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♫“Mary, did you know …?♫ – – She Certainly Did Indeed Know!!” – Luke 1:39-45†


 

4thSunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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. pencilDan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Nativity Scene

The nativity scene (also known as a crèche, manger scene, or crib) is a depiction of the birth of JeNativity-Scenesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Nativity scenes display figures representing the infant Jesus, His mother Mary, and His Step-father Joseph.  Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, the Magi, and angels may be displayed near the manger in a barn (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals.  A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, as well as the camels belonging to the Magi.  (The symbolism of the animals of the crèche will be covered later)

A nativity scene takes its inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Luke’s narrative describes an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who then visit the humble site where Jesus is found lying in a manger, a trough for cattle feed (cf., Luke 2:8-20).  Matthew’s narrative tells of “wise men” (in Greek: “magoi”) who follow a star to the house where Jesus dwelt, thus indicating that the “Magi” found Jesus some time later (within two years after Jesus’ birth), rather than on the exact day of His birth (cf., Matthew.2:1-23).  Matthew’s account does not mention the angels and shepherds, while Luke’s narrative is silent on the Magi and the star.  The Magi and the angels are often displayed in a nativity scene with the Holy Family and the shepherds although there is no scriptural basis for their presence (cf., Luke 2:7-17).

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 (and a “living” one at that) intending thereby to cultivate the worship of Christ after being inspired by his 220px-Giotto_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_-13-_-_Institution_of_the_Crib_at_Grecciorecent visit to the Holy Land where he had been shown Jesus’ traditional birthplace.  Francis wanted to place an emphasis for Christmas being more on the “worship of Christ” than upon the secular materialism and gift giving as the priority. 

Acted out in a cave near Greccio, Italy, St. Francis’ nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles.  Pope Honorius III gave his blessing to the exhibit.  Such “nativity” performances became hugely popular and spread throughout all of Christendom.  The scene’s popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes. 

Within a hundred years of St. Francis’ act of piety and faith, every Catholic Church in Italy was 5_free_christmas_wallpaper_nativity_sceneexpected to have a nativity scene at Christmastime.  Eventually, figurines replaced the living human and animal participants.  Over time, static scenes grew to elaborate affairs with richly robed figurines placed in intricate landscape settings. 

The scene’s popularity inspired much reproduction and replication in Catholic countries throughout the world.  In the early modern period (1500 – 1700), sculpted cribs were set up in Catholic Church’s and homes, often exported from Italy.  By the end of the 1800’s, nativity scenes became popular beyond Catholic settings, and many versions of various sizes – – and in various materials such as terracotta, paper, wood, wax, and ivory – – were marketed, often with a “stable-style” backdrop setting.  In some Catholic countries still today, the nativity scene is more popular than the Christmas tree.

Animals in nativity scenes

A donkey (or ass) and an ox typically appear in nativity scenes.  Besides the necessity of animals for a manger, there is a biblical reference to Isaiah:

An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger; but Israel does not know, my people has not understood” (Isaiah 1:3).

The Gospels, however, do not mention an ox and donkey – – or any other animal – – with Jesus in the “manger”.  XMAS11-nativity-set-2-3

The ox traditionally represents “patience”, the “nation of Israel”, and the Old Testament “sacrificial worship”.  The ass represents “humility”, “readiness to serve”, and “Gentiles”.

The ox and the ass, as well as other animals, became well-entrenched as part of the nativity scene tradition.  Other animals introduced to nativity scenes – – over time and societal culture – – include camels, sheep, and even elephants.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

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

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Today’s reflection: Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.  How beautiful are YOUR words (prayers) to Mary?

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(NAB Luke 1:39-45)  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 Lordshould 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.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today is the last Sunday before Christmas.  Our Gospel reading this day prepares us to witness Christ’s birth.  We are shown in this reading “how” Jesus was recognized as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, even before His AdventWreathbirth.  Today’s Gospel turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist – – to events preceding John’s birth.  The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are reported only in Luke’s Gospel.  In reporting this event, Luke connects the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, thus establishing John’s early relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.

Today’s Gospel recalls Mary’s “actions” after the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the Archangel, “Gabriel”.  Mary travels to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who is also six months pregnant.  Elizabeth greets Mary with a true and full recognition of the “roles” that they, and their unborn children, will play in God the Father’s redemptive plan for salvation.  If we continue to read the verses following today’s reading, in Luke’s Gospel, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth’s greeting with her own beautiful song of praise, the “Magnificat”.  Both women – – Mary and Elizabeth – – recall, repeat, and endorse God’s past history of showing favor upon the people of Israel, testified to in their individual “songs of faith and praise”.

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Mary, in the early stages of her pregnancy, is in a hurry to see Elizabeth.  Mary is taking Jesus – – the “Good News”mary goes to elizabeth, the “Word” Incarnate – – to her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth – – a few days’ journey away.  Why?  I don’t believe she is motivated by a personal human fear of her pregnancy and subsequent labor & delivery, and of the fear of caring for and nurturing her soon-to-be newborn infant “king”.  However, she is a young teenager (most believe around age 14), and being pregnant is pretty overwhelming experience for ANYONE, much less a child-woman.  

Mary knows that she needs calming and wise guidance in her life.  She is probably eager and excited to see Elizabeth, and to learn from her.  This whole experience can’t help but be exciting, for both women.   Mary, in travelling to Elizabeth, will certainly help in the delivering and care of Elizabeth’s newborn, just prior to experiencing a similar event herself. 

Mary enters Elizabeth’s home, and greets Elizabeth.  The instant Elizabeth hears the pregnant-virginal Mary, Elizabeth becomes “filled with the Holy Spirit”:1-eisbacher

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit out in a loud voice (Luke 1:41).

In a charismatic moment – – talking through the divine influence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within her – – Elizabeth spontaneously erupts with a beautiful bouquet of words – – a song – – directed at Mary:

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joyBlessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45).

luke1_42_blessed_art_thou_among_women_postcard-p239058946011173125baanr_400Why is Mary “blessed”?  The word “blessed” [“makarios” in Greek] literally means “happiness” or “beatitude”.  It describes a kind of JOY which is serene, untouchable, self-contained, and independent from chance or changing circumstances of life.  

Mary is “blessed” because she heard the “Word” of God and responded to this “Word” with the gift of her WHOLE being and life!!  We too have hear the “Word” of God and are invited to join with Christ in HIS complete and total offering to God the Father as well.  Are you responding? 

In Luke, even before His birth, Jesus is identified – – as the true Lord of God’s “chosen people”.  Both Mary and Elizabeth are carrying children of destiny – – then, in the future, and forever and ever.  Kind words of love and praise are exchanged between these two women.  Together, their children, Jesus and John the Baptist, will praise God and bless each other as well – – through THEIR words and actions. 

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Elizabeth, the wife of a Temple high-priest, knew Jewish scripture well; probably better than most women of that time.  She was familiar with the verses from Deuteronomy and from the prophetess, Judith:724

Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks!” (Deuteronomy 28:4);

“Then Uzziah said to her [Judith], ‘Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies’” (Judith 13:18).

By reporting that Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you who believed”, Luke is portraying Mary as a true “believer”.  MBeliever_ary’s faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Elizabeth’s husband):

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

Mary’s role as a true “believer” – – in Luke’s infancy narrative (Chapter 2) – – should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believedafter the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as found at the beginning of the book, the “Acts of the Apostles”:

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Mary “believed” – – from the beginning – – and never wavered!!  Can any of us claim this fact as true in our own lives?  I know I can’t – – but I definitely know and BELIEVE it is true now!! 

These few words from today’s Gospel, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45) truly characterizes Mary’s whole, entire, life.  Later in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus will VirginMary2say:

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21).

In Cana, at a wedding feast, she asks her son to intervene when the wine supply ran short.  Even though Jesus never promises to do anything, she says:

Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5)

Finally, at the Holy Cross, though she did not – – could not – – understand why Jesus, her beloved son, was being Virgin-Mary-Desktop-Backgroundtreated in such a way, she remained (and remains still) the ever-faithful disciple, staying by His side when nearly all others abandon Jesus at His greatest time of need.

Mary truly – – and fully – – “believed!!  Mary was in the thick of human life with Jesus; yet, she was “one-of-us” as well!!    She is THE model for each of us in our individual lives.  Hmm, when I believe as Mary does, I will be blessed indeed!!

To be “chosen” by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow when she said, “your will be done”.  Howe51TERX4XTRL__SL160_ver, her joy was not diminished by her sorrow – – because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and in His promises.  God gives us too, a supernatural JOY, enabling us to witness to any sorrow or pain: a JOY neither life nor death can take away.  

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The . summarize titleHoly Spirit helps reveal Jesus’ identity as the saving “God” to those who believe.  Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and “sings” to Mary her praise – – because Mary bears the promised Lord Savior, the true Messiah.  We “sing” thesehailmary-1 words of praise to Mary when we pray the “Hail Mary”.  Even John the Baptist – – the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb – – is said to recognize the presence of the Lord, showing signs of his own “voiceless” song of praise, by leaping for JOY in Elizabeth’s womb.

I sometimes feel just as Elizabeth felt when Mary arrived to her home with the unborn Lord: a total awe that our heavenly Mother AND – – Jesus Himself – – would come TO me, and to stay WITH me!  It’s is challenging for why-me1me to believe that Mary, and the Trinitarian God, can love me – – a SINNER – – with a love more than I can ever imagine!  How can this happen TO ME; I do not deserve this type and amount of love?!! 

Like Elizabeth in today’s Gospel reading, I feel honored, surprised, and in total awe with what is happening in my faith life.  However, I know that it is by God’s grace that I get everything I need in this life – – His forgiveness, an awareness, love, knowledge, and the tools and abilities I need to do good works for HIM.  Everything I possess, obtain, experience, and produce in life is a blessed gift – – a grace – – from, and to, God Himself.

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It is appropri. conclusionate in this Advent season for each of us to consider the “role” of Mary in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  Elizabeth describes Mary as the “first disciple” – – as the one who “believed” God’s “Word”, as told to her, “would be fulfilled”.  Mary’s faith enabled arc_magnificather to recognize the work of God throughout, and within, her people’s history AND in her own personal life.  Her willingness and openness to God’s “Word” and “action” in her life, allowed God to work in and through her so that salvation might come to everyone – – FOREVER!!  Because Mary abandoned her “SELF” to God as His instrument, she becomes (and is) a pure and true model and symbol of the Catholic “Universal” Church still today.  May we each be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan for salvation, allowing God to work in, with, and through each us to bring others to His redemptive salvation!

In the coming together of Mary and Elizabeth, as described in today’s Gospel, we can learn that other’s can help us recognize 00000000000000066193God’s presence and action in our own lives.  The young and pregnant Mary traveled to her cousin, Elizabeth, because Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a divine sign that everything said to Mary, by the Archangel Gabriel, would truly happen.  Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her (and ALL Israel’s) Lord in view of the fact that her unborn child, John the Baptist, leapt at the sound of Mary’s greeting.  Elizabeth and Mary rejoiced together at the wonderful things God was doing in their lives.  They each sang songs of praise; they were truly ReJOYSing!!  We too are “blessed” when we have people who help us recognize God’s “Word” and “action” in our lives.  We can be, and are, God’s instrument for others among us, Re-JOY-Sing in God’s plan for us.

Think about the times you helped others, or when other’s helped 2809861_300you, in some way.  We actually need the help of others in order to recognize God’s presence and action in our own lives.  After all, we are a “COMMUNITY OF FAITH”!!  Pray that as we share our faith with others (this is called “evangelization”), we may help others recognize God’s presence and action in their own lives.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary,
Full of Grace, Mother-Mary-and-Angel-02
The Lord is with the you.
Blessed art you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/mary3.htm#ixzz2FQ8t95t0

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“Salvation Saves! I’ll Bet Your SKIN On It !” – Luke 17:11-19†


            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   461 – St Leo I the Great ends his reign as Catholic Pope with his death (440-461)
†   627 – Death of Justus, Archbishop of Canterbury
†   1241 – Death of Celestine IV, [Goffredo Castiglioni], Pope (for 16 days)
†  1483 – Birth of  Martin Luther, Ex-Catholic Priest and German Protestant reformer (d. 1546)
†   1549 – Death of Paul III, [Alessandro Farnese], Italian Pope (1534-49), at age 81 (b. 1468)
†   1687 – Pope Innocent XI publishes decree Coelestis pastor
†   Feast Days:  Pope Leo I the Great; Andrew Avellino

(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:

 

Suffering with truth decay?  Brush up on your Bible.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about is about Jesus healing 10 lepers, with only one (the Samaritan) returning to give thanks; and on the nature of change.

 

11 As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.  12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him 13 and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”  14 And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  As they were going they were cleansed.  15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?  18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”  (NAB Luke 17:11-19)

 

 

Jesus, during His journey to Jerusalem, stopped to heal ten lepers that approached Him.  (Note: all skin diseases during this time were called “leprosy,” which itself is now known as “Hansen’s Disease”).  In performing an act of mercy, Jesus is giving us a lesson about faith, love, and reconciliation.  Jesus also gives us a reminder that faith can sometimes be found in unlikely places and that we should always be open to change.  

Ten people afflicted with “leprosy” came to Jesus asking for a cure.  In the Jewish culture, leprosy created a division between those with skin disease and family, societal, and religious practices.  “Sin” does the exact same thing to any of us also.  With the effects of sin on our souls, we are separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ, and especially with the Trinitarian God Himself!  With sin, we are focused on a self-love, our own needs and wants instead of the needs and love of those with whom we come into contact.  When we confess our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are “healed” immediately by God’s grace.

Struck with compassion towards the ten “diseased” men, Jesus heals all of them. However, only one returns to thank Him, that one being the Samaritan, a “foreigner.”  In the Jewish culture in which Jesus lived, Samaritans were looked down upon as “heathens” because of the differences between the two communities in their observance of Mosaic Scripture.  

How could this Samaritan, a foreigner in Jesus’ land – a man with a strange accent and probably strange mannerisms – and definitely a man possessing a rebellious theology, be the ONLY ONE to go back to Jesus?  He surely had to overcome two major barriers in order to ask for, and receive, a cure from Jesus.  The first barrier was physical.  He had to overcome the contagious aspect of his disease in order to approach Jesus.  He also had to forget about the cultural and religious differences (the second barrier) of their perceived mutual disbelief of each other’s religion to obtain God’s favor. 

Why were Samaritans so disliked by the Jewish people?  Well, Samaritans were a people that originally inhabited a portion of central Palestine west of the Jordan.  Many were “Hebrews,” but with their own separate doctrinal beliefs, and perhaps even different religious practices.  They, like the Jewish people, regarded themselves as descendants of the “ten tribes of Israel.”  The Samaritans though claimed to possess the orthodox religion of Moses in their manuscripts of the Torah or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament).  The Samaritans further regarded the Jewish Temple, and the Jewish priesthood, as having deviated from the Orthodox Law of Moses.  In essence, the two groups existing together could be described as gasoline being thrown into an oil pit.  The two did not mix well, but if any match was thrown into the mix (e.g., controversies or in-fighting) BOTH could erupt violently! 

So, imagine what it might be like for these ten men (nine Jewish and a single Samaritan) to begin realizing they are being totally healed – WOW!  Then imagine the nine Jewish lepers excited to run to the Temple priests as Jesus commanded; while the one Samaritan stopped, realized he is free from the disease, and his first impulse was to return to Jesus in order to thank Him, and not go to the “Jewish” Temple priest in Jerusalem.  Jesus was delighted to see him return fully whole and healed.

The significance of Jesus commending the Samaritan for his faith (and salvation) is very important to not only the Jewish crowd following Jesus, but also to the non-believers in the area overhearing Jesus’ surprise of the Samaritan returning.  Jesus proclaimed, and also demonstrated, that God will bring salvation to ANYONE who hears with faith; and that a true faith can be found in very unique and surprising places (e.g. “foreigners”).

This event describing the thankfulness of the cleansed Samaritan [hence, non-Jewish believer of Jesus] who had leprosy is told in Luke’s Gospel only.  I believe it is because this happening provided a further illustration of Jesus holding up a non-Jew as an example to his Jewish contemporaries that God’s grace through Jesus the Messiah is for all people who will believe, even “foreigners.”  Another example of this perception can be found in Luke 10:33, where a comparable point is achieved in the story of the Good Samaritan (Another foreigner who cares for his neighbor without regard of religion).  It is the faith these “foreigners” had in Jesus that brought them salvation.  I can think of three other similar Bible verses that compare the relationship between faith and salvation in Luke’s Gospel: Luke 7:50; 8:48; and 8:50.  Please read them.

Why did Jesus tell the ten men to Go show yourselves to the priests?”  Jesus, being well-versed in the Old Testament and Levitical laws knew that any person with a skin disease had to be examined by the temple priest when a skin disease was cured; and then also to make an offering for their cleansing, as Moses prescribed in Leviticus 13:45-46, 49; 14:2-9; and Num 5:2-3.  With the priests’ approval, this person could then re-enter Jewish society, and thus re-enter the temple to worship as well.

 

Besides the importance of faith, another lesson given to us in this healing encounter has to do with salvation itself.  Salvation is defined in this instance as “liberation of an individual from sin and its consequences.”  All ten of the lepers were given the gift of healing for their skin lesions; but in his gratitude to God for this gift of healing, only the Samaritan actually found the gift of “salvation,” a personal relationship with Jesus.  Salvation is realized in recognizing and accepting the gifts we have been given; sharing these gifts as God wants us to; and in knowing to whom we are to offer our thanks: God!!  To me, salvation creates a divine change in our attitudes, our reasoning, and our souls.

Change is inevitable in all our lives.  “Nature” itself is changeable (every 10 minutes in my part of the country); and we, as mortal humans change, in part, through and because of the staining nature sin on our souls.  Even though we are redeemed and renewed by the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, and the Holy Eucharist, we are still continuously bombarded by the temptation to sin.  Our nature is continually urged towards corruption by bodily desires unless fortified by divine spiritual assistance.

When our battles with evil our made evident (even if just to ourselves), “brought out into the open,” so too are the graces of and from God.  We only need to choose which nature to grasp: God’s grace or Satan’s iniquities.  When temptation and failure is nearest, the promise of God is also at hand. 

Among our many and unrelenting responsibilities as loving parents, we are to help foster the gift of appreciation and thankfulness.  This is especially true of appreciating and thanking God for all His compassion, benevolence, kindness, and helpfulness to us. 

Prior to Jesus coming into their lives, the Apostles were certainly victims to earthly vices.  After encountering Jesus, they were changed – transformed or converted – into people who labored and counseled others with love and gratitude for all, Jew and Gentile alike.  This conversion or transformation was not easy in any way.  It was a Daily struggle of hard work on the Apostles part.  So it goes with OUR spiritual journey of DAILY conversion.  One is not saved on belief (FAITH) alone: one must work at being a Christian!

What are some of the gifts you have received from God?  How often do you give thanks for all of God’s goodness given to you?  Do you praise God, even when given the gift you DO NOT want?  It is far too easy to thank Him for the good things in life.  But, through the bad periods we are also given the opportunity to grow closer to our magnificent, heavenly, Father by giving Him thanks in all circumstances as St. Paul instructs us to do!  Our sufferings can unite us with the same suffering Jesus endured for our salvation on the Holy Cross in a very personal way.  We are not necessarily thanking God for the suffering itself, but for the grace to endure, and the lessons we will learn from the gift of suffering.

I am in pain on a daily basis.  Like the lepers in today’s Gospel reading, I am ordained to a life of agony and suffering.  Between my heart and lung maladies, back and knee pain from 30 years of abuse as a paramedic lifting, prying, and carrying many things and people in awkward situations, plus the usual general aches and pains of growing old, I am very familiar with agony and hurting.  I have come to realize that my suffering is a permanent – and probably necessary – component in my life.  I now know I need to be humble instead of being the proud and boisterous person of my youth.  I need humility in my general life, as well as my prayer life and my faith.  I used to pray and NEVER listen.  I now know that I NOT ONLY need to talk to God, but also more importantly, I need to LISTEN to Him as well.  

My pain and trouble breathing keeps me focused on the divine mercy of God in Jesus, through His own suffering and forgiveness.  Maybe my pain is a kind of personal “stigmata” to keep my heart and soul going in the right direction.  By the way, I can honestly say that I have never been happier in my life.  God definitely works in mysterious and unorthodox ways.  He gave me a difficult cross to carry; and for giving me this unique and true grace, I truly love Him more than I ever have before.   

Don’t think I am bragging.  There is nothing to brag about in what I just related to you.  Other than being a uniquely special creation of God, (as each one of us is to God), I believe I am nothing special.  I believe I am a typical Catholic man living in an often “unjust” and “secular” world today.  However, I have hope and faith for the future; and I give thanks and praise to God for His “Peace and all good.”  (A translation of St. Francis’ favorite greeting:Pax et Bonum.”)

Today’s story relates to us what Jesus is wanting from all of us.  Every time our faith is increased, we should turn to Him in prayers of thanksgiving and adoration.  Every time our prayers are answered, we need to acknowlege His grace with a moment of being in His presence spiritually.  It is not because He knows that when we approach Him our faith increases.  It is because every time we come to Him our hearts and souls are opened even more to His word, His works, and His love!!

 

“Joy in Suffering”

 

“Lord, help me to joyfully suffer in this life for the souls in purgatory; and be with me in prayer as I gladly cleanse my soul in purgatory for my transgressions.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Leo the Great (d. 461)

 

With apparent strong conviction of the importance of the Bishop of Rome in the Church, and of the Church as the ongoing sign of Christ’s presence in the world, Leo the Great displayed endless dedication as pope. Elected in 440, he worked tirelessly as “Peter’s successor,” guiding his fellow bishops as “equals in the episcopacy and infirmities.”

Leo is known as one of the best administrative popes of the ancient Church. His work branched into four main areas, indicative of his notion of the pope’s total responsibility for the flock of Christ. He worked at length to control the heresies of Pelagianism, Manichaeism and others, placing demands on their followers so as to secure true Christian beliefs. A second major area of his concern was doctrinal controversy in the Church in the East, to which he responded with a classic letter setting down the Church’s teaching on the two natures of Christ. With strong faith, he also led the defense of Rome against barbarian attack, taking the role of peacemaker.

In these three areas, Leo’s work has been highly regarded. His growth to sainthood has its basis in the spiritual depth with which he approached the pastoral care of his people, which was the fourth focus of his work. He is known for his spiritually profound sermons. An instrument of the call to holiness, well-versed in Scripture and ecclesiastical awareness, Leo had the ability to reach the everyday needs and interests of his people. One of his sermons is used in the Office of Readings on Christmas.

It is said of Leo that his true significance rests in his doctrinal insistence on the mysteries of Christ and the Church and in the supernatural charisms of the spiritual life given to humanity in Christ and in his Body, the Church. Thus Leo held firmly that everything he did and said as pope for the administration of the Church represented Christ, the head of the Mystical Body, and St. Peter, in whose place Leo acted.

Comment:

At a time when there is widespread criticism of Church structures, we also hear criticism that bishops and priests—indeed, all of us—are too preoccupied with administration of temporal matters. Pope Leo is an example of a great administrator who used his talents in areas where spirit and structure are inseparably combined: doctrine, peace and pastoral care. He avoided an “angelism” that tries to live without the body, as well as the “practicality” that deals only in externals.

 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 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.

 

 

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.

“Keep Your Skin On! Keep Your Skin On! I’ll Take Care of You; Don’t Worry!” – Luke 17:11-19†


 

This weekend is the annual Knights of Columbus “Tootsie Roll” Drive for mentally and physically handicapped children in the State of Missouri.  We are also exactly half-way through the annual “40 Days for Life” event for unborn children.  Let us all remember in our prayers the sanctity and uniqueness of each person’s life today.  God does not make “mistakes” or “inconveniences!”  All life is precious, and a special grace from God.

 

 

 

Did you realize that this October has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays; all in 1 month.

This event occurs only one time every 823years. 

AND,

Today is 10-10-10!  This only happens once every 1000 years (a millennium) – WOW!

BUT the best news is that:

Jesus comes every moment of every day!

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1575 – During the Battle of Dormans, Roman Catholic forces under Duke Henry of Guise defeated the Protestants, capturing Philippe de Mornay among others.
†   1582 – Because of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar this day does not exist in this year in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

(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:

 

“Worry” looks around, “Sorry” looks back, “Faith” looks up.

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus healing 10 lepers, and the only one returning to give thanks is the Samaritan.

 

11 As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.  12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him 13 and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”  14 And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  As they were going they were cleansed.  15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.  17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?  18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”  (NAB Luke 17:11-19)

 

Jesus, during His journey to Jerusalem, stopped to heal ten lepers that approached Him.  (Note: all skin diseases during this time were called “leprosy”).  In performing an act of mercy, Jesus is giving us a lesson about faith, love, and reconciliation.  Jesus also gives us a reminder that faith can sometimes be found in unlikely places.  

Ten people afflicted with “leprosy” came to Jesus asking for a cure.  In the Jewish culture, leprosy created a division between those with skin disease and family, society, and religious practices.  “Sin” does the exact same thing to any of us also.  With the effects of sin on our souls, we are separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ, and especially with the Trinitarian God Himself!  With sin, we have focused on a self-love, our own needs and wants instead of the needs and love of those with whom we come into contact.  When we confess our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are “healed” immediately by God’s grace.

Struck with compassion towards the ten “diseased” men, Jesus heals all of them.  However, only one returns to thank Jesus, that one being a Samaritan, a “foreigner.”  In the Jewish culture in which Jesus lived, Samaritans were looked down upon because of the differences between the two communities in their observance of Mosaic Scripture.  

How could this Samaritan, a foreigner in Jesus’ land – a man with a strange accent and probably strange mannerisms – and definitely a man possessing a rebellious theology, be the ONLY ONE to go back to Jesus?  He surely had to overcome over two major barriers to ask for, and receive, a cure from Jesus.  The first barrier was physical.  He had to overcome the contagious aspect of his disease in order to approach Jesus.  He also had to forget about the cultural and religious differences (the second barrier) of their perceived mutual disbelief of each other’s religion to obtain God’s favor. 

Why were Samaritans so disliked by the Jewish people?  Well, Samaritans were a people that originally inhabited a portion of central Palestine west of the Jordan.  Many were “Hebrews,” but with their own separate doctrinal beliefs, and perhaps even different religious practices.  They, like the Jewish people, regarded themselves as descendants of the “ten tribes of Israel.”  The Samaritans though claimed to possess the orthodox religion of Moses in their manuscripts of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament).  The Samaritans further regarded the Jewish temple, and the Jewish priesthood, as having deviated from the Orthodox Law of Moses.  In essence, the two groups existing together could be described as gasoline being thrown into an oil pit.  The two did not mix well, but if any match was thrown into the mix (e.g., controversies or in-fighting) BOTH could erupt violently! 

So, imagine what it might be like for these ten men (nine Jewish and one Samaritan) to begin realizing they are being totally healed – WOW!  Then imagine the nine Jewish lepers excited to run to the temple priests as Jesus commanded; while the one Samaritan stopped, realized he is free from the disease, and his first impulse was to return to Jesus in order to thank Him, and not go to the “Jewish” temple priest in Jerusalem.  Jesus was delighted to see him return fully whole and healed.

The significance of Jesus commending the Samaritan for his faith (and salvation) is very important to not only the Jewish crowd following Jesus, but also to the non-believers in the area overhearing Jesus’ surprise.  Jesus proclaimed, and also demonstrated, that God will bring salvation to ANYONE who hears with faith; and that a true faith can be found in very unique and surprising places (e.g. “foreigners”).

This event describing the thankfulness of the cleansed Samaritan [hence, non-Jewish believer of Jesus] who had leprosy is told in Luke’s Gospel only.  I believe it is because this happening provided a further illustration of Jesus holding up a non-Jew as an example to his Jewish contemporaries that God’s grace through Jesus the Messiah is for all people who will believe, even “foreigners.”  Another example of this perception can be found in Luke 10:33, where a comparable point is achieved in the story of the Good Samaritan (Another foreigner who cares for his neighbor without regard of religion).  It is the faith these “foreigners” had in Jesus that brought them salvation.  I can think of three other similar Bible verses that compare the relationship between faith and salvation in Luke’s Gospel: Luke 7:50; 8:48; and 8:50.  Please read them.

Why did Jesus tell the ten men to Go show yourselves to the priests?”  Jesus, being well-versed in the Old Testament and Levitical laws knew that any person with a skin disease had to be examined by the temple priest when a skin disease was cured; and then also to make an offering for their cleansing, as Moses prescribed in Leviticus 13:45-46, 49; 14:2-9; and Num 5:2-3.  With the priests’ approval, this person could then re-enter Jewish society, and re-enter the temple to worship as well. 

Besides the importance of faith, another lesson given to us in this healing encounter has to do with salvation itself.  Salvation is defined in this instance as “liberation of an individual from sin and its consequences.”  All ten of the lepers were given the gift of healing for their skin lesions; but in his gratitude to God for this gift of healing, only the Samaritan actually found the gift of “salvation,” a personal relationship with Jesus.  Salvation is realized in recognizing and accepting the gifts we have been given; sharing these gifts as God wants us to; and in knowing to whom we are to offer our thanks: God!! 

Among our many and unrelenting responsibilities as loving parents, we are to help cultivate the gift of appreciation and thankfulness.  This is especially true of appreciating and thanking God for all His compassion, benevolence, kindness, and helpfulness to us. 

What are some of the gifts you have received from God?  How often do you give thanks for all of God’s goodness given to you?  Do you praise God, even when given the gift you DO NOT want?  It is far too easy to thank Him for the good things in life.  But, through the bad periods we are also given the opportunity to grow closer to our magnificent, heavenly, Father by giving Him thanks in all circumstances as Paul instructs us to do!  Our sufferings can unite us with the same suffering Jesus endured for our salvation on the Holy Cross in a very personal way.  We are not necessarily thanking God for the suffering itself, but for the grace to endure, and the lessons we will learn from the gift of suffering.

I am in pain on a daily basis.  Between my heart/lung maladies, back and knee pain from 30 years of abuse as a paramedic lifting, prying, and carrying many things and people in awkward situations, plus the usual general aches and pains of growing old, I am very familiar with agony and hurting.  I have come to realize that my suffering is a permanent – and probably necessary – component in my life.  I now know I need to be humble instead of being the proud and boisterous person of my youth.  I need humility in my general life, as well as my prayer life and my faith.  I used to pray and NEVER listen.  I now know that I need NOT ONLY to talk to God, but also more importantly, I need to LISTEN to Him as well.  

My pain and trouble breathing keeps me focused on the divine mercy of God in Jesus, through His own suffering and forgiveness.  Maybe my pain is a kind of personal “stigmata” to keep my heart and soul going in the right direction.  By the way, I can honestly say that I have never been happier in my life.  God definitely works in mysterious and unorthodox ways.  He gave me a difficult cross to carry; and for giving me this unique and true grace, I truly love Him more than I ever have before.   

Don’t think I am bragging.  There is nothing to brag about in what I just related to you.  Other than being a uniquely special creation of God, (as each one of us is to God), I believe I am nothing special.  I believe I am a typical Catholic man living in an often “unjust” and “secular” world today.  However, I have hope and faith for the future; and I give thanks and praise to God for His “Peace and all good.”  (A translation of St. Francis’ favorite greeting:Pax et Bonum.”)

 

“In Gratitude”

 

“Thank you, Father, for having created us and given us to each other in the human family.  Thank you for being with us in all our joys and sorrows, for your comfort in our sadness, your companionship in our loneliness.  Thank you for yesterday, today, tomorrow and for the whole of our lives.  Thank you for friends, for health and for grace.  May we live this and every day conscious of all that has been given to us.  Amen.”

From The Catholic Prayer Book,
compiled by Msgr. Michael Buckley

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Francis Borgia (1510-1572)

 

Today’s saint grew up in an important family in 16th-century Spain, serving in the imperial court and quickly advancing in his career. But a series of events—including the death of his beloved wife—made Francis Borgia rethink his priorities. He gave up public life, gave away his possessions and joined the new and little-known Society of Jesus.

Religious life proved to be the right choice. He felt drawn to spend time in seclusion and prayer, but his administrative talents also made him a natural for other tasks. He helped in the establishment of what is now the Gregorian University in Rome. Not long after his ordination he served as political and spiritual adviser to the emperor. In Spain, he founded a dozen colleges.

At 55, Francis was elected head of the Jesuits. He focused on the growth of the Society of Jesus, the spiritual preparation of its new members and spreading the faith in many parts of Europe. He was responsible for the founding of Jesuit missions in Florida, Mexico and Peru.

Francis Borgia is often regarded as the second founder of the Jesuits. He died in 1572 and was canonized 100 years later.

Patron Saint of Earthquakes

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 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.

 

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.

“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.

 

“There’s a New Marshall in Town Phillip!” – Acts 8:1b-8†


Today in Catholic History:
† 753 BC – Romulus and Remus found Rome (traditional).
† 1073 – Death of Pope Alexander II
† 1509 – Henry VIII ascends the throne of England (unofficially) at the death of his father, Henry VII.
† 1651 – Birth of Blessed Joseph Vaz, Apostle of Ceylon (d. 1711)
† 1673 – Birth of Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick, Holy Roman Empire Empress (d. 1742)
† 1767 – Birth of Elisabeth of Württemberg, Empress consort of the Holy Roman Empire (d. 1790)
† 1854 – Birth of William Stang, Roman Catholic Bishop (d. 1907)
† Liturgical feasts: Holy Infant of Good Health, Saint Abdecalas, Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Anastasius I, Saint Konrad von Parzham, Saint Wolbodo

 

Today’s reflection is about Saul’s personal mission to destroy the Catholic Church.

Quote or Joke of the Day:

Every man is a fool in some man’s opinion. — Spanish Proverb

Today’s Meditation:

There broke out a severe persecution of the church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.  Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment.  Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.  Thus Philip went down to (the) city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them.  With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.  For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured.  There was great joy in that city.  (NAB Acts 8:1b-8) 

The severity of the persecution that breaks out against the Jerusalem community concentrates on the word of Jesus’ resurrection being spread among all the people of the region,  and the dispersal of the Jewish Christian community from Jerusalem, resulting in the conversion of the Samaritans (see Acts 8:4-17, 25).  

All were scattered . . . except the apostles” is an observation that led some modern scholars to conclude that the persecution was limited to the Hellenist (Grecian oriented) Christians, and that the Hebrew Christians were not molested.  Perhaps this is because the Hebrew Christians attitude toward the law and temple was still more in line with that of their fellow Jews.  

Saul . . . was trying to destroy the church” because Saul was able to perceive that the Christian movement among the Jews of Jerusalem, contained the seeds of a major doctrinal divergence from Judaism.  A pupil of Gamaliel the Elder, a Pharisee doctor of the Jewish Law, who was a man of great respect (see Acts 22:3); Saul was totally dedicated to the law as the way of salvation (see Gal 1:13-14), Saul accepted the task of crushing the Christian movement.  He believed that the Christian teachings detracted from the importance of the Jewish Temple and laws.  His vehement opposition to Christianity reveals how difficult it was for a Jew of his time to accept a messianic revelation that differed so greatly from the general expectation of the tradition of the  messiah.

Saul’s devotion to the Jewish faith was so strong and militant in his approach, that it was hard for anyone to dissuade him from his Jewish faith and beliefs, nor his mission to literally destroy any believers of Jesus being the messiah or Christ-figure.  The strength of his devotion to a religion never changed: only his religion changed.  After becoming a Christian, his faith was at least equal to Jesus’ disciples and apostles.

Phillip left for “heathen” turf.  He felt certain that no one would ever come for him so far away from the center of the Jewish faith.  Jesus went to the “unwanted” in Jewish society: the sick, lame, and criminals.  Now, His disciples have gone to areas that the Jewish faith is of little concern.  Jesus said He is he Bread of Life, and now He is becoming the Bread of Life for all: the devout, and the uncommitted; the religious and the secular; the Jew and the pagan.

The crowds apparently were not only interested with what Phillip- was telling them, they accepted his teachings and became followers: they became Christians.  With accepting the faith, they also became vessels for the Holy Spirit, and miracles are always present when the Holy Spirit is involved.  The majority only had the small miracle of knowing that through Jesus, they will live for eternity in paradise regardless of what happens in their mortal lives.  Some had added miracles of healing: mentally, physically, and most definitely spiritually.

Any time I have found that people that have let God into their lives, great joy and awe erupts with illuminating emotions on all faces: the individuals involved, and in the witnesses.  Watch people when they are baptized, confirmed, or have just received forgiveness through the Sacrament of reconciliation.  Look at the faces of the parents of adult children that enter the Church during the Easter Season through the RCIA program.  See all the faces on the altar and in the pews, at a wedding ceremony.  All you see is joy, with only one not happy: Satan.

“Lord Jesus, use me as you used Phillip to evangelize to the ‘heathens’ in my own society.  Let me be an instrument of your love and peace.  Amen.” 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Conrad of Parzham 1818-1894

Conrad, whose baptismal name was John, was the son of the devout and honest couple George Birndorfer and Gertrude Niedermayer. He was born on a farm near the town of Parzham in Bavaria in the year 1818. From his earliest years he gave indications of his future sanctity by his modesty and love of solitude. The fervor of his devotion was noticeable especially when he prayed in church, the distant location of which was no hindrance to his visiting it frequently even in inclement weather. He was inflamed with great love for the Blessed Virgin, and each day fervently recited the rosary. On feast days he frequently made a journey to some remote shrine of the Mother of God. During such pilgrimages, always made on foot, he was constantly engaged in prayer, and when he returned in the evening, he was usually still fasting.

Having spent his youthful years on the farm, closely united to God by means of interior union with Him, he decided at the age of 31 to bid farewell to the world. After disposing of a very large inheritance, he received permission to be admitted as a lay brother among the Capuchins.

Immediately after his profession he was sent to the convent of St. Anne in the city of Altoetting. This place is particularly renowned among all others in Germany for its shrine of the Mother of Mercy, and hundreds, even thousands of the faithful come there daily. Because of the great concourse of people in this city, the duty of the porter at the friary is a very difficult one. As soon as he arrived, this charge was given to Conrad, who retained it until his death. Diligent at his work, sparing in words, bountiful to the poor, eager and ready to receive and help strangers, Brother Conrad calmly fulfilled the task of porter for more than 40 years, during which time he greatly benefited the inhabitants of the city as well as strangers in all their needs of body and soul.

Among the virtues he practiced, he loved silence in a special way. His spare moments during the day were spent in a nook near the door where it was possible for him to see and adore the Blessed Eucharist. During the night he would deprive himself of several hours of sleep, to devote the time to prayer either in the oratory of the brothers or in the church. Indeed, it was quite generally believed that he never took any rest, but continually occupied himself in work and exercises of devotion.

On a certain feast day, when he had ministered to a large number of pilgrims, he felt his strength leaving him. He was obliged to manifest his weakness to his superior. Obedience sent him to bed. Only three days later, little children, to whom the news of Conrad’s sickness had not been given lest they be over saddened, gathered as by instinct around the friary, reciting the rosary. As Blessed Father Francis had died to the music of the birds he loved, so his son died with the voices of the children, these lovely creatures of God, ringing in his ears. On April 21, 1894, the Capuchin porter heard the sound of the Bell for which he had so patiently waited. For the last time he ran to the Door. But this time the Door was literally his Christ.

His heroic virtues and the miracles he performed won for him the distinction to be ranked among the Blessed by Pope Pius XI in the year 1930. Four years later, the same pope, approving additional miracles which had been performed, solemnly inscribed his name in the list of saints.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #21:

On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.   Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

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

“Hey Steve, Let’s Get Stoned!” – Acts 7:51-60†


I want to wish a very happy and blessed birthday to a woman I have grown to love.  I think I have read nearly all her books.  This woman raised herself up and out of despair and poverty, to become a poor and simple woman doing God’s work on earth; and doing it exceptionally well: Happy Birthday Mother Angelica.  May you have a blessed day.

Today in Catholic History:
570 – Birth of Muhammed, founder of Islam (d. 632) (date disputed)
1303 – The University of Rome La Sapienza is instituted by Pope Boniface VIII.
1314 – Death of Pope Clement V (b. 1264)
1586 – Birth of Saint Rose of Lima, Peruvian saint (d. 1617)
1923 – Birth of Mother Angelica, American nun and broadcaster
    

Today’s reflection is about the stoning of Stephen.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. — Eleanor Roosevelt
  

Today’s Meditation:
    

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors.  Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.  You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”  When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.  But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.  As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”   Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.  (NAB Acts 7:51-60)
     

Israel had generations of resistance to God’s word.  God repeatedly sent prophets to correct their ways, but the Jewish people rejected, persecuted, and murdered the prophets.  There seemed to be in a constant cycle of reverence, then immoral acts leading to destruction or capture.  Then prophets proclaim the fruits of following God’s laws with limited results for long periods.  Finally, the people ask for forgiveness and redemption, which is gained through sacrifice and prayer.  The Jewish people are forgiven and live in peace, harmony, and in the presence of God in a reverent manner; only to repeat the cycle again and again (I believe seven times).    

Stephen affirms to the Sanhedrin that the prophecy Jesus made before them had been fulfilled (see Mark 14:62): Jesus died, and was resurrected on the third day.  His church was torn down (His death on the cross), and was rebuilt in three days (with His resurrection).  The location of God’s “glory” is in heaven with the risen Christ, rather than in the Jewish Temple made by humans.

 The reason they covered your ears, is that Stephen’s declaration, like that of Jesus, is a scandal to the court which regards Stephen’s declaration as blasphemy.  I can picture them all acting like little children with their eyes closed tightly, hands firmly over their ears, looking downwards, and yelling “nani, nani, nani”.   

Stephen is taken outside the city, because any death makes the ground it occurs on as “unclean.”  No one, the Jewish people nor the roman officials, would ever think of making a planned murder on sacred ground.  Murder, in whatever form, is also death to a sacred life from God.  The location of murder is irrelevant to me.  Even in this present era, people are still purposely murdered.  Sacred lives are destroyed out of our immoral thoughts that “this” life is unnecessary or a hassle.  Abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty are all offenses against this sacred life, and are wrong!

Stephen was destined to be our Church’s first martyr.  This man chosen to feed the elderly widows and other members of the Church of Christ is being killed for his faith by a mob.  Stephen sees Jesus standing with God as he is being persecuted.  Stephen is literally walking in Jesus’ footsteps. 

The word “standing” may refer to Jesus’ welcome to his martyr in an individual way.  It is a variation of Jesus sitting at Gods right hand.  When you go to a friend’s house, how much warmer is the welcome when you are met at the door, or on the porch, with a smile and handshake from the home owner.  I think this is what Jesus is doing:  standing on the porch, welcoming Stephen to His abode.

Witnesses” hardly would be probable in a lynching.  These “witness participants” were probably people caught up in the mob hysteria present, and probably threw a stone or two at Stephen.  I wonder how they felt afterwards: was there any remorse?  Stephen forgave them before they even asked; did any ask God for forgiveness?

In the crowd was a young man that will become one of the greatest figures and disciples of the Catholic Church.  This man, at this time, is a strong and devout Jew, who hates any heresy to the current Jewish faith: Saul.  Saul’s presence appears at the precise point when the Churches mission moves outward from Jerusalem to the Gentile world.

“Jesus, I am in awe at the piety of the early followers of your disciples.  Please give me the grace of these early Church Fathers.  I so want to live and die in you presence and love.  Amen.”
   

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Marian
    

When St. Mamertinus was Abbot of the monastery which St. Germanus had founded at Auxerre, there came to him a young man called Marcian (also known as Marian), a fugitive from Bourges then occupied by the Visigoths. St. Mamertinus gave him the habit, and the novice edified all his piety and obedience. The Abbot, wishing to test him, gave him the lowest possible post – that of cowman and shepherd in the Abbey farm at Merille. Marcian accepted the work cheerfully, and it was noticed that the beast under his charge throve and multified astonishingly. He seemed to have a strange power over all animals. The birds flocked to eat out of his hands: bears and wolves departed at his command; and when a hunted wild boar fled to him for protection, he defended it from its assailants and set it free. After his death, the Abbey took the name of the humble monk. His feast day is April 20th

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #20:
   

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