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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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“It’s a Bird; It’s a Plane; No, It’s Christ! Oh, Oh, I’m NOT Ready Yet!!” – Luke 21:25-28,34-36†


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First Sunday of Advent

 

 . table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For December, 2012

 

General Intention: that all migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity andPope Benedict illustration authentic love, especially by Christian communities.

Missionary Intention: that Christ may reveal Himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of His Church.

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Today, and next Wednesday, I am going to share information on two holiday objects used by all people in a secular way, the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and the “Candy Cane”.  However, these items started out as ways to catechize Catholics during times of suppression from governments of the day.  I hope you enjoy the history and meaning behind these items.

 

The Real Meaning of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

by Father Edward T. Dowling, S. J | Source: Catholic.net

 

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written by the English Jesuits during the 16th century, though its precise author is unknown.  The carol used obscure symbols to hide its true meaning from the enemy in time of persecution, Henry VIII.  When Henry VIII was rebuffed by Rome in his request to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, he declared himself head of the Church in England.  With replacing the Pope, the King demanded all to swear an oath of allegiance to him as head of the Church.  St. Thomas More, the “Chancellor of the Realm”, (the equivalent of the Prime Minister today), refused the oath, and Henry VIII had him publicly beheaded.  During this time, Catholic convents and monasteries were closed and looted.  

The situation was made worse under his son, Edward VI, and better during the short reign of Catherine’s daughter, Mary Tudor. However, she was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I, an ardent Protestant and the daughter of Anne Boleyn.  The practice of the Catholic faith was banned.  Priests were exiled and forbidden under pain of Twelve Days of Christmasdeath from returning or performing the sacraments.  It was a desperate, dreadful time.

With this as a background we can see the need for secrecy and deception.  “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written to educate the faithful in the doctrines of the faith and, at the same time, not be obvious to persecutors in the area.  The numbers are simply a mnemonic to help Catholics remember some basic facts. Recall the words of the song: 

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: twelve lords a leaping, eleven pipers piping, ten ladies dancing, nine drummers drumming, Twelve_days_Wordleeight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

The song celebrates the liturgical Christmas season, starting on Christmas Day and ending twelve days later on the “Feast of the Epiphany”.  

·        My true love” refers to God, and “me” is the individual Catholic.

·        The “twelve lords a leaping” are the twelve basic beliefs of the Catholic Church as outlined in the Apostles Creed. 

·        The “eleven pipers piping” are the eleven Apostles who remained faithful after the treachery of Judas. 

·        The “ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments. 

·        The “nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels which in those days of class distinction were thought important. 

·        The “eight maids a milking” are the Eight Beatitudes. 

·        The “seven swans a swimming” are the Seven Sacraments. 

·        The “six geese a laying” are for both the Six Commandments of the Church and the six days of creation. 

·        The “five golden rings” are the first five books of the Old Testament called the Torah which are generally considered the most sacred and important of all the Old Testament. 

·        The “four calling birds” are the Four Gospels. 

·        The “three French hens” are the Three Persons in God and the three gifts of the Wise Men. 

·        The “two turtle doves” represent the two natures in Jesus: human and divine and the two Testaments, Old and New. 

·        The “partridge” is the piece de resistance, Jesus himself,

And,

·        The “pear tree” is the Holy Cross.

http://catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=3465

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bag_of_moneyBy the way, all the items mentioned in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” would cost $107, 300 (US) in today’s costs.  This is a 6.1% increase from last year.

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

Luke21v25to36_2003

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches His disciples to be vigilant and ready for when the “Son of Man” comes in glory.  Are you “vigilantly ready”?

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(NAB Luke 21:25-28,34-36)  25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.   27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”  34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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. Reflection Gospel Reflection:

 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, also called the first Sunday of a new liturgical year.  The Advent sAdvent1eason includes the four Sundays proceeding Christmas Day and is a time of preparation for the “coming of the Lord”.  During the Advent season, we recall two essential and foundational elements of our faith:

  • ·        The final coming of the Lord “in glory”;

And,

  • ·        the “incarnation” of the Lord – – through the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

The key themes of the Advent season are watchful waiting, spiritual preparation, and realizing God’s loving justice.

In this new liturgical year, the Gospel of Luke will be the primary Gospel proclaimed (for you techno-missal-geeks, we will be using Lectionary Cycle C).  Today’s Gospel is taken from the chapter just luke-gospel-bannerbefore Luke’s “passion narrative” in which Jesus teaches in the Holy Temple.  Jesus knows what is going to happen to Him soon!  He is preparing, and giving hope and good counsel, and fair warning, to His disciples.  Today’s reading has Jesus speaking to His disciples about the need for “vigilance and prayer” as they wait for the coming of the “Son of Man in glory”.  

Jesus has already predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, warned about the persecution and tribulations to follow, and is now identifying the “signs” signaling the “coming of the Son of Man in glory” to come.

From a historical viewpoint, the community – – the audience and readers – – for whom Luke wrote his GosStLukepel may have believed that they were already experiencing some of the events Jesus described – – and they would be RIGHT!  Luke, a Syrian from Antioch, wrote his Gospel and the Book of the “Acts of the Apostles” as a two-volume work in the late 90’s.  At that time of Luke’s Gospel, many Catholic Christians interpreted the Temple’s destruction as an indication that Jesus’ “second coming” was very close at hand.

Luke, through his writings, shifts the early Christian emphasis away from an expectation of an imminent, about to happen – – NOW – – “Parousia” event, to that of a day-to-day concern of the Catholic Christian community – – in “waiting” – – individually, and as a Church.  Luke is more concerned with presenting the “Words” and deeds of Jesus as instructions for the conduct of His Christian disciples during the intervening period between His Ascension and the His Second Coming, the Parousia – – whenever it is to happen.  He also presents Jesus Christ Himself, as the model for a proper Catholic Christian life of goodness, faithfulness, and holiness. 

Jesus’ eschatological discourse concerns doctrines (truths) about the human soul in its relation to death, personal judgment, heaven, and hell.  Jesus is urging His disciples – – and at the same time, the eschatology-kidsCatholic Church as a whole – – inspiring them to be to be faithful and obedient through the trials and tribulations which WILL confront them – – and ALL OF US! (Sounds just like what is happening today!  Please re-read my “Five stages of Persecution” in last Sunday’s blog for more on this subject.)  

Jesus, through Luke, is urging a necessity to be constantly “vigilant” (literally meaning “watchful”) and not to have a misguided “Messianic hope” of deliverance from our trials and tribulations.  We need to remember that no one but the Father knows the precise time of the Parousia:

Of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).

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Jesus’ “Second Coming” WILL be preceded by signs.  Could Jesus’ “sign” be the presence of the bleak outrages and scandals coming from the Roman power profaning the Temple then(?) and the direct attacks on the Catholic Church from without and within today(?) – – NOW(?) – -!  It certainly seems reasonable to me, so I’m definitely preparing!

So, what are these signs to be?  Luke, being very astute at researching issues, looked for answers throTraffic-signs-theme-vector-material2ughout Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) and John’s prophetic book, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ”:

From a sling, wrathful hailstones shall be hurled.  The waters of the sea will be enraged and flooding rivers will overwhelm them” (Wisdom 5:22);

The stars of the heavens and their constellations will send forth no light; The sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:10);

“When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken all its starsThe sun I will cover with clouds; the moon will not give light (Ezekiel 32:7);

Before them the earth trembles; the heavens shake; Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness … I will set signs in the heavens and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke; The sun will darken, the moon turn blood-red, Before the day of the LORD arrives, that great and terrible day … Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness (Joel 2:10; 3:3–4; 4:15);

“Then I watched while he broke open the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; the sun turned as black as dark sackcloth and the whole moon became like blood.  The stars in the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs shaken loose from the tree in a strong wind.  Then the sky was divided like a torn scroll curling up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place” (Revelation 6:12–14).

Luke relates that the “powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:26).  Is this a reference to the “cosmic angelic armies” – – Satan’s armies – – manifesting themselves?  Or, is it a reference to the physical celestial properties we know in our sphere of earthly human knowledge?  I believe it is “Both/And”.  That our physical environment is under the authority of God and the responsibility and authority which God delegated to the angels before they “fell from grace”.

The Lord continually forewarned His “chosen” family that there will be a periodic “shaking” and other “signs” we should pay attention to.  In the Old Testament, Haggai warns Zerubbabel:

“For thus says the LORD of hosts: In just a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land … Speak to Zerubbabel*, the governor of Judah: I will shake the heavens and the earth(Haggai 2:6, 21).

*(Zerubbabel was a descendant of King David and was a governor of the Persian Province of Judah (cf., Haggai 1:1).  He led the first group of Jews who returned from the Babylonian Captivity around 538 BC.  Zerubbabel also laid the foundation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem soon after their return.  Per Haggai, Zerubbabel will also have a “servant” role in God’s future Israelite kingdom – – to be established – – when God intervenes to overthrow the nations.  )

Now, in the New Testament era, God counsels the Judeo-Christian family in the Letter to the Hebrews:

See that you do not reject the one who speaks.  For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much more in our case if we turn away from the one who warns from heaven.  His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, ‘I will once more shake not only earth but heaven.’  That phrase, ‘once more,’ points to [the] removal of shaken, created things, so that what is unshaken may remain.  Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe.  For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:25-29).

Since this is the case when the Parousia happens, I can see why many will be so frightened.  Hoz202092960wever, though I will always have apprehension and some “fear” of this incomprehensible event.  God’s revelation and promise in Jesus helped to be prepared and constantly vigilant.  In my spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, I am eagerly awaiting His return daily, – – or whenever it shall occur.  We do this at every Mass when the Priest right after the “Our Father” prayer, when the Priest prays:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

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Another “sign” prophesied in today’s reading is:

“They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). 

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied He would return again at the “end of time” (the Parousia) to finCross_Globeish the work He came to accomplish through His death and resurrection.  Jesus’ image of the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” is taken from a foretelling vision of the prophet Daniel:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man. When He reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, His kingship, one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

Remember, Jesus always referred to Himself as “the Son of Man” and never as “the Son of God”!  Why do you think Jesus chose this specific title?  Hmm, He had a great reason, as you will soon find out.

Daniel’s vision [above] is a foretelling of a royal appointment of a “human” king before God’s throne.  This “human” king, whose authority comes directly from God the Father, is given world-wide and everlasting kingship, authority, and power.  

The faithful Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression.  Jesus, however, tells His disciples that when He returns, He will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for ALL – – not just the Jewish “chosen” people.

Jesus goes on to reveal that He will be:

The ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory”:

In saying this, Jesus is citing specific Scriptural words.  He is referencing Jewish Scripture from the book of Deuteronomy:SecondComingOfChrist

“There is none like the God of Jeshurun*, who rides the heavens in his power, who rides the clouds in his majesty;” (Deuteronomy 33:26).

* (“Jeshuran” is a poetic name for “the people of Israel”, used as a token of affection by the author. It translates to, “the dear upright people“. This word is used four times in Holy Scripture: (cf., Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 33:26; and Isaiah 44:2.  It is a term that can be applied to the Catholic Church.)

The word “clouds”, in Jewish Holy Scripture, indicates the presence of divinity. The image of the ATT00001cloud” being “the presence of divinity” is found extensively throughout the story of Moses interaction with “the Lord” during the Jewish exodus in the desert:

The LORD came down in a cloud and stood with him [Moses] there and proclaimed the name, ‘LORD’” (Exodus 34:5);

“[The Lord] said to him [Moses]: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the inner sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the cover on the ark, lest he die, for I reveal myself in a cloud above the ark’s cover (Leviticus 16:2);

and,

The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied but did not continue” (Numbers 11:25).

Thus, in His nature as the “Son of Man”, Jesus is truly a “divine person” (as well as being the “human” king) who will come “in power and glory”.

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The last half of today’s reading is a collection of “sayings” relating to Luke’s understanding of the “end time” and the return of Jesus – – the Parousia event. Luke emphasizes – – for his readers – – the importance of being faithful to the instructions of Jesus in the period before the Parousia event Bible%2520-%2520Instruction%2520Manualoccurs.  This book was written long after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  The early Catholic Christian expectations of an “imminent” second return of Jesus had to obviously undergo some modification.  So, Luke cautions his readers against counting on this delay and acting irresponsibly.  A similar warning can be found earlier in Luke’s Gospel:

“But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful (Luke 12:45–46);

These verses are a warning for Jesus’ disciples to be ALWAYS (i.e., daily) ready for the Lord’s return, during the Parousia – – the promised Second Coming of Christ.  It is also an implied acknowledgement of the “Final Judgment”, the ultimate acknowledgement of God the Father’s love and active participation in the course of this awesome event, the fullest revelation of God sharing His eternal love for each of us.

As Catholic Christians, we need to start living as if the Parousia is here now – – as if you see Jesus Christ descending on a “cloud” NOW!!  Live holy lives; rejoice in hope; be alert to the various Eschatology_False-Prophets_620deceptions that Satan will launch against the Church in those days:

Many false prophets will arise and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11).

 Make use of a radical simplicity in life.  All our material possessions will no longer benefit, nor be of benefit, to us after the Parousia event: they will burn in the purifying fire on that day:header

Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.  For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.  Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.  But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1 John 2:15-17);

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.  Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought [you] to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire.  But according to His promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

BBePreparede in a state of constant awareness and perpetual readiness and anticipation.  Also, be in constant personal spiritual growth – – the best way to prepare.  Luke is warning us to NOT have the attitude, “I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back”.  This is truly a foolish attitude to cultivate.  Live the scouting life: “Be Prepared!!”

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. summarize titleThough Jesus predicts a time of destruction and fear, He indicates that others will be frightened; Jesus’ disciples are instead not to fear, but to stand tall.  However, Jesus goes on to say that He does NOT promise deliverance from anxiety or tribulations in our earthly lives.  Jesus encourages His disciples to pray for strength OFTEN!!  The ealift-up-praiserly Catholic Christian communities did not find consolation in the promise of an ideal and perfect place where ALL live in peace and harmony – – and neither should we today.  Instead, we recognize – – in our Catholic Christian faith – – the instrument and ways by which we can witness to God’s unfailing love for us in ALL circumstances, even the rough times.  These instruments are the Holy Sacraments: all contained in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Jesus’ predictions about the end times may sound dire. However, in the very next verses in Luke’s Gospel, just after today’s reading ends, he tells us that people woke early to listen to Jesus’ teaching in the Temple area:

During the day, Jesus was teaching in the temple area, but at night he would leave and stay at the place called the Mount of Olives.  And all the people would get up early each morning to listen to him in the Temple area” (Luke 21:37-38).

In His personhood and in His personal message to those who listen, strength and consolation will be found.  Like the first Catholic Christians, we will certainly encounter and experience events and cirthCAM75JLMcumstances leading us to periods of despair in our lives.  (After all, we are ONLY human – – but saved by His grace.)  Therefore, through prayer, we find strength and consolation in Jesus’ “Words” and in His continuing presence with us – – through all our trials – – bearing and undergoing, and sometimes suffering together, witnessing to the loving action of God in our world.

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. conclusionSince the early first centuries, many Churches in the east and west have marked “special seasons” to celebrate the central, essential, and foundational “truths” of the Catholic Christian faith.  The Advent season reminds us that we are a “pilgrim people”, exiles from Christ’s eternal heaven, who long for our “true” home with God in His heavenly kingdom.  We are awaiting – – with joyful hope – – the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the age – – the Parousia.  

No one but God the Father knows the day of Jesus’ “return in glory”.  But, it is certain that we are living in the end times, the culmination of this present age in God’s plan – – NOW!  The end times MARK_13_32_by_traylor1234began with the “first coming” of Jesus Christ – – through His “Incarnation” and birth – – which we celebrate at Christmas and the Epiphany.  The end times culminates in His return on the “Final Day of Judgment”.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns His disciples against the apathy and lack of vigilance which can surface if one’s spirit becomes depleted by the anxieties of daily life.  Many of us are all too familiar with this kind of fatigue which Jesus is referring to in today’s reading.  It comes with being concerned about ours or another’s health, job security, education, financial problems, and any number of other reasons.  

Yes, ALL these aspects of life are important matters indeed.  Jesus does not promise to end our daily Keep Your Eyes On Jesusworries and fears.  However, He DOES teach His disciples (and us) that they will have the “strength” to withstand these anxieties and trials IF and WHEN we stay focused on Him in our everyday lives.  His disciples need to remain “vigilant” for His second return – – IT WILL HAPPEN – – someday!  His disciples need to be consistent in praying for “strength” to endure all “tribulations”.  Through prayer, God helps us stay focused on what (actually, “WHO”) is most important in our lives – – Jesus Christ!!

Recall your previous traditions of making New Year’s resolutions in preparation for a new calendar year.  Today IS the first Sunday of Advent, which is the beginning of the new Church year.  During the resolutions1season of Advent, our Gospel readings ask us to consider what (and “WHO”) is most important to us as we prepare for Jesus’ coming, at His birth AND at the “end of time”.

Jesus describes “signs” which surely will disturb and scare many people.  However, Jesus says that these “signs” should not be disturbing to His disciples.  Remember, Jesus in today’s in reading, says that these “signs” indicate “redemption” is near.  He even goes so far as to tell us how to behave:

When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke21:28).

 With this new Church year, what Advent “resolutions” might you make to help you stay focused on Christ; to help you be prepared to receive the salvation which we celebrate at Jesus’ birth, and anticipate at Jesus’ “second coming”.  Pray for God’s help in following through on these “New Year” resolutions you just made.

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Reflection Prayer: 

Psalm 25

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul, my God, in you I trust; do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. No one is disgraced who waits for you, but only those who are treacherous without cause. Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. Guide me by your fidelity and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long. Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD, for they are ages old. Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me psalm25_4_5according to your mercy, because of your goodness, LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way, He guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble his way.  All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth toward those who honor his covenant and decrees. For the sake of your name, LORD, pardon my guilt, though it is great. Who is the one who fears the LORD?  God shows him the way he should choose. He will abide in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The counsel of the LORD belongs to those who fear him; and his covenant instructs them. My eyes are ever upon the LORD, who frees my feet from the snare.

Look upon me, have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart; bring me out of my distress. Look upon my affliction and suffering; take away all my sins. See how many are my enemies, see how fiercely they hate me. Preserve my soul and rescue me; do not let me be disgraced, for in you I seek refuge. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; I wait for you, O LORD. Redeem Israel, O God, from all its distress!  Amen.

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♫“Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign, Blockin’ Out the Devil, Freein’ My Mind. Do This, Don’t Do That, Can’t You Read the Sign?!”♫ – Mark 13:24-32†


33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

A friend wrote something he believes the Holy Spirit told him to write down.  I found it very moving, and would love to share this beautiful piece of work with you:

A Conversation with God

By Gene Eller

One day I started to pray, “Please Lord, can you help me, I’m so angry?”

The Lord said, “What do you have to be angry about?”

I alleged, “Lord, this guy over there has an important job.  He’s in charge of a lot of people.”

The Lord come back with, “Did I not provide you a job?”

I said, “Yes, but Lord, he owns a big house with a lot of rooms and I rent this tiny house with very few rooms.”

The Lord said back to me, “Did I not provide you with a roof over your head and a place to sleep, for you AND your family?”

Again, I replied, “Yes, you did.”  I then said to the Lord, “He has lots of money and I have so little.”

The Lord answered, “Did I not provide him with enough money so that he can help the poor?”

Again, I could only answer, “Yes, I suppose so; but Lord I and my family barely have enough food to eat.”

The Lord then asked, “Didn’t I provide you with enough food so you would NOT go hungry?”

I said, “Yes, you did.”  Then the Lord asked me, “With all that I have provided you, how can you be so angry?”

I sheepishly whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”  He countered with, “I did, but you did not listen to me!”

We all need to stop, ask the Lord if we have not heard Him, and then, LISTEN!!

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Next week, I will be discussing the “five stages of religious persecution” which I learned from an on-line article written by Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdioceses of Washington.  The subject matter is directly related to the importance of our Catholic Faith TODAY!!  The author highlights the direct effect of the HHS mandate on religious freedom, specifically impacting the Catholic faithful and the Church itself.  He also highlighted his perception of a greater degree of indifference on the part of many Catholics, in particular, those serving in public office.    

With this not so subtle – – in fact, overt – – inconsistency and public deviation from foundational Catholic Doctrine concerning life, marriage, and religious liberty, I am inspired to recommend to you, all my readers, the following three prayers given to us from the “Guardian Angel of Portugal” who appeared to the three children of Fatima in October 1916.  The angel prayed and taught these prayers to the children who learned to pray them daily:

The Pardon Prayer:

“My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love you!  I ask forgiveness for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love you.”

The Angel’s Prayer:

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

The Eucharistic Prayer:

“Most Holy Trinity, I adore you!  My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

Please say these Prayers on a daily basis.

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  Quote of the Day:

“The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.  They simply are the ones who care the most.” ~ Charlie Schulz (is alledged author, but Scopes says author is unknown)

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches about the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.  Hey, what’s YOUR sign?

(NAB Mark 13:24-32)  24 “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, 27 and then he will send out the angels and gather [his] elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.  28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.  When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.  29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.  30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

We are nearing the end of this liturgical year in the Catholic Church.  Today is the second to last Sunday prior to the start of the new Church year which is the beginning of the Advent Season, that of expectation and preparation for the coming infant “Messiah”.  So, as we approach the end of the Church year, our Gospel is inviting each of us to consider Jesus’ foretelling “predictions” and teachings about the end of the world – – as we know it.  Jesus’ “Words” about the “end times” are spoken to prepare His disciples for His passion and death in Jerusalem at the time of Passover (but they do not know the time of His passion and death yet).

Before we consider Jesus’ “Words”, it is important to note the reason Mark writes his Gospel, the political backdrop in which it is written.  It is strongly believed that Mark wrote his Gospel for Christians living in or near Rome about 30 to 40 years after the death of Jesus on the Holy Cross (circa, 60-75 A.D.).  This was a time of political turmoil in Rome and throughout the Middle-east.  At this time Christians in the area were experiencing persecution by the Romans.  Jewish revolutionaries, in response to this persecution on their people and their religious beliefs, rebelled against the Romans.  In response to their attacks, the Romans completely destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., murdering a major portion of the Jewish leaders and populace.  Many in Mark’s community of believers, during this time of political turmoil and persecution, most certainly wondered if the “end times” envisioned by Jesus were quite near to coming to fruition.

Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ observation about the contributions being made to the Temple treasury.  Jesus commented on the example of sacrificial giving, inspired by her total trust that God would protect and provide, which He saw in the poor widow’s offering (cf., Mark 12:38-44).  Placed between last week’s reading at Mass and this week’s reading at Mass is Jesus’ prophesy of the destruction of the Jewish Temple, His teaching about the costs of discipleship, and the “woes” that will accompany the “end times”.  In a warning to His followers, and to balance the potential despair implied in His prophecy, both then and now today, Jesus offers hope by instructing His disciples for the need of watchfulness so that they will not be caught unprepared for this final day of judgment – – the Parousia – – His Second Appearing.

In this rather abstractly-bizarre discourse about the coming of the “Son of Man”, Jesus is referring to specific “Words” (and images connecting words) found in their most sacred of Jewish religious Scriptures, the “Torah”, the first five books of today’s Old Testament:

The stars of the heavens and their constellations will send forth no light; The sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:10);

When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken all its stars” (Ezekiel 32:7);

Before them the earth trembles; the heavens shake; Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness (Joel 2:10).

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The people of Jesus’ time expected that the coming of the Messiah – – “the Son of God” – – would be accompanied by extraordinary signs and wonders which can be anticipated if we watch for the signs.  Signs of wonder and mystery have always revolved around Jesus.  Let’s remember that Jesus’ first coming was “clouded” in mystery and wonderment:

  • A “son of David” was born in a cave at Bethlehem as was prophesied;
  • Magi from “the East”, guided by a star, travelled to worship the newborn king of Israel;
  • He was a miracle-worker who gave sight to the blind and raised the dead,
  • He was a “Suffering Servant” who bore the sins of many upon the Holy Cross, and
  • He IS the Risen Jesus Christ who stormed the gates of Sheol to release its captives.

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied He would return again at the “end of time” (the Parousia) to finish the work He came to accomplish through His death and resurrection.  

Jesus’ image of the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” is taken from a foretelling vision of the prophet Daniel:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man.  When He reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, His kingship, one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

(Remember now, Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”!).

Daniel’s vision is a foretelling of a royal appointment of a “human” king before God’s throne.  This “human” king, whose authority comes from God the Father, is given world-wide and everlasting kingship, authority, and power.  The faithful Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression.  Jesus, however, tells His disciples that when He returns He will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for ALL – – not just the Jewish “chosen” people.

Jesus goes on, in verse 13:26, saying the following of His return:

The ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory”:

In saying this, Jesus is citing verses from Deuteronomy:

“There is none like the God of Jeshurun*, who rides the heavens in his power, who rides the clouds in his majesty;” (Deuteronomy 33:26).

(* “Jeshuran” is a poetic name for “the people of Israel”, used as a token of affection by the author.  It translates to, “the dear upright people“.  This word is used four times in Holy Scripture: (cf., Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 33:26; and Isaiah 44:2.)

Jesus repeats this text again later, referring to the “Son of Man and riding in the clouds of heaven”, in His response to the question from the high priest, “Are you the Messiah?”:

Again the high priest asked him and said to him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?’  Then Jesus answered, ‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”’” (Mark 14:61-62).

The word “clouds”, in Jewish Holy Scripture, indicates the presence of the divinity.  Thus, in His nature as the “Son of Man”, Jesus is truly a “heavenly being” who will come in power and glory (as well as being the “human” king).  The image of the “cloud” being “the presence of divinity” is significantly found throughout the story of Moses interaction with “the Lord” during the Jewish exodus in the desert:

The LORD came down in a cloud and stood with him [Moses] there and proclaimed the name, ‘LORD’” (Exodus 34:5);

“[The Lord] said to him [Moses]: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the inner sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the cover on the ark, lest he die, for I reveal myself in a cloud above the ark’s cover (Leviticus 16:2);

and,

The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him.  Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied but did not continue” (Numbers 11:25).

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Jesus continues His teaching by offering His disciples “signs” to look for, indicating that the “coming of the Son of Man” is near.  His “Words” and its images draw upon similes found in the Torah and other Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament).  

Next, Jesus offers the lesson of the “fig tree”, a parable which teaches that if one knows how to read the “signs”, one can be prepared for the “end times”.  However, Jesus also makes exceedingly clear to His disciples that NO ONE knows when the “end time” will come, EXCEPT God the Father.  

The last verse from today’s Gospel reading is very revelational and significant for me:

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 12:32).

This statement seems to counterbalance today’s reading by declaring that the exact time of the Parousia is known only to God the Father; and God the Father IS PURE LOVE!!  The Father IS the architect, designer, and the ultimate cause and effect intended in the Parousia!  This last verse is a warning for the disciples to be ALWAYS (i.e., daily) ready for the Lord’s return, at the Parousia – – the promised Second Coming of Christ.  It is also an acknowledgement of the Final Judgment, the ultimate acknowledgement of God the Father’s love and active participation in this awesome event, the fullest revelation of God sharing His eternal love for each of us. 

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As Catholic Christians, we need to start living as if the Parousia is here now – – as if you see Jesus Christ descending on a “cloud” with the “12 Legions of Angels” surrounding Him NOW!!  How do we prepare for His return?  Here is a set of “To Do’s” taken from a website I found, cited at the end: so,

  • Live holy lives abiding in Christ (1 John2:28) and perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).
  • Rejoice in hope knowing that we have a Savior who will certainly appear and all our work for Christ will not be in vain, but abundantly rewarded ( 1 Corinthians 15:58).
  • Be alert to the various deceptions that Satan will launch against the Church in those days (2 Thessalonians 2:8,9; Matthew 24:11).  (These Days!!)
  • Engage in radical simplicity knowing that all our material possessions will be just fuel for the fire on that day (1 John 2:15-17; 2 Peter 3:10-14).
  • Be awake to God, and not “asleep in the light” (Matthew 25:1-13).  This means we are to have a sense of perpetual readiness and anticipation, and being in constant personal spiritual growth.  The attitude that “I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back” is “foolishness”, imperiling the joy the believer can enter into with Christ.
  • Wait patiently for the coming of the Lord without giving in to skepticism about an apparent delay (James 5:7-8, 2Peter 3:3-4) or alarmist panic (2 Thessalonians 2:1,2), or concluding that He has already returned.
  • Hasten the day of His return by engaging in the world mission and and other activities of His Kingdom here on earth (Matthew 6:33, 24:14, 2 Peter3:12).
From http://www.globalchristians.org/articles/parousia.htm

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Jesus’ prophetic description of the Parousia, the “end time” and the “day of judgment”, was not new to the people of Israel.  The prophets had foretold these events for many centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Please look up these references (cf., Isaiah 13:9-13; Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; and Zephaniah 1:14-18).  Jesus speaks of the “Second Coming” as a well-known fact among the pious Jews, an expected event which was certain to take place.  This “Second Coming” will be marked by “signs” ALL will be able to recognize, signs which will strike terror in those unprepared, and wonder and awe in those who are ready to meet Jesus Christ face-to-face.  When Jesus Christ returns He will establish “justice and righteousness” and He will justify all who have been faithful to Him.  His return and judgment is a sign of hope for those who TRUST IN HIM!!

Jesus wants each of us to learn a lesson from the fig tree.  Fig trees were common in the area, and an important source of food for the Jews and others living in the area.  A fig tree produces fruit twice a year, once in the early spring and again in the autumn.  The prophet Joel mentions it’s fruit-bearing ability as a “sign” of favor from “the Lord”:

“Do not fear, you animals in the wild, for the wilderness pastures sprout green grass.  The trees bear fruit, the fig tree and the vine produce their harvest” (Joel 2:22).

Jewish Scripture says that the “first fruit” came the day after Passover:  

“When you come into the land which I am giving you, and reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest, who shall elevate the sheaf before the LORD that it may be acceptable on your behalf.  On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall do this.  On this day, when your sheaf is elevated, you shall offer to the LORD for a burnt offering an unblemished yearling lamb” (Leviticus 23:10-12)

For faithful Jews, it was widely believed that when the “Messiah” came, He would shepherd in the kingdom of God at Passover time.  This story foretells the joy of God’s kingdom, the joy of new life, and the promise of a new age of peace and blessing.  WOW – – this is absolutely AWESOME!!   

The “budding” of God’s kingdom begins first “in the hearts of those who are willing and receptive to God’s “Word”.  Those who trust in God’s “Word” will bear the fruits of His kingdom: righteousness, peace, and joy – – in and through the Holy Spirit:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

We do not know the day or hour when the Lord will return again in glory.  But Jesus does give us “signs”, not only to warn us, but also to “rouse our spirits”, readying and inspiring our individual eagerness to see His kingdom come in all its “power and glory”.  Our Lord God wants us to be filled with joyful anticipation for Jesus’ coming again (His Second Advent).  As He promised, Jesus Christ will surely “come again in all His glory”.

Jesus referenced the Book of Daniel in offering “Words” of warning and encouragement.  The warning to us is o LIVE TODAY as if it were your LAST DAY on earth: IT COULD BE!!  However, Jesus reminds us that our God in Heaven – – our heavenly Father – – is a loving God who sent Himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – – Jesus Christ – – to save us!  Through Daniel, our Lord God proclaims that:

those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Daniel 12:3).

Jesus’ words are not spoken to frighten His disciples, nor should they frighten US!  Rather, they are offered to prepare us for the changes we will experience during our lifetimes and at the end times – – the Parousia “event”.  Our consolation and hope is found in the lasting nature of Jesus’ “Words” and God the Father’s ever-lasting, ever-enduring love for each of us.  Hey, what’s HIS sign?!

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The storm “of the century” this past October is not the “end-time” prophesied by Jesus; but it may have seemed so to the multi-thousands of people beaten down by the wind, water, flying objects, and even lack of heat, light, and gas.  The Atlantic coastline is changed forever.  Gas is being rationed for the short-term.  Recovery will be a monumental task, both physically and emotionally.  And, on top of this, the autumn “super-storm” on the East coast followed a summer inundation of drought in the Midwest and massive forest fires in the Western states. 

Many things in our lives and our world are subject to change.  However, each and every one of us obtains personal security and refuge in our personal relationships and values which endure over time.  Chief among these are our family and extended family relationships.  We can accept change if we know that we will continue to be loved by our family, by our friends, and by our Trinitarian God.  We also help impart this sense of trust, confidence, and love in our children, spouses, and others with our daily assurances to them that nothing can change our love for them.

So, grab a soda or cup of coffee, sit down, and look through several family photo albums.  Observe the things that have changed in your family life and other relationships over the years (like hair styles).  Think about the things that have stayed the same.  We do not need to fear changes in our personal lives because we know the most important aspects of our family life and strong friendships do not change, such as our love for one another.  Well, guess what; the same is true with God and His love for each and every single one of us.  Jesus is teaching us that things in our world will change and that the world itself will one day end!!  We don’t need to be “fearful” of the Parousia because God’s love for us will never end – – EVER!!  Pray to God, thanking Him for His ever-lasting and ever-enduring love for us.  Praise be to God!!

Our challenges of becoming aware and preparing for the Parousia are both dauntingly comprehensive and strikingly universal.  If we are inattentive or remiss in regard to the “end time”, we may miss our opportunity to be “ready” for Christ’s return.  If we remain alert and aware, if we take action and prepare, we “shall be like the stars forever“.  Doesn’t everyone want to be a “STAR“?!  (Oh, by the way, see what Jesus says about His “star-self” in Revelation 22:16 – – you will be surprised.)

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Luke 23:42

“Jesus, remember me when
you come into your kingdom.
Amen.”

 

 

 

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“Jesus IS the ‘Word’ – – And His ‘Word’ – – IS!!” – Mark 10:46-52†


30thSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Last Sunday, October 21st, Pope Benedict XVI added seven more saints onto the roster of Catholic role models, saying their example would strengthen the Church as it tries to rekindle the faith in places where it’s lagging.  Two of the seven were Americans:

Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint from the United States.  Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” Kateri was born in 1656 to a pagan Iroquois father and an Algonquin Christian mother. Her parents and only brother died when she was 4 years old, during a smallpox epidemic that left her badly scarred and with impaired eyesight.  She went to live with her uncle, a Mohawk, and was baptized as a Catholic by Jesuit missionaries.  However, she was ostracized and persecuted by other Native Americans because her Christian faith.  She died in what is now Canada at 24 years of age;

And,

Mother Marianne Cope, a 19th century Franciscan nun who cared for leprosy patients in Hawaii.  Mother Cope led a band of Franciscan nuns to the peninsula to care for the patients, just as Saint Damien did in 1873.  

The other new saints are:

Pedro Calungsod, a Filipino teenager who helped Jesuit priests convert natives in Guam in the 17th century, and was killed by spear-wielding villagers who opposed the missionaries’ efforts to baptize their children;

Jacques Berthieu, a 19th century French Jesuit who was killed by rebels in Madagascar where he had worked as a missionary;

Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian who founded a religious order in 1900 and established a Catholic printing and publishing house in his native Brescia;

Carmen Salles Y Barangueras, a Spanish nun who founded a religious order to educate children in 1892;

And finally,

Anna Schaeffer, a 19th century German lay woman who became a model for the sick and suffering after she fell into a boiler, badly burned her legs.  These wounds never healed, causing her constant pain and suffering.

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Today’s reflection blog is my 450th to be posted.  I started blogging in late September, 2009.  During these three years, my writing style and format has grown and matured significantly. (So, please don’t read the early blog entries as they are embarrassing to me.)  My blog has been discovered, and read, by Catholics and non-Catholics (and even a few atheists) throughout the world, which for me is a marvelous grace from God.  I truly do have a deep and humbling gratitude to our magnificent Lord for imparting to me this spiritual grace. 

I wish to thank you, my readers, for looking at my thoughts and reflections on God’s “Way” to His kingdom.  I finally wish to thank a dear friend, a special confidant, and my “Spiritual Director”, all rolled into one dynamic individual, John Hough.  Without his help, my knowledge in biblical history, theology, and philosophy would still be at an undeveloped level.  He has earned a place in heaven solely for dealing with me on a weekly basis.

Some of you may ask how this blog is doing in “getting the ‘Word’ out” to others.  Well, in my first month of posting this blog (09/2009), I had 71 views or hits on my site, and only 500 views that entire first year.  As of this date, only three years later, I am averaging 314 views or hits DAILY, and I am on schedule to have over 66,000 views or hits for this year alone.  On my busiest day, 728 people visited my site (April 7th, 2012), and I have had over 108,000 total views of my site as of Friday, October 26th, 2012.  WOW!!  Thank all of you again for travelling with me – – and Christ – – on a magnificent journey in – – and to – – His kingdom.

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 Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus restores sight to the blind man, Bartimaeus.  How well do you see Jesus?

(NAB Mark 10:46-52) 46 They came to Jericho.  And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.  47 On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.  But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”  49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, he is calling you.”  50 He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.  51 Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”  52 Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”  Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today we continue to read from Mark’s Gospel.  In this reading, we find evidence of Jesus’ growing recognition, reputation, and celebrity by the “sizable crowd” accompanying Him as He continues His traveling to Jerusalem for Passover.  Jesus’ reputation as a healer has obviously preceded Him to Jericho, for a “blind man” was anxiously waiting for Jesus to pass by him on the road.  When the “blind man”, named “Bartimaeus”, hears of Jesus passing by, he calls out to Jesus, asking for His “pity”.

When Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus, the crowd around him tries to silence him.  However, this “blind man” is persistent, calling out even louder and with greater urgency in his voice.  He is strongly determined to NOT be silenced or deterred from getting Jesus’ attention.  Interestingly, the crowd’s reaction quickly changes to that of encouragement AFTER Jesus calls for Bartimaeus to come to Him.

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Jesus meets this poor “blind man” on the road to Jerusalem, but He is NOW going through Jericho.  My question: “Why did Jesus travel to Jericho?”  Let’s look at Jericho, from a geographical, biblical, and historical basis, in order to hopefully find the answer.

Jericho is about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem.  This city is believed to be the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world.  In ancient times, long before Jesus’ birth, Joshua sent two “spies” into the walled city (Jericho), where they were aided by “Rahab, the harlot” (a prostitute).  Because of her assistance, she and her family were spared from injury and death when the Israelites attacked the city.  The Israelite army first surrounded the walled city, Jericho, and after seven days of circling the city continuously, with the Ark in tow, the entire Israelite army shouted and the great and strong walls of the city came crumbling down (cf., Joshua 2:1-22).  

Jericho was the first major conquest by the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan and entered into the promised-land.  However, by Jesus’ time, the “ancient” city of Jericho from Joshua’s time – – was largely abandoned.  However, there was a newer, more modern, metropolis called “Jericho”, just to the south of the old city, planned and built by King Herod.

There is a multitude of history, significance, and biblical references to the city of Jericho.  The representation of this city being a possible sign of Jesus’ “way” – – being one of “breaking down walls” so that we can “abandon” our old ways – – is an interesting concept to explore at a later date.  However, in reality, the reason Jesus traveled through this city with a “sizeable crowd” following Him, is that it was simply the path – – the way – – of getting to Jerusalem.

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On the “way” through Jericho, Jesus came into contact with a “blind man”, “Bartimaeus”, who yells out something very startling for ANY Jew to yell out:

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me” (Mark 10:47).

Bartimaeus was determined to get near the ONE person who could meet his need.  He knew who Jesus truly was – – the true “Messiah”.  He had heard of His fame for spiritual and physical healings.  Until now, he had no means of making contact with the “son of David”, a clear reference and title for this prophesized “Messiah”.  

How could Jesus be the “son of David”?  King David lived approximately 1000 years before Jesus?  Hmm, the answer is that Bartimaeus knew Jesus, the “Christ”, and the “Messiah”, is the fulfillment of the prophecy of “David’s seed”:

When your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom.  He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne foreverI will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.  If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments; but I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from Saul who was before you.  Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

Jesus IS TRULY the promised “Messiah”; He was OF the David’s seed.  The genealogy in Luke, chapter 3, gives Jesus’ lineage through His mother, Mary.  This form of lineage is uniquely unusual as genealogies of this type were ALWAYS from the father’s side.

However, along with His blood-line through Mary, Jesus is also a descendant of David, by adoption, through Joseph, (a double whammy).  Above all though, when Jesus Christ is referred to as the “son of David”, it is referencing to His Messianic title in regard to Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) prophesies.  When this “blind man” cried out desperately to the “son of David” for help, the title of honor given to Jesus by this “blind man” declared Bartimaeus’ faith in Jesus truly being the true “Messiah” and healer prophesized in Jewish Scripture.  

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At the same time Bartimaeus is calling jesus the “son of David”, the crowd was annoyed with the blind man’s persistent shouts for Jesus’ “pity”.  Bartimaeus was disturbing their peace, and possibly interrupting Jesus as He talked while walking along the road through Jericho.  We need to realize that it was common for a “rabbi” to teach as he walked with others.  When the crowd tried to silence the blind man, Bartimaeus overwhelmed them with his emotional and enthusiastic outbursts, thus catching the attention of Jesus in the process.

Others covertly following Jesus, especially the Pharisees and Scribes, also understood what the implications of Jesus’ “way” were when they heard Bartimaeus calling out to Jesus as the “son of David”.  Unlike Bartimaeus, who cried out in faith, these people were so “blinded” by their own pride and lack of understanding of Jewish Scriptures, they couldn’t see what the “blind man” could see.  In front of them, in physical form, was the promised “Messiah-Savior” they ALL had been waiting for, to come in glory, their entire lives.  These “seeing” – – yet still “blind” – – people loathed Jesus, probably because He wouldn’t give the Temple Leaders the honor and worship they believed the Temple leaders deserved; Jesus wasn’t a “YES” man.  So, when they heard Bartimaeus hailing Jesus as the Messiah-Savior, they became angry:

Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (Mark 10:48). 

Jesus called this begging and “blind man” with His command to be “courageous” in coming to Him.  WOW!!  How often have I NOT been courageous in my life, when I was “called” by Jesus to do something?  How often have I been the one “rebuking” another, not being the humble and begging man asking for Jesus to intercede in my own life?

This poor “blind man” not only responded “courageously”, he “sprang up” in his response to Jesus’ “calling”!  Again, how often are the times when my “springs” are tied closed and unable to “spring open” when called upon.  I need to remember – – at these times in my life – – that Jesus Christ has the “Midas touch”, and can heal me as well, if I just ask Him:

Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’  The blind man replied to him, ‘Master, I want to see’” (Mark 10:51). 

And, Jesus’ guarantee is not for a lifetime, it is for ETERNITY!!

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In the last verse of today’s reading, I found a hidden message for me; something I had never seen before:

“Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.’  Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way” (Mark 10:52).

This once blind and now seeing Jewish man, Bartimaeus, was told to follow his “way” upon leaving Jesus’ presence.  However, this man decided to follow the “way” of Jesus (verse 52), instead.  Now, for me, what is so awesome about this particular word – – “WAY” – – is that Saint Paul later noted that followers of “Christianity” were called “followers of ‘the Way’” as an identity to their Christian faith (cf., Acts 19:1,9,23; 24:22)!  All I can say is, “WAY to go Paul!”

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Today’s Gospel event reveals something important and significantly relevant about how God interacts with us.  Bartimaeus was determined to get Jesus’ attention, and was persistent in the face of opposition.  Jesus could have easily ignored or rebuffed him, walking past him instead of stopping FOR him.  After all, Bartimaeus was certainly disturbing Jesus’ discourse with His followers.  However, Jesus showed that “acting” was more important than “talking”.  Jesus “walked the talk”!!  

Bartimaeus was in desperate need, AND Jesus was ready (He always IS), not only to empathize with Bartimaeus’ suffering, but also to relieve his torment of blindness as well.  You know, a great speaker can command attention and respect, but an individual with a helping hand and a big heart is loved so much more than anyone who talks, but does not follow-up with actions.  Saints Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa are prime examples for these great virtues of loving surrender and “servant leadership”. 

Jesus speaks well of Bartimaeus for recognizing Him with “eyes of faith”, granting him with physical sight in response to his faith-filled sight.  I believe we ALL need to recognize our need for God’s healing grace, and to seek out Jesus Christ, just as Bartimaeus did – – with a persistent faith and trust in Jesus’ goodness and mercy!

When Jesus restored Bartimaeus’ sight, no elaborate action was required on Bartimaeus’ part.  Let’s remember that in other “healing stories” from Mark’s Gospel, action was always accompanied with Jesus’ “Words”.  Jesus spoke the “Word”, and it happened.  Today’s reading is NOT the first time this has happened in Holy Scripture.  With His “Word”, water became wine, demons left people, and bread and wine became His true body, blood, soul, and divinity!!  Jesus Christ IS the “Word”, and His “Word” IS!!  John said it the best:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GodHe was in the beginning WITH God.  All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be.  What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race” (John 1:1-4).

Jesus Christ – – IS – – the “Word” made flesh!!

It is worthy to note that the success of Jesus’ healing power is usually associated with the faith of the person requesting His help. As an example, it is because of her faith that the woman with the hemorrhage is healed (cf., Mark 5:24-34).  When faith is absent, Jesus is “unable” to heal, as seen with His rejection in His home-town of Nazareth (cf., Mark 6:1-6).  However, in this single instance in today’s reading, Jesus simply says that Bartimaeus’ “faith” had saved him from the darkness he had lived in for probably years, if not his entire lifetime.  Jesus’ “Word” becomes the “IS”:

“’Go your way; your faith has saved you.’  Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:52). 

Once his sight had been restored, Bartimaeus followed Jesus on His way to Jerusalem, probably witnessing first-hand the Passover, Passion, and Crucifixion events of His “Messiah”.  

(Here is a little trivial fact: In Mark’s Gospel, Bartimaeus is the last disciple called by Jesus before He enters Jerusalem.)  

Bartimaeus’ words to Jesus prepare us for the final episodes of Mark’s Gospel, which begins with Jesus’ preparation for the Passover and His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  As Mark’s Gospel has shown us over the past few Sundays, Jesus will be (and IS) the “Messiah” – – the “Word” – – in a way that will be difficult for many to accept, even today.  Why and how?  Jesus will show Himself to be the true “Messiah” through His suffering and death.

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Today’s Gospel offers us a powerful example of faith and persistence in prayer.  Those in the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus for his efforts to attract Jesus’ attention.  When silencing him was attempted by the crowd, Bartimaeus called out louder and all the more.  He was persistent and bold in his confidence, and Jesus showed mercy on him, doing what Bartimaeus asked of Him.  His persistence – – and trusting confidence – – in Jesus’ helping intercession, reminds me of the confidence and trust with which my four children brought me their wants and needs.  In this “childlike” faith and trust, we truly can find the proper example of attitude towards God when approaching Him in prayer.

When we pray, Jesus wants us to be courageous, trusting, and confident, knowing He will help us, and, also knowing that we will not allow anyone to keep us from taking our needs to Him in prayer, as in the example of Bartimaeus.  So, identify the things you need most from God.  Pray a prayer of petition with the confidence that Jesus will hear AND answer your prayer.  (He does!!)  When praying your prayer of petition, respond to each petition with “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on us.”   With confidence and trust, you will get an answer!!

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Reflection Prayer

Lord, I Am Not Worthy Prayer

(based on Matthew 8:8)

“Lord, I am not worthy
to have you enter
under my roof;
only say the word
and I will be healed.

Amen.”

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“Jesus, Can I Be The Right-Hand Servant, And My Brother The Left-Hand Servant?!” – Mark 10:35-45†


29thSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:


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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that those who wish to be great must be the servant of all.  Jesus came to serve.  What about YOU?

(NAB Mark 10:35-45) 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  36 He replied, “What do you wish [me] to do for you?”  37 They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”  38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  39 They said to him, “We can.”  Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”  41 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.  42 Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  43 But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; 44 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  45 For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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Gospel Reflection:

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is still journeying to Jerusalem (3 weeks now).  Last Sunday, Jesus taught about the specific challenge to confront, and surmount, for those with many possessions, in order to enter the Kingdom of God.  Jesus then foretold of His passion to His “Twelve” close and faithful disciples, who then become “amazed and afraid” at His prophetic vision.  Jesus’ “Words” to His closest of His followers, I believe, are intended to prepare them for events that will occur in Jerusalem at the time of Passover, and also in their future lives and paths to martyrdom.

James and John, in today’s reading, ask to be given seats of honor when Jesus “enters into His glory”.  It seems that once again, the disciples are selective in what they hear Jesus say.  (It must be a male trait because my wife accuses me of having selective hearing quite often.)  James and John want to share Jesus’ “glory”, but do not appear to understand that Jesus’ glory will be preceded by His suffering and death.  James and John, though truly loyal and constantly dutiful followers to Jesus, were “wet behind the ears” – – inexperienced and idealistic – – in the understanding of Jesus’ specific mission.  Jesus notes their lack of understanding and foretells the suffering that they will also undergo for the sake of His “Word”, the Gospel.  

Jesus concludes today’s reading by saying that the “honor” they seek is not His to give.  When the other ten disciples hear what James and John have asked, they become “indignant” towards them, probably wishing they had asked first!  It is interesting that these twelve bickering men are the group to whom Jesus will entrust the entire leadership and “authority” of His community of believers and followers, the future Catholic Christian Church. 

Rather than scold His twelve “special” disciples, Jesus turns their squabble into a lesson about “servant leadership”.  Jesus takes the opportunity to teach all of them about the importance of service and sacrifice in the life of EVERY disciple.  In actuality, Jesus seems to be preparing the “Twelve” [Apostles] for their leadership roles in the emerging Catholic Christian community.  

Echoing the Gospel which we heard several weeks ago (cf., Mark 9:33-37), Jesus acknowledges that His teaching is deliberately very different from the cultural values of our earthly society and materialistic world.  His “WAY” in life is countercultural.  Jesus goes on, in today’s reading, to contrast and distinguish the dynamics – – the change producing force – – within the community of His disciples to those of the “rulers of the Gentiles”.

Mark’s description of this event is somewhat different than what is written in Matthew’s Gospel.  Matthew has the mother of the two disciples approaching Jesus:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Him with her sons and did Him homage, wishing to ask Him for something.  He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’  She answered Him, ‘Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.’” (Matthew 20:20–21).

These two men (or their mother) boldly asked Jesus to promote them to the top positions in His kingdom.  I think their desire for greatness seems to be inherent in all of us.  After all, who truly wants to be last or least in the group?  

The reason Matthew’s Gospel has “the mother” petitioning is not made clear.  Some bible scholars suppose that Matthew wanted to allude to Bathsheba’s seeking the kingdom for Solomon (cf., 1 Kings 1:11–21).  Bathsheba, as we all know (hopefully), was the wife of King David and the mother of Solomon.  In David’s old age, Bathsheba secured the succession of her son Solomon to the throne, instead of David’s eldest surviving son Adonijah.  James and John, and Solomon it seems, had good Jewish mothers who wanted the best for their children and “lent a hand” in facilitating the best position possible for their children.

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Jesus replies to the brothers (and probably their mother as well):

Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? (Mark 10:38).

Jesus is using a metaphor, a figure of speech, for the “drinking from the cup” used in Jewish Scripture, which refers to acceptance of the destiny assigned by God the Father:

 “The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, hates those who love violence, and rains upon the wicked fiery coals and brimstone, a scorching wind their allotted cup. (Psalm 11:5-6)

This “allotted cup”, given by God the Father to drink, is a common figure for destiny throughout both the Old and New Testaments:

LORD, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure” (Psalm 16:5);

“Yes, a cup is in the LORD’s hand, foaming wine, fully spiced.  When God pours it out, they will drain it even to the dregs; all the wicked of the earth will drink” (Psalm 75:9);

Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’  They said to him, ‘We can.’” (Matthew 20:22);

“He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39);

“A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice, ‘Anyone who worships the beast or its image, or accepts its mark on forehead or hand, will also drink the wine of God’s fury, poured full strength into the cup of his wrath, and will be tormented in burning sulfur before the holy angels and before the Lamb’” (Revelations 14:9-10).

Jesus’ “cup” is filled with the divine judgment on sin.  Jesus Christ – – the innocent one – – is to drink of this cup on behalf of the guilty:

“He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many’” (Mark 14:24);

Jesus was well aware of the Jewish Scripture prophecy found in Isaiah, chapter 53, in regards to drinking from this cup of salvation:

He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.  He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus’ destiny is to be crucified and die for the redemptive salvation of the human race, “His baptism”:

There is a baptism [His death] with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50).

So, you see, the request of James and John to share in Jesus’ “glory” (Mark 10:35–37) must also involve a share in Jesus’ sufferings as well – – their individual, personal, and intimate endurance of trial, tribulation, and suffering for the sake of the “Word”, the Gospel.

 Jesus ends His lesson with James and John by telling them that the “authority” of assigning places of honor in God the Father’s kingdom is solely reserved to God the Father Himself, and to NOONE else:

To sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared” (Mark 10:40)!!

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As I stated earlier, the other “Apostles” became rather upset, offended, and resentful toward James and John for making such a request of “honor”.  How dare they (or their mother per Matthew) have the nerve to ask for special treatment from Jesus!  Too bad they did not realize that eventually, they ALL, plus many more followers of Jesus’ WAY would be included in the drinking from Jesus’ “cup” – – dying for their Christian faith in horrendous and cruel ways.  They ALL would come to sit WITH Jesus – – in the seats allotted to them by God the Father.  And, ALL of them would be the Grade “A”, primo seats, for eternity.  

Dissention, it seems, was looming amongst the group, and the “boss’s son” knew.  So, Jesus called the group together in order to talk to them:

You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).

Wow, “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  Later, Jesus will again dramatize this very important lesson on the night before He dies, at the Last Supper, when He washes the feet of the Twelve Apostles.

Jesus is telling these future leaders within His group that whatever “authority” is to be exercised by them (and by US today), it needs to be in the example of Jesus’ service to them.  Their “authority” is to be rendered AS SERVICE to others (Mark 10:45).  Their “authority” is NOT to be for personal enrichment or embellishment (Mark 10:42–44).  

Saint Francis of Assisi understood this lesson of Jesus intimately well, and practiced it ALWAYS!  In his “rule of life”, Saint Francis stresses that the ministers – – the leaders of the Friar Minors (little brothers) – – should be:

“Admonish and encourage them with humility and love.… The ministers are to be servants of all.” 

Additionally, St. Francis wrote:

“No one is to appropriate any office or ministry as if it were a personal right.”

The same lesson holds true for today’s secular and religious leaders.  Leaders must give their “authority”, priority, energy, abilities, and commitment to the service of ALL others.  

Jesus stated, in a direct manner, that He came to serve His Father in Heaven by His passion and death – –  NOT for His sake – – but for the sins of the human race!  Later, at the “Last Supper”, He will again say of His service:

This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many” (Mark 14:24).

In both today’s reading and in the future “Last Supper” event, Jesus is AGAIN referring to prophesy found in Isaiah, chapter 53:

“Because of His anguish He shall see the light; because of His knowledge He shall be content; my servant, the just one, shall justify the many, their iniquity he shall bear.  Therefore I will give Him His portion among the many, and He shall divide the spoils with the mighty, Because He surrendered Himself to death, was counted among the transgressors, Bore the sins of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:11–12);

Jesus, what a man, what a leader, what a Lord He truly was AND IS!!  I can never say this little prayer enough:

“I adore you Jesus, I hope in you Jesus, I love in you Jesus, I trust in you Jesus!  You are my Lord, my God, and my ALL!!  Amen.”

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Following Jesus’ example of sacrificial love continues to be “countercultural” today.  Some days, I feel this difference between our societal values and that of God’s values is excruciatingly painful – – both physically and spiritually.  True Catholics, full with God’s grace, are truly at battle with the forces of evil in this world.  All of us need to keep in mind, during this time of spiritual warfare, that we already know the outcome of the war – – GOD WINS!!  And, I know that I personally want to be on the winning side with YOU!  Let’s take this opportunity, given to us by God, and consider our known models of “authority”, and compare them to our OWN use of “authority”.  Whose model of leadership are you using: Jesus Christ’s, or, the “rulers over the Gentiles”?  I know that in my life, I have used BOTH examples in the past, and I prefer the former than the latter.

Jesus did the unthinkable!  He reversed the path to gaining true greatness and glory, literally turning the ladder of success we climb upside down.  If we want to be first and great, then we must place ourselves at the disposal of others by putting their interests first and by taking on their cares and concerns as if they were our own.  Jesus attached “authority” to “unconditional love and service” – – to total sacrifice – – a willing sacrifice of one’s life for the sake of another.  In doing so, our service to others brings about, in ours and others lives, the model of perfect JOY:

J     –       Jesus first;
O    –       Then others.
  And finally; 
Y    –       Yourself last.

Authority”, without sacrificial love, is simply degrading and self-serving.  Jesus used blunt language to explain the kind of sacrifice He expected of Himself and for His disciples.  His disciples need to drink from His “cup” if they expect to reign with Him in God the Father’s kingdom.  The “cup” He described is a bitter one – – involving pain, suffering, and crucifixion – – laying down one’s life, even to the point of shedding one’s blood for the sake of Christ and His “Word”, the Gospel.

What kind of “cup” is prepared for each one of us?  For some, such a “cup” entails physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom.  However, for most of us, it entails the long routine of a pious Catholic Christian life, with all its monotonous daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and ever-present temptations.  

Christ offered His life for our sake, and He calls us to freely offer our lives in a daily sacrifice of love and service for others.  What makes sacrifice a JOY – – rather than a burden – – is love; the kind of joy-full love which has the power to transform and change our lives, as well as the lives of those around us.  Saint Paul tells us that this special kind of love is a pure grace which “God poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5).  If we allow God’s love to transform our lives, then no sacrifice – – no pain, no torment, no death – – will be too great or too difficult to endure.

Pope John XXIII – – who opened the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago this past week (October 11, 1962) – – was a true “servant leader”.  If parents, priests, bishops, politicians, and business leaders are to lead according to the Gospel, they must learn what the Gospel has to say in their particular circumstances, as Pope John the Great had done.  Only in this way can they exercise “servant leadership” in the manner of Jesus Christ.  

As we prepare to elect our nation’s leaders on November 6th, we should pray for all candidates that they may seek NOT political power and prestige, but the ability to be “servant leaders”, especially to those who are in greatest need.  It is also appropriate for us to ask of them – – to DEMAND of them – – that they BE “servant leaders”! 

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In the daily routine of life, power struggles are unavoidable.  Whenever two or more people are together, there will be occasions of disagreement and attempts to exert influence over each other.  However, when two or more are together, in HIS name, all there can be is LOVE, even during dissension:

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). 

Today’s Gospel is an invitation to reflect on how “authority” is applied in your life.  There is a temptation to use our “authority” in order to show power over others.  When conflicts emerge, many of us even rely upon the power we believe our role in life gives us in order to facilitate the situation to “our” favor.  However, Jesus teaches us that there is a more persuasive form of leadership to follow – – servitude.  In our daily “challenges” we have the opportunity to practice and teach the kind of service leadership Jesus modeled for us in His ministry, AND, in His passion and death.

Realize that conflicts based on “power struggles” seem unavoidable in our secular lives.  However, Catholic Christians are to display their authority over others in a unique, some may say unthinkable, way.  Think about Jesus’ unique message to His disciples (and to US) about how He wishes for us to apply “authority”.  Think about ways in which you might apply Jesus’ “Words” in your own life and in others lives.  We all need to remember a somewhat famous expression from the Church itself:

“To serve is to reign with Christ”.

Pray that we ALL may receive honor in God’s eyes by learning to serve others in love.  We share in God’s power, authority, and kingdom by loving others as He has loved us, AND, by laying down our lives in humble caring service for the sake of our neighbor’s welfare.  With God, all is possible.  Father Jacque Philippe, in his book, “Interior Freedom” said:

We do not all have in us the stuff of sages or heroes.  But by God’s grace we do have the stuff of saints

Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did?  I believe I do, even if it means for me a slow martyrs death by way of the everyday monotonous and drudging routine of a normal Catholic Christian life, with all its dull, repetitive, boring, and tedious daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and ever-present temptations.  How about you?

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Reflection Prayer: 

PARDON PRAYER of FATIMA

 

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee!  I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee!  Amen.

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“Is it YOU to God, or, God to YOU, Who IS Saying ‘YOUR will be done’?!” – Mark 10:17-30†


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Sunday of the Year of Faith

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

The following is a letter I wish to convey to you from my OFS Regions Justice and Peace Commissioner, Mike DePue, OFS:

During October we have the Feast of Francis.  October is the month of the Rosary [as well]. October 11th, in the traditional calendar was the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary, and Pope Benedict has noted that when Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council on this day in 1962, he “wanted to entrust the entire council to the motherly hands, to the motherly heart of the Virgin Mary.”  Also in October, the Eastern Churches celebrate the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God.

Sadly, our society still has many persons who need the protection of Our Mother – – and of those of us willing to express concern.  So, we need to note that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed a web page called When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/domestic-violence/when-i-call-for-help.cfm).  The bishops address this statement to several audiences, including “society, which has made some strides towards recognizing the extent of domestic violence against women.”

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that your locality is immune from this social ill.  The only fundamental question is: What will be your Franciscan response?

Pax et Bonum,
Mike DePue, OFS

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PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR THE “YEAR OF FAITH”

Per a decree made public on October 5th, 2012 in Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI will grant a Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the “Year of Faith”.  The indulgence will be valid from the opening of the Year on 11 October 2012 until its end on 24 November 2013.

The day of the fiftieth anniversary of the solemn opening of Vatican Council II”, the text reads, “the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decreed the beginning of a Year especially dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation, through the reading of – or better still the pious meditation upon – the Acts of the Council and the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church”.

“During the Year of Faith, which will last from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013, Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of sins, imparted by the mercy of God and applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful, may be obtained by all faithful who, truly penitent, take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

“(A) Each time they attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.

“(B) Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.

“(C) Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, … in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.

“(D) On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.

“Diocesan or eparchal bishops, and those who enjoy the same status in law, on the most appropriate day during that period or on the occasion of the main celebrations, … may impart the papal blessing with the Plenary Indulgence”.

The document concludes by recalling how faithful who, due to illness or other legitimate cause, are unable to leave their place of adobe, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence “if, united in spirit and thought with other faithful, and especially at the times when the words of the Supreme Pontiff and diocesan bishops are transmitted by television or radio, they recite … the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and other prayers which concord with the objectives of the Year of Faith, offering up the suffering and discomfort of their lives”.

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: A man with many possessions asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life.  What must YOU DO to gain eternal life?  Are you ready to give up ALL, to become a “slave” for Christ to gain eternal life … REALLY?!

(NAB Mark 10:17-30)  17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  18 Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.  19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’”  20 He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”  21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  24 The disciples were amazed at his words.  So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  25 It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”  27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  28 Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.”  29 Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today, we continue reading in Mark’s Gospel from where we left off last Sunday.  In last Sunday’s reading, Jesus was tested by the Pharisees in regard to the requirements for divorce per Jewish Law.  At this time period, Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem.

Still travelling, in today’s Gospel, an “unnamed man” approaches Jesus and inquires about what he must do to “inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17).  Jesus replies that he must follow the commandments of the Law of Moses.  This is not an unusual statement as this command had been followed for centuries by pious Jews.  So, the man acknowledges that he has obviously observed all of these Laws since his childhood.  Jesus then says to the man that only one thing is lacking: he must give his possessions to the poor and follow Him [Jesus].  The man leaves Jesus in sadness because he owned many possessions which he obviously cherished greatly. 

My question to you: “Is it surprising that Jesus put a condition on what had been ‘Mosaic Law’ for centuries prior to Jesus’ arrival?”  My answer is NO, it is not surprising at all!  Jesus had added “conditions” in the past when teaching the beatitudes, and even added conditions in last week’s dialogue in regard to divorce. 

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So, this “unknown man” approaches Jesus and says:

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)

Jesus answered him,

Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). 

Jesus is rejecting the term “good” for Himself and directs it instead to God the Father, the true source of all goodness – – and, who alone can grant the gift of eternal life.  The theme Jesus is going to reveal is that if you wish to enter into life in the kingdom of God, you need to keep the commandments of paramount importance in your life:

“You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother’ (Mark 10:17-30).

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The “unknown man” had the best the secular world could offer – wealth and security.  However, he came to Jesus because he lacked something.  He wanted a lasting peace and happiness which NO money could buy him.  The answer he received from Jesus however, was not what he was looking for in his quest for peace.  (Remember, God has a unique sense of humor at times.)  This “unknown man” swore to Jesus that he kept all the required commandments.  However, Jesus spoke to him of the underlying dilemma in his heart and soul.  Only one thing kept him from giving himself totally and completely to God.  While he lacked for nothing materialistically, he was nonetheless selfishly overprotective of what he had acquired in his life.  He placed his hope and security in what he possessed materialistically, not spiritually!  His priority was values of this world, not the next!

Jesus makes two requirements of this wealthy man who approached Him (and even for all of us today):

Sell what you have, and give to [the] poor … then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).

The first requirement is that he must give up his possessions in order to “inherit eternal life”.  Throughout history, many Christians have taken this requirement literally word-for-word.  Those who have given up ALL possessions, like St. Francis of Assisi, have showed witness to a fundamentally extreme commitment to the Gospel of Jesus.  Others have read this passage as a particular requirement directed solely to this specific “unknown man” in today’s reading.  And, still others have sought to explain the meaning intended in this passage as giving up those things and items preventing one from following Jesus (I believe this is the most popular and common belief).  

Christians have generally understood that following Jesus required believers to hold material possessions “with a loose knot”, and to remain vigilant against seeking security in accumulating material possessions.  The Rule for Secular Franciscans mentions freeing oneself from material needs in two of its 26 articles: 11 and 12:

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;

12.  Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.

The second requirement for inheriting “eternal life” is the exact same invitation given to this “unknown man” as is extended to ALL would-be disciples, then and NOW:follow me” (Mark 10:21).  Jesus very much wants this “unknown man” to be a disciple of His; Jesus wants ALL of us to be disciples of His!!  The Catholic Christian faith is one in which each distinct and unique individual believer is in a personal, intimate, and unique relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.  Just as today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus loves the “unknown man” and is sad when this man departs, so too, Jesus loves us and is saddened when we are unable to follow Him – – when we turn our backs to Him.

When Jesus challenged the “unknown man” to make God his one true possession and treasure, he became troubled and saddened.  With distress and sadness in his heart and on his soul, he turned his back on Jesus, walking away from Him.  Hmm, why did he turn away from Jesus with sadness rather than stay with Him with joy?  I believe his treasure and his hope for happiness were certainly mislaid; his treasure and hope were in his material items.  Out of a deep, underlying fear for losing what he had gained in this world, he was afraid to give to others.  This “unknown man” sought happiness and security in his worldly items rather than in Jesus Christ, whom he could love, serve, and give of himself in a devotion of true faith.

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The words of Jesus about entering the kingdom of God surely provoked a jaw-dropping, bewildering shock among His disciples:

’How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ … It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23-25).

Do you know why I say these Men (and women) were confused and unnerved by Jesus’ “Words”?  Because His “Words” seem to contradict Hebrew Scriptures concept in which wealth and material goods were considered a sign of God’s favor.  Here are just three examples:

“Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection?  You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land”  (Job 1:10);

“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, and who walk in his ways.  What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper” (Psalm 128:1–2);

Happy the just, for it will go well with them, the fruit of their works they will eat.” (Isaiah 3:10).

The Old Testament often speaks of God offering material rewards for observance of His laws.  This, I believe, was because the “future life” was not yet revealed to them receiving the “heavenly” reward prior to Jesus’ role as redeemer of the world.  It was therefore taken for granted, in spite of opposing evidence, that riches were a sign of God’s favor.  (One very popular television evangelist still preaches this exact notion every Sunday.)

So, why does Jesus tell His followers to “sell all” for the treasure of “eternal life” in His kingdom?  Well, “treasure” has a special connection to the heart; it is the thing we as human-beings most set our heart on to be our highest treasure.  Jesus Christ Himself is the greatest treasure we can ever obtain and can ever possess, and should be our HIGHEST possession.  

Since wealth, power, and advantage generated a false sense of security and sanctuary among God’s children, Jesus rejects them outright as a claim to enter God’s kingdom.  In reality, achievement of God’s salvation is beyond any human capability.  God’s salvation depends solely on the mercy and goodness of God the Father, who offers His claim to salvation and heaven freely TO ALL – – as a gift to be accepted:

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  (Mark 10:27).

Those who are generous towards God – – and His children, our neighbors – – will find they cannot be out-given in return by God.  His generous return to us will always be greater than what we give to others of His “children”.  God blesses us, and graces us NOW, with treasures from His kingdom.  They are:

(1) Freedom from the clutching force, fear, and power of sin; from selfishness and pride opposing His love and grace in our lives;

(2) Freedom from loneliness, isolation, and rejection keeping us from living together in love, peace, and unity; and,

(3) Freedom of hopelessness, despair, and disillusionment blinding our vision of God’s magnificent power to heal every hurt, to bind every wound, and to remove every blemish injury the image of the Trinitarian God within each of us.  

God the Father offers to each of us – – personally, intimately, and uniquely – – a treasure which any amount of money can never buy.  God – – And ONLY God – – satisfies the deepest longing and desires of our heart, soul, and being.  PLEASE, be willing to part with, to separate yourself from, anything keeping you from seeking the true and completely full JOY in, with, and through Jesus Christ?

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Wealth can make us falsely independent creatures.  The church at Laodicea * was warned about their attitude towards wealth and its false sense of security:

“For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. “ (Revelations 3:17).

* Laodicea was a Christian community established in the ancient city of the same name (on the river Lycus, in the Roman province of Asia).  The church was established in the earliest period of Christianity, and is probably best known for being one of the seven churches addressed by name in the Book of Revelation (Revelations 3.14-22) ~ per Wikipedia.

Per one of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles written to the administrator of the entire Ephesian** community, wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness:

Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains”  (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

** Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey.

Giving up ALL we have in order to have Jesus Christ as OUR treasure is not to be considered as a sorrowful act; it is the greatest act of joy, one can lovingly do for others.  Selling all that we have may mean many different things.  It could mean letting go of attachments, friendships, influences, jobs, status, entertainment, or even you’re your manner or means of life.  Anything standing in the way of our loving and making God first and foremost in our lives, AND, anything standing in the way of giving Him the best we can with our time, talents, and treasures, should be removed from our presence and lives.  Do we truly want God saying to us “YOUR will be done” instead of us saying to Him “thy will be done”?  I know I don’t want Him saying this to me!!

Jesus is offering a further condition in this reading from Mark’s Gospel today: a condition which challenges disciples following Him who are materialistically wealthy and trying to enter the Kingdom of God.  (Give it up and follow.)  In reply to the disciples’ astonishment at the strictness of the two requirements Jesus speaks about in today’s reading, He reminds His followers:

For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” (Mark 10:27).

Our eternal salvation is determined by our ability to rely completely upon, to trust completely in, and to hope completely for – – God in our lives ALWAYS!!

Peter replies to Jesus by boasting that the disciples have already given up everything.  Jesus acknowledges that those who have given up everything for the sake of the Gospel will be rewarded.  This is not a FUTURE HOPE – – IT IS HAPPENING NOW!!  This reward begins NOW, in the new community one gains in this present life, and continuing into the eternal age to come.  Our personal relationship with Jesus is also an invitation to the community of faith, in its fullest, the Catholic Church.  So, if you have left the Catholic Church, for whatever reason, please come home today!

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Today’s Gospel might make us uncomfortable about our personal materialistic possessions.  This discomfort actually may offer each of us an opportunity to consider what we have in relation to our commitment to the poor and marginalized.  Without any doubt, material possessions are truly a necessity in our society and way of life.  However, our amount and use of these possessions, and our attitude about their importance, IS our choice.  We have a “free will” to choose who or what, we truly worship – – God or manna.  In making this choice, we must be aware of our love, trust, and faith in Jesus Christ who commits each of us – – personally, intimately, and uniquely – – to care for the poor and marginalized of this world.

I would reason that there are items in each of our houses we no longer need or use.  Reflect on Jesus’ remarks about material possessions and how you feel about Jesus’ teaching today.  Tomorrow, choose an action showing your commitment to the poor.  It could be as simple as donating some of your extra or unused items to another in need.  Repeat this process often.

Holy Scripture gives us a paradox: we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away.  Generosity will be abundantly repaid, both in this life and in eternity:

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce; then will your barns be filled with plenty, with new wine your vats will overflow (Proverbs 3:9-10);

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:38).

Jesus offers us an incomparable, never-ending treasure which NO money can EVER buy; a treasure NO thief can ever steal.  I want to share His treasure with you!  God’s gift to us is the gift which keeps on giving.

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Reflection Prayer:  

Prayer of Surrender

 

“Loving Father, I surrender to you today with all my heart and soul. Please come into my heart in a deeper way.  I say, “Yes” to you today.  I open all the secret places of my heart to you and say, “Come on in.” Jesus, you are the Lord of my whole life. I believe in you and receive you as my Lord and Savior. I hold nothing back.

Holy Spirit, bring me to a deeper conversion to the person of Jesus Christ.  I surrender all to you: my time, my treasures, my talents, my health, my family, my resources, my work, relationships, time management, successes and failures.  I release it and let it go.

I surrender my understanding of how things ‘ought’ to be, my choices and my will.  I surrender to you the promises I have kept and the promises I have failed to keep.  I surrender my weaknesses and strengths to you.  I surrender my emotions, my fears, my insecurities, my sexuality.  I especially surrender ______ (Here mention other areas of surrender as the Holy Spirit reveals them to you.)

Lord, I surrender my whole life to you, the past, the present, and the future.  In sickness and in health, in life and in death, I belong to you.  (Remain with the Lord in a spirit of silence through your thoughts, a heart song, or simply staying in His presence and listening for His voice.)

Read more: http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2011/06/25/a-prayer-of-surrender#ixzz290gBY9rZ

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


 

 

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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Prayer for America” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quote of the Day:

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

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

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

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Gospel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, it is God who said:

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

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

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“On a whim, become an anawim” 

Reflection Prayer:   

“Prayer for Generosity”

 

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

St. Ignatius of Loyola

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