is about the shepherds finding Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

 

(NAB Luke 2:16-21) 16 So they [the shepherds] went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.  17 When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  18 All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.  19 And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.  21 When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading is a continuation from the Gospel proclaimed at last week’s Midnight Christmas Mass.  The “shepherds” acted upon what they had seen and heard.  These lowly men of society took the important message they had received from the angel appearing to them, and “hurriedly” went to find the baby Jesus, still in the manger, in the town of Bethlehem.

In going to see the Holy Family, the shepherds find exactly as the angel had said to them:  

This will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)

Therefore, the shepherds’ visit was a unique and significant moment of fulfillment, manifestation, revealing; and they became the first witnesses to the beginning of salvation, the fulfilling of God’s promises, which we also may receive through Jesus Christ Himself.

The birth of the “Messiah Anointed Savior”, Jesus Christ is the key event in the history of mankind; but God the Father wanted it to take place so quietly that the world went about its business as if nothing had happened.  The only ones told, via an angel messenger, were a few lowly shepherds.  Interestingly, it was also a shepherd, named “Abraham”, to whom God the Father gave His promise to save mankind.

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The shepherds “went in haste” to Bethlehem because they were full of joy at seeing the angel and hearing his message.  They were eager to see the Messiah Savior of their people and nation.  I expect their elated attitude was an appropriate response for the situation they experienced.  After all, wasn’t it Saint Ambrose who said, “No one seeks Christ halfheartedly“!!  

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Luke himself reported that our Blessed Virgin Mary, after the Annunciation, event also “went in haste” to see Elizabeth:

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah” (Luke 1:39).  

Any one, any soul, who allows entry to the Trinitarian God, obviously will rejoice in God Himself visiting his meager and marred soul; and, in doing so, acquire a new energy (Sanctifying Grace) for his life with, in, and through God Himself.  This is how God makes us a “new creation” as sons and daughters of God.

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Besides the shepherds’ interaction with the angel, and then with the infant Jesus Himself, this reading also focuses on Mary as the “Mother of God,” “Theotokos” (God-bearer).  Today’s reading tells us at least three details about Mary as a mother.  First, our Blessed Mother Mary is described as an insightfully reflective woman, keeping the testimony of the shepherds in her heart.  Second, we are reminded of how completely obedient Mary was to God the Father when she named the baby “Jesus” (His name means “God saves” in Hebrew) as the Archangel Gabriel had directed her at the Annunciation event.  Third, this reading shows Mary and Joseph faithfully observing, and faithfully practicing, their Jewish faith and traditions by having Jesus circumcised on the eighth day.

Mary’s absolute and total faithfulness to God the Father is unmistakable and is manifested in all three of these details.  Her reflection upon the events in her life indicates that she was a person of deep prayer, deep faith, and deep love.  Her prayer life, her faith, and her trust made possible her complete and full obedience to God the Father – – and His will and intention, – – even if the outcome was not made clear to her.  Finally, her faithfulness to a community of faith grounded her relationship with God the Father and enabled her to participate in His plan of salvation for her personally, and for ALL mankind as well.

Because of Mary’s absolute and total faithfulness to God the Father, she was able to receive the grace and gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Because of her absolute and total faithfulness, she accepted her role in God’s plan for her and ALL mankind’s salvation.  By doing so, she models for us the true path of Catholic Christian discipleship, and is thus called the “Mother of the Church”.

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From today’s reading about Mary’s role, I believe one of the most important verses is:

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) 

In these few words, this verse tells us a great deal about our Blessed Mother Mary.  In this one simple verse, we can see the peacefulness, tranquility, and contentment with which Mary contemplates and reflects upon the wonderful things known to her, and coming true through her – – and to fulfillment in and with her – – with the birth of her divine Son, Jesus Christ.  She studied, pondered, and “kept” all this knowledge, these observations, and events in the silence of her humble heart.

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” (Luke 2:34-35) 

There is a truly divine purpose for Mary.  Reflect on two words in the above verse: “so that”.  Let me know what you think.

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Mary is a true teacher and perfect model for prayer and personal reflection.  If we emulate our Mother Mary, if we “keep” and “reflect” in our hearts what Jesus says to us and He what does “in” and “through” us, we are well on the way to true holiness.  If we emulate Mary, we shall never lack God’s grace!!  And finally, by reflecting and praying as Mary did on what Jesus has given us, we shall obtain a deeper understanding of the mystery of Jesus Christ Himself.  Vatican II says the following about contemplation, meditation, and reflection on the “Word” of God:

There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on.  This comes about in various ways.  It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience.” (Vatican II, “Dei Verbum“, 8).

 

Today, we take notice of the Blessed Virgin Mary honoring her commitment and promise to God the Father by naming her child “Jesus”.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph is also told (in a dream) to name the child “Jesus” because He will save the Jewish (and ALL) people.  As I wrote earlier, “Jesus” in Hebrew means “God Saves.” – – And, indeed He has, and is, and will continue to do so.  He has – – in us – – ALREADY!!!

Wow, even in His personal name “Jesus”, He Himself announces the mission He came to accomplish.  This reveals that personal names are important to God; so they should be important to us.  So, – – Think about your name, and the names of families and friends.  Reflect on these names; Ponder what each name means? – – And ask: Why was each person given their specific name? 

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Just as John the Baptist was given his name by an angel and had been incorporated into the people of Israel through his circumcision, so too is the infant Jesus.  Jesus, whose name was revealed to His mother and His foster-father by the same angel messenger, was circumcised per Jewish tradition on the eighth day (Octave) of His birth.  On that day, Jesus was incorporated into the “chosen people” of Israel and was to be by a “sign of fulfilling the covenant”.  This circumcision rite was instituted by God the Father as an outward sign to Abraham to single out those who will belong to the “chosen people”.  It was an external sign of the covenant agreement that God the Father made with Abraham and for all Abraham’s future generations:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said: I am God the Almighty.  Walk in my presence and be blameless.  Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.  I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. … God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.  This is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.  Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.  That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including house born slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:1–12).

 

So, for the Jewish people, circumcision and the giving of a name had great importance, and was done at the same time.  When a name was given, it represented what that unique person should be in the future.  A person’s name expressed the reality of his or her “being” at its deepest, most intimate level.  From His circumcision till His death, Jesus would be forever known by the name given Him at His circumcision!!  “Jesus“, means “God Saves”, thus, “Savior”.  His name was given to Him – – not as the result of any human decision – – but in keeping with the “command” of God the Father, which the “messenger” Archangel Gabriel revealed to the Blessed Virgin, Mary, and her betrothed, Joseph:

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” (Luke 1:31);

And,

The angel of the Lord appeared to Him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Ponder this: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten “Son of God”, became “incarnate” (made human) in order to redeem and save not only ALL Israel, but also ALL mankind.  Remember, in our Creed, it says:

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” (Nicene Creed)

So, it is not only appropriate, but also very fitting that He is called “Jesus”, Messiah Anointed Savior.  AND He IS!!

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In the birth and naming of Jesus we see the wondrous design and salvation plan of God the Father in giving us a “Messiah Savior” who would bring us grace (new life), mercy, and freedom from the power of sin and from the fear of eternal death.  He also brought us the freedom for serving others, i.e., for doing unto others as you would like them to do towards us.  The name “Jesus” signifies that the very name of God the Father is present in the person of His Son who became “man” for OUR salvation.  

Saint Peter, the Apostle, cried out:

There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4:12).

In the name of “Jesus”, the “fallen angels”, Satan, and other demons tremble and flee; the maim walk; the blind see; the deaf hear; and the physically and spiritually dead are raised to new life again:  

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Jesus’ name is exalted, praised, and acclaimed far above every other name.

There were (and still are) many who were (and still are) called by the name “Jesus”.  However, isn’t it more appropriate to call our Savior by this name?  Jesus Christ brought light, freedom and salvation, – – not to one only person, – – but to ALL mankind of ALL ages.  To those oppressed, not only by starvation or tyranny, but also by lack of knowledge, Jesus Christ brought light, freedom, and salvation by coming and living with us in the shadow of death and the confinement from the frustrating and restricting “chains” of Satan, sin, and eternal death.

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Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God Himself, in His eternal Son, Jesus Christ, – – made man – – who:

will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21).

The name Jesus is at the center of all Catholic Christian prayer.  It is with, in, and through Jesus Christ that we pray to God the Father, – – with, in, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Many Catholics and other Christians have died with this one single, simple to say, “Word” on their lips, “Jesus”!!!  Do YOU praise, extol, and hail His name – – “Jesus” – – AND pray with confidence in, with, and through HIS NAME?

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To conclude, bear in mind that the name “Jesus” means “God saves.”  Reflect on how Jesus Christ fulfilled the mission that His name still suggests.  Pray that you will fulfill your “personal and unique mission” to be a faithful disciple of Jesus, in whom you (and we ALL) find our salvation – – even NOW, TODAY!!  Pray for our Mother Mary’s help in being faithful to Jesus Christ in all we do, say, and think – – ALWAYS!!

Our personal call to discipleship includes three aspects, just as Mary’s did two thousand (or so) years ago: first, discipleship means faith, prayer, and reflection on the events of our lives; through faith, prayer, and reflection, we come to see God’s true presence, action, and work in our lives; second, discipleship means a complete and total obedience to God and His will; and third, discipleship includes loyalty, commitment, and faithfulness to a community of faith, the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”.  This IS our faith; this IS our path.  Thanks for walking with me!  Pax Christi!  

Have a happy and grace-filled New Year.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Hail Mary

“Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
‘Jesus’.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

Faith and Works, Part 2

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Romans. 2:13). RSV

For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13) KJV

*

 “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgments …” (Hebrews 10:26-27). RSV

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment … ”  (Hebrews 10:26-27). KJV

*

 “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?” (James. 2:14). RSV

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? (James. 2:14). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Blessed Waldo (d. 1320)

Waldo (also known as Vivaldo or Ubaldo) was a disciple of a saintly priest, Bartolo, both of them natives of northern Italy.  When Bartolo contracted leprosy and entered a hospital, Waldo accompanied his friend and nursed him until Bartolo died 20 years later.  In return, Waldo’s religious education was enriched by instruction from the holy priest.  It was at his suggestion that Waldo joined the secular Franciscans.

Following the death of his spiritual father in 1300, Waldo determined to withdraw from the world altogether and to devote himself to conversing with God and focusing on heaven.  Accordingly, he set out for a large forest not far from his birthplace and found a large hollow chestnut tree.  The cavity of the tree offered barely enough room for him to kneel, but it became the hermitage in which he spent the next 20 years in complete solitude.

It is said that one day in May in the year 1320, the bells of the church from the adjacent village began to ring of their own accord.  As local residents ran to the church seeking to unravel the mystery of the bells, a hunter emerged from the forest.  He reported to the assembled crowd that his hounds had circled a hollow chestnut tree nearby and that they began barking excitedly.  When the hunter approached the tree to investigate the matter, he found a recluse in the cavity of the tree, dead on his knees. Just as the hunter finished recounting the story, the bells ceased ringing.

For the inhabitants of the town, it was utterly clear that their humble, solitary neighbor was indeed a holy man.  They processed to his cell, brought his body back to the church and laid it to rest beneath the high altar.  As years passed, many miracles occurred at the tomb of Waldo, while his former cell in the chestnut tree was converted into a chapel in honor of the Blessed Mother.

Comment: Waldo would be considered a strange fellow in our world.  He was a total misfit by modern standards!  Yet his prayers bound him to the rest of the world.  His neighbors realized at his death how much they depended on his prayers; perhaps they even provided him with food and water for those 20 years he spent in his chestnut tree.

However little we understand his chosen lifestyle, he reminds us we also serve when we spend time alone with God.

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues

 

Meditate on each of these virtues:

  • The Theological Virtues: Love, Hope and Faith
  • The four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice.
  • The Seven Heavenly Virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Temperance, Prudence.

How do you see yourself using them?

As a layperson (and SFO member) how much do you treasure these virtues?

How much effort are you making to embrace these virtues more completely?

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

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

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

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

♫“Mary, Did You Know …!”♫ – Luke 1:26-38†


 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am still on the road to recovery, and feeling better each day.  Thanks for all the prayers, and please continue.  I, in return, am also praying for each of your intentions.

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 Today in Catholic History:    

†   821 – Death of Theodulf, Bishop of Orléans
†   1352 – Etienne Aubert elected as Pope Innocentius VI †   1442 – Death of Pierre Cauchon, French Catholic bishop (b. 1371)
†   1837 – Birth of Adolf Daens, Belgian priest/Dutch party founder (CVP)
†   1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Optissima Pax
†   Feasts/Memorials: Gatianus of Tours; O Adonai; Our Lady of Expectation; Greek Orthodox Church – Feast of Sebastian the Martyr

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

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“If there’s one sign or mark of living love it is selflessness.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One

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Today’s reflection is about the Archangel “Gabriel” visiting Mary to announce her conception and the Incarnation of the “Word” to be made flesh: Jesus.

 

(NAB Luke 1:26-38) 26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read the story of the Archangel “Gabriel’s” announcement to a young teenager, Mary, about the birth of her only son, Jesus.  This story, as presented today, is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Mark (This liturgical years Gospel writer) does not even cover the infancy narratives as well.  

On this last Sunday of Advent, the liturgy shifts from a two-week focus on John the Baptist to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Both John and Mary serve as important figures for our reflection during this season of Advent.  They each played active, involved, and instrumental roles in preparing the way for Jesus Christ.  Last week we reflected on John the Baptist’s announcement that the “Savior” was among us, although not yet recognized.  This week we reflect upon Mary’s example of faith, love, and obedience to God the Father.  These traits permitted her to receive the angel’s message that God’s Son would be born to her, as a human person, and as one of us.

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I love the infancy narratives found in Luke’s Gospel.  I have read it to my children many times throughout their CHRISTinMASS Seasons.  Reading Luke’s narrative while sitting around the home nativity scene, with its simple crib, can be a helpful way of presenting our Catholic faith to family and friends.  The symbolism of the crib brings to my mind the “mystery” and “action” of God’s love being made visible and revealed – – manifested – – in the simple poverty of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem city.  

Along with the mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation, Saint Francis loved this same infancy narrative so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223.  His “Nativity scene” (though not live) has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRISTinMASS decorations, both outside and inside the home.  What better way is there to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTinMASS?!”

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the CHRISTinMASS Nativity Scene:

It still retains its value for evangelization today. Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true CHRISTinMASS because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Corinthians 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Luke 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium. There is no other Christmas.

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Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, and carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood. We learn for instance, five things:

(1) Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.

(2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”

(3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and complementary terms possible, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she had with God (This is known, I might add, from the perfect past-participle part of speech Gabriel used.  This form was what caused Mary to be “greatly troubled” – – because that form states something special happened to her way in the past, and is now still present within her.)

(4) The son Mary will give birth to is described in “messianic” terms, learned from her famous ancestor, King David.

And finally,

(5) Her son [Jesus] will be called both the “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

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Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God (the angel) telling you that God is pleased with you??!  Mary’s initial reaction to this angel we know of as “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God”), was naturally one of surprise, and also with some obvious initial fear.  Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe.  Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.

I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction to Gabriel’s acclamation.  She places her whole self: body, heart, and soul into the hands of God.  She trusts God, and now His messenger, accepting God’s grace, gift, and responsibility – – immediately!  I believe that she is believing the message ordaining her to the Motherhood of God Himself, to become manifest in the human form of her baby boy, Jesus.  In doing so, Mary became not only the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to ALL mankind.  Now that is “awesome” indeed!!

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The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message given by the (same) Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah about the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both events, the Archangel Gabriel appears to the “future parents,” who are at first unsettled by the vision:

Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.” (Luke 1:12)

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29)

Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel NOT TO FEAR!

But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’” (Luke 1:13)

Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’” (Luke 1: 30-31)

And, after his announcement he declares:

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Both Zechariah and Mary initially objected to Gabriel’s announcement:

Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’” (Luke 1:18)

But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’” (Luke 1:34)

Finally, a sign is given to each as a confirmation of his announcement of God’s decision or purpose and plan:

But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:20)

And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.” (Luke 1:20)

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Mary questions Gabriel of “how this is possible”, for she never had any sexual relations.  Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response.  Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus.  The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the “power” of God.  Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He IS the “Son of God!”

Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, then why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!

Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence for the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God the Father.  Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God the Father.  Mary is thus the true model of discipleship for all Catholics.  She believed God!  We should believe God!  She learned to “have no fear”!  We should learn to “have no fear”!

 

Gabriel puts a particular focus and emphasis on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of DavidANDSon of God”.  In verse 32 of today’s reading, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”.  Later, in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.”  ”Most High” is a title for God which was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts).  You can see each of these references by reading Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.

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In my thirty plus years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting. All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear in regards to delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital.  (Thank God they didn’t realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times than them – – but I could bluff well.)  Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age.  Once, I even took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years old (YES, 13!); she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home.  To make the matters worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ended in an abortion.  (You do the math!)  Now, surprisingly, this young mother was probably only a year or two younger than Mary when she became pregnant with Jesus!

I am sure Mary had some fear – – what woman wouldn’t!  I have yet to see a woman in labor without some fear; and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control).  I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age mind.  Examples: How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy?  How would her own family treat her?  Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know that she used cloth because the Holy Family was “eco-friendly.”)  What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph?  Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery? (This was his right per Jewish law.)  Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?  

She was a young girl of about fifteen.  Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood?  I would think not.  Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child! (Hee, hee! – – Just had to laugh on this one.)

There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle.  Yet Mary said “YES” with little hesitation! She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body!  Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new “covenant” of God – – coming to fruition with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her unique Divine Son.

I have to believe that God is not only a benevolent, merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment. Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.”  Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity.  Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment?  Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you?  Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise.  Others, including the “tepid” (lukewarm) of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell.  (I am saying “yes” too, and am looking forward to a crown for me as well – – have you?)

In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Mystery” of the Rosary.  It is called the “Annunciation”, wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel.  In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth.  Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Luke says these specific words when Gabriel appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth, Mary, for a specific purpose – – to offer Mary an insight about her cousins husbands strange infirmity of not being able to speak since his time of priestly service six months ago; and to alert her to something marvelous: her cousin, Elizabeth, is also pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit – – and is already in her “sixth month”.

This information inspired Mary to go help her cousin in the last three months of her “elderly” pregnancy. (This, by the way, is the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.)

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Now, one of the challenges of our Catholic faith is to recognize the mysteries of God’s plan for each of us and to inspire us to remain open to God’s “will” and God’s actions in our personal world experience.  Filled with God’s grace, Mary models for us the kind of faith needed (and desired by our Lord for us) to cooperate in God’s personal plan of salvation for each of us.  Like Mary, we are given the awesome opportunity to cooperate in God’s saving plan.  On this final Sunday of Advent, our Gospel invites us to consider how our preparations for CHRISTinMASS are making us more aware of God’s grace working in our lives today.

Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility?  To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion.  This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God.  She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us!  Yet, think about this – – realize that each of us is chosen by God in very specific and important ways as well.  We all have been given many gifts, graces, and talents from God the Father.  AND, importantly, we are expected to share them with the world.  As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others – – to help them serve God to their fullest.

Please identify some of the talents and treasures God has given you.  In what ways could, and should, these talents be used in helping others?  Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her.  Will you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did – – without question or pause?!

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To summarize: We have all probably been familiar with the story of the Annunciation for some time.  It is fitting that we recall how God the Father announced the birth of Jesus as we make our final preparations for our celebration of the coming birth of Jesus Christ.  The Archangel Gabriel visited Mary, a virgin “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.  Mary greeted the angel’s news with wonder and awe.  She asked how it could be possible that she could give birth to a child.  In his reply, the angel Gabriel announced the seemingly impossible reality: the child to be born would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and would be God the Father’s own, and only-begotten Son.  Gabriel informs Mary of another miracle; her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant despite having been thought to be “barren” due to her old age (some say in her 80’s).  Mary’s response to the angel is her personal fiat, (means “Let it be done” – -used also as a formal or official authorization of something).  Her response is the best example of complete faith, trust, love, and obedience to God the Father.

For me, the story of the “Annunciation” should bring to one’s mind God the Father’s amazing and supernatural action in salvation history.  God the Father chose a young human person, Mary, to give birth to His Son so that ALL humanity would know God’s kindness, mercy, and salvation.  Thus, Jesus was born as one of us, fully human AND yet, also fully divine.  This is the “mystery” we prepare to celebrate this and every CHRISTinMASS Season, the mystery of His Incarnation, becoming truly human.  In the model of our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, pray that all of us will come to recognize God’s saving plan for us and respond with obedience, trust, hope, and love as she did!

What have you been doing to prepare for CHRISTinMASS?  How have these preparations helped you to celebrate better the “central mystery” of CHRISTinMASS, the Incarnation?  The Gospel today talks about how Mary was prepared for her role in Christ’s birth.  What enabled Mary to say “yes” to God?  Please pray that God’s “grace” will enable you to be more faithful and obedient to God.  This is mt CHRISTinMASS wish for each of you.

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Magnificat

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.  Amen”

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  Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

“Oral Tradition” Found in Holy Scripture

 

You, then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2). RSV

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2) KJV

 

“‘Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1: 12). RSV

“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” (2 John 1:12).KJV 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Poverty

 

Why do Catholics today find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

Why did Catholics in Saint Francis’ time find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

What do you know of Saint Francis’ “romance and marriage” with Lady Poverty?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 18 & 19 of 26:

18.  Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.

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

“Well, Well, Well, Let Me Tell You Woman!” – John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42 (5-42)†


 

   

“Third Sunday of Lent” 

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I have been chosen to be on another “ACTS” retreat team at my local parish.  For those that do not know, ACTS is a parish-based retreat similar to cursillo-type retreats.  ACTS is an acronym meaning Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service.  They are some of the most moving and spirit based movements one can experience.  I have been on many and each one hits me differently.  I can’t wait for the retreat.  

 

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The latest about Fr. Corapi on his forced leave of absence.  I received an e-mail from Santa Cruz Media.  Their official “Statement” relative to Fr. Corapi’s suspension included the following paragraph:

“We have consulted with a number of canon lawyers.  They have assured us that the actions of the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas are, on several points of canon law, illicit.  It is our fervent hope that The Dallas Charter will be changed because of false accusations like this.  There is no evidence at this time that Fr. Corapi did anything wrong, only the unsubstantiated rant of a former employee, who, after losing her job with this office, physically assaulted me and another employee and promised to “destroy” Father Corapi.  We all continue to pray for this person, and we ask you to do the same.”

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1191 – Death of Pope Clement III
†   1309 – Pope Clement V excommunicates Venice and all its population.
†   1329 – Pope John XXII issues his ‘In Agro Dominico’ condemning some writings of Meister Eckhart as heretical.
†   1378 – Death of Gregory XI, [Pierre R the Beaufort], last French Pope (1370-78)
†   1642 – The sixth Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Joseph takes his office.
†   1935 – Birth of Fr. Stanley Rother, Roman Catholic Priest, Martyr and Missionary to Guatemala (d. 1981)
†   1962 – Archbishop Rummel ends race segregation in New Orlean Catholic school
†   Memorial/Feasts: Rupert of Salzburg

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

“The greatest kindness one can render to any man consists in leading him from error to truth.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus revealing himself to the Samaritan woman at the well, as recorded in John. (The “shorter” form: John 4:5-15,19b-26,39a,40-42)

 

 

(NAB John 4: 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42) 5 Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. 

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.  9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”  (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.)  10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  11 (The woman) said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?  12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”  13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

I can see that you are a prophet.  20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”  21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews.  23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.  24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”  25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.”  26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” 

39 Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.  40 When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  41 Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 42 and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

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Today, and for the next two Sundays, we read from John’s Gospel instead of from Matthew’s at Mass.  The Gospel of John is the only Gospel not assigned to a particular liturgical year (A, B, or C). Instead, readings from John’s Gospel are interspersed throughout our three-year liturgical cycle and calendar. (We are presently in Cycle A; predominately Matthew’s Gospel.)

Also, for today’s Mass, the Deacon or Priest has the option of reading a long and short form of the Gospel.  I have chosen to comment predominately on the short form of the reading, otherwise, this reflection would be twice as long.

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Let me give you a little history and geography lesson for the three places in today’s reading/reflection that may be unfamiliar to you.

“Sychar” is a place that St. Jerome identified with “Shechem”.  St. Jerome, in his research while translating Holy Scripture to Latin from the original Greek discovered this link between the two names Syriac manuscripts.

Per biblical scholars, the mountain in verse 20 of today’s Gospel is believed to be Mount Gerizim.  A temple was built on the mountain in the fourth century B.C. by Samaritans.  

“Jacob’s well” was about a mile and a half from the nearest town (Sychar).  The well was located in a strategic fork of the road between Samaria and Galilee.  It wasn’t easy to draw water from this well as it was over a hundred feet deep, and Jesus did not bring a rope or bucket. 

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In today’s Gospel, the dialogue between Jesus and a Samaritan woman is among the most surprising for me.  A conversation between a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman rarely, if ever, happened.  Jesus, a devoutly observant Jew of that time (DAH!), was expected (almost required by law) to avoid conversations with any woman in public, regardless of their nationality.  

On top of the societal norms barring men from talking to women in public, the long-held dislike and hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans should have prevented conversation between the two as well.  The woman herself alludes to the break from Jewish tradition:

How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (John 4:9)

However, not only does Jesus talk with the woman, He also asks to share her drinking vessel.  Touching her cup, or her, is an action that would make Him unclean according to Jewish law.  (Samaritans must have had major “Kooties”!)

The history of the Samaritan people is quite interesting.  They originated in the period of the conquest of Samaria by the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C., as found in 2 Kings 17:

“The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. They took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities.  When they first settled there, they did not venerate the LORD, so he sent lions among them that killed some of their number.  A report reached the king of Assyria: ‘The nations whom you deported and settled in the cities of Samaria do not know how to worship the God of the land, and he has sent lions among them that are killing them, since they do not know how to worship the God of the land.’  The king of Assyria gave the order, ‘Send back one of the priests whom I deported, to go there and settle, to teach them how to worship the God of the land.’  So one of the priests who had been deported from Samaria returned and settled in Bethel, and taught them how to venerate the LORD.  But these peoples began to make their own gods in the various cities in which they were living; in the shrines on the high places which the Samarians had made, each people set up gods.  Thus the Babylonians made Marduk and his consort; the men of Cuth made Nergal; the men of Hamath made Ashima; the men of Avva made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the men of Sepharvaim immolated their children by fire to their city gods, King Hadad and his consort Anath.” (2 Kings 17:24-31)

Samaritans shared Jewish ancestry, but Samaritans had intermarried with the Jewish inhabitants and “foreigners” during their rule under the Assyrians.  Like the Jews, the Samaritans believed that a Messiah would come.  However, Samaritan religion not only included the worship of Yahweh, it was also influenced by the worship of other gods.  

The Samaritans did integrate rather quickly with the Jewish people of the region in a very limited and somewhat precarious way.  After the Babylonian captivity, they tried to ally themselves with the Jewish people for political reasons, and to contribute to the rebuilding of the Temple, but the Jewish people refused.  These two groups of people seemed to be always unfriendly, and sometimes hostile towards each other.

 

The initial dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is better understood if we recognize the importance of water, especially in an arid climate such as Palestine.  First, the Samaritan woman comprehends Jesus’ promise of “living water” in the literal sense, as “flowing” water.  There was no flowing water in her area that was easily accessible.  The daily trip to the well by the women of the community was of vital importance. Most women normally trekked to the water well in the early morning when the day was much cooler. 

Why did this woman come to the well at the hottest time of the day – – noon?  A realistic expectation for her late arrival at the well, when all the other women had already gone, is that she is an outcast within her own Samaritan community (She was an adulterer).  She, in essence, tells Jesus that she is an outcast because of her “many husbands.”

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Water in the arid land of Palestine was extremely scarce.  And we all know that water brings about life in its beauty.  When the Israelites complained about lack of water in the wilderness, God instructed Moses to “strike the rock” and a stream of fresh living water gushed out:

“I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.  Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.” This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus17:6).

The image of “living water” is used throughout Holy Scripture as a symbol of God’s wisdom, a wisdom that imparts life and blessing to all who receive it.

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 13:14). 

Jesus offered this woman His “living water”, the water of life: the revelation that Jesus brings.  This Samaritan woman thinks Jesus is talking of “flowing” waters instead, which is so much more desirable – – “sweeter” – – than the stagnant cistern water which she had to use every day.  The water she used had to be collected the few rains they experienced in the area, and then sat gathering sand, dirt, parasites, trash, and other waist products.  However, the “flowing” water this woman considered so supreme and sweet is not anywhere near as supreme and sweet as God’s revelation within us, nor is it as refreshing to the soul.

For me, it is interesting that John’s method of recording such a misunderstanding in what the Samaritan woman understood from the words of Jesus’, reminds me of another verse from earlier in John’s Gospel:

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’” (John 3:3.)

One can’t truly “see”, or understand the kingdom of God – – along with Jesus’ words and actions in His kingdom, – – unless “born again”.  The word attached to “born” (again) is a Greek adverb that means both “from above” and “again.”  Jesus meant this word to be understood as “from above”, – – as with and in the Holy Spirit – – and not “again”, as being born “twice”.  I am sure there are a lot of Protestants saying, HMM right now. 

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As I said earlier, Samaritans and Israelites did not trust or like each other. (It seems this still is the case between the Palestinians and Jewish people in the Middle East areas still today.)  

For the woman to say, “sir” toward Jesus is impressive for me.  “Sir” comes from the Greek word “kyrios” meaning “master” or “lord”.  The word “sir” is a respectful mode of address for either a human being or a deity, and the Samaritan woman’s meaning is further revealed in verse 19 of today’s reading:

The woman said to him, Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.” (John 4:19).

Sir” is a word sometimes used in the Septuagint (the Torah) for the Hebrew “adonai”, substituted for the tetragrammaton “YHWH”.

 

Jesus captures the woman’s attention with His reply to her question about Him being greater than Jacob of the Old Testament.  He IS greater than Jacob!  Jesus Christ is capable of quenching her thirst – – once and for all!  Jesus offers a “drink” of changed through sanctifying grace; a grace that works in each of us through the Holy Spirit.  Sanctifying grace allows us the ability to share in God’s own life, and Him in ours, through the presence of the “Advocate” – – the Holy Spirit – – in our individual souls and hearts.  What a supreme and great gift to receive from Him, to be in Him, and Him in us!

 

This Samaritan woman became aware that she was speaking to someone of authority.  So, she asks an important question indirectly that affected the religious life of the two groups of people:

“Where was the right place to worship God?”

The Jewish people said “only Jerusalem would do”!  The Samaritans believed the shrine on Mount Gerizim was also legitimate, basing their claim on verses from Genesis:

“The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’  So Abram built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7)

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

He set up a memorial stone there and invoked ‘El, the God of Israel.’” (Genesis 33:20)

Jesus not only answers her question, but also confirms the teachings of the prophets, and, further affirms His revealed truth.  The Samaritans, not being Israelites (God’s chosen people) are in the dark about many of God’s plans.  (They were not “in-the-know”!)  The Samaritans do not accept any revelation that is NOT found in the first five books of Holy Scripture – – the Law of Moses – – The Torah.  On the other hand, the Jewish people are closer to the truth since they accepted the whole, the entirety, of the Old Testament. 

Both, the Samaritans and the Jewish people, needed to open themselves to the new revelation found in, and of Jesus Christ.  Both religious communities were awaiting the “Messiah” – – the true dwelling place of God among men.  Jesus is the Messiah, the new Temple for both communities:

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’” (John 2:19)

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The mountain in verse 20 of today’s Gospel is believed to be Mount Gerizim.  A temple was built on the mountain in the fourth century B.C. by Samaritans.  The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy mentions this mountain and the building of a structure:

“When, moreover, you have crossed the Jordan, besides setting up on Mount Ebal these stones concerning which I command you today, and coating them with plaster” (Deuteronomy 27:4).

Mount Ebal in Deuteronomy is the Jewish peoples’ term for Mount Gerizim. 

Under King’s David and Solomon, the Temple in Jerusalem was designed, funded, built, and worshipped in.  Neither Temples in Gerizim and Jerusalem exist any longer, nor are they needed!  As I just said, Jesus is the new Temple of God.  By accepting Him in body, blood, soul, and divinity, we are offering to Him worship from the heart; an offering the Holy Spirit of God stirs people to bestow. 

 

Being “in Spirit and truth” (verse 23) is not a reference to an interior and personal worship within one’s own mind and body.  The “Spirit” is THE Holy Spirit, given by God to us as a grace, which reveals His truth to us and enables us to worship God in appropriate ways.  The evangelist John qualifies this concept and “truth” in two consecutive verses found in the long-form of today’s Gospel reading:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate  to be with you always, the Spirit of truth,  which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it.  But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17).

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Due to their different paths in history and religious focus, the Samaritans expected a “prophet” Like Moses to come, and take them on a new “exodus” to paradise,  They did not expect a “Messianic” king from the house of David.  Their expectations of a new “prophet” stems from their tradition, history, and a particular verse in Deuteronomy:

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

 

This “adulteress and outcast” Samaritan woman becomes a “disciple” of Jesus Christ!  Even with her past history as an outcast in her community, and her not being a Jew, as Jesus is, she still gains the courage to return to her town telling others of her revelational discovery in the Jewish Jesus’ words.  This Samaritan woman then leads other non-Jew Samaritans to Jesus.  Though Jesus does not meet her initial expectation, thinking He is a prophet, she’s now knows she had truly found the “Messiah”.  Her belief was so strong and convincing that members of the Samaritan community return with her to meet Jesus personally and many of them come to believe in Him, and follow Him.

 

The Samaritan woman in today’s story not only comes to acknowledge Jesus Christ being someone of importance, but also acknowledges her sins.  She accepts the “true” teaching about worshipping God the Father in “spirit and truth”.  Though she shows and demonstrate favorability to Jesus Christ, she still had to grow to recognize Him as the “Messiah”.  Seeing this favorability emitting from her, Jesus reveals that He IS the “Messiah” she and her people had been awaiting:

 “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” (John 4:26)

 

Jesus could not be more direct in verse 26, when He declares, “I am He”!  These three simple words is rooted in the well-known Old Testament name of Yahweh – – I am”.  Jesus declares He is the Messiah, AND He evokes the words Yahweh used to reveal Himself to Moses:

“God replied, “I am who am.”  Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14),

These words by Jesus are used to indicate a revelation not only of His being the Messiah, but also of His divinity:

But he said to them, ‘It is IDo not be afraid.’” (John 6:20),

“That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.  For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.  So Jesus said (to them), When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me.” (John 8:24, 28),

“Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.’” (John 8:58),

“From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.” (John 13:19),

“They answered him, ‘Jesus the Nazorean.’ He said to them, ‘I AM.’  Judas his betrayer was also with them.  When he said to them, ‘I AM,’ they turned away and fell to the ground.  Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’” (John 18:5-6, 8). 

Mark even makes a reference to “I AM” and His divinity in an indirect way:

They had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’” (Mark 6:50).

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Jesus Christ is displaying and teaching to us “evangelization at work” in His conversation with a lowly Samaritan Woman.  She was enthusiastic to His words and eager to learn. 

St. Augustine understood Jesus’ role as an Evangelist when he wrote:

“The same thing happens today with those who are outside, who are not Christians: they receive tidings of Christ through Christian friends; like that woman, they learn of Christ through the Church; then they come to Christ, that is, they believe in Christ through this report, and then Jesus stays two days among them and many more believe, and believe firmly, that he indeed is the Saviour of the world” (St. Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 15, 33).

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There are several reasons for the importance of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  First, the woman changed in heart, mind, and soul.  She gained a belief in Jesus Christ as the true “Messiah”.  Through Jesus, she came to recognize her sins.  

This woman, who was deemed to be so immoral as to be an outcast in her own society, becomes a stout and fervent evangelist to her own people.  She went from being a “sinner” to a believer and messenger of God’s word; goes from being a “foreigner” to a loved member of the family!

Finally, the dialogue from the Samaritan people that came to see this “prophet named Jesus” is a foretaste of the type and beauty of the “open” community that will be created among those who believe openly and truly in Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”.

The Samaritan woman gained a gift – – a grace – – based on faith.  Faith comes from the Holy Spirit indwelling in each of us, and acting in and through each of us, individually.  I came across a nice little comment about faith that I would like to share:

“Faith comes to us as a grace, a gift from the Holy Spirit.  We do not earn faith or create it out of our own efforts and talents.  The Holy Spirit plants an attraction to God in our hearts as well as the faith we need to come to God.  It is a strong yet gentle impulse that honors our freedom and fills us with gratitude.”  (Alfred McBride, Truth for Your Mind, Love for Your Heart, Our Sunday Visitor)

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In Summary, why do we have this reading at this time of the year?  Our Lenten season is one of repentance.  It is a season during which we are called to reflect upon, and to live acutely and respectfully, the promises of Baptism.  The water well, and all the talk about water in today’s Gospel reading, should immediately call to mind in us the Sacrament of Baptism.  As the Samaritan woman was changed in heart, mind, and soul, – – “converted,” – – and then sent on a mission to her community as an evangelist, we too are converted and sent by our Baptism to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to others on a daily basis.

The Catholic Church’s Magisterium teaches that we become true worshipers of God through Baptism:

“By baptism men are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ: they die with Him, are buried with Him, and rise with Him; they receive the spirit of adoption as sons ‘in which we cry: Abba, Father’ (Romans 8 :15), and thus become true adorers whom the Father seeks.” (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 6)

 

Do you thirst for God and for the life of the Holy Spirit within you?  Reflect upon the importance of Baptism to you.  How is Jesus’ discourse with the woman at the well like Baptism?  (Hint: Jesus knows the woman’s sin and forgives her. The woman comes to know Jesus as the Messiah.  And, the woman invites others to meet Jesus.)  

Jesus broke through the obstacles, impediments, and walls of prejudice, hatred, aggression, and conviction to bring peace, love, and reconciliation to all people – – Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles – – alike.  He demonstrated the universality (Kathlicos – Catholic) of the Gospel in word AND deed.  No one is barred from the love of God and His grace of salvation.  There is only one thing that can keep us from God and His redeeming love – – OURSELVES, by turning away from Him.

 

 

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Psalm 95
 “Sing joyfully in the presence of the Lord.”

 

“Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; cry out to the rock of our salvation.
Let us greet him with a song of praise, joyfully sing out our psalms.
Enter, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For this is our God, whose people we are, God’s well-tended flock. Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert.
There your ancestors tested me; they tried me though they had seen my works.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Francis Faà di Bruno (1825-1888)

 

Francis, the last of 12 children, was born in northern Italy into an aristocratic family. He lived at a particularly turbulent time in history, when anti-Catholic and anti-papal sentiments were especially strong.

After being trained as a military officer, Francis was spotted by King Victor Emmanuel II, who was impressed with the young man’s character and learning. Invited by the king to tutor his two young sons, Francis agreed and prepared himself with additional studies. But with the role of the Church in education being a sticking point for many, the king was forced to withdraw his offer to the openly Catholic Francis and, instead, find a tutor more suitable to the secular state.

Francis soon left army life behind and pursued doctoral studies in Paris in mathematics and astronomy; he also showed a special interest in religion and asceticism. Despite his commitment to the scholarly life, Francis put much of his energy into charitable activities. He founded the Society of St. Zita for maids and domestic servants, later expanding it to include unmarried mothers, among others. He helped establish hostels for the elderly and poor. He even oversaw the construction of a church in Turin that was dedicated to the memory of Italian soldiers who had lost their lives in the struggle over the unification of Italy.

Wishing to broaden and deepen his commitment to the poor, Francis, then well into adulthood, studied for the priesthood. But first he had to obtain the support of Pope Pius IX to counteract the opposition to his own archbishop’s difficulty with late vocations. Francis was ordained at the age of 51.

As a priest, he continued his good works, sharing his inheritance as well as his energy. He established yet another hostel, this time for prostitutes. He died in Turin on March 27, 1888, and was beatified 100 years later.

Comment:

It wasn’t Francis’ lack of scholarly ability or deep-down goodness that almost kept him from the priesthood, but his bishop’s distrust of “late vocations.” Until the later part of the 20th century, most candidates for the priesthood entered the seminary right out of grade school. Today no bishop would refuse a middle-aged applicant—especially someone whose care for people in need is constant. Francis is a holy reminder that God’s call to reassess our life’s direction can reach us at any age.

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

There is only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we now say, “God of power and might,” with the new liturgical text we will say:

God of hosts”.

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

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

 

Т

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Eucharist I

 

What kind of nourishment do you seek when you receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist?

How do you use “Communion” to renew your pledge to sacrifice for the Body of Christ?

How do you use “Communion” to renew your pledge to accept the Body of Christ, with all her limitations and weaknesses?

While we speak of receiving the Consecrated Bread and Wine, do we include adoration of the Divinity in our prayers at Communion?

In what way(s) is the Eucharist for healing?

 

Т

 

 

Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:


 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♫“We’re Off To See the Desert, the Wonderful Desert of Egypt!”♫ – Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23†


 

 

Today is “Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph”

 

 

 

73 Days till Ash Wednesday and the Start of the Lenten Season!

& only 364 days till Christmas
I had too – sorry (kinda)!

            

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   268 – Death of Dionysius, Pope/saint
†   418 – St Zosimus ends his reign as Catholic Pope with his death
†   795 – St Leo III begins his reign as Catholic Pope with his death
†   1350 – Death of Jean de Marigny, French bishop
†   1574 – Death of Charles of Guise, French cardinal (b. 1524)
†   1751 – Birth of Clement Hofbauer, Austrian hermit, missionary, and patron saint of Vienna; known as the second founder of the Redemptorist Congregation (d. 1820)
†   1862 – Four nuns serving as volunteer nurses on board USS Red Rover are the first female nurses on a U.S. Navy hospital ship.
†   1948 – Cardinal Mindszenty (March 29, 1892—May 6, 1975) is arrested in Hungary and accused of treason and conspiracy.
†   St. Stephen’s Day, a public holiday in Alsace, Austria, Catalonia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Ireland.
†   Synaxis of Theotokos and feast of St. Joseph, King and Prophet David and St. James the Just (Orthodox Christianity).
†   The first of the twelve days of Christmas in Western Christianity.

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans are called not only to change themselves but also to be agents of change in the larger community.

Francis began his conversion in the Church of San Damiano, when he heard the crucifix challenge him, ‘Francis, repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.’  Throughout the course of his life, he realized that the ‘house’ that was in need of repair was his own contemporary society and Church.  Today Franciscans are still called to evangelize by their example, both in society and in the Church.  Following the examples of those who have gone before us, we accomplish this task in a spirit of service and humility, giving ‘testimony in word and work that there is no all-powerful one but the Lord’ – (Letter to the Whole Order, 9).

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

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about God telling Joseph in a dream to flee Israel, and his going to Egypt in order to protect Jesus from King Herod the Great.

  

13 When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.  Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”  14 Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.  15 He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”  19 When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”  21 He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.  22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there.  And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.  23 He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”   (NAB Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23)

 

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Joseph was given a unique task as the guardian and protector of Mary and Jesus.  But as a Dominican Priest (unknown to me) said of their escape and journey to Egypt with the infant Jesus, “What they guarded, guarded them.”  This Gospel reading encourages us to consider Jesus’ step-father’s protection of his “adopted” child who was brought forth into this world – and immediately placed in the face of danger from a cruel and ruthless King.  Just as happened with the announcement of Jesus’ birth (the Annunciation of Joseph), the archangel Gabriel appears to Joseph in yet another dream.  Gabriel warns Joseph of Herod’s plan to kill the infant Jesus if he can find Him.  Joseph follows Gabriel’s command and escapes with Jesus and Mary, taking flight to Egypt some 250 (or so) miles away.  They only return to their homeland after receiving word in yet still another dream telling him that it was now safe to do so.

The “Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” has always been a part of the Christmas season liturgical celebrations for as long as I can remember.  As such, we should look at today’s Gospel about the “Holy Family” in the context of what Holy Scripture tells us about Jesus’ birth.   Today’s reading directly follows the story of the Magi’s visit, and continues with Joseph (and not Mary) as the primary character in Matthew’s infancy narrative story.  So, what can we learn from the example, witness, and faith of Joseph?

Among several themes in Matthew’s infancy story, Jesus being the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies in regards to the “Messiah” is paramount.  In Matthew’s approach to chronicling the Holy Family’s “flight to Egypt” story, he is also figuratively recalling, and renewing, the exodus story of Moses found in the Book of Exodus.

Traditions about Moses applies to the child Jesus in the in today’s reading presented here, though the vital or essential  focus of the Old Testament “Biblical typology” – – (a method of biblical interpretation wherein an element or verse found in the Old Testament is seen to prefigure one found in the New Testament) – – is not Moses, but instead on “Israel” itself.

Other than because of being told to do so by the Archangel Gabriel, why does the Holy Family “flee to Egypt”?  Well, I can think of two.   Egypt was known as the “long-established” area of sanctuary and a safe haven for anyone escaping from danger in Palestine.  Examples in Old Testament Scripture can be found in the books of 1 Kings and Jeremiah:

“When Solomon tried to have Jeroboam killed for his rebellion, he escaped to King Shishak, in Egypt, where he remained until Solomon’s death.”  (1 Kings 11:40)

“When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and princes were informed of his words, the king sought to kill him. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt.”  (Jeremiah 26:21)

 However, the primary reason why the Holy Family is told to go to Egypt is because Jesus (and us) must relive and experience again the “Exodus” incident of Israel.  Remember, the Old Testament lives in the New Testament, and the New Testament fulfills the Old (something a lot of Catholics either forgot or was never taught).  The fulfillment reference in verse fifteen (15) is taken directly from Hosea 11:1; the basic experience of salvation, the exodus from Egyptian bondage.

“When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1)

The nation of Israel, God’s “chosen son”, was called out of Egypt at the time of the Great Exodus through Moses.  Jesus, the true “Son of God”, was similarly called out of that same Egypt in a “NEW” Exodus: a new migration.  The father-son relationship that exists (still today) between God and the nation of Israel was taken to a far higher and more divine level of importance with the relationship of God to Jesus – – (His Only Son) – – who even still today represents the beginning of the return, and the renewal of all Israel for all times (The Alpha and Omega).

 “Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  (Matthew 19:28)

 “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”  (Matthew 21:43)

Here the “son” is not a nation adopted as a “son of God,” – – but the child Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit in a unique and especially divine relationship to and with God.  Jesus is a son of David, and of Abraham, and of Mary, and of Joseph, BUT, – – above all, – – is THE Only Son of God!  Solely in Jesus Christ, the history, the people, and the institutions of all Israel (of all faithful followers)are concentrated and condensed, taking aim and beginning on the next (and final) era of salvation.  The flight of the infant Jesus with the Holy Family is a new exodus – – with a new and greater Moses found only in Jesus Christ.

In Exodus 2:15, Moses fled from Egypt because the Pharaoh sought to kill him.

“Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put him to death.  But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian.”  (Exodus 2:15)

In Exodus 4:19, He was told by God to return to Egypt, ‘for all the men who sought your life are dead.’

“In Midian the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go back to Egypt, for all the men who sought your life are dead.’”  (Exodus 4:19)

 

After Herod (the Great’s) death, his kingdom was divided between his three sons.  With the agreement of the Roman Emperor Augustus, “Archelaus” received about half of his father’s kingdom which included Samaria, Edom, and Judea.   He had been given the titleethnarch” (a national leader of a province) and named as Herod the Great’s successor.  His reign was from 4 B.C. to 6 A.D., with him dying about 18 A.D.

His brothers “Antipas” and “Philip II” were given the lesser titles of “tetrarchs” (similar to a governor).  Antipas ruled over Galilee (north of Jerusalem) where Jesus was brought up and carried out most of His public ministry.  Antipas also had charge over the east bank of the Jordan River.  Philip II ruled over the “Golan Heights” area northeast of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis.

 

The Holy Family did not want to be around the ruthless Herod Archelaus in Judea/Samaria, so when they settled in Galilee (the area ruled by Antipas), they set up their household in a small, obscure, and easily unnoticed village of about 200 people, called Nazareth.    

Jesus “shall be called a ‘Nazorean’”.  The tradition of Jesus’ residence of youth is firmly established by scholars as being in the town of “Nazareth.”  His public ministry “headquarters” though (at least His human one on earth) was in the seaside town of Capernaum instead.  In recently watching a special on EWTN, I learned that his headquarters was actually in a “back room” of the Apostle John’s (and John’s mother) home.  Jesus was literally a “back room” Prophet-Priest-King- Savior!! (Doesn’t that little tidbit just put a smile on your face?)

Matthew sees the quaint town of “Nazareth” as being in synchronization with God’s plan, though Nazareth is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament – even once.  Nor can any such prophecy regarding Nazareth be found in the Old Testament either.  Matthew may have perhaps inserted this little “detail of residence” here in his Gospel, to provoke his readers to consider several possibilities or elements:

T   First, simply just as a reference to a little town that just so happens to have never been mentioned in the Old Testament (though it had existed since at least the 7th century B.C.), or,

T   As a reference to the Messiah as the “branch” (neser) found in Isaiah 11:1, or finally as,

T   A reference to Jesus as a “nazir”, a “consecrated person”, in the same line as that of Samson and Samuel.

The seemingly vague expression “through the prophets” (verse 23) may be due to a connection Matthew saw between Nazareth and other texts having words remotely similar to the name of “Nazareth”.  In Isaiah 11:1, the future “Davidic king” will be “a bud”, and that this bud will blossom from the “root of Jesse.” 

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

The connection between “Nazareth” and Isaiah’s verse above is that “neser” (pronounced nay-tser) is the Hebrew word for branch or sprout.   It could sound like the name Nazareth – – if said fast, and with a ton of crackers in your mouth – – I guess.   Matthew saw the connection anyhow (even if I don’t).  Isaiah’s prophecy about the sprout (neser) could definitely be interpreted to mean that Jesus the “Messiah” would have a simple and humble beginning.   

To Matthew the very word “neser” from Isaiah’s prophecy finds its true and totally full meaning and realization in Jesus being a “Nazarene”.  Read the rest of Isaiah 11, to its end, for further proof of this fullness and realization.  To paraphrase Isaiah 11, this lowly “Nazarene” is prophesized to become a great and righteous King, empowered by the Holy Spirit, yet ruling in a simple and peaceful way of, and with, LOVE! 

 

In Judges 13:5 and 7, the future deliverer of Israel will be one who is consecrated (a “nazir”) to God.

“As for the son you will conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.  It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.  But he said to me, ‘You will be with child and will bear a son.  So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean.  For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb, until the day of his death.’”  (Judges 13:5, 7)

A Nazirite (an alternative spelling is “Nazarite”), from the Hebrew word, “nazir” means “consecrated”.  The term refers to individuals who consecrated their lives to God; taking ascetic vows (someone who is self-denying and lives with minimal material comforts).  In taking these vows, it required of them to abstain from wine, refrain from cutting their hair, and avoiding any contact with the dead, graves, and tombs in any manner (see Numbers 6:1-21).  Three well known “Nazirites” found in Holy Scripture include Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist, (and some say perhaps Jesus himself).  In taking Nazirite vows, Jesus could be called a “Nazarene”, which may be derived from the word “Nazirite” rather than “Nazareth”. 

I see “nazir” as people who would be very strong, very direct, and very demanding in stature and speech – – such as the aforementioned Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.  Though the word nazir is closer to the word Nazareth than neser (for me anyway), I am having some difficulty seeing Jesus (even though He was consecrated to God’s service) in an “expectedly direct” role of this type.  Remember Jesus broke the mold for being unconventional in His abilities, ways, and nature.

In reality, the Holy Family probably settled in Nazareth because Joseph could find abundant work in the neighboring city of Sepphoris (about 4 miles from Nazareth), which Herod Antipas was rebuilding as his capitol at the time.  I have been given unconfirmed information that Herod Antipas was revitalizing Sepphoris – using “tax increment financing funds” (TIFF’s) to build many inns, restaurants, and Wal-marts.  It seems Antipas liked to dabble in cooking and he was well known for his “Caesar” salads & “Antipas-tas”!

 

It should also be realized that today’s reading from Mass skips over, – – totally omits – – verses 16, 17, and 18, that relates Herod the Great’s order for the massacre of the “Holy Innocents”, the infant boys (2 years of age and under) living in and around Bethlehem around the time of Jesus’ birth.  This sad event will be remembered in the Catholic Church on the “Feast of the Holy Innocents” occurring this year on Tuesday, December 28 (in just two days).

 

Today’s Mass readings should remind all of us of the complex reality and yet simple truth of Jesus’ human birth.  While the story of the Magi’s visit will be recalled at Masses on the “Feast of the Epiphany” (Sunday, January 2nd), our Christmas celebration is tempered by recognizing the fact that not everyone in Jesus’ time period (and sadly still today – I believe) received Christ’s birth with joy,celebration, respect, or submission.  

Herod’s profound greed, jealousy, and hatred fully contrasts with Joseph’s humble generosity, trust, and love for God, as well as for his obedience to God’s words relayed to him by Gabriel – the archangel messenger.  The Holy Family’s escape to Egypt – – and from the massacre that Jesus is saved from in his infancy – – could, and should, remind us that struggles and sacrifices are often required as part of the preparation for God’s salvation.  If God (in the second person of the Godhead, and divinely human nature of Jesus) is not immune from trials, persecutions, and sufferings, why do we think we should be?!

 Joseph courageously and valiantly sets aside his own preconceived plans when God called him to “get away – escape now”.  Without hesitation or question, he leaves his familiar surroundings and home lands: his home, friends and relatives.  Joseph also left behind his trade and business, his self-assured security in a livelihood of known work.  He leaves all of this, solely in order to pursue a hidden mission that God Himself entrusted to Joseph: becoming the “guardian” of the long awaited newborn King and “Messiah”!  

 

The infancy narrative, – – the birth story of Jesus Christ, – – comes to an end here.  After this Gospel reading, Joseph simply disappears, never to be seen or mentioned again.  Joseph is the only “main character” in Holy Scripture (that I know) who does not actually speak a single word in the entire Bible.  Yet he still makes his relationship, his love, his trust, and his dynamic obedience to God’s plan known without speaking “that single” word.  St. Francis most certainly had to love Joseph, for St. Joseph “preached” the Gospel without using any words!  God bless St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Do you want to know something uniquely special?  God has a specific goal, plan, and task for each one of us!  With your individual action plan, God also gives you the grace and the assurance of His guidance and His loving trust and support.  Do you trust God’s plan for your life?  Are you willing to sacrifice your own private and/or public plans for God’s plan?  Are you willing to give God your total faith, trust, and service (Your ALL) to follow whatever mission or task He gives to you, without hesitation or questioning

On this beautiful Sunday, it is quite apropos that we are asked to linger for a short time and think about the Holy Family, – – and to do this only one day after Jesus’ birth celebration.  Today, we reflect on how Joseph protected his step-son, Jesus, from imminent danger by relocating the Holy Family to Egypt; and doing so in absolute and trusting obedience to God’s word.  

Using the “Holy Family” as a perfect model for all families, we should use this feast day to recall the responsibility each family member has for each other in the family as a whole, and for your responsibility to contribute to the “good” and “needs” of the family individually.  Use today’s message in the Gospel reading as a way to recommit yourself to each other in your immediate and extended families.  After all, to be present is the greatest “Present” one can give to anyone else.

 

A Christmas Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson

 

“Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.  Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.  Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.   Amen.”

http://www.prayerguide.org.uk/christmas.htm

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Stephen (d. 36 A.D.?)

 

All we know of Stephen is found in Acts of the Apostles, chapters Six and Seven.  It is enough to tell us what kind of man he was:

At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenist (Greek-speaking) Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.  So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.  Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”  The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit…. (Acts 6:1-5)

Acts says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people.  Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke.  They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him.  He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.

In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience.  He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit.  “[Y]ou always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors” (Acts 7:51b).

His speech brought anger from the crowd.  “But [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God….’  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him…. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…. Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b).

Comment:

Stephen died as Jesus did: falsely accused, brought to unjust condemnation because he spoke the truth fearlessly.  He died with his eyes trustfully fixed on God, and with a prayer of forgiveness on his lips.  A “happy” death is one that finds us in the same spirit, whether our dying is as quiet as Joseph’s or as violent as Stephen’s: dying with courage, total trust and forgiving love.

Patron Saint of: Bricklayers; Deacons; Hungary

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

 
    

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 


 

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


 

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

  

   

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

  

 

  

    

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

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

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

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

  

Today in Catholic History:

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

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

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

The Franciscan vision stresses the right relationship of justice.

  

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

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

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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 
    

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

 

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

 

 

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

“Oaky- Doakie! Get Me Pregnant; My Son Will Grow Up To BE a GOD, Or a Doctor, Or a Lawyer, Or a … !!” – Luke 1:26-38†


 

“The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary”

 

 

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

 
 †   1626 – Birth of Christina, queen of Sweden who abdicated after becoming Catholic
†   1768 – Death of Jean Denis Attiret, French Jesuit missionary (b. 1702)
†   1854 – Pope Pius IX proclaims dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which hold the Blessed Virgin Mary free of “Original Sin”
†   1864 – Pope Pius IX publishes encyclical Quanta cura (“Syllabus errorum”)
†   1869 – 20th Roman Catholic ecumenical council, Vatican I, opens in Rome
†   1965 – Pope Paul VI signs 2nd Vatican council
†   Eastern Christianity Major Feast Day: Conception of the Theotokos (Mother of God) by Anna
†   Feast Day: The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (Holy Day of Obligation in Ireland, U.S.); Saint Eucharius, first bishop of Trier 

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans acknowledge that life is sacred and are dedicated to a consistent ethic of life

 

“Since life is the first gift given us by God, Franciscans have a profound respect for human life.  The itinerancy which is part of the Franciscan vocation helps the followers of Francis and Clare understand better the fragility of life and to support the most vulnerable in society. Because of this, the Franciscan family, from its earliest moments, embraced active non-violence and articulated a theology and ethics centered in love.  This spiritual perspective includes respect for those who disagree with us, as shown in the dialogue between Francis and the sultan.” 

“When I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me turned into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I delayed a little and left the world.”  St. Francis, The Testament, 1-2.

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

On the sixth day, God created the platypus. And God said: let’s see the evolutionists try and figure this one out.

 

Today’s reflection is about the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, and Mary responds, “Let it be done to me as you say.”

 

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived  a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.”  38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.  (NAB Luke 1:26-38)

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  This feast day celebrates God’s choice of Mary to be the Mother of Jesus (and us all).  In preparation, God preserved Mary from the stain or mark on her soul from original sin.  This reprieve from original sin was from the moment of her conception.  Thus, Mary’s role was prefigured from the very beginning of time!  Our Blessed Virgin Mary was also the first to receive the benefits and graces from the salvation that her Son – – Jesus Christ – – would secure for all mankind.

I love the infancy narratives in Luke’s Gospel.  I have read it to my children many times throughout the years of CHRIST-mas Seasons.  The home nativity scene, with its simple crib can be a helpful way of presenting our faith to family and friends.  The crib helps us to think about, and consider, the mystery of God’s love revealed in the poverty and simplicity of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem.  Saint Francis loved these same infancy narratives, along with the mystery of the Incarnation, so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223.  The Nativity scene has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRIST-mas decorations as well, both outside and inside the home.  What better way to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTmas!”

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the Christmas Nativity Scene:

“It still retains its value for evangelization today.  Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true Christmas because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Cor 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Lk 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium.  There is no other Christmas.”

Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood.  For instance, we learn (1) that Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.  (2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”  (3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and esteemed of terms, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she has found with God.  (And, with a perfect past-participle part of speech at that, I might add!)  (4) The son Mary is to conceive is described in messianic terms.  And, finally, (5) He [Jesus] will be called “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God telling you that God is pleased with you?!  Mary’s initial reaction to this angel, called “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God.”), was naturally one of surprise, and also probably with some fear attached to his appearance.  Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe.  Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.

I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction.  She places her body, heart, and soul into the hands of God.  She accepts His grace, gift, and responsibility.  God is granting to her the Motherhood of God Himself, in the human form of Jesus.  In doing so, Mary not only became the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to all mankind.  Now that is “awesome!!”

The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message from the archangel Gabriel to Zechariah of the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both, Gabriel appears to the “future parent,” who is at first unsettled by the vision.

Luke 1:12: “Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.”

Luke 1:29:                “         But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”

Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel not to fear.

Luke 1:13: “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’”

Luke 1: 30-31: “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’”

And, after the announcement is made,:

Luke 1:14-17: “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”

Luke 1:31-33: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

 both Zechariah and Mary initially objects (Luke 1:18, 34),:

Luke 1:18: “Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’”

Luke 1:34: “But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’”    

and finally, a sign is given to confirm the announcement (Luke 1:20, 36).

Luke 1:20: “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

Luke 1:36: “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.”

Mary questions Gabriel “of how” is because she has never had any sexual relations.  Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response.  Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus.  The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the power of God.  Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He is the “Son of God!”

Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!

Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence to the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God.  Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God.  Mary is the true model of discipleship for all Catholics.

Gabriel puts a particular focus on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of David” and “Son of God”.  In verse 32, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”.  Further on in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.”  “Most High” is a title for God that was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts).   You can see each of these references by going to Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.

In my thirty years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting.  All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear with the situation of delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital.  (If they only realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times; but I could bluff well.)  Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age.  Once though, I took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years of age (YES, 13!), and she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home.  To make the matter worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ending in an abortion.  (You do the math!)  Now realize, this child was probably only a year or two younger than Mary!

I am sure Mary had some fear.  I have yet to see a woman in labor that hasn’t, and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control).  I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age, head.  How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy?  How would her own family treat her?  Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know she used cloth because the Holy family was “eco-friendly.”) What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph as of yet?  Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery?  (This was his right per Jewish law.)  Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?  She was a young girl of about fifteen (15).  Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood?  I would think not.  Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child!  (He, he!  I had too.)

There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle.  But Mary said “YES” with little hesitation!  She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body!  Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new covenant of God – – coming to fruition through Jesus Christ.  She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, through Jesus Christ.  Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – through Jesus Christ.  

God is a benevolent and merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment.  Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.”  Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity.  Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment?  Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you?  Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise.  Others, including the “tepid” of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell.

In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Rosary Mystery” called the “Annunciation” wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel.  In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth.  Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Gabriel says these specific words when he appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth—Mary, for a specific purpose.  

Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility?  To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion.  This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God.  She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us!  

Yet, realize each of us is chosen by God in many specific and important ways.  Each of us are given many gifts, graces, and talents by God; and we are expected to share them with the world.  As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others; to help them serve God to their fullest.

Today, identify some of the talents that God has given to you.  In what ways should these talents be used in helping others?  Mary was given a special task by God.  Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her.  Can you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did?! 

 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of god, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Feast of the Immaculate Conception

 

A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern Church in the seventh century. It came to the West in the eighth century. In the eleventh century it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. In the eighteenth century it became a feast of the universal Church.

In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

It took a long time for this doctrine to develop. While many Fathers and Doctors of the Church considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, they often had difficulty in seeing Mary as sinless—either at her conception or throughout her life. This is one of the Church teachings that arose more from the piety of the faithful than from the insights of brilliant theologians. Even such champions of Mary as Bernard and Thomas Aquinas could not see theological justification for this teaching.

Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They point out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset.

Comment:

In Luke 1:28 the angel Gabriel, speaking on God’s behalf, addresses Mary as “full of grace” (or “highly favored”). In that context this phrase means that Mary is receiving all the special divine help necessary for the task ahead. However, the Church grows in understanding with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led the Church, especially non-theologians, to the insight that Mary had to be the most perfect work of God next to the Incarnation. Or rather, Mary’s intimate association with the Incarnation called for the special involvement of God in Mary’s whole life. The logic of piety helped God’s people to believe that Mary was full of grace and free of sin from the first moment of her existence. Moreover, this great privilege of Mary is the highlight of all that God has done in Jesus. Rightly understood, the incomparable holiness of Mary shows forth the incomparable goodness of God.

Quote:

“[Mary] gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and she was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.

“It is no wonder, then, that the usage prevailed among the holy Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, fashioned by the Holy Spirit into a kind of new substance and new creature. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the splendors of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is, on God’s command, greeted by an angel messenger as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28). To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38)” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

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

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

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

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

 

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