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♫“‘Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Jesus-Son Gone? Oh Where, Oh Where Can He Be?’ ♫ – – Well, He’s In the Temple, Listening And Asking!!” – Luke 2:41-52†


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Feast of the Holy Family:
Jesus, Mary, & Joseph

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For January 2013. pencil

 

Pope Benedict illustrationFor the faith of Christians: that in this Year of Faith, Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in Him.

For Middle-Eastern Christians: that the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.

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Mike depue, OFS is a dear friend of mine, a brother in the  Secular Franciscan Order, and the St. Clare OFS Region’s JPIC Coordinator.  He wrote this beautiful piece on the Christmas “Caroling” tradition.  Surprising (to me), Christmas Caroling was started by St. Francis and other Franciscans.  I hope you enjoy this bit of historical CHRISTmas trivia from Mike:

Blessings to all!

Did you know that Francis of Assisi began the Christmas caroling tradition in the early 1200s?  Francis wanted people to be able to express their joy at Christmas by singing simple songs themselves, wherever they happened to be, such as in their own homes or even while walking around outside.  Francis also wanted to present the Christmas story in a way that ordinary singing-christmas-carolspeople could best understand.  Priests had been singing formal Christmas hymns in church worship services since AD 129, when a bishop called for a song called “Angel’s Hymn” to be featured in a Mass in Rome, Italy.  However, these Christmas hymns were in Latin, which wasn’t a commonly spoken language by the 1200s.  Francis decided to add religious lyrics to popular tunes of his time, creating the style of song called a Christmas carol.  The word “carol” derives from the French word “caroler,” which means “dancing around in a circle.”  It refers to the pagan tradition of people dancing around in a circle during the Winter Solstice.  Francis wanted people to express their joy in Christ in a similar, uninhibited style.

It was almost certainly through the Franciscans that Christmas carols came to the British Isles. The earliest extant English Christmas carol, “A child is boren” (given below), is found in a set of sermon notes written by a Franciscan friar before 1350.  Collections of poems produced by friars in Scotland in 1372 contain lullabies to the infant Jesus.

A child is boren” in the English of today:

Let us gather hand in hand / And sing of bliss without an end: / The Devil has fled from earthly land, / And Son of God is made our friend. / A Child is born in man’s abode, / And in that Child no blemish showed. / That Child is God, that Child is Man, / And in that Child our life began.

I wish you all a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

Mike [DePue] ofs

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Qu. thought2ote of the Day:

 

Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart?  Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you?  Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it.  Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able hear Him saying, “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor.  Never give up daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person – not just the idea. ~ Taken from When Did We See You, Lord?”  by Bishop Robert J. Baker & Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.

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Today’s reflection: The boy Jesus is found in the Temple, with the Temple teachers, listening and asking.  When was the last time you truly listened and asked? 

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(NAB Luke 2:41-52)  41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, 42 and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.  43 After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  44 Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.  46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, 47 and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.  48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Holy Family”.  We should place today’s Gospel in the context of what LFamily-12uke tells us about the birth of Jesus during.  Luke has been answering the question “Who is Jesus?” through his stories of the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (Chapters 1 & 2).  Today’s Gospel reading continues this same theme: “Who Jesus IS”.  

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are presented as a faithful Jewish family.  In today’s story, they are participating in the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the “Feast of Passover”, an event shared each year with family and friends.  When Jesus is 6ddfb299120a9ca051e900744975446afound, Luke describes Him as seated “in the Temple in the midst of the Jewish teachers”. Although He is young, Jesus seems to NOT need teaching about His Jewish religion and traditions.  In His dialogue with these “learned” teachers (Rabbi’s), Jesus “astounds” them with His insight and understanding.  This event was the important turning point in Jesus’ earthly life when He shifted the name “father” from Joseph, addressing it to God, His Father in heaven instead. 

With this Gospel reading, the infancy narrative ends – – just as it began – – in the setting of the Jerusalem Temple.  This particular story today, is about an incident from Jesus’ youth, and is unique in, and to, Luke’s Gospel.  Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel to report of Jesus being “lost in the temple”.  Thus, Luke assumes and presents Jesus in the role of a faithful Jewish boy, raised in the traditions of Israel, fulfilling all that the Mosaic Law requires of a boy His age for Him to become a Jewish “man”.  

Today’s story starts with the Holy Family in Jerusalem for the “Feast of the Passover”, a high holy day (days) in the Jewish religion:

Each year His parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when He [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom (Luke 2:41-42). 

This Jewish holy feast was prescribed from the time of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.  The reason for this feast wJesus_as_boy_jpg_w300h300as to remember and celebrating God’s interaction in the Jewish “chosen” people’s lives, allowing the Jewish faithful to escape their oppressive captivity:

You will keep this practice forever as a statute for yourselves and your descendants.  Thus, when you have entered the land which the LORD will give you as he promised, you must observe this rite.  When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice for the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he delivered our houses.’  Then the people knelt and bowed down” (Exodus 12:24–27);

And, also in Exodus, the time when this feast is to take place each year:

You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread.  As I have commanded you, you must eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for it was then that you came out of Egypt.  No one shall appear before me empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15);

Abib” is the time of the year, the name of the month, in which the barley harvest happened.  “Abib” translates to “ear of grain, or, ripe grain” and corresponds to our present months of March and April.  At a later time, the month of “Abib” became known as the Babylonian name of “Nisan” instead.

Only males aged 12 and over were required to make this yearly journey of faith.  This clearly puts Jesus at this age, since this is His first time going to Jerusalem for the feast.  How far did they have to travel? Well, Nazaretdirect-map-nazareth-to-jerusalem2h is about 60 miles from Jerusalem (in a straight line on a map).  However, with the “hilly” nature of the country, this trip would actually be about 85 miles.  This is definitely a long way to walk, especially for women and children, every year.

On pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the Jews used to travel in two linked-groups: one of men, followed closely by another of women.  Children could go with either group, probably depending on age and sex of the child.  No wonder Mary and Joseph travelled for a full day’s journey before discovering the child Jesus missing.  They probably “discovered” Him gone when regrouping to camp for the night, each thinking Jesus was with the other group.

Just try to imagine the anxiety and fear Mary and Joseph were experiesimpsons_scaredncing.  Mary certainly was crying, with both of them running to the various family camps, searching for, and inquiring about Jesus’ whereabouts in each of the camps; discovering He is NOWHERE to be found!  I personally have had the anguish of “losing” one of my kids for just a few minutes.  I cannot even imagine the fear of realizing a child of mine was left behind in a strange and very threatening environment of a “big city” like Jerusalem.  

Hmm, here’s a notion or thought for you about “concern for Jesus”.  The concern Mary and Joseph had in “looking for” Jesus might, and should, encourage each of us to personally, and always, seek out Jesus in our own daily lives.  This idea is especially true if we “lose” Him through our sins.

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Jesus was probably found in the courtyard area of the Temple; this is where the “teachers” – – the “rabbi’s” – – taught.  “Listeners” used to sit on the ground at their feet, asking questions, and responding to questions untitledasked of them.  The four “Rabbinic” ways of teaching are:

  • ·        exegesis” – – literal, plain teachings and interpretations; following “hints” in words, phrases, and other elements of truth;
  • ·        eisegesis” – – an allegorical or homiletical application of a text, searching or reading one’s own thoughts into the text, and then expounding on them;
  • ·        finding the “secret” “mystical or hidden meaning” of Jewish Scripture by using the numerical values of the Hebrew letters in Scripture, noting unusual spellings, by transposing letters, and so on;

And finally,

  • ·        through parables:
    • o   as an illustration to help grasp a concept or teaching;
    • o   as a “secret speech”, to deliberately minimize or conceal a concept;

and, 

  • o   as a rhetorical narrative in order to draw a parallel between a fictional story and one’s reality in life.    

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (CCC) says of Jesus’ teaching through parables and secrets:

“Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of ‘parables’, a characteristic feature of His teaching.  Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.  Words are not enough, deeds are required.  …  Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables.  One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to ‘know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.  For those who stay ‘outside’, everything remains enigmatic [mysterious]”  (CCC, paragraph 546).

One third of Jesus’ teachings consisted of parables.  It is importance for us to not only try to understand the “Rabbinic ways of teaching” – – especially the parables – – from OUR viewpoint, but to understand them in their cultural, historic and linguistic context of Jesus’ time as well.

So, Jesus was sitting at the Rabbi’s feet, listening, and asking questions.  However, His questions and answers attc06racted a great interest from the “teachers”!  Jesus was obviously well informed and well taught, in the eyes of these religious men.   If they only realized the truth about this “boy” sitting among them!!

Not only were the “teachers” astounded, so were Jesus’ parents when they saw Him sitting and conversing with the learned religious men:

When His parents saw Him, they were astonished” (Luke 2:48).

Ever since the Annunciation, Mary (and Joseph) knew that her (their) child, Jesus, WAS GOD!!  Mary’s pure and true faith is the foundational bedrock for her generous fidelity to00007803_h her Son, Jesus, throughout her entire life.  There was no reason for Mary to know every detail about the sacrifices Jesus – – her Son, her GOD – – would ask of HER!  Nor, did Mary have reason to know how Jesus Christ would go about His mission of redemption and salvation.  The revelation of Jesus’ mission would be “discovered” as time went by, and while living and contemplating her Son’s life, death, resurrection, and assumption as it happened, and remembered.

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Mary and Joseph asked Jesus why He stayed behind when their group departed for Nazareth:

Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48). 

Iuntitleda am pretty sure I would NOT have been as stoic (showing patience and endurance) as Mary and Joseph was upon finding MY son, in this situation.  If my twelve year son purposely stayed behind, and not told anyone, I probably would have been augmenting my questions with unique “actions” as well: first, a hug and kiss – – then, “something else”. 

Jesus’ reply is His explanation of why he did such a “foolish” thing:

Why were you looking for meDid you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

These are the very first “Words” Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel.  In His saying, “I must be in my Father’s house”, Jesus is referring to God the Father as HIS Father!!  It also shows Jesus’ divine “Sonship”, His defirstwordsforiphonetermination, and His obedience to fulfilling His Eternal Father’s “will”; a “Sonship” which will take precedence over His ties to His earthly family.  Jesus does not chastise Mary and Joseph for searching for Him.  But He does raise their attention, their souls, to understanding and appreciating what He owes to His Eternal Father, whose Eternal Son – – He is!!  Jesus’ parents must have realized that His reply contained a deeper meaning they could not grasp (at that time):

But they did not understand what he said to them” (Luke 2:50).

They did grow to understand the revelation of their Son’s life, as it unfolded – – as it was revealed – – before their eyes.  Mary and Joseph’s faith, and their reverence to their incarnated child, led them to not ask any further questions.  Instead, they “reflected” Jesus’ “Words” and “actions” in this occurrence, and as they will d7%20Sorrowso on many other occasions in His and their lives:

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

Jesus, in His youth, recognized He had been given a “call” by His heavenly Father.  While Jesus recognized His unique call, He, nonetheless, submitted Himself – – with love and obedience – – to Joseph and Mary, waiting for the time when His “call” would be fulfilled.  

Our Heavenly Father also calls each of us to a unique task and mission in this earthly life.  We may not discover or understand it fully, but if we cooperate with God, He will use us for His righteous purpose and plan.  With any call, God also gives a grace – – a grace to say “yes” to His will, and a grace to persevere through any obstacles and trials we encounter.  It is truly an awesome feeling to recognize God’s “call” in one’s life.  It is also an awesome feeling to trust in His grace.  Give it a try the next time He “calls” YOU!!  I cannot even describe the AWE and JOY of answering His calling!!

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Today’s Gospel sums up Jesus’ life in Nazareth in a few simple words of the second to last verse:

[He] was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51).

Jesus, the “Second Person” of the Holy Trinity, came to earth to “obey” God tlove-obey1he Father – – and to obey His earthly “beings”, though Mary and Joseph are very special “beings” indeed!  We have to love God so as to love His will and desire in responding to His calls.  God’s will and desire comes to us through our ordinary daily duties: family, friends, work, private, public.  His will and desire come to us through our own – – and other’s – – difficulties and relationships, and in our eagerness to do what is right and just in life.

ThJesusGrewe final verse of today’s reading is insightfully interesting for me:

And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52).

A similar phrase, “growing in spirit”, is used two times in Luke’s Gospel:

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

The child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).

Luke is the only Gospel writer to connect John the Baptist – – who also “grew in age and favor” – – establishing John’s early direct-relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.  The key element in these three verses above is that both of these two great “beings” grew in age, spirit, wisdom, and favor before God the Father.  I personally believe we can also add Mary and Joseph to this extremely unique twosome of people – – models for how to live a “Christ-like” life.

Jesus lived like other people in Nazareth, working in the same trade as His “earthly” father, Joseph.  Just as any other tradesman, Jesus learned His living by the “sweat of His browthehomelifeofjesusluke2-51”.  Details of Jesus’ life are blank – – to us – – for nearly twenty years.  However, Jesus’ ENTIRE life is an example of how to be a Christian.  We are to sanction – – to SANCTIFY – – our unique and individual vocations, our paths in life, through years of our quiet, often humdrum, and mostly unspectacular living – – in, with, and through Him!  Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God has forgotten about any of us.  Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God hasn’t called you or me for an important role in His kingdom.  God wants us to know that each of us, in our own personal vocations, professions, and talents, are not absent from His divine plan.  Instead, with God – – in our lives – – has sanctified them, making them a more acceptable offering to Him.  WOW!!

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T. summarize titlehe dialogue between Mary and Jesus contains many references to family relationships.  Interestingly Mary and Joseph are never identified by name.  (I bet you didn’t catch this fact.)  Instead, they are referred to by their relationship to Jesus.  Ultimately, this style of writing emphasizes Luke’s point about the identity of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is asked a poiwords-hurt-feelingsnted question, “Why?”  Jesus responds with an equally pointed response, “I must be!”  Jesus did not intend to cause his mother and step-father any distress.  However, His actions most-likely provoked that type of response.  When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, they question Jesus, expressing their anxiety.  Jesus replies in “Words” that many of us may believe to be disrespectful.  Jesus, in fact, is saying He was never lost; He is God’s Son; and He was at home in God’s “house”.  Luke will continue throughout His Gospel to suggest that faith in Jesus establishes “new” family relationships as He describes Jesus’ public ministry in his later chapters.  Luke is also telling us, through his Gospel, that Mary’s importance is even greater than her role as Jesus’ mother.  Remember, Mary is the first disciple, also present with Jesus’ other disciples after His Resurrection at Pentecost.

In the Holy Family, we see the face of God’s love.  As Jesus told us – – and as my Order’s founder, Saint Francis of Assjs2isi lived – – we need to see the face of God in every single person we encounter, not just in the one’s we love.  If we see fear instead of love in others who are different from us, we are not seeing God!!  

We need to be in the presence of God every second of every minute of every day, not just for one hour on Sundays, and not just with people who are like us.  If we do not see the face of God in the marginalized – – the sick, the homeless person, the unborn child – – then God will not dwell within us.  Others will look at us, seeing fear instead of God’s love.

So, let us sing with great joy (Re-JOY-SING) at the celebration of the our Lord’s birth and the gift of the Holy Family to each of us, who are inviting each us into God’s – – HIS – –  family forever and ever.  Let us also renew our commitment, on a daily basis, to do as Jesus told us: to take up our cross and follow Him.  Let EVERYONE who sees us see also the face of God, knowing His love through us.

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T. conclusionoday’s Gospel describes a time of anxiety in the life of Jesus’ family.  We can imagine their panic and worry as Mary and Joseph discoveJesus in the temple discussing his Father's business Luke 2:46-49red Jesus was not with the caravan of people returning to Nazareth.  The Holy Family journeyed with family members and friends because traveling alone was dangerous.  When they found Jesus at the Temple, it appears Jesus spoke like a typical adolescent, unsympathetic to His parents’ concern.  But, His “Words” teach an important lesson about reducing anxiety in our family life.  In essence, Jesus says to them:

“If you had remembered who I am, you would have known where to find me.”

In their panic, Mary and Joseph had forgotten what had been told to them before Jesus’ birth, their son was the Son of God.  Knowing a person well helps reduce our anxieties for them because we can better predict how they will behave, and we know their capacity to handle the challenges that life might present to them.

Recall times when you learned something, even something trivial, about your close friend and/or family members.  Recall times when YOU told others something which possibly “startled” or “surprised” them.  Now, recall how you felt in each of these “revealing” “revelations”. 

Torange_man_thinking_questionake what you have learned from this simple exercise you just reflected on, and reread the questions and answers in today’s Gospel, placing yourself in the roles of the one asking AND the one being asked: 

Son, why have you done this to us?”  (Luke 2:48);

Why were you looking for me?”  (Luke 2:49);

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  (Luke 2:49).

Hmm, the one thing about “true” relationships is that we come to eventually learn to know each other well.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

A Relationship Prayer

 

“Lord, teach me how to love in a way that would be pleasing to You.  Open my eyes and heart so as to be receptive to the needs in my life, and not just for my wants.

Grant me wisdom, direction, purpose, confidence, discernment, and any other tool n06-07-buildingrelationships[1]eeded by me for this great journey with, in, and through You.  Wipe away any and all fears, tears, and doubts, created by my sometimes tumultuous relationship past.

Create in me a new heart filled with a deep and abiding love for You above all else, then for others, and finally for myself.  When the right person comes along, bless me with clarity of vision to see that this is indeed the right person for me.  When this person does come, I will never forget who made it all possible.  In each day, I will strive to exhibit a love that would make You proud.

With a fullness of heart, and a sincerity in my spirit, I ask this all in your name.  Amen.”

Based on a prayer at the following website:
http://www.flyguychronicles.com/2011/02/a-relationship-prayer/

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♫“Mary, Did You Know …?♫ Heck Yes, She Knew! – – Kinda!!” – Luke 1:46-56†


 

Two Days till CHRIST@mas.  I pray all have a blessed and specially unique day of joy and celebration.

 

 

 

 

In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice, sometimes known as “Yule”, occurs on or very close to this date. In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs around this time.

  

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   401 – St Innocent I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   795 – Leo III succeeds pope Adrianus I
†  1216 – Pope Honorius III delegates degree “Religiosam vitam eligentibus” announcing the Fifth Crusade.
†   1642 – Pope Urbanus VIII publishes degree “In eminente”
†   1419 – Death of John XXIII, [Baldassare Cossa], Italian Antipope (1410-15)
†   1815 – Spaniards execute Mexican revolutionary priest Jose Maria Morelos at San Cristóbal Ecatepec, State of México
†   1885 – Pope Leo XIII proclaims extraordinary jubilee
†   1945 – Utrecht (Netherlands): Catholic People’s party (KVP) established
†   1917 – Death of Mother Cabrini, first American citizen canonized by the Catholic Church (b. 1850)
†   1917 – Death Francesca Saveria Cabrini, US saint/patron of immigrant, at 67 years of age
†   1997 – Attendees at a prayer meeting of Roman Catholic activists for indigenous causes in the small village of Acteal in the Mexican state of Chiapas are massacred by paramilitary forces.
†   Feasts/Memorials: commemoration of Frances Xavier Cabrini; O Rex; Anastasia of Sirmium

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

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

The Franciscan vision is transformational, demanding change and conversion in its adherents, following the example of Saints Francis and Clare.

 

“A favorite saying of St. Francis was, ‘Let us begin for up till now we have done nothing.’  Francis saw his entire life as a continuing conversion into the vision of God, whom he saw as a loving parent.  Francis saw his life as a continuous conversion from sin to a life lived in gratitude for God’s love.  Many described the conversion of Clare from ‘the good to the better.’  The Franciscan life today remains one of on-going conversion.  There is always an unfinished quality to this conversion until we enter into the Reign of God.”

He gleamed like a shining star in the darkness of night and like the morning spread over the darkness.  Thus, in a short time, the appearance of the entire region was changed and, once rid of its earlier ugliness; it revealed a happier expression everywhere.” – Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis, 37

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

A little boy was listening to a long and excessively boring sermon in church. Suddenly, the red sanctuary lamp caught his eye.  Tugging his father’s sleeve, he said, “Daddy, when the light turns green can we go?”

 

 

Today’s reflection is about the “Canticle of Mary”.

 

46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.  (NAB Luke 1:46-56)

 

Today’s reading reveals the presence and powers of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s, Elizabeth’s, John the Baptist’s, and even Hannah’s lives.  The circumstances leading to the birth of Jesus Christ miraculously unfurls before us during this and every Advent/Christmas Season.  We discover the prophecies, promises, hopes, songs, and prayers of the Old Testament truly being fulfilled in the “New” simply because:

God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son” (John 3:16).

Filled with the Holy Spirit, when Elizabeth and Mary greeted one another they were also filled with a joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise.  They are filled with the Holy Spirit bringing forth a “Messiah” through the virginal conception of Mary, in order to bring forth a “Savior” for all mankind!

Yet to be born himself, John the Baptist pointed to the revelation of the “Messiah’s” coming by “leaping for joy” in the womb of his mother Elizabeth (A true kick of faith).  The Holy Spirit revealed to John (while still in the womb himself) the presence of the Savior Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary.

Mary is admired, honored, and praised by Christians throughout the world for being the mother of the Lord (the Theotokos: the God-Bearer) in addition to her profound, unrelenting and uncompromising faith, obedience, and belief in our almighty God.  She acted with unwavering focus, trust, and faith because she believed and trusted that God would fulfill the word he had spoken.

In today’s Gospel reading, Mary responds as the servant in this psalm of praise directed from her – to the world, and universally titled – “the Magnificat”.  The Magnificat is said every day during the evening prayers of the Divine Office by priests, consecrated religious, and other faithful Catholics. 

Mary “dedicated” her Son to the service of God, which ultimately would lead Jesus to the “Holy Tree” of salvation for all of us.

 

There is actually no proof, no specific correlation of this canticle – (a song, chant, or hymn containing words derived from the Bible, used in the Christian liturgy) – to the circumstance of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth other than in Luke’s Gospel.  In reality, the Magnificat (excluding verse 48: “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”) may have been an early Jewish-Christian hymn or poem that Luke found appropriate for this part in his infancy narrative.

However, even if it was not composed by Luke, it definitely fits in with his other themes found throughout his Gospel: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; and the fulfillment of Old Testament promises and prophesies.  

 

Several “barren” women in Holy Scripture – – including Elizabeth, Hannah, (and the teenage Mary) – – became pregnant and gave birth to healthy children via God’s intervention.  They all rejoiced that God had chosen them – the humble and austere as a source of new life. 

Mary’s great canticle of praise repeats – in essence and fact – the “Song of Hannah” from the Old Testament (and the “Hannah” of today’s first reading at Mass):

“And as she worshiped the LORD, she said: “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in my God.  I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory.  There is no Holy One like the LORD; there in no Rock like our God.  “Speak boastfully no longer, nor let arrogance issue from your mouths.  For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who judges deeds.   The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering girds on strength.  The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry batten on spoil.  The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes.   “The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again.  The LORD makes poor and makes rich, he humbles, he also exalts.  He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage.  He gives to the vower his vow, and blesses the sleep of the just.  “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he has set the world upon them.  He will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness.  For not by strength does man prevail; the LORD’S foes shall be shattered.  The Most High in heaven thunders; the LORD Judges the ends of the earth, now may he gives strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!”  (1 Samuel 2:1-10)

The “Song of Hannah” strongly proclaims and extols the goodwill of the Lord.  God pays tribute to the lowly, fills the hungry, and guards the faithful.  Like Mary and Elizabeth, Hannah was without child.  God gave her the grace of bearing a son she named Samuel.  Hannah also “dedicated” Samuel to the service of the Lord at any early age:

“Once he was weaned, she brought him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.”  (1 Sam. 1:24.) 

God can never be outdone in gratitude and generosity.  For her piety, reverence, and trust, He rewarded the “once-barren” Hannah with five (5) more children: three (3) more sons, and two (2) daughters. (1 Samuel 2:21)

As mentioned already, Mary also “dedicated” her son – – Jesus Christ – – to the service of God!  Just as Mary, Elizabeth, and Hannah had the honor of giving birth and dedicating their sons to God’s service, we have the honor of bearing Jesus (along with John and Samuel as part of the celestial court) in our hearts, minds, and souls.  In these last days of Advent, and still in the process of preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ, open your eyes, hearts, and souls to each other.  Let the light of Christ shine on each of us.

Like these great and beautiful women of the Bible, we should offer back to God the greatest gift He could ever give us.  Offer to Him the first fruits of our lives in and through the Holy Spirit by our words, deeds, and thoughts.  At Mass, bring your “best” to the Lord.  Bring your FULL attention, your love, and even your worries and concerns.  Offer it all to Him during the Offertory part of the Mass (along with your envelope).  As Vinny Flynn so elegantly writes in his book, “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” (and as I am paraphrasing here), see God and the entire celestial court receiving your gifts and concerns with open arms, and even a warm smile and hug.  By doing this, you will receive even more blessings at communion.

 

A gift to all mankind, the Holy Spirit is God’s grace (in the third person of the Godhead) making possible for us to experience and know the infusing (and emanating) presence of God – – and the awesome power of His kingdom in heaven AND on earth.  The Holy Spirit is the way in which God lives eternally in and through each of us.

 

 

Prayer to the Holy Trinity

 

“Glory be to the Father,
Who by His almighty power and love created me,
making me in the image and likeness of God.

Glory be to the Son,
Who by His Precious Blood delivered me from hell,
and opened for me the gates of heaven.

Glory be to the Holy Spirit,
Who has sanctified me in the sacrament of Baptism,
and continues to sanctify me
by the graces I receive daily from His bounty.

Glory be to the Three adorable Persons of the Holy Trinity,
now and forever.  Amen”

http://catholic.org

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Jacopone da Todi (d. 1306)

 

Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi.  He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna.

His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband.  One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament.  She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed.  Vanna was killed.  Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness.  On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life.

He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order).  Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or “Crazy Jim,” by his former associates.  The name became dear to him.

After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor) (First Order).  Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused.  He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278.  He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest.  Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular.

Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans.  The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis.  They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V.  These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII.  At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned.  Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later.  He had accepted his imprisonment as penance.  He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping “because Love is not loved.”  During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, Stabat Mater.

On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near.  He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna.  Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed “Sister Death” with one of his favorite songs.  It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas.  From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.

Comment:

“Crazy Jim,” his contemporaries called Jacopone.  We might well echo their taunt, for what else can you say about a man who broke into song in the midst of all his troubles?  We still sing Jacopone’s saddest song, the Stabat Mater, but we Christians claim another song as our own, even when the daily headlines resound with discordant notes. Jacopone’s whole life rang our song out: “Alleluia!” May he inspire us to keep singing.

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

 
    

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

 

 

 

 

“Your House or Mine – God Doesn’t Care!” – Luke 1:39-56†


Today is the “Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Our Mother” to Heaven; Body & Soul. 

 

Today’s feast celebrates Mary’s Assumption into heaven, defined as dogma in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. “Dogma” is an article of faith that has been revealed by God, which the Magisterium of the Catholic Church presents to be believed by all the faithful. This dogma teaches that Mary was truly assumed body, blood, soul, and humanity into the glory and magnificence of the “third” heaven.  (2 Cor 12:2 and 1 Peter 3:22)

It is one of three feasts of Mary that are Holy Days of Obligation  for Roman Catholics in the United States; though “Holy Day of Obligation” is a term, I believe, most Catholics in the U.S. have removed from their vocabulary.  The other “Marian” Holy Days of Obligation are January 1st: the feast of “Mary, Mother of God,” and December 8th: the feast of the “Immaculate Conception of Mary (not Jesus).”

 

 

Next weekend I will be on a retreat with my brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order.  I will pray for all your intentions, during this spiritually awesome time for me.  As you can tell, I in no way consider retreats as a “chore.”  I truly love encountering Christ in many, and diversified ways.  Hopefully, I will be able to post a reflection next Sunday, but it may be a little later in the day or evening.  Pax et Bonum.

 

 

Today is also my birthday [of sorts]. In renewing a solemn pledge: a “Total Consecration to Jesus, through Mary,” I made a spiritual rebirth.  Today is the beginning of a renewed chapter in my life.  By imitating Mary, I can say, “May it be done according to your will!”  What are the wonderful effects of this devotion on my soul?  They are:

†       “First, through the Holy Spirit, Mary will convey to me a portion of her profound humility.

†       Second, Our Blessed Lady also will give me a portion of her faith, which was the greatest of all faiths ever on this earth. 

†       Third, this Mother of fair love will take away from my heart all scruple disorder of servile fear. 

†       Fourth, Our Blessed Lady will fill me with a great confidence in God, and in herself.  I will not be approaching Jesus by myself, but always by that good Mother. 

†       Fifth, the soul of our Blessed Lady will impart itself to me, to glorify the Lord.  Her spirit will enter into my spirit to rejoice in God. 

†       Sixth, Mary will bear fruit in her own time, and her fruit is none other than Jesus Christ. 

†       And seventh, I gave Jesus more glory in a month, than by any other practice, however difficult, in many years.”  WOW!!!

From the devotion itself

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

A friend is someone who thinks you’re a good egg even though you’re slightly cracked.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Mary’s Visit with Elizabeth.

 

 

39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.  (NAB Luke 1:39-56)

 

 

The Gospel for today reminds us that Mary’s Assumption into heaven might be best understood as a real experience and preview of the “Parousia” (see last Sunday’s reflection).  This view covers the full realm of Catholic beliefs about the uniquely human and divine person of Jesus Christ, truly human, and the relationship of His whole family, beginning with His mother.  For me, this understanding, or way of looking at the supernatural gift of Mary’s Assumption brings about an abounding and thriving meaning of God’s introduction of His Son, Jesus to the world and to His own Israel, through Mary, for my (and your) personal salvation. This is so strong that Luke actually interprets it TWICE in Mary’s Canticle, in today’s Gospel reading.  The first interpretation we find in verses 1:39-45; and the second is in verses 1:46-56.  The first introduction of Jesus is two-fold: (1) in Mary’s physical traveling to visit Elizabeth and her words of greeting on arrival at Elizabeth’s home; and (2) in Elizabeth’s reaction, her words, and the physical action of Elizabeth’s baby leaping for joy, while still in the womb.  The two mothers-to-be come together to praise a God who is very active and paramount in their lives. 

The second introduction (verses 46-56) is in God’s own action, through Mary, to bring Jesus the Messiah to us, in fidelity to His promises to Abraham and his sons, grandsons, King David, and to all Israel, as well as to all peoples.  What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God intends for each one of us. (That’s you and me, Bubbas!!)

The presentation of Jesus (in the womb) to His cousin John (also in the womb) will be renewed again a little more than 30 years later, with John the Baptist honoring and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Lamb of God to come, when Jesus’ presented Himself for baptism at the Jordan river.  This is also the first of only two times in all the Gospels that God speaks, proclaiming Jesus as His only-begotten and well beloved Son.

Can anyone imagine the faith Mary had in God?  WOW!!!  For me, it’s beyond my mental reasoning.  Her mind was uncluttered by any of the effects of sin that mar our soul.  An unblemished soul is something neither I, nor anyone reading this reflection, can claim (regrettably). 

Only Mary, born without the stain of original sin (the Immaculate Conception) could give birth to the mysterious uniqueness of Jesus Christ: truly divine and truly human, undiminished divinity and true humanity in one person forever.  Because of Mary’s role in God’s plan of salvation, she does not suffer from the effects of sin: namely death and decay.  Mary is literally the first person to receive the fullness of the redemption that her son secured for you and me, all of mankind that chooses to believes in God and His revelation of mercy.  

Her role in salvation had been pre-conceived by God before the beginning of time, and any role God would give Mary would be a uniquely special one for her.   Even though she apparently discerned that she was being asked to do the impossible, when the archangel Gabriel said something to her about having a baby, Mary displayed a total and unconditional faith and trust in God AND in the Son that God was promising.  Thank God the Planned Parenthood offices were not open, and trying to encourage Mary to avoid the “inconvenience” of an unexpected pregnancy, and the “embarrassment” of a “virginal” conception!  How often have we done anything as unconditionally as Mary did for God, and for us!? 

Was Mary ready for the rigors of being the Mother of God?  This question is answered in the following verse, “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah.”  It is not an easy feat for a 14 year-old Jewish child, being pregnant at the time, making a rugged four day trip by herself.  And to accomplish this feat “in haste” even adds to her abilities to handle the bad, as well as the good.  Mary is a tough opponent to evil: one heavenly tough lady!

Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles they and their unborn children will play in God’s plan for salvation in their lifetime.  Upon arriving, “She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.” These verses made me recall a similar thing happening with the leaping of Esau and Jacob in Rebekah’s womb.  This story can be found in Genesis 25:22-23: “the children in her womb jostled each other so much that she exclaimed, ‘If this is to be so, what good will it do me!’  She went to consult the LORD, and He answered her: ‘Two nations are in your womb; two peoples are quarreling while still within you; but one shall surpass the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’”  Interesting to me is that this is a preview of the relation between John and Jesus, just without the quarreling!

 “Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice … saying, ‘most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb …’” Having been graced to be filled with the Holy Spirit during an ACTS retreat several years ago, I can appreciate the energy, joy, and charisma associated with the event of being as one with the Holy Spirit.  I felt literally “on top of the world,” and so filled with love that I felt like I was truly going to burst.  Now, I need to emphasize that I never considered myself a “Charismatic Catholic,” and have never talked in tongues.  Until I had this retreat experience, I thought of “those” people as a little strange.  Through this encounter on my retreat with the third person of the Holy Trinity, I no longer have doubts in the capabilities of God’s graces.

Calling Mary “Most Blessed” brings up the image found in Revelations 12:1: “A woman clothed with the Sun.”  For me, Mary was wearing the mantle of God long before her conception with Jesus.  God, the first person of the Holy Trinity, presented to Mary the grace of bringing into this sinful world, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the complete image of Himself, and His Word – her Son Jesus, through the action of the third person of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit.  This is a mystery of faith probably more complex than the United States Internal Revenue Code for most of us to truly understand.

Mary asks, “How does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Even before his birth, Jesus was identified as the Lord.  There were no pre-conceived notions from Mary, Elizabeth, or any other individual aware of the promises about the coming Messiah.  No one alive at that time knew exactly what the Messiah’s role would be.  Some, maybe even most, thought Jesus would become some type of warrior king, similar to David.  If so, how surprised were they to be.  All Mary knew was that SOMETHING special was in store for all of them, and that even though totally blind to any future events, she put her total faith and trust in the hands of God!

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith, trust, and fidelity stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah with Elizabeth’s pregnancy of John.  In Luke 1:20, “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” Zechariah becomes mute, in response to his questioning of God’s grace.  But when Mary asks a similar question, unlike Zechariah who was disciplined for his doubt, Mary is praised and reassured. 

The difference between the two, I believe, is the level of their faith and trust in God’s capabilities.  Zechariah, an elderly temple priest, had doubt and lack of trust, probably due to the many years of A) strictly human reasoning, and B) concupiscence’s effect on his soul, thus making him skeptical.  Mary, on the other hand, had no sins to mark her soul, and had been nurtured by the faith of the Patriarchs and the Prophets.  Even in her young age, and with a perfectly sinless and grace filled soul, she knew nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37).

Mary’s role in this beginning of this infancy narrative should be seen in connection with her presence among “those who believed” after Jesus’ Resurrection that unique Sunday Morning.  Why?  The answer can be found in Acts 1:14, “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”   Mary was with Jesus His entire life.  Mary saw Jesus, as her son AND as her Lord on earth (But don’t most Jewish mothers? – OK, sorry).  Mary trusted in God wholly and completely, and she continued to say “YES” to God, without fail, her entire life.  We need to see the totality of Mary’s life as we see Jesus in the totality of His life.

The nature of God in Jesus’ conception is proclaimed in Mary saying, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord ….” There is an Old Testament parallel for this New Testament verse: “the Song of Hannah,” found in 1 Sam 2:1-11.  A whole separate reflection can be written on the correlations between the two, so I urge you to find it in your bible and read it.  This “song” is credited to Hannah after her birth to Samuel as her thanksgiving to God because of her giving birth to a son, despite her previous years of sterility.  She praises God as the helper of the weak who casts down the mighty and raises up the lowly, and who alone is the source of true strength. 

Mary praises God for what He has done for mankind through her child, Jesus; and rejoices in God’s fulfillment of His promises in the verse, “my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”  Mary was totally FILLED with the Holy Spirit, so there was NO room for sin, or for the least little self-centeredness.  Mary literally surrendered herself, and gave all she had, body, soul, and spirit, to serve God, in order for Him to live within, and to work through her!  This is EXACTLY what we need to do each and every day of our lives!!!  (TRUE!!!)

In this new era of salvation, Mary will be hailed as the Mother and Queen of Israel and us all.  “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”  Mary was humble.  So humble in fact, that I believe she may have had a hard time saying that all generations will honor her.  However, we still have to remember, always, that she WAS absolutely and truly FULL of God, thus making her actions and remarks as truly true.  Mary allowed God to work through her, and to work without any impediments from her, in any way.  This is reiterated in Mary continuing her Canticle, saying, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  Her “lowliness,” her humbleness, is contrasted against with the might and majesty of God; for NOTHING is impossible with God. (Are you getting the “nothing is impossible with God” theme yet?)

Should we be afraid of GOD?  After all, the next verse says, “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.”  “Fear” of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2-3: “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.  Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide.” 

The fullness of Jesus Christ, as shown through Mary – both physically and spiritually, is also available to any Catholic in a state of grace.  We receive these seven gifts when given “sanctifying grace:” the life of God within us.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1831) notes on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, “They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.”  When we are infused with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the way that Christ Himself would.

Fear is a curiously strange word for most Americans. Most of us take this word as “bad.”  Instead we need to see this word as more of a “healthy fear.”  Healthy fears keep us from burning ourselves when cooking, shocking ourselves when plugging in a lamp, and keeping us from sinning when tempted.  So, we need not fear God as the world experiences fear, but we need to delight in the healthy fear – the profound respect for an infinitely good and powerful God.

Luke 1:50 ends the first part of the Canticle of Mary and transitions into the second part of the Canticle.  What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God does for those who faithfully and respectfully “fear” Him.

Verse 51: “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heartHe has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowlyThe hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”  These six past-tense verbs describe God as the one who performed these actions, and is now in the present tense, operating in the virginal conception of Jesus within Mary.  My question is, “Who are the rich, and who are the hungry?”  Are the “lowly” the Jewish people of Israel, the sick, or the downtrodden?  Is being “rich” a measure of materialist wealth, or is it the proud and arrogant people who have no time or need for God? 

God, through Jesus, is creating a new “exodus,” a new journey that shows a preference for the humble, the poor, and the downtrodden.  This is manifested in Jesus’ ministry, and in the future missions of His disciples. 

Being “poor,” for God, does not come with a social status, or ethnic heritage.  The humble, poor, and downtrodden have to respond to God’s good news, in order to complete this journey with Him.  In the next verse of Mary’s Canticle, “He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever,” God builds a “new covenant” upon the old foundation of Abraham’s.  God’s gift, His grace, that Mary is proclaiming, is NOT contingent solely on the ethnic heritage of Abraham’s genealogy.  It is NOW open to All, regardless of social status, ethnicity, previous religion, or any other origin.

“Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”  Why would a young woman with the love and charity we all admire in her, leave prior to the birth of Jesus’ precursor: John?  Elizabeth certainly could have used the help with the delivery and other “nursing” and household issues.  Luke, I believe, does this solely in explicitly emphasizing the three main characters in each birth narratives: Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John in one; and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the other.

Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord, Jesus Christ; and, because of her strong faith and belief, she responds as the servant in this psalm (song) of praise, the “Magnificat.”  The Magnificat, with the possible exception of verse 48, “for he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” may have been an early Jewish-Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story.  Even if not written by Luke, it fits in well with his themes found elsewhere in his Gospel: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; and the fulfillment of the Jewish family prophesies.  

In Summary, Mary’s faith and trust is what God wants each of us to imitate.  Can we imitate her faith? Even though Mary was sinless; and we know ourselves to be sinners endeavoring to sin less and less, these virtues are not something beyond our grasp.  In fact, we can grow in these virtues.  We do this when we try our best to follow her, and HIS path to salvation and redemption.  Imitating Mary leads us to her Son because they walk and exist together.  What is really awesome is that we don’t have to walk this path alone.  As a child of God, we can hold the right hand of Mary – our Heavenly Mother – with one hand, and the left hand (making Him our right hand man) of Jesus – our loving brother and kinsman redeemer – with the other, on the path that we take to the glory of paradise, in the salvation of the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2 & 1 Peter 3:22).

 

“The Hail Mary”

 

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St Maximilian Mary Kolbe

(Actually yesterday’s Saint of the Day, but he is one of my personal patron saints, and the main reason I am a Secular Franciscan)

“I don’t know what’s going to become of you!” How many parents have said that? Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s reaction was, “I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me. She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red. She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom. I said, ‘I choose both.’ She smiled and disappeared.” After that he was not the same.

He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvív (then Poland, now Ukraine), near his birthplace, and at 16 became a novice. Though he later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships.

Ordained at 24, he saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day. His mission was to combat it. He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work and suffering. He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata,, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to preach the Good News to all nations. For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanow—which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers. He later founded one in Nagasaki, Japan. Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one-million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Mary.

In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed. Niepokalanow was severely bombed. Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1941 he was arrested again. The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders. The end came quickly, in Auschwitz three months later, after terrible beatings and humiliations.

A prisoner had escaped. The commandant announced that 10 men would die. He relished walking along the ranks. “This one. That one.” As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line. “I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.” “Who are you?” “A priest.” No name, no mention of fame. Silence. The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine. In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness. But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang. By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive. The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying. He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle. It was filled with carbolic acid. They burned his body with all the others. He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982.

Comment:

Father Kolbe’s death was not a sudden, last-minute act of heroism. His whole life had been a preparation. His holiness was a limitless, passionate desire to convert the whole world to God. And his beloved Immaculata was his inspiration.

Quote:

“Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes” (Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested).

He is the Patron Saint of Addicts and Drug addiction.

 

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 #15 of 26:

 

Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

 

“What Did He Say During the Homily? I Was Sleeping.” – Lk 4:16-21†


Today is “Holy Thursday.”  Priests renew their vows at the Chrism Mass.  St. Vianney said, ” A good priest is the greatest treasure the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the precious gifts of divine mercy.”  Though there is a focus on the VERY FEW priests who create scandal, the sacrifices they make out of love for the Lord and us are heroic.  We need to pray for them, and keep them in reverence and total respect.  They are Personna Christi during liturgical matters.
  

In the Catholic Church, today is the “Chrism” Mass.  The Bishop concelebrates with all priests from different parts of the diocese, and the oils used in liturgical services are blessed.  The priests are encouraged to participate in communion with the Bishop, under both species, as a sign of priestly communion.
  

Today’s reflection is about Jesus prophesying in the synagogue.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
  

We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ.  (NAB 1 Cor 4:10)
   

Today’s Meditation:
  

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.  He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”   (NAB Lk 4:16-21)
 

Jesus is home, and should be at ease with family and friends.  Alas, this is the town He had to escape from out of fear of life earlier.  His fellow Nazorean’s know Him, and his origins, as “that boy down the road.”  They saw Him playing in the road, probably muddy, dirty, and maybe even a little wild at times.  He certainly could not be a “Messiah:” a king bringing salvation to the entire Jewish race.

The initial admiration from the Jews of Jerusalem, followed by a subsequent rejection of Jesus, is a foreshadowing of the future few days of Jesus’ ministry on earth. Moreover, the rejection of Jesus in his own hometown hints at the greater rejection of Him by Israel.

According to His custom,” Jesus’ practice is that of regular attendance at the synagogue.  He regularly taught there, and worshipped there.  His first action in the Bible after the infant narratives, places Jesus in the Temple listening and conversing with the Temple Elders.  Jesus found comfort in the presence of His Father in Heaven.  He, I believe, urged all to participate regularly in religious services and practices.

Jesus’ dedication to religious practice is carried on by the early Christians’, by meeting in the temple (see Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:12).  It is such a shame that people today are so ambivalent to religion today.  Mass is a life altering experience if one would allow the Holy Spirit to enter into your life.  Reliving (it is not a remembering of past events) the last meal with Christ is an awesome experience to behold.  Taking Jesus in actual body and blood is not a gross event, but an event of allowing Jesus to enter into us in a physical, as well as a spiritual way.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me” shows Jesus as a prophet whose ministry is compared to that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha.  Jesus, in making this statement, proves Himself the continuity between the old covenant, and the new covenant, through Him.  Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” inaugurates the time of fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.  His ministry fulfilled the  Old Testament hopes and expectations; even that of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises for the hungry, sick and imprisoned.  “To bring glad tidings to the poor” demonstrates His attitude toward the economically and socially poor of the world, and its extreme importance.  The poor here are associated with the downtrodden, the oppressed and afflicted, the forgotten and the neglected; and it is they who accept Jesus’ message of salvation.  I wonder if the poor today not only includes them, but also those that have forgotten His message of hope, through Jesus.  It seems, more and more that religion, especially Catholicism, is attacked by politician’s, the news media, and even from within the Church.  Prayer is needed more now, that I can think of, than ever before in the past.

“Lord, help us save this world of contempt, violence, and carelessness.  Show us the way to salvation again.  We need you so much.  Please help!  Amen.”
  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Hugh of Grenoble

    

Benedictine bishop of Grenoble, France, patron of St. Bruno. He was born in the Dauphine region and became a canon of the cathedral in Valence. In 1080, while attending a synod in Avignon, Hugh was named bishop of Grenoble. He attempted a massive reform of the diocese, but, discouraged, retired to Chaise Dieu Abbey, and became a Benedictine. Pope St. Gregoiy VII ordered him back to Grenoble. Hugh gave St. Bruno the land on which the Grande Chartreuse was founded, thus starting the Carthusians. Hugh died on April 1 and was canonized by Pope Innocent II.  April 1 is his feast day.

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
  

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #1:

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

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