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“The True Path To Greatness Is Being The Lowest On The Rung Of Success In Society!” – Mark 9:30-37†


 

 

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am certain that all of you reading this blog have heard the news about the numerous attacks on our embassy throughout the world, supposedly over a private citizen’s ill-advised, AND totally false, short video from several months ago.  I personally believe the reason goes far beyond this reason, especially since the attacks started on the anniversary of the horrible, devastatingly unwarranted attacks on September 11, 2001 by 18 well-organized terrorists, using 3 hijacked airline commuter jets. 

Prayers are desperately needed for ALL involved, directly or indirectly.  I found the prayer below on a site about Medjugorje apparitions.  This is the beginning prayer for a “Patriotic Rosary-For the Healing of our Nation”.  Please pray this prayer daily, and at least until the dangerous situation in the Middle-East subsides.

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Prayer for America” 

O Merciful God, we cry to Thee for pardon and for mercy.  We are ‘an unbelieving and perverse generation’.  We are disobedient, disloyal and ungrateful to Thee.  We have excluded Thee from our homes, our schools, our business places.  We are no longer worthy to be called Thy children.  But Merciful God, spare my country! Forgive us!  Save us from the scourge which we justly have deserved, especially for the killing of the innocent unborn babies.  Teach us Thy law and to live Thy law always abiding in You, and move our hearts to serve Thee, henceforth.  Merciful God, please spare America! Remember your mercy through your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and through His passion and death on the cross! 

God Almighty, Lord of all nations, bless us all with lasting peace; give us strength in tribulations; may Thy blessings never cease.  We shall always sing Thy praise: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.  

We know You are justly irritated with us but we beg and plead for forgiveness through our repentance from our hearts.  We realize our nation is headed toward disaster by so many signs You have given us.  Do not look upon what we truly deserve in your just anger, but see us through the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Whose heart was pierced with a lance, and Whose heart floods the world in His Mercy and grace.  Remember your just Son Jesus Christ, did not come to condemn the world but to save it!  Holy, Holy, Holy God, grant our requests through the powerful intercession of Your Blessed Mother who unceasingly prays for us, so that we may again be Your people, not a nation above God but one nation humbled and under God. Amen. Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us!

http://herschooloflove.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/patriotic-rosary-for-the-healing-of-our-nation/

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Today is the Feast of Saint Pio (Pius) of Pietrelcina, O.F.M. Cap., (May 25, 1887 – September 23, 1968) was a Capuchin Catholic priest from Italy.  He was born Francesco Forgione, and given the name Pius (Italian: Pio) when he joined the Capuchins, thus he was popularly known as Padre Pio. He became famous for his bearing the stigmata. On 16 June 2002, he was canonized by Pope John Paul II. 

Padre Pio then became a spiritual director, guiding many spiritually, considering them his spiritual daughters and sons. He had five rules for spiritual growth, namely, weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation, and examination of conscience. 

He compared weekly confession to dusting a room weekly, and recommended the performance of meditation and self-examination twice daily: once in the morning, as preparation to face the day, and once again in the evening, as retrospection. His advice on the practical application of theology he often summed up in his now famous quote, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”. He directed Christians to recognize God in all things and to desire above all things to do the will of God.

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Quote of the Day:

“Remember what Jesus Christ said about celebrity in the Gospel of Luke? The greatest Teacher said that those who humble themselves will be applauded. So be willing to be the least of all. That is true greatness.” ~ Carmen Acevedo Butcher, “A Little Daily Wisdom”, Paraclete Press

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches His disciples that the greatest are those who serve all.  How well do YOU serve ALL others, especially those you do not like, and the marginalized of society.

(NAB Mark 9:30-37)  30 They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.  31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.”  32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.  33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”  34 But they remained silent.  They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.  35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”  36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

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Gospel Reflection:

Today’s event in Mark’s Gospel is immediately after Jesus’ “Transfiguration” (Mark 9:2-13) and the “Feast of the Tabernacles”.  Along His way, prior to today’s event, Jesus even healed a boy “possessed by a demon” (Mark 9:29). 

In today’s reading, we hear Jesus again foretell His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Today’s geographical setting is important to this story, and to the message Jesus is trying to convey to His disciples – – which includes US, two millennia later.  Jesus and His disciples were preparing to journey through Galilee, a Jewish territory in which Jesus had already encountered problems with the Temple leaders, especially the Pharisees.  Perhaps this is why Mark points out Jesus was trying to travel in a secret manner.  Jesus obviously had reason for wanting to remain unnoticed while traveling:

 “Jesus moved about within Galilee; but he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him” (John 7:1).

Now, here’s MY question, “How does one man, traveling with “Twelve” close friends, followed by a horde of men, women, and children, plus animals, achieve being UNNOTICED?!  Jesus was a first-century icon, a star of the divine type, thought of as a prophet by most people of His day.  He WAS noticed, and closely watched by both government officials and Temple religious leaders – – out of fear – – and, at all times!!  Both groups – – Temple and Roman government – – were waiting to pounce on, and to destroy, Jesus – – out of personal, societal, and financial fear!!  So, how did Jesus react to this threat to Him and His disciples?  Surprisingly, with a simple, humble, love – – even for His “enemies”!!

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In predicting His passion, Jesus is acknowledging the danger they ALL will face, and is trying to preparing His disciples for the danger lurking ahead for them as well as Jesus.  So, how exactly did Jesus pass on His knowledge and plan for our salvation and redemption.  As a rabbi (which He was), He “taught” them:

 “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Mark 8:31;

Now, remember from last week’s Gospel at Mass, Jesus’ disciples already realized He was truly the “Son of Man” (cf., Mark 8:27-35).  Today’s reading is the second time they heard Jesus Himself say:

The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” (Mark 9:31) 

It did not make any sense to His disciples when Jesus prophesied His own betrayal and crucifixion because it did not fit their understanding of what the “Messiah” came to do for the Jews.  And, further, they were afraid to ask questions when confused!  I suppose their reaction is similar to someone who receives a bad test result and diagnostic outcome from a doctor, then refusing to ask further questions.  These devout men also didn’t want to know about the situation Jesus was foretelling.  They were in the first state of grief – – denial.  

With their hearing of Jesus stating this ominous warning, a foretelling of His great suffering and death, they closed their ears.  They were hearing Him, but not appreciating or comprehending Him.  They could not grasp and understand Jesus “Words”. 

Bear in mind, these were the men whom Jesus’ hand-picked, the future leaders of our Church!!  In realizing this fact, do not stress yourself when coming across something you cannot understand such things as a particular dogma or teaching in the Catholic Church.  Just do as the Apostles did; let Jesus Christ teach you, through prayer and faith.

What is strange to me about the “Apostles” and their reaction to Jesus’ statement is their hesitation in NOT responding to Him, remaining quiet.  Quietness is something not characteristic in their usual behavior.  In reality, at times, I think they seemed to jump at opportunities without thinking.  As an example, Peter had no fear about “rebuking” Jesus in last week’s Gospel:  

Peter took Him [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him” (Mark 8:32).

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Mark definitely likes to paint a vivid picture.  Having arrived at Capernaum, in Galilee, Jesus’ “business headquarters”, He and His disciples enter a house (probably Peter’s).  In this private setting, Jesus asked His disciples about the argument they had “among themselves” while they were travelling.  Again, the disciples are uncharacteristically silent, again afraid to answer Him.  Uh-oh, they were found out in regards to their “argument”; they were caught!  (He, he, he, he!!)  Jesus summons the Twelve (yes, teacher), and teaches them (a rebuke of sorts) that those “who would be first” in God’s kingdom “must be servants of all”.

Let’s all realize a basic fact of faith: we ARE just like the disciples!!  We routinely compare ourselves with others, and we desire praise from others – – even if both the comparing and the praise are in our own minds.  Our desire for glory and greatness appears to be genetic in us – – that darn “apple” enters into the picture again!  After all, who hasn’t cherished the ambition to be “somebody” others admire, rather than being a “nobody” standing in the crowd?

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Jesus’ work – – His ministry on earth – – was one of loving service to ALL regardless of race, occupation, or social standing!!  His disciples’ role is of continuing His loving service, especially to the poor, the lowly, and the marginalized – – the “Anawim!”**

Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Matthew 20:27).

**(“Anawim” are the outcaste and persecuted in society, who are seeking God for divine justice and help.  The term “Anawim” creates a link between poverty and humility, thus signifying a spiritual movement of sorts (and a strong Franciscan charism).  Anawim is a characteristic trait of humility separating the notion of poor from the economically poor.  For more information, here’s a great link: http://www.coriesu.org/pretheo/Site/Scribes,%20Publicans,%20Anahuim.html)

After teaching about “the first being last and last being first”, Jesus calls to Him a child.  He goes on to teach the “Twelve” that to receive a child in Jesus’ name is to receive both Jesus and the “One” who sent Him [God the Father].  Jesus, being a rabbi, used a common sign in His community, to teach this aspect of loving service – – CHILDREN:

Taking a child He placed it in their midst, putting His arms around it [the child]. (Mark 9:36) 

He makes a dramatic motion, an action, by embracing the child in order to show His disciples who are truly “the greatest” in God’s kingdom.  Hmm, what can a little child possibly teach us about greatness?  Well, first-century Jewish children had no rights, no position, and no privileges of their own, in their own society.  They were socially on the “bottom rung” and at the service of their parents.  They were treated like household domestic servants.  

Jesus used Children as a symbol for the “anawim”, the poor in spirit, and the lowly in the Christian community.  While holding this “lowest of low” in society, Jesus said:

Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:37)

So, what is the significance of Jesus’ dramatic gesture towards this child?  He elevated a little child in the presence of His disciples, placing the child in a privileged position of honor.  From Jesus’ action, who is the greatest in God’s kingdom in Jesus’ mind?  The greatest is the one whom Jesus loves for their humble innocence – – the child, and the “child-like” of faith.  Jesus want us to surrender our personal, materialistic, and worldly rights – -willingly empty ourselves of pride and self-seeking glory – – taking “the lowly position”, that of a servant or child – – an “Anawim” posture.

We might also easily fail to understand the significance of Jesus’ action in linking service with a child.  Jesus is teaching His disciples – – and us – – that when we serve the “least ones” among us, we are serving Jesus Himself.  In serving the marginalized, we are not only doing as our Lord Jesus Christ did, we are doing TO our Lord!!

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For His disciples, and for ALL of US, Jesus never lets a teachable moment pass.  Jesus tells us what His, and our, path to greatness truly is:

If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all, and the servant of all (Mark 9: 35).

Jesus always practiced what He taught, reaching out to children, women, those on the fringes of society.  To illustrate His point, Jesus calls forth – – picks up and hugs – – a child.  In doing so, Jesus teaches all of us that whoever receives a child in His name receives Him, and the “One” who sent Him.

We live in a society and culture wherein most often, “greatness” is measured by the size of one’s bank account and house, by the prestigious and/or glamorous “successful” job, or even by the numbers of games won in professional sports.

What dreams and desires of greatness do WE nourish in others, especially our children?  Do we set up unrealistic, “worldly” goals of success for them?  Or, do we encourage them to be honest, generous, considerate, and loving to ALL?  Do we show them – – by our example – – that whether they become wealthy or not, true greatness lies in their character?  Our “character” is fashioned in the image and likeness of our Creator and Redeemer.  Jesus Christ walked His talk, and His talk was about the character of His Father.  Do we “Walk the Talk, or just simply “Talk the Walk”!!

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Dialogues between close individuals, such as the interchange described in today’s Gospel, are common in family life and with extremely close friends.  Recall a recent dispute about household or work responsibilities, or maybe even a simple example of bickering among family members or friends.  What was at issue in the disagreement?  Imagine Jesus entering the room just as the dispute ended.  What would you tell Jesus about the disagreement, and what might Jesus say in reply?  How was this dispute like the “discussion” among Jesus’ disciples?  And finally, what might you do to remember that those “who are greatin God’s kingdom are those who “willingly serve others”?  Pray that your life will reflect your commitment to serve one another with love.  All of us need the moral and ethical prompt found in today’s Gospel: To be great in God’s Kingdom is to be the servant of ALL!!

Who are the people without power or status in our society today – – the “anawim” – – the “lepers” among us?  Who is Jesus calling us to serve NOW?  And, are YOU WILLING to serve?  There are no fans in God’s kingdom on earth – – only participants!!   God’s judgment of us will be based on the principle revealed by His comment about children and services.

Jesus Himself is our model for action; He came not to be served, but to serve, and so should we do the same NOW:

The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (Matthew 20:28).

The Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, states that Jesus truly and fully “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant”:

He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8).

If we want to be filled with God’s life, grace, and power, we need to be willing to let God empty ourselves of everything which stands in the WAY: pride, self-seeking glory, vanity, celebrity-ship, etc.  God fills empty vessels – – earthen vessels.  He can then fill them with His own glory, power, and love; by His command:

be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Remember, it is God who said:

“’Let light shine out of darkness’; this light has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of [Jesus] Christ.  But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.’” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Let me leave you with this last thought: as a young man, Francis of Assisi sought greatness as the life of the party – – a festive, partier and troubadour – – as well as a noble knight crusader.  However, after his dramatic conversion event, he achieved a “true greatness” by following in the footprints of the humble, compassionate, and mercifully loving Christ.  He chose to follow a Christ who sacrificed ALL out of love for ALL – – even the lowly “lepers” of society!!  St. Francis of Assisi went from being a fan to being a follower.  Have you “spiritually” hugged a modern-day “Leper” of society lately – – an anawim?  On a daily basis, choose to humble yourself; choose to serve ALL as Jesus did for ALL – – including me and you!!  There are no fans in God’s kingdom on earth – – only participants – – His anawim!!

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“On a whim, become an anawim” 

Reflection Prayer:   

“Prayer for Generosity”

 

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

St. Ignatius of Loyola

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“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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“Dan’s Ultimate Manifestic Quality Statement! Me, Me, Me; OOoo, OOoo, OOoo, Me; Pick Me LAST!” – Matthew 20:1-16†


   

 

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

This blog-post marks two full complete years of writing my reflections.  In these two years I have written and published 387 separate reflections on various issues, predominately religious, and nearly always based on the days Gospel reading from the Roman Catholic Missal.

My blog has had over 40,000 individual visits in these two years.  In the first month (September 2009), there was an average of 5 people visiting my site per day.  I am now averaging about 125 visits per day, with the busiest being May 7, 2011 (296 hits), and the busiest month occurring in May, 2011 (6528 hits).  Thank you for coming to my site, and especially for coming back repeatedly.  Please spread the word to your friends and family about my reflection blog.

I have to give a special thanks and graditude to my dear friend and Spiritual Director, John Hough.  John is a very active member of my parish and participates in the ACTS retreat faith fellowship encounters I attend every Saturday morning, consisting of a group (usually about 14-20 people), showing our faith by participating in the following:

Rosary before Mass, Mass itself, then the Divine Mercy Chaplet after Mass, and finally ending with some cholesterol enhancement at the local McDonalds Restaurant.       

Besides John’s impressive and extensive knowledge of the Catholic faith, both theological and philosophical (he has multiple advanced degrees), has a vast methodical understanding of the English and Kenoi Greek languages; a “troubling” knowledge for me at times as he edits my papers.  (I have an especially bad problem with consistently using the word, “that”, and with separating my nouns from my verbs in sentences.)  He pulls no punches grammatically, theologically, and in pushing my gaining in understanding the nuances and “truths” of faith, philosophy, tradition, and Holy Scripture.  (I love him for “pushing” me forward on the “true” path, God’s path.)

John frequently laughs at my interpretations of the Sunday Gospel.  Only last week, he commented on how I can delve far and deep into a theological thought, and then associate it to a whimsical cartoon character’s action, in one paragraph.

It is true; I have learned to peel back the many layers of Catholicism, faith, and tradition.  My family often says that I get too “extreme’ in explaining a facet of our faith.  When a group from the local Church of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon’s) came to the door, my wife said to them prior to leaving the room:

“I feel sorry for you guys!” 

I’m not sure what she meant by her statement.  However, they did leave with Rosaries in their hands and shaking their heads somewhat.  (They have never been back, though I have seen them in the neighborhood.)  (Thank you Holy Spirit for you interactions through me on this day!!)

The Holy Spirit has brought John Hough into my life.  Through John (and the Holy Spirit) I have gained a grace of a profound, mysterious, and insightful view of God’s love, trust, and faith in me; and a grace to spread the mustard seeds of faith, love, trust, and hope to others.  Thank you John, my “true” Brother in Christ!

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   324 – Constantine the Great decisively defeats Licinius in the Battle of Chrysopolis, establishing Constantine’s sole control over the Roman Empire.
†   1502 – Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) lands at Costa Rica on his fourth, and final, voyage.
†   1663 – Death of St Joseph of Cupertino, Italian saint (b. 1603)

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

 

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Joke of the Day:

 

 

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching of God’s generous mercy in the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

 

 

 

(NAB Matthew 20:1-16) 1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  5So they went off.  [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  6Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  7They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’  He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’  8When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  9When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  10So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  11And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  13He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  14Take what is yours and go.  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  15[Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous?’  16Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

With the unemployment rate the way it is in this country, – – and continuing to plummet daily, – – today’s Gospel reading probably hits home with most if not all of us, in a unique and extraordinarily personal way.  So many family homes have been affected by the devastation of jobs being eliminated and/or moved to third-world countries where labor wages and other business costs are much less than in the United States.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus moves from Galilee to teach in Judea.  Here, He will be sought out by large crowds, and “tested” by the Pharisees on issues such as marriage and divorce.  Jesus also will encounter a rich young man who is interested in obtaining eternal life and wondering what he is “lacking” since he believes he has been following the commandments all along.  Jesus’ response to the rich young man is to invite, challenge him to be “perfect” y leaving ALL his possessions and follow Jesus Christ full-time.  The rich young man felt unable to accept Jesus’ invitation.

Is the rich young man going to be one of the first, or one of the last, into God’s kingdom?  Think about this when you get to the conclusion of today’s Gospel reading:

 “The last will be first, and the first will be last”. (Matthew 20:16)

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Today’s parable is about a landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard several times throughout the day, and then paying ALL the laborers the same wage regardless of how long they worked in the vineyard.  On the surface, the parable of the workers in the vineyard appears to be a reproach to common sense.  Reason states: those who work a longer day “ought” to be paid more than those who work just an hour or two.  When viewed in this way, the landowner certainly seems extremely unfair.  This intelligent and emotional response is,  in reality, because we comprehend today’s parable in our own preconceived notions of how fairness and equality should be quantified.  However, ….

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Why does the landowner seek out, and then hire laborers throughout the entire day?  I usually like the simplest and most direct answers.  So, I think my answer that he, the landowner, simply doesn’t want to exclude anyone willing to work.  The Land owner hired individuals, even in the late afternoon, so they wouldn’t go home payless and hungry.

This landowner definitely had and displayed a compassion for the others around him as demonstrated by his actions.  In a sense, he was walking in Jesus’ footsteps – – he was “Walking the Talk”.  Too bad the laborers which were hired “first” (at dawn) did not grasp the landowner’s outlook on society, on life in general, on godly business principles and on mercy and kindness to others.

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To continue, in my miniscule understanding of Biblical interpretations, different understandings have been given to the very last verse:

The last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16). 

This verse from today’s reading is similar to another verse a little earlier in Matthew:

Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first” (Matthew 19:30).

The just mentioned verse (Matthew 19:30), and the following (verse 8 from today’s reading) are the inverses of Matthew 20:16:

“When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’” (Matthew 20:8). 

In view of Matthew’s association of the “first-last” references with today’s parable along with the verse from Matthew’s previous chapter, in its reverse order, I’m thinking the order may mean that all who responded then (and still respond today) to Jesus’ call – – at whatever time (first or last), – – will receive the benefits and graces of His kingdom: a true gift from, and of, God.  Through Jesus’ parable, Matthew is suggesting that there is an unparalleled equality of ALL His disciples (workers), in their payments of eternal life as a “free”, already “paid-for” (by Jesus’ sacrifice), gift!

The catalyst which opens this story to a controversial discussion and various opinions among the workers and landowner is verse 8:

“When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’” (Matthew 20:8). 

This particular facet of the story has no other purpose than to show “how” the first laborers come to know what the last laborers were paid (verse 12).

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If you pay attention to the reading, the landowner paid on the terms which were negotiated.   What did the landowner mean when he said to the laborers:

“…I will give you what is just.”? (Matthew 20:4)

The landowner acted justly.  I realize that he did not actually say “what” they would be paid as a wage when hiring the laborers.  Although this wage was not stipulated, it is inferred to the reader that it would be a “fair” wage “for the amount of time worked”.  As most people, I would reasonably assume that the laborers who started at nine in the morning (not at dawn), and those hired later, would be paid differently respective: more for those early starters than for the late comers.  However, in God the Father’s kingdom there are no differences, no prejudices, no separations, and no seniority lists.  All in heaven are equally joyful, pure, and perfected before the throne of God, each in their proper order. 

This parable, however, goes far beyond his being “just”.  We come to see that the landowner is not simply just, he is exceptionally just; he is even radically just.  But, he has given those who labored in the field for a full day their rightly due wages.  But he has also given a full-day’s wage to those who worked only one hour or so.  No one is cheated, but a few receive copiously from the landowner – – just as we receive from God – – more than what is merely justifiable or due.  God, like the landowner, is radically just and copiously generous.  The workers who complained are made to look foolish as they “grumble” over the fact that the landowner made all his laborers equal.  Indeed, what more could one ask for than to be treated as an equal at work or anywhere else?

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To continue on, in verse 13, the landowner says two distinctive phrases in one sentence, “My friend”, and “I am not cheating you”.  In calling the laborers his “friend”, he is expressing a true caring for the specific individual(s).  He sought out a special, unique, and personal type of relationship with him (them).  The land owner further stressed that he was not treating anyone unjustly.  On the contrary, he only asked of each laborer to perform a certain function, then paid each of them what he had promised.  This landowner’s relationship with another individual should not be of any concern to anyone else.  After all, the landowner gave to the laborer(s) what he promised him (them).

God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit asks of each of us to perform certain function: to love, trust, and have faith in Him; to love, trust, and have faith in others with whom we come into contact.  He wants to have an intimate, personal, and unique relationship with each of us.  In doing so, He will give to each of us what He has promised: an eternal relationship of joy with Him in paradise.

My thoughts on this parable remind me about something my Spiritual Director had to say one day.  We were discussing the graces and talents which each of us are given.  He pointed out the two coffee cups on our table, one small and one much larger.  He said that when each cup is totally full – they are totally full and can hold no more.  That is how graces and talents are with us.  We can be totally full of grace, and though one of our “cups” is larger than the other, it makes no difference – both are totally full of grace!  Can the “cup” get larger?  Definitely, but it makes no difference on what God can give; He gives us all we can hold!

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At first sight, the laborers appear to have an appropriate grievance against the landowner.  The earlier workers labored longer, so they “deserved” more than those who only worked “fewer” hours and not all day, even if it meant that their fellow co-workers had to endure smaller pay.  In retrospect, and in consideration of today’s economic environment, we need to look at this parable from another viewpoint other than the laborers’.  They ALL received something else that day besides the “fair” wage for the work they performed: they received a JOB, a gift of mercy and generosity!  These laborers were bringing home “the bacon”; well, at least money, to their families.

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We should look at this situation in today’s Gospel from the viewpoint of the last laborers to be hired that day.  Standing on that street all day, without any income had to be a major stressor for them.  Their concerns for their family’s welfare had to weigh heavily on their minds.  What a cross to carry for them.  For most of the day, they worried about how they were going to feed and clothe their family – – (not to mention their home, car insurances, their children’s college educations, and future wedding expenses – -).  Then suddenly and unexpectedly, a stranger – – toward, and at the end of the work day – – offers each of them a job.  How excited and relieved do you think these individuals were?  Do you think they were appreciative workers?, trying to do their best?  When we say something is “unfair,” please take a second look, flip that coin over, as it may very well not only be “fair”, but be a godly “Christian” approach to the situation!

God calls and asks EACH of us to do certain things, and if we do them, we will be compensated with what He has promised.  Others may be asked to do certain things differently, and the truly lucky ones are going to be asked to do more than anyone else.  Yep, those of us who arrived early, and are affected by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, are given more graces (and talents) to share – – more work!!

Grace is like that elusive mustard seed found often in the bible parables: it starts as a small, nearly invisible seed in our heart and in our soul.  With care and love, it grows to engulf (in a very good way) our words, actions, faith, soul, and our relationships with others.  Those who find God’s promise of redemption and salvation, at the end of their life’s journey, through the “Sacrament of the Anointing” while on their deathbed will not have enough time to nurture a huge bush or tree of graces like one growing over many years in others.  Yet, they will still have the same bounty as everyone else in God’s kingdom.  There is NO difference in feeling or reward when it comes to the eternal joy and magnificence found in being face-to-face in the presence of God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and His (and our) beautiful Mother, Mary.  Heaven is the ultimate “Equal Opportunity” experience, the ultimate manifested equality within the Trinitarian family of God!

To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:19-20);

And,

“One body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

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The landowner’s conduct of hiring throughout the day involved no violation of law or justice toward any of the laborers.  His only problem, “per-se”, is having a virtue of generosity toward the later hires.  Virtue is a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent.  Virtues should be valued as a foundation for principles of good moral life and ethics in decision making.  Virtues not only promote, but also reveal the character and moral well-being of individuals, and society as a whole.  Virtues are AWESOME!!  Virtues are likenesses of God Himself:

I know, my God, that you put hearts to the test and that you take pleasure in integrity. With a whole heart I have willingly given all these things, and now with joy I have seen your people here present also giving to you generously.” (1 Chronicles 29:17)

The laborers resentment over the “fair” wage is the sin of “envy.”  Envy is a vice contrary to virtue.  Envy is a feeling of unhappiness or greed in regard to another’s advantages, successes, possessions, and so on.  In other words, the laborers are breaking the 10th Commandment:

Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property.”  (Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21)

Envy is a deadly, capital, or cardinal sin (depending on which catechism you read).  Envy is not a light matter; it is a “mortal” sin, deforming the soul, and can lead to eternal separation from God in the hell of the individual aloneness within himself – – unless acknowledged, confessed, corrected, and repented through the Sacrament of Reconciliation with and oneself.

The workers in this parable sound very much like bickering, backbiting children, comparing what they have been given individually, and then complaining to their parent: “It’s unfair!”  Children have a tendency to equate love with gifts and other material things.  This tendency can give way to a spirit of “entitlement”, which offsets the spirit of gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation.  Any effort we make to overcome the tendency toward entitlement, to keep love from being entwined and linked to things like gifts and possessions, will enable us to accept “fully” the love which God freely and generously gives to each of us – – PERSONALLY!!!

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To conclude: until recently, I thought the landowner was totally unfair to the “early risers”, the ones willing to get to work early.  Upon reflection, I have realized that this “unfairness” was certainly not the case at all.  Regardless of the individual workers situations, the landowner treated each and every one in a fair, just, and loving way.

This parable reminds us that although God owes us nothing, he offers ALL GOOD abundantly, copiously, and spontaneously.  We are occasionally tempted to think that our own actions deserve more of God’s abundant and overflowing grace, than the actions of others.  However, God’s generosity cannot be quantified or partitioned into different amounts for different people – – He gives us His ALL, to each of us – – uniquely and personally.  When we think of “how much” we deserve, we are relating to God on “OUR” terms rather than accepting God’s radically different ways – – His plan for us.

God is generously opening the doors of his kingdom to all who will enter freely, both those who have labored a life-time for Him and those who come to Him at the last hour.  While the grace is the same, the motive for one’s labor makes all the difference.  Some work only for “reward” and not out of love as a gift.  They will only put as much effort in as they think they will get out.  Others labor out of love and joy for the opportunity to work, to give, to accomplish.  The Lord calls His disciples to serve God and neighbor with generosity and joy.  Do you perform your work and duties with cheerfulness for the Lord’s sake?  Do you give generously to others, especially to those in need?

 

Please consider these further questions.  Why did the laborers in today’s reading grumble?  Was the landowner’s assessment over wages accurate and just?  Now, look for any tendency you may have to make comparisons.  Ask yourself if these comparisons are helpful in your relationships.  Sadly, we are sometimes like these laborers when we make comparisons in our daily lives.

Love cannot, and should not, to be measured – – it is NOT a quantitative virtue.  Sit quietly, acknowledging God’s great love for you as an individual.  Reflect on the time, talents, and treasures you have to offer; and how you can best share these graces from God the Father to others in your life.

Many of us have been given more than we need for life and comfort.  In comparison to the extreme and devastating poverty in many parts of this world in which we live TODAY, most of us reading this reflection actually live in comparative royalty.  How generous are we with what we have earned or been given.  On a daily basis, we are offered many opportunities to share what we have with others.  This sharing does not necessarily mean materialistic items; it also means spiritual wealth through prayers and kindness to the others we meet – – Time, Talents, and Treasures.

God wants us to be like the “landowner” was with each of his laborers.  In this Gospel reading, it is written:

You too go into my vineyard.” (Matthew 20:7)

All of us should respond to Jesus’ “call” in the unique way we are capable of doing so.  Each of us has a distinct and personal “calling”, regardless of the time (first or last, early or late) in our lives.  In answering this call from God, we will receive “the same” inheritance of benefits in, and of, God’s kingdom.  Please do not forget that heaven is a grace in itself; an awesome, beautiful, and everlasting gift of God.  (Oh, by the way, please read a great book: “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back”, by Todd Burpo.)

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 

Prayer for Vocations

 

“Lord Jesus, as you once called the first disciples to make them fishers of men, let your sweet invitation continue to resound: Come, follow Me!

Give young men & woman the grace of responding quickly to your voice.  Support our bishops, priests & consecrated people in their apostolic labor.

Grant perseverance to our seminarians & to all those who are carrying out the ideal of a life totally consecrated to your service.  Awaken in our community a missionary eagerness.  Lord, SEND WORKERS TO YOUR HARVEST and do not allow humanity to be lost for the lack of pastors, missionaries and people dedicated to the cause of the Gospel.

Mary, Mother of the Church; the model of every vocation, help us to say ‘Yes’ to the Lord Who calls us to cooperate in the divine plan of salvation.  Amen.”

  

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

  

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The third form of the penitential rite, with the various invocations of Christ (e.g., “You came to call sinners”) will be much the same (not much of a change), though an option is added to conclude each invocation in Greek:

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

instead of in English: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy”, as it is presently.  The first two forms (found in the past two previous blogs) may conclude with this threefold litany too, either in English or in Greek.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663)

 

Joseph is most famous for levitating at prayer.

Already as a child, Joseph showed a fondness for prayer.  After a short career with the Capuchins, he joined the Conventuals.  Following a brief assignment caring for the friary mule, Joseph began his studies for the priesthood.  Though studies were very difficult for him, Joseph gained a great deal of knowledge from prayer.  He was ordained in 1628.

Joseph’s tendency to levitate during prayer was sometimes a cross; some people came to see this much as they might have gone to a circus sideshow.  Joseph’s gift led him to be humble, patient and obedient, even though at times he was greatly tempted and felt forsaken by God.  He fasted and wore iron chains for much of his life.

The friars transferred Joseph several times for his own good and for the good of the rest of the community.  He was reported to and investigated by the Inquisition; the examiners exonerated him.

Joseph was canonized in 1767.  In the investigation preceding the canonization, 70 incidents of levitation are recorded.

Comment:

While levitation is an extraordinary sign of holiness, Joseph is also remembered for the ordinary signs he showed.  He prayed even in times of inner darkness, and he lived out the Sermon on the Mount.  He used his “unique possession” (his free will) to praise God and to serve God’s creation.

Quote:

“Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own.  When a man trains himself to acts of virtue, it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this.  The will is what man has as his unique possession” (St. Joseph of Cupertino, from the reading for his feast in the Franciscan breviary).

Patron Saint of: Air travelers, Astronauts, Pilots

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis

 

How does Francis identify himself?

What attitude toward the Sacrament of the Eucharist does Francis express in his writings?

How and why does Francis express that the focus of our lives is “to praise God”?

Francis writes: “…hate our bodies with their vices and sins”.  What specifically are we to “hate”?  How does this compare to the spirit of “Canticle of the Sun”?  How does this compare to Romans 8:5-8?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’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.

 

 

“Lazarus Came Out Of the Tomb and Saw His Shadow. We Now Have Two More Weeks Of Lent!” – John 11:1-45†


 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

Today’s Content:

  

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Yippee, the Government did not screech to a halt in such a way as to throw the earth off its rotational axis, as many feared.  Yet sadly, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) caved in on his promise to defund Planned Parenthood.  Anti-abortion lawmakers did succeed however in blocking taxpayer-funded abortions in the District of Columbia (only 50 States to go).  

President Obama succeeded in forcing Boehner, and other Republicans in Congress, to cave in on dozens of items including Planned Parenthood, while protecting favored programs like education, clean energy and medical research.  Representative Boehner, I consider defunding Planned Parenthood as a favored endeavor, and of the utmost urgency!

Yes, the mutually agreed upon bill will remove close to $40 billion from the day-to-day budgets of certain domestic agencies over six months, – – the biggest rollback of such government programs in history.  And yes, it will put the Cabinet operating budgets on a track closer to levels before President Obama took office in 2009.  Yet we (the USA) are throwing God’s miracle in trashcans 3700 times daily, 1.37 million yearly (42 million worldwide)!  Again, how SAD!!

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    
†   847 – St Leo IV begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1512 – Pope Julius II opens 5th Council of Lateranen
†   1585 – Death of Gregory XIII,  [Ugo Buoncampagni], (b. 1502), Italian Pope (1572-85)
†   1704 – Death of William Egon of Fürstenberg, Bishop of Strassburg (b. 1629)
†   1821 – Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople is hanged by the Turks from the main gate of the Patriarchate and his body is thrown into the Bosphorus.
†   1921 – Birth of Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Fulbert of Chartres; James, Azadanus and Abdicius; Saint Paternus

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

 

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Joke of the Day:

 

Ben: Dad, why doesn’t the bible say anything about the other three persons that Jesus raised from the dead at the same time as Lazarus?

Dad: Where did you learn that there were three other persons? Lazarus was the only one in that bible story.

Ben: Well Dad, in the bible it says that there were at least four people.

Dad: Where does it say that in the bible?

Ben: Right here Dad (showing him his bible), it says “Lazarus came forth”!

 

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Today’s reflection is about the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

 

 (NAB John 11:1-45) 1 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.  3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”  4 When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.  7 Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”  8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”  9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day?  If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  10 But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”  11 He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”  12 So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”  13 But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.  14 So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died.  15 And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.”  16 So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”  17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.  19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.  20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.  21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  22 (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”  24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”  25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”  28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”  29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.  30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.  31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”  35 And Jesus wept.  36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”  37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”  38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.  39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”  41 So they took away the stone.  And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.  42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.  So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”  45 Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

 

Today’s the second longest continuous Gospel narrative in John’s Gospel read at Mass throughout the Liturgical year.  The only Gospel reading longer is the passion narrative.  This reading invites us to reflect upon what it means to call Jesus the “Resurrection and the life”.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead is also the climax of Jesus’ signs (miracles) before His own death and resurrection.  This Gospel reading directly leads up to the decision by the Sanhedrin to eliminate (kill) Jesus out of fear and jealousy and precipitated the literal fulfillment of Hebrew prophesies found in Isaiah and elsewhere.

A theme of “life” predominates throughout this reading.  Lazarus (His name means “God is my help”) is a symbol of the real “life” that Jesus – – through His death and resurrection – – will give to all who believe in Him.  Just think of the irony in the Lazarus story: Jesus’ gift of life to His friend (and to all of us) will ultimately and directly lead to His own death on the Holy Tree of redemption.

Through Lazarus’ sickness and subsequent death, God brought glory in, and to, Jesus, His only begotten Son.  Jesus, who raised His friend from the dead, did so in an anticipation of His own death and resurrection.  We should remember these two events (Lazarus’s and Jesus’ resurrections) this week in our participation at the Eucharist, which was given to us as a foretaste of Jesus’ “transfiguration” of OUR bodies, at the Parousia, His appearing and full presence – – His second coming. 

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The background of today’s story, – – the raising of Lazarus, – – is the Jewish leaders’ growing animosity toward Jesus.  He had been in Jerusalem, taking part in the “feast of the Dedication”, which we now call, “Hanukkah”, the “feast of Lights”.  The Jewish people had been pushing him to declare plainly whether or not He was the true “Messiah” prophesized.  Jesus tells them to look to His works (and not faith alone), which will testify to His coming from God (for our sake).  Many do not believe Jesus, and a number of them try to stone Him for the [false] sin/crime of “blasphemy”, claiming equality with God the Father.

While Jesus is evading those choosing to do Him harm, word is sent to Him that His friend is ill; yet He delays His journey, purposefully, for two days.  The delay heightens the drama when He eventually arrives in Bethany.  The delay also shows Jesus’ obedience to God, who is to be glorified through Jesus’ delay and Lazarus’s eventual resurrection.  

 

The story of the raising of Lazarus is not found verbatim in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  However, Luke does record another example of Jesus Christ demonstrating His compassion and His divine authority over life and death, as found in Luke 7:11-17: 

“Soon afterward he journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.  As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  A large crowd from the city was with her.  When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’  He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’  The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, ‘A great prophet has arisen in our midst,’ and ‘God has visited his people.’  This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.” (Luke 7:11-17).  

There is another parallel between the Lazarus story and Luke’s parable of the rich man and a “poor man” also named Lazarus:

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.  When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’  Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.  Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’  He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’  But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’  He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.‘” (Luke 16:19-31).

In both stories, a man named Lazarus dies.  However, in Luke, there is a request that Lazarus return from the dead in order to convince his contemporaries of the need for faith and repentance, while in John, Lazarus does return inspiring a belief in the resurrection, and in Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”, in some among them.

 

Bethany was “about two miles” from Jerusalem as stated in verse 18 of today’s reading.  In the original Greek, it was actually about fifteen “stades“.  A stade was a measurement of 607 feet, so with using simple math, this would equate to 9105 feet, or just a tad bit over 1.7 miles.  (Yes, I do love math, and yes I can be a little type “A” when it comes to the subject of math.)

Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters as dear friends, and He often stayed in their home at Bethany.  So, why did Jesus delay in coming to Lazarus’ side when He knew that His friend was gravely ill?

In verse 4, upon hearing of Lazarus’s malady, Jesus says his illness “is not to end in death”.  Do you think this statement was misunderstood by Jesus’ disciples as referring to a “physical”, human death of the body?  In reality, Jesus meant a “NOT – – ending in death”, referring to another kind of death: spiritual death.     

Jesus’ two day delay must have confused and mystified His followers.  However, they seem to be more startled and upset when Jesus finally announced that He was going to Bethany, a town very close in proximity to Jerusalem.  They saw this action as a “suicide” mission of sorts.  Jesus’ followers (and most certainly Jesus) knew the religious authorities (the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) were set on eliminating the threat to them from Jesus.  

For Jesus to come to a place as dangerous for Him as Jerusalem was, at this Passover time was, an act of courage and an act of total trust and love in His heavenly Father.  Jesus’ explanation given to His disciples was simple and challenging at the same time:

“Are there not twelve hours in the day?” (John 11:9)

To paraphrase (a potentially dangerous thing to do with Holy Scripture), Jesus said: “There are enough hours in the day to do what one must do.”  A day, in a chronological form, can never be shortened, lengthened, hurried, or slowed, for it is a fixed period of measurement.  We each have our “day”, or “time”, whether it be short or long (even if it is only “15 minutes of fame”), if we look at a “day” as in the sequential form. 

While time is limited chronologically, there is always enough time for us to accomplish what God intends for us to finish.  Remember, God knows all, and gives each of us an allotted measure of human – – mortal – – life to do what is our part of God’s plan.  So, the choice for us is either to waste it through personal self-gratification, or use it to the greatest ability for God’s glory in all we do and say. 

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Lazarus was “sick”.  Sickness can befall us for a variety of reasons.   Jesus attributed Lazarus’ sickness to the glory of God.  The glory which Jesus had in mind, however, was connected with the Holy Cross – – The Holy Tree of Redemption.   He saw the Holy Cross as His supreme glory – – and the path to glory in the kingdom of God.  For Jesus there was no other path to glory except through the cross; this was God the Father’s plan for salvation, for Jesus Himself, for the whole family of Abraham, and for all people of all nations.. 

Jesus knew that if He went to help Lazarus He would expose himself to grave danger from those in Jerusalem who were plotting His destruction.  Jesus was willing to pay that price to help His friend; to give His life for another.  Jesus would explicitly declare this truth in what would be written a few chapters later in John’s Gospel:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Are you ready to give help – – to give your own life – – for your friend?  That may seem like a relatively easy thing to do (emphasis is on the word “may”!).  Now, let me throw out the proverbial “ringer”: as a Catholic, as a Christian, are you ready to give help? – – to give your own life? – – for one’s enemy?!! 

Jesus did not segregate the two groups; and neither should we!

 

Jesus did not let circumstances or pressure dictate what He would do.  Nor did He permit others to determine His actions or plan for salvation.  He took actions on His own initiative and on His own schedule.  How often do we try to get God to do things in our way and on our self-determined period of time?  One of my favorite old-time sayings which I just made up is:

“We are on God’s time, and His pocket watch sticks occasionally!” (DEH, 2011) 

 

Let’s go back to the reference about 12 hours in a day.  Both the Romans and the Jews divided the day into twelve equal hours from sunrise to sunset.  We would think of this division as starting around 6 AM and ending at 6 PM – – in accord with God’s natural sequence of light and dark.  The day’s work and travel ceased when the daylight was gone – – when darkness fell over the earth.  Jesus made a spiritual analogy using this concept of light and dark in our relationship with God. 

Jesus is the “Light of the World”!  He is the Son Shine that makes the Sunshine.  Remember the words, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).  For those who do not believe in Him, “the light is not in him”!  In the pre-modern scientific world of Jesus’ time, people apparently did not understand clearly the concept of light entering through the eye.  They seem to have thought of light as being in the eye, as illustrated in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels:

If your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.  And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.” (Matthew 6:23).

And,

The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness.” (Luke 11:34);

While the light of Christ is with us, and actually within us and surrounding us, then, as Paul says, we must live and walk in the truth and grace of His life, which is His light within us.  Sometimes the light within us is darkness when we are not following Jesus Christ as we should, and we then experience the need to be reconciled with God the Father.  There’s a perfect time to be reconciled with God – – NOW!!   

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When Jesus announced that when He was going to the region of Jerusalem after hearing of Lazarus’ death, Thomas showed remarkable courage, as shown in His words recorded by John:

Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.” (John 11:16)

This courage, however, was not tempered with faith, trust, and hope in God’s promise to bring a victory out of defeat – – a resurrection out of death.  The proof for this statement is that even though Thomas was a witness to Lazarus’ resurrection, he later abandoned his master, teacher, and dear friend when Jesus was arrested.  He doubted his master’s resurrection until Jesus appeared to him and showed him, directly, the wounds in His hands, feet, and side.  (Hence, how the origin of the description “Doubting Thomas” came about.).  

It is through faith, courage, trust, and love that we get the strength we need to persist through any worldly trial and/or suffering which confronts us in this human and mortal exile.  If we embrace our personal crosses with faith, courage, trust, and love in God, we too will have the assurance that we will see victory and glory made possible through Jesus Christ, our personal and familial Savior.

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When Martha and Mary met Jesus with weeping, they declared to Him that if He had been there, their brother Lazarus would not have died.  They also expressed confidence and faith that God would do whatever Jesus would ask NOW.  They TRUSTED God!  They still TRUSTED Jesus Christ!  They clearly affirmed their belief in Jesus Christ and in the resurrection of the dead “in the last days”.

Martha says that she believes Jesus to be “the Messiah”, “the Son of God”, and “the One”.   All of these titles from verse 27 are a summary of the titles given to Jesus found in all the Gospels.  As in any good book (get the pun), there is always a summary of facts just prior to the climax of the story.  The use of these titles summarizes Jesus’ role as the “one” prophesized by Moses, coming to save the “chosen” people of God.

 

Interestingly for me, the shocking phrase, “became perturbed”, in the original Greek, literally means “He snorted in spirit“.  Jesus’ “snort” is defined by Encarta Dictionary as a harsh sound produced by forcing air through the nostrils in order to express feelings, especially feelings of contempt or impatience.  Jesus’ contemporaries were upset with His delay and His slow arrival in Bethany.  But, Jesus too, was upset.  He was obviously impatient at the presence of the evil of physical death present at this scene, and at the “professional” mourners who came from Jerusalem to cry attentively at Lazarus’ tomb.  You know the old adage, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature”, and I think it is even more ill-advised to get Jesus “perturbed” at you!  A perturbed Jesus may even trump a perturbed wife; something I personally know well (without even trying most times)!

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Throughout all four Gospels, Jesus regularly refers to God as His “Father”, a translation of the Aramaic word, “abba”.  Jesus regularly addresses God with a concept of filial intimacy as a son’s relationship with, and feelings toward, His parent.  The word “abba” seems not to have been regularly used in earlier or contemporaneous Jewish sources to address God.  Other occurrences of this Aramaic word are only found in the New Testament, in the books of Romans and Galatians:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:15);

And,

As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6)

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Jesus asks to be brought to Lazarus’s tomb where He prays and calls Lazarus out from the tomb.  At this sign, – – this miracle – – many come to believe in Jesus, but others take word of the miracle to the Jewish authorities, who begin their plans for Jesus’ death.

Our Lord “cried out in a loud voice” and Lazarus came out of the tomb.  In the drama of this event, I think back to an earlier verse in John’s Gospel:

The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” (John 5:28)

Lazarus was still wrapped in his burial strips, and his face was still covered.  This man could not remove his bindings, nor could he remove what blinded him.  He needed the assistance of another, Jesus Christ, to remove his darkness and oppressive wrappings.  SO DO WE!!

In a short time, Jesus Himself will be wrapped in bindings and a cloth will be placed over His face.  However, in three days, those bindings will be found in His rock-hewed tomb untied.  Their magnificent Lord and Savior vanished from the tomb.  The cloth that was draped over His face (I believe it was the tallit, a Jewish religious prayer shawl/robe) was found folded and placed carefully (and reverently) on the shelf which Jesus laid upon, while dead.

 

What a stark difference between the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus Christ.  Lazarus was resurrected to fulfill Jesus’ ministry, God’s plan of salvation for him.  Jesus was resurrected to fulfill completely God’s plan of salvation and redemption for all of us.  

Remember, Lazarus needed help to remove his oppressive and sight-blinding bindings.  Jesus is the “authority” who instructed others to remove such bindings from Lazarus.  He will do the same for us as we allow Him more fully into our lives.   Jesus Christ is the “light of the world” who will open our eyes to the beauty of God’s creation, here on earth, and in heaven.  (Never to be blinded again.)

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Lazarus may be the luckiest and most blessed person that I can think of right now.  He had a personal, direct, and physical relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ on a daily basis.  Yet, why can’t we as well?  He lives in us in the form of the Holy Spirit, and we can personally, directly, and physically receive Him in the Eucharist at Mass and at Eucharistic Adoration on a daily basis.

Lazarus also gets to experience the gift and beauty of resurrection to bodily form twice.  He experienced a bodily resurrection, as reported in this story; and will again experience a bodily resurrection, at the Parousia.  Twice, he will experience a unique, personal, and extreme love which is emitting from his Creator and Redeemer – – Jesus Christ!  We will be privileged to experience this grace once, yet he gets a double dose!  You know what?  Once will be good enough for me!  And, in a sense, I can’t wait!  (I hope my ticket is stamped “non-smoking”, – – and is up-front, first class.  I’ve had enough of coach.)

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Set against the background of Jesus’ looming death, many elements of the raising of Lazarus prefigure the “good news” of Jesus’ own Resurrection.  Soon to face the tension and clash with Jewish authorities, Jesus acts in complete obedience to God the Father.  In raising Lazarus, Jesus shows His power over death so that when Jesus dies, those who believe in Him might remember, and take hope in His promises.  Just as Jesus calls for the stone to be rolled away from Lazarus’s tomb, so too will the disciples find the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.

Today, reflect on Baptism as a dying and rising with Jesus.  In Baptism we die to sin’s power over us, rising as children of God.  In Baptism, Jesus joins us to Himself.  As He conquered death once and for all so that we – – who believe in him – – may have eternal life, we are freed from fear of death.  With Martha and Mary, we are called to profess our belief that Jesus is indeed the Resurrection for each of us personally.  Our future will be enjoying completely the unending life in His light.

 

In Summary, Jesus’ promise of eternal life is a fundamental element of our Catholic faith.  Today’s Gospel reading encourages us to recognize, accept, and respond to Jesus’ triumph, power, and victory over death as demonstrated in the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  During this Lenten Season, we need to anticipate and to praise in Jesus conquering death – – once and for all – – by His own dying (never to be repeated), and by His Rising (in a miracle), which each of us will experience on that glorious day, the Parousia.  

We sometimes use examples from nature to help describe this miracle, this gift, this mystery of our faith.  Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself talked about the seed that dies when planted in the ground in order to produce new life:

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

Using this image of the “grain of wheat dying to produce much fruit”, we find hope and confidence in “Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life”.

Remember Jesus’ promise from today’s Gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  What does Jesus mean by this promise in your life?  Are you confident in this promise from Jesus Christ?  Pray that you will be, and will remain confident in Jesus’ promise of eternal life.  Remember what Pope St. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:3-4: It is by believing “the precious and very great promises” that we “participate in the divine nature” of God.  (We call this Sanctifying Grace.)

The Christian creed, which is the profession of our faith, is a profession, a belief, in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and in the saving power of the Holy Trinity as demonstrated in the Resurrection of Jesus the Son.  That’s why we also proclaim a belief in a resurrection of the dead on the last day, and in an everlasting life.  This IS OUR faith and hope:  This is a biblically based statement of faith declared through today’s Gospel:

“If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11).

God gives us the power of His Holy Spirit that we may be made alive in the light of Jesus Christ.  Through the Holy Spirit, we can even experience the power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in our personal lives – – NOW – – even today!  The Holy Spirit is ever ready to change, to convert, and to transform us into people of faith, hope, and love; into faith filled sons and daughters.  Amen, and Amen.

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The Creed

(From the “New” Missal starting with Advent, 2011)

 

 

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

Т

 

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.

Currently, the priest says, “The Lord be with you” five times: at the Entrance Rite, before the Gospel, when the Eucharistic Prayer starts, at “the sign of peace”, and finally at the dismissal. The new response from the congregation will be:

“And with your spirit

instead of “And also with you”.

This is a more direct translation of the Latin and matches what many other language groups have been using for years.  It will obviously take some adjustment, since we have been used to saying, “And also with you,” for so long.

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

 

 

Т

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Magdalen of Canossa (1774-1835)

 

Wealth and privilege did nothing to prevent today’s saint from following her calling to serve Christ in the poor.  Nor did the protests of her relatives, concerned that such work was beneath her.

Born in northern Italy in 1774, Magdalen knew her mind—and spoke it.  At age 15 she announced she wished to become a nun.  After trying out her vocation with the cloistered Carmelites, she realized her desire was to serve the needy without restriction.  For years she worked among the poor and sick in hospitals and in their homes and among delinquent and abandoned girls.

In her mid-twenties Magdalen began offering lodging to poor girls in her own home.  In time she opened a school, which offered practical training and religious instruction.  As other women joined her in the work, the new Congregation of the Daughters of Charity emerged.  Over time, houses were opened throughout Italy.

Members of the new religious congregation focused on the educational and spiritual needs of women.  Magdalen also founded a smaller congregation for priests and brothers.  Both groups continue to this day.

She died in 1835. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1988.

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)

 

Т

 

    

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Sickness/Death

 

What impression is created by St. Francis calling death his “sister”?  How did St. Francis face death?  What was his mindset?

How does St. Francis’ attitude toward sickness and death compare to your own, and/or the Catholic Church’s?

Why do we act sometimes as if it’s not right that we should be getting sick?

What virtues does Francis ask us to practice when we are sick?

Why do Christians sometimes have the idea that sickness is a punishment for having done things wrong?  Some seem to say: “If I do not picture myself as a big sinner, why should I be suffering this way”? (Reflect on Jesus’ powerful message to the apostles in John’s Gospel, chap.9:3.)

 

Т

 

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 10 & 11 of 26:


 

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

Т

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

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

“Knock, Knock, Who’s There!” – Luke 13:22-30†


32 Days till the Start of the Advent Season, AND
59 Days till Christmas

 

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   625 – Honorius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope

(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:

 

I am ready to meet my maker.  Whether or not my maker is prepared for the  great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. — Winston Churchill

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about entrance to heaven only through Faith AND Works.

 

22 He passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’  He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”  (NAB Luke 13:22-30)

 

What is this “narrow door” to the “Masters House?” Jesus’ story about the door being shut on the procrastinators coming too late insinuates that they had offended their host [God] through their action (or inaction), and that this justified their ban, – – their barring from heaven.  I believe most, if not nearly all Jewish people understood this part of the story simply because the Jewish religious teachers of Jesus’ time would not allow students arriving late to class to enter; the door being closed and locked.  Furthermore, these students were banned from class for an entire week in order to teach a lesson in discipline and faithfulness to the divine importance of their religious duties.

Today’s Gospel reading immediately follows Jesus’ “parables of the kingdom” found in Luke 13:18-21: Then he said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden.  When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and ‘the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.'”  Again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” 

These two parables preceding today’s reading were used by Jesus to illustrate the future magnitude of the “kingdom of God.” This future kingdom will result from the worldly mission and ministry of Jesus’ preaching, advocacy and healing.

Today’s reading stresses the great effort required for gaining entrance into God’s kingdom and that it is vital to accept the opportunity, given NOW to enter, because this “narrow door” will not remain open forever.  

The “narrow door” which Jesus is talking about is HIMSELF!!  In John 10:9, Jesus literally states, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”  Jesus gives us the way to enter into the paradise of heaven through the Holy Cross wherein He was crucified for our sins.  God, through the human and divine natures of Jesus, sacrificed HIMSELF for OUR sins!!  If we want to be citizens of God’s kingdom on earth AND in heaven, we must follow Jesus’ path, which includes “the way of the cross.”  

The word “strive” from verse 24 can also be translated from the original Greek to mean “agony.”  To enter the narrow gate one must labor against the vigor of, and our sometimes profound weakness to, temptation to sin – and other obstructions from doing the will of God – such as apathy, laziness, and indifference.

Many Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time believed that ALL “Jewish” people would automatically gain entrance to heaven, except for a few clearly obvious “sinners.” I would bet the proverbial “tax-collector,” leper, and prostitute were on the Pharisees “barred from heaven” list!  Most Jewish leaders believed “Israel” was specially chosen by God when He established a covenant with them and thus guaranteed, in essence, a slot in heaven no matter what happens. 

This last paragraph makes me ponder the “saved by faith alone” versus the “saved by faith and works” arguments.  How many people believe they automatically have a slot held for them in heaven – – just because they believe they are saved by God

Heck, Satan even believes in God!!

Sadly, this belief is not just a protestant tenet anymore.  I know of many Roman Catholics endorsing this error in faith.  Jesus warns that ANYONE can be excluded – permanently BANNED – if one does not endeavor to enter the “narrow door” through faith AND works! 

Jesus doesn’t directly answer the question asked in verse 23: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  However, His response is strikingly interesting for two reasons.  First, Jesus says that being a member of God’s chosen people, does not automatically give one a ticket for entrance through the narrow door into the kingdom of God.  

Second, Jesus’ words were a warning of rejecting His teachings’.  Jesus declares that many “Gentiles” from places outside Palestine would also enter heaven; God’s invite is open to Jew AND Gentile alike.  Some Jewish people would have their “places at table of the banquet in the kingdom” taken from them and given to Gentiles from the “four corners” of the world.  Many Gentiles would go through the narrow gate to paradise BEFORE even those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended: the chosen Jewish people.

In Luke 14:15-24, a parable about “the great dinner” is a further example of rejection by most of the Jewish people towards Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet of heaven, AND the addition of the invitation to all the Gentiles of the world.  Also invited, in Luke’s parable are the poor, crippled, blind, and lame who Jesus grouped as those who recognize their need for salvation.

Please remember that we do not go through this “worldly” struggle alone.   God is always with us, giving us His grace when we are open to receiving.  As we struggle, we are promised an open “narrow” door as long as we maintain our faith and works – – for ourselves, others, and God!

 

“Prayer for Success in Work”

 

“Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my many sins; to work with thankfulness and joy, considering it an honor to employ and develop, by means of labor, the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, prudence and patience, never surrendering to weariness or difficulties; to work, above all, with purity of intention, and with detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account which I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success so fatal to the work of God.  All for Jesus, all for Mary, all after thy example, O Patriarch Joseph.  Such shall be my motto in life and death.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza (c. 1200-1271)

 

Dominicans honor one of their own today, Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza. This was a man who used his skills as a preacher to challenge the heresies of his day.

Bartholomew was born in Vicenza around 1200. At 20 he entered the Dominicans. Following his ordination he served in various leadership positions. As a young priest he founded a military order whose purpose was to keep civil peace in towns throughout Italy.

In 1248, Bartholomew was appointed a bishop. For most men, such an appointment is an honor and a tribute to their holiness and their demonstrated leadership skills. But for Bartholomew, it was a form of exile that had been urged by an antipapal group that was only too happy to see him leave for Cyprus. Not many years later, however, Bartholomew was transferred back to Vicenza. Despite the antipapal feelings that were still evident, he worked diligently—especially through his preaching—to rebuild his diocese and strengthen the people’s loyalty to Rome.

During his years as bishop in Cyprus, Bartholomew befriended King Louis the Ninth of France, who is said to have given the holy bishop a relic of Christ’s Crown of Thorns.

Bartholomew died in 1271. He was beatified in 1793.

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) Prologue to the 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).

 

“What Exactly Does a ‘Mustard Seed’ Look Like Anyway, & Who Grows Them; the Jews or the Gentiles. There is No Produce in Our Creeds?!” – Luke 13: 22-30†


The retreat I just attended the past three days was, for lack of a better word, AWESOME!!!  Spending three days with seventy-two Secular Franciscans and Friars (OFM) was very spiritually uplifting.  We prayed together, laughed together, played together, and experienced Gods presence in a very unique way.

Fr. Albert Haase, OFM was our retreat speaker.  He gave four presentations, with an additional Q&A session.  Everyone attending the retreat believed he was actually talking about THEIR respective lives, in his talks on the “Spiritual Journey.”  With his unique combination of childhood rearing in New Orleans, and spending many years on the upper east coast, he has a very distinguished Arcadian-New Jersey accent. 

I want to thank him again.  He is a very dynamic, funny, spiritual, and captivating speaker.  If you ever get a chance to attend a presentation of his, DO IT!!

 

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

   
†  1241 – Death of Gregory IX, Italian religious leader, 178th Pope (b. c. 1143)
†  1280 – Death of Nicholas III, Italian religious leader, 188th Pope (b. c. 1216)
†  1679 – Birth of Pierre †  Guérin de Tencin, French cardinal (d. 1758)
†  1760 – Birth of Pope Leo XII (d. 1829)
†  1914 – Death of Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi bishop of Bergamo
†  Roman Catholic Feast – Mary Queen of angels, Immaculate Heart

 

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

Here is a little known fact about the Mustard Seed:

 

If you plant tomatoes close to jalapenos, you will get hot tomatoes.  Many other plants & vegetables cannot grow around certain types of other plants or vegetables because they take on the characteristics of what they are around. However, a mustard tree can be grown around anything, as it is not affected by its surroundings!  You could plant a mustard seed right on top of a jalapeno seed & it will grow completely unaffected by the jalapeno.

  

Reading scripture again brings a new understanding.  It isn’t so much on how “small” the mustard seed is, but rather that the mustard seed is unaffected by its surroundings, environment, or what conditions may be present!  Therefore, so should our faith, “be like unto the mustard seed.”  Faith that is like unto the mustard seed is unmovable, non-doubting, & steadfast.  Just Believe!

From http://my.opera.com

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about the parable of the “narrow door,” and faith and relationship with God.

 

 

22 Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”  (NAB Luke 13: 22-30)

 

Today’s Gospel reading is the third of three parables (the others are described later in this reflection) in chapter 13 of Luke’s Gospel that deals with the theme of the unexpected reversals brought by the Kingdom of God.  The other two parables are about the tiny mustard seed that grows into a large bush, and the small amount of yeast that makes a large batch of dough rise.  All three parables are about the “few and the many,” in relation to the Kingdom of God.

As the parable in today’s Gospel reading opens, Luke reminds us that Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem.  This journey, this “exodus” as Luke refers to it, makes up the entire middle of his Gospel.  Jesus teaches as he goes to His ultimate destination, Jerusalem.  

A question from the crowd gives Jesus the chance to make a prophetic statement.  Luke uses this type of question device a number of times in his Gospel.  A few weeks ago, the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” led to the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The question about “only a few will be saved” today uses typical Christian language about salvation, but also expresses the Jewish concern about whether everyone who calls himself a Jew is actually faithful to the covenant.  

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  What a direct, challenging, and difficult question.  Jesus gave an equally direct and very challenging answer in this Gospel reading.  Salvation is something we have to take seriously.  We have to hold our faith, internally and externally, each and every day of our lives.  St. Augustine once said that God created us without our help, BUT, He will not save us without our help!  We have a major part to play in letting redemption make a way into our hearts, minds, and souls. 

These sayings of Jesus in today’s Gospel, follows upon the two parables of the kingdom in Luke 13:18-21, —“Then he said, “What is the kingdom of God like?  To what can I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and ‘the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.'”  Again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened,” — and are used to illustrate the future proportions of the kingdom of God that will result from its small beginning in the preaching and healing ministry of Jesus.  Nothing will stand in the way of Jesus’ part in fulfilling God’s will, and in establishing the kingdom through His actions such as teaching, exorcisms, and healings.

One must remember that Jerusalem is the city of destiny and the goal of the journey for Jesus Christ on earth.  Only when he reaches this “holy city” will his work be accomplished.  (Trivia time:  the word “Jerusalem” translates to “city of peace.”)

Jesus answers that they (and we) must strive in the time we have remaining on earth, to enter through that the narrow door of faith and trust in Him.  Many will be trying to get in, but won’t be strong enough [in faith or trust].  Jesus then shifts to a parable about another door. (The translation actually says “gate,” then “door,” although the same Greek word is used.)  Once all those entering the master’s house are in and he locks the door, there will be no way for others to enter.  Those outside the door (the kingdom of God) may knock, but the master will say he doesn’t know them.  God will deny even knowing them; they will be like strangers to Him.  Unlike the Gospel reading from a few weeks ago where Jesus was teaching about prayer, and we were told to knock and the door would be opened, in this parable the master will not open, and will say he does not know those outside.  People from other places than the Jewish people of Jerusalem will take our place inside.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, Jesus says, will take our place with others in the Kingdom of God.  Those who do not make it through this “narrow door” will be cast out to where there is wailing and grinding of teeth – eternal agony without love of any kind!

The gate to Jerusalem, in reality, was supposedly a very narrow doorway.  Apparently, in order to go through the gate to the temple courtyard, camels had to have all baggage removed to squeeze through.  By saying the gate is narrow; Jesus is saying a great effort is required for entrance into the kingdom, and the urgency to accept the present opportunity to enter the kingdom because the “narrow door” will not remain open indefinitely.  Get rid of your baggage and step over that threshold NOW, before it is too late!

By rejecting Jesus and his message, His Jewish “contemporaries” place at the table for the feast in God’s kingdom, will be taken by Gentiles from the four corners of the world.  Those called last (the Gentiles) will precede those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended (the Jewish people).

The image of the door is replaced in the final verses of today’s parable with the image of a heavenly banquet.  Two passages from the Book of Isaiah influence the conclusion of this story.  Isaiah 43:5-6 speaks of God bringing Israel’s descendents back from the east and from the west, the north and the south.  And Isaiah 25:6 speaks of the Lord providing a feast of rich foods and choice wines for all peoples on His Holy Mountain.  The answer to the question “if only a few will be saved” is NO.  In the end many will be saved, but many who thought they would be saved will not be saved.  The parable is a prophetic warning to repent, in order to enter the kingdom.  Oh, how I wish the faithful would grasp hold of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and treasure it for the heavenly grace that it is!

In Luke 14:15-24, — the parable about the invited dinner guests not coming to the banquet, so the master sent his servants out to the streets to get people for the banquet — the story of the “great dinner” is a further illustration of the rejection of Jesus by Israel, who is God’s “chosen” people.  In doing so, Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet of the kingdom and the extension of the invitation to others, such as the Gentiles, who recognize their need for salvation, is exemplified.

 Another similar parable is found in Matthew 22:1-10, a story about a king who gave a wedding feast.  The invited refused to come, not once but TWICE; and going as far as killing some of the servants sent by the king to invite the people.  The king sent troops to destroy and burn their cities, and kill the offenders.  Afterwards, the king sent out servants to the streets inviting anyone they came across, bad and good alike to the banquet, thus filling the hall with guests. 

In this parable, this story, are many symbolic traits by Matthew, instead of Luke.  The burning of the cities of the guests that refused the invitation corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.  The parable ends by presenting the kingdom in a two-fold expression of faith.  The first expression is a kingdom that is already present and that can be entered here and now.  The second being one that will be possessed only by those who can stand the scrutiny of the final judgment, during the Perugia.  

We all take advantage of certain days throughout the year to celebrate individuals and to make sure that they know that they are not taken for granted.  Birthdays, anniversaries, religious and secular holidays, and so on.  These days are intended to express appreciation in a special way, but are not meant to replace the appreciation and love that we should always show one another.  

We are also guilty of taking one another for granted from time to time (and maybe even daily).  In today’s Gospel, Jesus told us a story about some people who took something for granted and then paid a very heavy price.  He is warning us not to assume that we will have eternal life in heaven, and not to take HIS invitation for granted.

The question for all of us to reflect on is whether we have Jesus first in our lives, and in our priorities.  Are we taking the time to let Him minister to us: to advocate, comfort, and care for us, every day of our lives.  The “creed” we say at every Mass IS the statement of our Catholic faith.  We must place our faith and trust in all the truths that this creed proclaims, without any uncertain or optional requisites.  One cannot pick and choose which tenants of Catholicism to believe and practice, in order to be Catholic!

Every day of our lives, we need to make it an essential element of our time, to make our own personal confession of faith, based on the truths of the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed.  I find the best time is in the evening, just prior to going to bed.  I simply review the days happenings, and my thoughts and actions; then ask God for forgiveness of any errors in my day, and for the ability (through the help of the Holy Spirit) to not repeat them. 

We need to open our hearts to these truths in the creed daily, so we can place our faith in them more and more.  From a tiny mustard seed, a might bush will grow!  Let us all show appreciation for one another today, and in the days ahead.  Let us strive to NOT take for granted any of the many things others do for us.

 

 

“Faith of a Mustard Seed”

 

 

“Lord, I know that faith is a powerful force.  By our faith we allow the Holy Spirit to reside in us, to teach us, and to guide us.  Without faith the Paraclete cannot live in and through us, and we would be as people of just this world instead of your kingdom.  It is written in Sacred Scripture that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing is impossible.  Please allow my faith to grow into a mighty tree, so that I may harvest a huge bounty to share with you and others.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Queenship of Mary

    

Pius XII established this feast in 1954. But Mary’s queenship has roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship. We can also recall that in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in court.

In the fourth century St. Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and “Queen” and Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.” The Dominican rosary and the Franciscan crown as well as numerous invocations in Mary’s litany celebrate her queenship.

The feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In his encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, Pius XII points out that Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection and because of her intercessory power.

Comment:

As St. Paul suggests in Romans 8:28–30, God has predestined human beings from all eternity to share the image of his Son. All the more was Mary predestined to be the mother of Jesus. As Jesus was to be king of all creation, Mary, in dependence on Jesus, was to be queen. All other titles to queenship derive from this eternal intention of God. As Jesus exercised his kingship on earth by serving his Father and his fellow human beings, so did Mary exercise her queenship. As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king till the end of time (Matthew 28:20), so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth.

Quote:

“Let the entire body of the faithful pour forth persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men. Let them implore that she who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers may now, exalted as she is in heaven above all the saints and angels, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints. May she do so until all the peoples of the human family, whether they are honored with the name of Christian or whether they still do not know their Savior, are happily gathered together in peace and harmony into the one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 69).

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 #22 of 26:

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

 

“Heaven is the Ultimate “Equal Opportunity” Crowd!” – Mt 20:1-16†


Going to the Chapel, and I’m Going to Get, Umm, – “retreated.”  Yep, I am going on our Franciscan (SFO) annual retreat this weekend.  So, I may be a little late in posting a reflection on Sunday, but it will get done.  If there are any intentions, please be comforted that I intend to pray for any of your intentions (this sentence is close to a “department of repetition department” sentence).  Pax  [PS – Please pray for good weather]

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   849 – Death of Walafrid Strabo, German monk and theologian
†  1503 – Death of Pope Alexander VI (b. 1431)
†  1559 – Death of Pope Paul IV (b. 1476)
†  1579 – Birth of Charlotte Flandrina of Nassau, Roman Catholic nun (died 1640)
†  1596 – Birth of Jean Bolland, Flemish Jesuit writer (d. 1665)
†  1857 – Birth of Libert H. Boeynaems, Belgian Catholic prelate (d. 1926)
†  1952 – Death of Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, Chilean Jesuit saint (b. 1901)

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

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Forbidden fruits create many jams.

  

Today’s reflection is about the landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day, and paid all the same.

 

1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2 After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3 Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  5 So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  6 Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  7 They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’  8 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  9 When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  10 So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  11 And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  13 He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  15 (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’  16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  (NAB Mt 20:1-16)

 

With the unemployment rate the way it is in this country, today’s Gospel reading probably hits home with most of us, and in a very unique and special way.  So many homes have been affected by the devastation of jobs being eliminated and/or moved to third-world countries where labor is so much less than in the United States.

This parable is about a landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day and then paying all the laborers the same wage.  It is difficult to know whether he actually composed it, or received it as part of his education and faith formation.  If the latter, what was the original reference?  In its present context, it is closely association with Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”   

Why does the landowner go find and hire laborers throughout the day.  As I believe in simple answers, I think it is because he doesn’t want to leave out anyone willing to work.  This landowner definitely had compassion for the others around him.  In a sense, he was walking in Jesus’ footsteps.  Too bad the laborers that were hired first did not grasp the landowner’s outlook on society, on life in general, on Christian business principles, and on kindness to others around them. 

Different interpretations, in my understanding, have been given to the verse about the first being last and the last being first.  In view of Matthew’s associating it with today’s parable, and then substantially repeating it, but in its reverse order at the end of the parable (verse 16), probably means that all who respond to the call of Jesus at whatever time (first or last), will be inheriting the benefits of the kingdom: the gift of God.  In other words, Matthew is suggesting through Jesus’ parable, that the equality of all the disciples is in the reward of inheriting eternal life.

When the landowner said to the laborers (verse 4), “What is just,” I recognized that he did not actually saying what they would be paid as a wage.  Although the wage was not stipulated, it is clear to the reader that it would be a fair wage for the amount of time worked.  I, as most people would have assumed, believed that these and the subsequent would-be hires for the day would be paid less.  But in God’s Kingdom there are no differences, no prejudices, and no separations.  All in heaven are joyful, pure, and perfected before the throne of God.

Verse 8, Beginning with the last . . . the first” is the catalysis that open this story to a potentially controversial discussion and various opinions.  This particular aspect of the story has no other purpose that I can see, other than to show how the first laborers knew what the last laborers were paid (verse 12).

In verse 13, the landowner says two distinctive articles or phrases, “My friend,” and “I am not cheating you.” In calling the laborers his friend, he is expressing a caring for that individual, and that he wished a type of special relationship with that individual.  He further stresses that he was not treating anyone unjustly.  He only asked for the laborer to perform a certain function, and then paid him what he promised.  This landowner’s relationship with another individual should be of no concern to anyone else.  The landowner gave to the laborer what he promised him.

This reflection on the above paragraph makes me think about something my Spiritual Director had to say one day.  We were talking about the graces and talents each of us are given.  He pointed out the two coffee cups on our table, one small and one much larger.  He said that when each cup is totally full – they are totally full and can hold no more.  That is how graces and talents are with us.  We can be totally full of grace, and though one of our “cups” is larger than the other, it makes no difference – both are totally full of grace!  Can the “cup” get larger?  Definitely, but it makes no difference on what God can give; He gives us all we can hold! 

The laborers, at first sight, had an appropriate grievance against the landowner. They worked more, so they deserved more than those that only worked a “few” hours and not all day, even if it meant that their fellow co-workers had to suffer.  In hindsight, and in consideration of today’s economic environment, they (and we) need to see things from another viewpoint.  They received something else that day besides the “fair” wage: they received a JOB!  These laborers were bringing home money to their families.

Everyone needs to look at this situation in today’s Gospel from the viewpoint of the last laborers to be hired for that day.  Standing on that street all day, without any income had to be a major stressor.  Their concerns for their family’s welfare had to weigh heavy on their minds.  What a cross to carry for them.  For most of the day, they worried how they were going to feed and clothe their loved one’s (not to mention college educations).  Then this stranger, at the end of the day, offers them a job.  How excited and relieved do you think those men were?  Do you think they were appreciative workers, doing their best?  When we say that something is “unfair,” please take a second look, as it may very well not only be fair, but the Christian thing to do!

God asks of us to do certain things, and if we do them we will be compensated with what He has promised.  Others may be asked to certain things differently, and the truly lucky ones are going to be asked to do more.  Yep, those of us that have arrived early, and are affected by the grace of our Lord, are given more graces to share. 

Grace is like that elusive mustard seed found often in bible parables: it starts as a small, nearly invisible seed on our soul.  With care and love, it grows to engulf (in a very good way) our soul, faith, and our relationships with other.  Those that find the redemption and salvation of God’s promise, through the Sacrament of the Anointing while on their deathbed, will not have enough time to nurture a huge tree of graces like those that others may grow over many years, but will still have the same bounty as all others.  There is NO difference in the eternal joy and magnificence of being in the presence of our Lord Jesus, and His (and our) beautiful Mother, Mary.  Heaven is the ultimate “Equal Opportunity” crowd.

The landowner’s conduct of hiring throughout the day involves no violation of law, justice, or gratitude towards any of the laborers.  His only “problem per-se” was having the virtue of generosity towards the later hires.  In my belief, virtues are a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent and valued as a foundation for principles of life, and good morality and ethics in decisions.  Virtues promote the individual and collective societies well being.

The laborers resentment over the “fair” wage is a sin of vice: it is “envy.”  Envy is a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, and so on.  In other words, the laborers are breaking the 10th Commandment: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property.”  Envy is a deadly, capital, or cardinal sin (depending on which catechism you read).  Envy is not a light matter; it is a “mortal” sin that destroys the life of grace, and creates a threat of eternal damnation in hell to the individual, if un-repented.

Until recently, I thought the landowner was totally unfair to the early risers; the ones that were willing to get to work early.  Upon meditation and reflection, I have realized that this “unfairness” was certainly not the case at all.  Regardless of the individual situations any of these workers may have had, the landowner treated each and every one on a fair, equal, and loving basis. 

Many of us have been given more than we need in life.  In comparison to the extreme and devastating poverty in many parts of the world, we actually live as royalty.  How generous are we with what we have earned or been given.  On a daily basis, we are given many opportunities to share what we have with others.  This sharing does not only mean materialistic items; it also means our spiritual wealth as well, through prayers and kindness to the others we meet.

God wants to treat each of us as the landowner did.  In Matthew 20:7, it is written, “You too go into my vineyard.  “Any of us who responds to Jesus’ call, and each of us has a distinct and unique calling, regardless of the time (first or last) in our lives, will receive “the same” in inheriting all the benefits of God’s kingdom.  And please do not forget that heaven is a grace in itself; a gift of God.

 

“Prayer after Confession”

 

“O almighty and most merciful God, I give You thanks with all the powers of my soul for this and all other mercies, graces, and blessings bestowed on me, and prostrating myself at Your sacred feet, I offer myself to be henceforth forever Yours.  Let nothing in life or death ever separates me from You!  I renounce with my whole soul all my treasons against You, and all the abominations and sins of my past life.  I renew my promises made in Baptism, and from this moment I dedicate myself eternally to Your love and service.  Grant that for the time to come, I may detest sin more than death itself, and avoid all such occasions and companies as have unhappily brought me to it.  This I resolve to do by the aid of Your divine grace, without which I can do nothing. Amen.”

From Catholic Prayers Website
http://www.yenra.com/catholic/prayers

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jane Frances de Chantal (1562-1641)

 

Jane Frances was wife, mother, nun and founder of a religious community. Her mother died when Jane was 18 months old, and her father, head of parliament at Dijon, France, became the main influence on her education. She developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, lively and cheerful in temperament. At 21 she married Baron de Chantal, by whom she had six children, three of whom died in infancy. At her castle she restored the custom of daily Mass, and was seriously engaged in various charitable works.

Jane’s husband was killed after seven years of marriage, and she sank into deep dejection for four months at her family home. Her father-in-law threatened to disinherit her children if she did not return to his home. He was then 75, vain, fierce and extravagant. Jane Frances managed to remain cheerful in spite of him and his insolent housekeeper.

When she was 32, she met St. Francis de Sales (October 24), who became her spiritual director, softening some of the severities imposed by her former director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to defer this decision. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.

After three years Francis told her of his plan to found an institute of women which would be a haven for those whose health, age or other considerations barred them from entering the already established communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation (hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness.

The usual opposition to women in active ministry arose and Francis de Sales was obliged to make it a cloistered community following the Rule of St. Augustine. Francis wrote his famous Treatise on the Love of God for them. The congregation (three women) began when Jane Frances was 45. She underwent great sufferings: Francis de Sales died; her son was killed; a plague ravaged France; her daughter-in-law and son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the plague and she put all her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick.

During a part of her religious life, she had to undergo great trials of the spirit—interior anguish, darkness and spiritual dryness. She died while on a visitation of convents of the community.

Comment:

It may strike some as unusual that a saint should be subject to spiritual dryness, darkness, interior anguish. We tend to think that such things are the usual condition of “ordinary” sinful people. Some of our lack of spiritual liveliness may indeed be our fault. But the life of faith is still one that is lived in trust, and sometimes the darkness is so great that trust is pressed to its limit.

Quote:

St. Vincent de Paul (September 27) said of Jane Frances: “She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself…But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

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 #18 of 26:

 


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.