Tag Archives: men

“The Restaurant Is Now Open. Please Come In and Be Saved!” – Matthew 14:13-21†


 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is day nineteen of St. Louis de Monfort’s “Consecration to Jesus Through Mary”.  We are more than half-way done with this special grouping of prayers.  How are you doing?  Please let me know.

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Let us all please pray for those among us suffering greatly from this prolonged heat-wave. Many have died, and sadly, many more will die due to lack of air conditioning.  What a pity in today’s “modern” society.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   432 – St Sixtus III begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   768 – [Philip] begins & ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1498 – On his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) becomes the first European to discover the island of Trinidad.
†   1556 – Death of Ignatius Loyola, Spanish priest and founder of the Jesuits
†   1702 – Birth of Jean Denis Attiret, French Jesuit missionary and painter (d. 1768)
†   1811 – Death Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Mexican hero priest, executed by Spanish
†   1892 – Joseph Charbonneau, French Canadian Roman Catholic Archbishop of Montreal (d. 1959)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Germanus (d.448), bishop of Auxerre, confessor [Bruges; Paris]; Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

“We cannot live without joining together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist.  We would lack the strength to face our daily problems and not to succumb.  Christ is truly present among us in the Eucharist.  It is a dynamic presence that grasps us, to make us His own, to make us assimilate Him.  Christ draws us to Him, He makes us come out of ourselves to make us all one with Him.  Communion with the Lord is always also communion with our brothers and sisters.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI, “Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI”, Magnificat

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus feeding the crowd with five loaves and two fish.

 

 (NAB Matthew 14:13-21)  13 When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.  The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.  14 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  15 When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”  16 (Jesus) said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”  17 But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”  18 Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” 19 and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  20 They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full.  21 Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last week we heard Jesus conclude His sermon and teachings, with “the crowds’, about the Kingdom of Heaven.  In Matthew’s narrative, Jesus then leaves the crowds and returns to His home town, Nazareth, where he is rejected by the people who knew Him since birth.  Matthew then recounts the story of John the Baptist’s arrest and execution at the hands of Herod.  Today’s Gospel reading begins at this point.

Upon hearing the news of the death of His cousin and friend, John “the Baptist”, Jesus seeks to withdraw, probably to reminisce and pray for the last prophet before the appearing Messiah.  However, the crowds continued to follow Jesus earnestly.  Jesus then reaches out to them in compassion, even healing the sick among them.  

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How do you treat those who make unexpected demands on you?  When Jesus and the disciples sought a lonely place to regroup and rest, they instead found a crowd of more than five thousand people waiting for them!  Did you think they resented this intrusion on their hard-earned need for rest and privacy?  At the end of this very long and overwhelming day, His disciples encouraged Jesus to send the crowds away so they can find provisions “for themselves”.  

However, Jesus welcomed the crowds with open-arms.  Jesus put their (and our) human needs ahead of everything else including His, and the Apostles, desire for privacy.  His compassion showed the depths of God’s love for the “crowds”, and a concern for all who are truly needy.  Inspired by God the Father’s compassion for the crowd before Him, Jesus tells His disciples to provide food for the crowd of “5000 men”, plus women and children.  They reply to Jesus with a concern about the meagerness of their own provisions: only “five loaves and two fish”.  The miraculous outcome of this event, as demonstrated in this story, is the very familiar “miracle or sign” of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  All were completely satisfied, and there were leftovers.

 

Here is a real awesome bit of trivia: the feeding of the five thousand men (plus women and children) is the only miracle of Jesus recounted in all four Gospels.  The principal reason is the anticipation of the Holy Eucharist in the eternal banquet we will experience in God’s kingdom:

I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven.  I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.”  (Matthew 8:11; 26:29).

However, the “miracle” or “sign” looks not only forward, but also backward, to the feeding of Israel with manna in the desert during the Exodus (cf., Exodus 16).  Today’s reported miracle is one which some contemporary Jewish believers anticipate would be repeated in the “Messianic age” (- – and even some contemporary peers of our day still anticipate this coming miracle of the Messiah):

And it shall come to pass at that self-same time (in the days when the Messiah comes) that the treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years.” (*2 Baruch 29:8).

(*) 2 Baruch 29:8 is used in this reflection because it is found as a footnote in the NAB-CE Bible.  “2 Baruch” is a Jewish text thought to have been written in the late 1st century AD or early 2nd century AD, after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.  It is attributed to the Old Testament book of Baruch, but not regarded as Holy Scripture by Jews or by most Christian groups.  It is, however, included in some editions of the Peshitta, the official Bible of the Church of the East, and is part of the Bible in the Syriac Orthodox tradition.   “2 Baruch” is also known as the “Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch”.

This miracle/sign may also have been meant to recall Elisha’s feeding a hundred men with relatively small provisions:

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing the man of God twenty barley loaves made from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear.  “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said.  But his servant objected, ‘How can I set this before a hundred men?’ ‘Give it to the people to eat,’ Elisha insisted. ‘For thus says the LORD, “They shall eat and there shall be some left over.”’  And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said.” (2 Kings 4:42-44).

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Why did Jesus command His disciples to do what seemed impossible?: to feed such a large and hungry crowd with no adequate provisions in sight?  Jesus, no doubt, wanted to test their faith and to teach them to rely upon God for their provision.  The miraculous signs which Jesus performed, including the more than sufficient feeding of the five thousand, signified that God the Father was indeed fulfilling His promise in this man Jesus Christ as the anointed Messiah, Prophet, and King for His Jewish people.  In Jesus, God the Father was leading the Apostles to see, in Jesus Christ, the “Word” of God who would heal them physically as well as spiritually.

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Have you noticed that all of Jesus’ miraculous signs all started with a “Word” from Jesus?  Peter was to say later:

Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68).

So, Jesus’ taking the bread and fish, saying the blessing, breaking, and giving the fish and bread to the disciples (verse 19), brought about a miraculous occurrence; just so His words and actions here correspond to His actions over the bread at the “Last Supper” just prior to His capture, scourging, and death on the Holy Cross:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” (Matthew 26:26).

Since “fish” and “bread” were typical at any Jewish meal, this connection does not necessarily indicate a Eucharistic reference directly.  While Matthew’s silent about Jesus dividing the fish (he reports only the “breaking of the loaves”) among the people, Mark’s Gospel is perhaps more significant in this action:

“Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to (his) disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all.” (Mark 6:41).

 

Jesus’ “Words” were His blessings bringing abundance from the meager provisions found by the disciples.  In this action, Jesus offers us a “sign” of the Kingdom of Heaven He had been teaching about in His parables (from the past three Sunday’s Gospels).  A “feast” results from the smallest of portions, as recalled in the earlier parables of the “mustard seed” and the “yeast”.  In this miracle or sign, we witness an example of what Christian life and ministry truly is meant to be.  Even the smallest of offerings can produce an immense result when placed in the service of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Nothing is TOO MEAGER to help bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth when done, “In the name of Jesus”.

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The phrase in verse 20, “fragments left over”, seems to bring back to me Elisha’s “miracle” when food was left over after all had eaten their fill, and still there were leftovers.  Interestingly, the word “fragments” are related to the “broken bread’ of the Eucharist as reported in the Didache*:

And concerning the broken bread: We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus Your servant.  To you belongs the glory forever.  As this broken bread was scattered over the mountains, and was brought together to become one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom, for the glory and the power are yours through Jesus Christ forever.” (Didache 9:3-4).

(*)The “Didache” or “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” (“Didache” is the Greek word meaning, “The Teaching“) is a brief early Christian treatise, dated by most scholars to the late first or early 2nd century. It is the Catholic Faith’s first Catechism.  The first line of this catechism is “Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the Twelve Apostles“.

 

So, what is the significance of this miracle or sign for us today?  The miraculous feeding of such a great “crowd” points to God’s provision of the Old Testament “manna” in the wilderness for the people of Israel, then under Moses’ leadership.  For Matthew, the provision of bread and fish prefigures the “true” heavenly bread which Jesus would offer His followers during His last Passover meal.  

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In summary, we find the story of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and the fish in each of the four Gospels (cf., Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:10-17; and John 6:1-13).  In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, Jesus performs this same miracle on two separate occasions (Matthew 15:32-39; and Mark 8:1-10).  The story of this miracle or sign is an anticipation of the Holy Eucharist in which we are fed by the abundantly immense grace of God Himself.  The importance of the Holy Eucharist has been a defining element of Catholic life from the very beginning, and will continue for all times and eternity.

 

To conclude, in our own life we can sometimes hear echoes of the disciples’ excuses: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”  Sometimes this echo is heard from our children (and even ourselves) bickering about the last piece of cake or about power struggles at work.  Sometimes it is made evident in our anxiety and worry about limits of personal income or possessions.  Sometimes this echo is shouted out, loudly, in our unheard complaints about the seemingly endless demands for our time, money, and attention.

Jesus understood these feelings and is teaching us, not only to see beyond our limitations, but also to yearn to serve God in His people and their needs.  Jesus shows us compassion, a reaching out to others, even when we would rather withdraw into ourselves.  Jesus teaches us about God’s blessing and compassion offered to others through His grace.  Today’s Gospel reminds us: with God there is not only enough, there is a true and awesome abundance!  (And that is truly “true”!!  So, bring your own “wicker basket”.)

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Now, what are some of the stresses and demands for time and attention you might have or feel from time to time or oft times.  Acknowledge to yourself that we all have to make difficult choices about how to use our time, talents, and treasures.

Did you notice how much Jesus cared for the crowds by healing the sick, even though He, Himself, wanted to withdraw to a quiet place to rest and pray?  Did you notice how the disciples responded to Jesus’ instruction to feed the crowd by noting their limited and meager supply of food?  Jesus blessed this limited and meager supply of food; and then it was enough to feed the entire crowd of more than 5,000 people (not including women and children), and there were leftovers!  Pray for Jesus to grant you compassion like His, so you can offer your time, talent, and/or treasure to others with His same compassion and generosity.

Jesus makes a claim only God can make: He is the true bread of heaven that can satisfy the deepest hunger we experience!!  The feeding of the five thousand (plus) shows the remarkable and immense generosity of God, and His great love, kindness, and mercy towards us.  When God gives, He gives abundantly.  He gives more than we need for ourselves so we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what they need.  God takes the little we have and multiplies it, seventy times seven times, for the good of others.  Do you trust in God’s provision for you?  Do you share freely with others, especially those who need?

 

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Reflection Psalm:

 

Psalm 145

The Lord provides for His people

 

“The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and abounding in love.
The LORD is good to all, compassionate to every creature.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you; you give them their food in due season.
You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
You, LORD, are just in all your ways, faithful in all your works.
You, LORD, are near to all who call upon you, to all who call upon you in truth.  Amen.”
(Psalm 145:8-9,15-18)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

to the first line of the opening dialogue.  The last line of that dialogue also changes.  We presently say, “It is right to give him thanks and praise,” but with the new text, we will say:

It is right and just.”

This will lead more clearly into the opening of the prefaces, which will commonly begin with the words:

It is truly right and just.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

 

 

The founder of the Jesuits was on his way to military fame and fortune when a cannon ball shattered his leg.  Because there were no books of romance on hand during his convalescence, Ignatius whiled away the time reading a life of Christ and lives of the saints.  His conscience was deeply touched, and a long, painful turning to Christ began.  Having seen the Mother of God in a vision, he made a pilgrimage to her shrine at Montserrat (near Barcelona).  He remained for almost a year at nearby Manresa, sometimes with the Dominicans, sometimes in a pauper’s hospice, often in a cave in the hills praying.  After a period of great peace of mind, he went through a harrowing trial of scruples.  There was no comfort in anything—prayer, fasting, sacraments, penance.  At length, his peace of mind returned.

It was during this year of conversion that Ignatius began to write down material that later became his greatest work, the Spiritual Exercises.

He finally achieved his purpose of going to the Holy Land, but could not remain, as he planned, because of the hostility of the Turks.  He spent the next 11 years in various European universities, studying with great difficulty, beginning almost as a child.  Like many others, his orthodoxy was questioned; Ignatius was twice jailed for brief periods.

In 1534, at the age of 43, he and six others (one of whom was St. Francis Xavier) vowed to live in poverty and chastity and to go to the Holy Land.  If this became impossible, they vowed to offer themselves to the apostolic service of the pope.  The latter became the only choice. Four years later Ignatius made the association permanent.  The new Society of Jesus was approved by Paul III, and Ignatius was elected to serve as the first general.

When companions were sent on various missions by the pope, Ignatius remained in Rome, consolidating the new venture, but still finding time to found homes for orphans, catechumens and penitents.  He founded the Roman College, intended to be the model of all other colleges of the Society.

Ignatius was a true mystic.  He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of Christianity—the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist.  His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam—“for the greater glory of God.”  In his concept, obedience was to be the prominent virtue, to assure the effectiveness and mobility of his men.  All activity was to be guided by a true love of the Church and unconditional obedience to the Holy Father, for which reason all professed members took a fourth vow to go wherever the pope should send them for the salvation of souls.

Comment:

Luther nailed his theses to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517.  Seventeen years later, Ignatius founded the Society that was to play so prominent a part in the Catholic Reformation.  He was an implacable foe of Protestantism.  Yet the seeds of ecumenism may be found in his words: “Great care must be taken to show forth orthodox truth in such a way that if any heretics happen to be present they may have an example of charity and Christian moderation.  No hard words should be used nor any sort of contempt for their errors be shown.”  One of the greatest 20thh-century ecumenists was Cardinal Bea, a Jesuit.

Quote:

Ignatius recommended this prayer to penitents: “Receive, Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will, that you dispose of me.  Give me only your love and your grace.  With this I am rich enough, and I have no more to ask.”

Patron Saint of Retreats

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

Humility

 

“Sincere love leads to humility.” Can you explain this?

Why does humility seem to be so hard for us humans to acknowledge?  

How important is true humility?

Is there a place for “just pride”?

What do you think of this description: “Humility is truth”?

 

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order
(SFO) Rule:

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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♫“Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign…”♫ – Luke 11:29-32†


 

“Wednesday of the First Week of Lent” 

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

  

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.  During all the fun, frivolities, and “partying”, please reflect on the true purpose and person of celebrity:  St. Patrick Himself.  He is an awesome man of faith, hope, and trust.

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As a father of four teenage boys, and a husband to a very beautiful woman (in body, heart, and soul), this Saturday (March 19th) is a special day for me.  It is the Feast of St. Joseph, Patron of families and fathers. 

Though St. Joseph says absolutely NOTHING in Holy Scripture (my wife says I should follow his lead) in words, his actions say so much about love, trust, and hope.  Remember what St. Francis said:

“Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words”.

 

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Today in Catholic History:


†   597 BC – Babylonians captures Jerusalem, replaces Jehoiachin with Zedekiah as king.
†   1072 – Death of Adalbert of Hamburg, German archbishop
†   1249 – The Servite Order is officially approved by Cardinal Raniero Capocci, papal legate in Tuscany.
†   1517 – Pope Leo X signs 5th Council of Lateranen
†   1620 – Death of St. John Sarkander, Moravian priest, died of injuries caused by torturing
†   1649 – Death of Jean de Brébeuf, French Jesuit missionary (b. 1593)
†   1878 – Birth of Clemens August Graf von Galen, German archbishop and cardinal (d. 1946)
†   1988 – North-Ireland Protestant fires on Catholic funeral, 3 killed
†   1998 – Pope John Paul II asks God for forgiveness for the inactivity and silence of some Roman Catholics during the Holocaust.
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Heribert of Cologne (died 1021); Saint Agapitus

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

 

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 Joke of the Day:

 

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales.  The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though they are very large mammals, their throats are very small.

The little girl stated “Jonah was swallowed by a whale”.  The teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it is impossible.

The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.”  The teacher asked, “What if Jonah went to hell?”

The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”

 

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Today’s reflection is Jesus’ association about “sign’s” from Jonah and Solomon in regards to God’s wisdom and message.

 

(NAB Luke 11:29-32) 29 While still more people gathered in the crowd, he [Jesus] said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.  30 Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.  31 At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.  32 At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

 

Ever wonder what Jesus would say to our generation if he was physically seen by all, and could actually “talk” to us as a whole group?  Just imagine what the world would be like if we could tune in our radio to “’AM Heaven’ – ‘333 on the radio dial’”!  I believe Jesus would give us the same stern warning He gave to the people of His “human” time; a warning given after the people demanded a sign of His divinity and the future from Him.  Are we still “demanding” signs from Him today? 

At a fast food restaurant this weekend, a nice gentleman whom I personally know as being a devout Christian asked if the earthquakes of the past few years, the tsunami of this past week, and even all the middle-east turmoil happening recently could be a “sign” of the end times.  It certainly doesn’t look good to have “mother earth [sic]” so upset, but in reality, “only God knows the future!”

But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36)

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In Luke’s Gospel, the “sign of Jonah” was a discourse for the need of repentance by a prophet, Jonah, who came to Nineveh from a far away country.  The “sign of Jonah” was interpreted by Jesus as being about His death and resurrection.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus relates a warning regarding Jonah’s mission:

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’  He said to them in reply, ‘An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.  Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.  At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.  At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the Wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.’” (Matthew 12:38-42)

Nineveh was a city in Mesopotamia (in present day Iraq).  The Ninevites accepted Jonah’s warning from God when he spoke to them during His three day sojourn across that large and modern city (for the time period) preaching his warning and prophesy.  After hearing Jonah’s promised warning and prophesies, they repented from their sinful activities.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is evident in Jonah’s mission.  The people confessing and repenting were the key goals of Jonah in his mission.

The Holy Spirit grew out of Jonah, entering into the inhabitants of Nineveh, and then grew in them as well.  I love what the Evangelist John says about being born in the Holy Spirit:

What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’  The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)

(Jonah must have given one “whale” of a testimony!  Sorry, I simply had to use this pun!) 

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The Queen of Sheba (from southwestern Arabia) recognized God’s wisdom in Solomon (cf., 1 Kings 10: 1-10).  Jonah was God’s “sign” and His messenger for the people of Nineveh (cf., Jonah 3).  The Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit offers us a grace of freedom from sin, and a gift of wisdom through the “word” and the presence of the same Holy Spirit in our lives.  To receive this gift and grace, we only need to choose to listen to Jesus, and to follow the path He has set out for us. 

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It was typical and distinctive of the Jewish people to demand a “sign” from God’s messengers – – the prophets – – in order to authenticate their claims.  The religious leaders of the area (the Scribes and Pharisees) pressured Jesus to give proof for His claim that He is sent by God.  In reality, they actually needed no further evidence, from heaven or anywhere else.  All they needed to do was to just listen to Jesus’ beautiful and fully alive words, and to watch His actions, and His love that He displayed towards all He came into contact.  

These Scribes and Pharisees were not satisfied, nor pleased, to accept the sign of God’s divinity – – Jesus Christ – – actually and physically standing before their very eyes.  They were closed minded, and closed hearted!  They had previously rejected the message of John the Baptist in regards to Jesus being “from above and above all”:

John answered and said, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said (that) I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him.  The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.  So this joy of mine has been made complete.  He must increase; I must decrease.’  The one who comes from above is above all.  The one who is of the earth is earthly, and speaks of earthly things.  But the one who comes from heaven (is above all).   He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.  Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.  For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.  He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.  The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”  (John 3:27-36)

These same Scribes and Pharisees are again rejecting Jesus as God’s “Anointed One” – – the “Messiah”.  In doing so, they refused to listen to, and to pay attention to, His teachings and message for them.  I wonder if their refusal to listen and pay attention was actually part of God’s plan.  (Hmm)  Thirty or so years earlier, an old man in the Temple named Simeon, had prophesied that Jesus was:

destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34- 35). 

Jesus confirmed His message with many revelations and miracles in order to prepare the Jewish “chosen” people for the greatest of all “signs” (then and now) – – His Resurrection – – during that Passover Sunday morning we now call Easter, and three days after His death on the Holy Tree. 

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There is a particular irony or paradox in what Jesus said (with His obvious biting wit) about “something greater” than Jonah or Solomon having arrived.  (I see a refined and distinct sense of humor in Jesus’ words and actions at times.)  In reality, Jesus is much greater than any other prophet or leader that came before Him, or claimed to be a prophet after Him (i.e., Mohammad, Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc.)!  Jesus preferred to restrain and curtail any difference between Himself and any individual found in Old Testament Scripture, no matter how important they were in salvation history.  Jesus did not have the vice of “pride”; do you?!

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Is there a craving for God’s wisdom, via the Holy Spirit, dwelling in and through you?  In His address to the Jewish Christian Community, James said:

Wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” (James 3:17). 

Someone who has a proactive, ambitious, and determined purpose to seek God in their lives can receive His message, – – His “wisdom”.  One needs only to want for, long for, and ask for, two things – – “goodness”, and “orderliness” in one’s life according to God’s “wise” plan for salvation and redemption.  Pray to the Lord for His message and wisdom.  Pray for Him to renew your mind with His “word”, and to increase your desire for His wise way.

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Today, I am combining two famous “Franciscan” prayers into one prayer for desire, wisdom, and orderliness:  

 

Saint Francis’ Meditation Prayer, &
Saint Francis’ Vocation Prayer

 
“My God and my All; Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds.  Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity, so that we may always, and in all things, act according to Your Holy Will.  Amen.”
 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Clement Mary Hofbauer (1751-1820)

 

Clement might be called the second founder of the Redemptorists, as it was he who carried the congregation of St. Alphonsus Liguori to the people north of the Alps.

John, the name given him at Baptism, was born in Moravia into a poor family, the ninth of 12 children.  Although he longed to be a priest there was no money for studies, and he was apprenticed to a baker.  But God guided the young man’s fortunes.  He found work in the bakery of a monastery where he was allowed to attend classes in its Latin school.  After the abbot there died, John tried the life of a hermit but when Emperor Joseph II abolished hermitages, John again returned to Vienna and to baking.  One day after serving Mass at the cathedral of St. Stephen, he called a carriage for two ladies waiting there in the rain.  In their conversation they learned that he could not pursue his priestly studies because of a lack of funds.  They generously offered to support both him and his friend, Thaddeus, in their seminary studies.  The two went to Rome, where they were drawn to St. Alphonsus’ vision of religious life and to the Redemptorists.  The two young men were ordained together in 1785.

Newly professed at age 34, Clement Mary, as he was now called, and Thaddeus were sent back to Vienna.  But the religious difficulties there caused them to leave and continue north to Warsaw, Poland.  There they encountered numerous German-speaking Catholics who had been left priestless by the suppression of the Jesuits.  At first they had to live in great poverty and preached outdoor sermons.  They were given the church of St. Benno, and for the next nine years they preached five sermons a day, two in German and three in Polish, converting many to the faith.  They were active in social work among the poor, founding an orphanage and then a school for boys.

Drawing candidates to the congregation, they were able to send missionaries to Poland, Germany and Switzerland.  All of these foundations had eventually to be abandoned because of the political and religious tensions of the times.  After 20 years of difficult work Clement himself was imprisoned and expelled from the country.  Only after another arrest was he able to reach Vienna, where he was to live and work the final 12 years of his life.  He quickly became “the apostle of Vienna,” hearing the confessions of the rich and poor, visiting the sick, acting as a counselor to the powerful, sharing his holiness with all in the city.  His crowning work was the establishment of a Catholic college in his beloved city.

Persecution followed him, and there were those in authority who were able for a while to stop him from preaching.  An attempt was made at the highest levels to have him banished.  But his holiness and fame protected him and the growth of the Redemptorists.  Due to his efforts, the congregation, upon his death in 1820, was firmly established north of the Alps.

He was canonized in 1909.

Comment:

Clement saw his life’s work meet with disaster.  Religious and political tensions forced him and his brothers to abandon their ministry in Germany, Poland and Switzerland.  Clement himself was exiled from Poland and had to start all over again.  Someone once pointed out that the followers of the crucified Jesus should see only new possibilities opening up whenever they meet failure.  He encourages us to follow his example, trusting in the Lord to guide us.

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

A big change occurs in the text of the “Creed” (Our “Profession of Faith”).  The first obvious change is with the very first word.  Currently we begin with “We believe.” The new, revised text has “I believe” instead of “We”.

Another noticeable change comes in the tenth line, regarding the Son’s divinity.  We currently say Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  The new text will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.”  

Consubstantial is not really a translation.  In reality, It is a transliteration—the same Latin word, spelled in English— of the Latin “consubstantialis”, which means “one in being.”  Translation versus transliteration is not the point.  The point is that Jesus is God, one with the Father.

A third noticeable change occurs in how we speak of Christ’s human nature.  We currently say, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” The new text will now say, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

Incarnate means “made flesh.” So, using the term here reminds us that he was human from the moment of his conception and not just at his birth. 

There are several other minor changes in the text of the “Creed” (new version is shown below).  It will certainly take us some time to commit the new version to memory, and to be able to profess it together easily.  

The new missal also allows the option of using the “Apostles’ Creed” instead of this version of the “Nicene Creed”, especially during Lent and Easter.  The “Apostles’ Creed” is another ancient Christian creed, long in used by Roman Catholics in our baptismal promises and at the beginning of the Rosary.

The Creed

 

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Prayer II

What forms of prayer do you use (structured prayers; meditation; and contemplation)?  Why, or why not?  Should you?

What are the forms of recommended structured prayers for “our SFO office”? (Ask someone if you do not know the various structured prayers)

Do your prayers express or capture the same exuberance we find in Sts. Francis and Clare?  Why?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 16 & 17 of 26:

 

16.  Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.

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17.  In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.

By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for His Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child.

“Yo; Drop That Stuff and Come With Me! We Have Places To Get To, People To Save, and Lots of Bread To Break!” – Matthew 4:12-23†


            

Today in Catholic History:
    


†   909 – John of Rila (aka Saint Ivan) was the first Bulgarian hermit, known for the “fable of two pies”.
†   1350 – Birth of Vincent Ferrer, Spanish missionary and saint (d. 1419)
†   1492 – The “Pentateuch” (Jewish holy book) is first printed.
†   1789 – Georgetown College becomes the first Roman Catholic college in the United States in the city of Washington, D.C.
†   1929 – Birth of Patriarch Filaret (Mykhailo Denysenko) of Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate
†   1936 – The Catholic People’s Party (KVP) of Curacao (a Caribbean Island) is formed
†   1998 – Pope John Paul II condemns the US embargo against Cuba
†   Memorials/Feasts: St. Raymond of Peñafort, confessor, d. 1275; St. Emerentiana, virgin and martyr, d. 305; Blessed Marianne of Molokai

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

  

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 07 of 13 Parts

The Church expects us, urges the Cardinal, to have an attitude and conduct of authentic evangelical parrhesia  spent in the city of man. In the city of concrete human relations, of ‘humanity in situ’, not in a virtual, purely academic city, one of theoretical situations and obliging conformity towards the powers that be – out of fear or, worse still, for one’s own personal advantage.

What is parrhesia  ?

It is speaking clearly, without fear and hesitation, giving uncompromising witness to the Truth of the Gospel, explaining the hope that lives in us, sowing with humble courage the seed of the Word.

Today, more than ever, we should ask the Lord for the grace of parrhesia, for each one of us, for the whole SFO and for our churches.

In order to rediscover our prophetic mission and not be silent about violence perpetrated on the poor.

In order to intervene with courage every time human rights are violated.

In order not to be afraid of threats and to speak with honesty, without betraying the Word of God and making compromises, when the rights of God are made subordinate to the interests of men and of the idols which would claim His place.

 

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html
 

 

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus beginning to preach in Galilee.  He also and calls His first disciples.

 

12 When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.  13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”  17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.  19 He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.  21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.  23 He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.   (NAB Matthew 4:12-23)

 

Today’s Gospel records the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ ministry begins after His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, and after his forty-day retreat to the desert where He was tempted by Satan.  When Jesus returns from His sojourn in the desert, he learns that John the Baptist had been arrested and was imprisoned.

 

Isaiah’s prophecy of the light rising upon Zebulun and Naphtali and Jesus’ residence at Capernaum is realized and fulfilled in the opening verses of today’s reading:

“They look to the earth, but will see only distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into thick darkness. But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.  In the former time he brought them into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.”  (Isaiah 8:22-9:1)  

Galilee was at the crossroads of the “world” and much traffic passed through this little region.  This territory was devastated politically and religiously around the mid-700’s B.C., with the Assyrian invasion.  At this time a segment of the Jewish population was exiled to other regions, and a substantial number of “foreigners” were moved into the territory, forcibly taking possession of the land from the Jewish people, and then inhabiting in it.  For this reason, the area is referred to in Holy Scripture hereafter as the “Galilee of the Gentiles”.  This same land that was devastated and abused in Isaiah’s time will also be the first to receive the light, mission, and salvation of Jesus Christ’s life and preaching.

In order to fit Jesus’ move to Capernaum into Isaiah’s prophecy, Matthew speaks of Capernaum as being “in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali“, though it was actually “only” in the territory of Naphtali.  Matthew also somewhat “tweaked” his understanding of the “sea” in the messianic prophecy as the Sea of Galilee instead of the original Mediterranean Sea, as in Isaiah.

 

 

At the beginning of His teaching and preaching ministry, Jesus takes up the words of John the Baptist:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  (Matthew 3:2)

Jesus made two rather simple and direct demands: repent and believe!  The Holy Spirit gives us grace to see our sins for what they are – – denial, refusal, and a rejection of the love of God.  God wants to change our ways of thinking and transform our lives by the power of His ever-living word, and through the actions of the Holy Spirit.

However, Jesus Christ takes up John’s words of repentance and penance with a different meaning than John’s.  In Jesus’ ministry on earth, the kingdom of heaven had already begun to be present (and still is present today and forever).

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  (Matthew 12:28)

Jesus’ enduring, permanent, and redeeming efforts usher in a “new” age and covenant in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ brought such an enhancement and improvement through His salvation, that what is now required from us to be part of His kingdom, is a true and radical daily change in our behavior towards God and others.  God, in and through Jesus Christ, intervened in a special way to save all mankind.  We must now be open to God’s grace, and reform our ways in this same special way – – DAILY! 

We are obligated to make a stand – – either for God, or against Him!  (There are NO grey areas here!)  We must purposefully stop our moving (or slipping) away from God, and instead purposefully and lovingly move closer to Him.  With the coming of Jesus Christ, penance and a turning toward God on a daily (maybe even hourly) basis are absolutely essential!

Repentance is of such exceptional importance for Jesus that He preaches on this issue as the very first subject in His public ministry.  His words not only echo John the Baptist’s proclamation, it is the same – – word-for-word – – with John’s (as found in Matthew 3:2).  Both John and Jesus demanded repentance and penance as a precondition and qualification for receiving the Kingdom of God, which Jesus Christ has brought in and established in its fullness in, with, and through Him.  Jesus will present, illustrate, and reveal the Kingdom of God to be a Kingdom of love and holiness.

“We must submit our sins to the Church with a contrite heart in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that we may be daily more and more converted to the Lord, remembering His word: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand’”. (Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 5)

Mankind fell into darkness with Adam and Eve’s sin.  Yet, God never abandoned His “chosen” people.  When His Son, Jesus Christ, was scourged and crucified, God raised Him up!  And this is our personal story, our future, as well.  We are sinners who are saved through the light of Jesus Christ.  We die in, and with, Christ – – and we rise with Him!  We go from the darkness of sin, to the light of His salvation.

 

 

These four men chosen by Jesus to be His first disciples, (and even His first Apostles), had already met the Lord, Jesus Christ, prior to His choosing them:

“The next day John [the Baptist] was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’  The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’  They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’  He said to them, ’Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.  It was about four in the afternoon.  Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed).  Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter)”.  (Jn 1:35-42)

Their brief meeting with Jesus must have had an extremely powerful effect in their hearts and minds, as well as on their souls.  The effect Jesus had on these four fishermen moved them to immediately leave everything behind so as to follow Him, and to be His first disciples – – traveling with Him unfailing for three years and over many, many miles of ministry.  Can you envision the powerful presence that Jesus had on the people He met in order to elicit such an immediate and complete response as that of these first disciples?  Rising above their own personal and spiritual human faults and shortcomings (which the Gospel does so well at never hiding), we can see the great and wonderful promptness and generosity of these men (and hopefully ours) in answering God’s call.

“God draws us from the shadows of our ignorance, our groping through history, and, no matter what our occupation in the world, He calls us in a loud voice, as He once called Peter and Andrew”. (St. Josemaria Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 45)

The promptness, enthusiasm, and eagerness with which these disciples (and future Apostles) follow Jesus were remarkable.  They immediately leave their nets and past lives, and follow Him.  God comes into all of our lives just as He did with these four fishermen; coming to us individually, He personally calls us to do His work in our lives and witness.  If we do not answer Him “immediately”, He may “continue” on His way, and we could easily turn our back on Him, and lose sight of Him. 

He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power.  When the Lord calls us to be his disciple and benefactor of His grace, we should not think that we don’t have anything to offer Him in exchange.  The Lord takes the little we can offer and uses it for a sign and greatness of, for, and in, His kingdom in heaven and on earth.

Were these men more special than any of us?  HECK NO!  These were men had little education, and laboring as fishermen, when called by Jesus Christ.  More so than not, Jesus Christ seems to call ordinary men to perform extraordinary feats, while in the midst of their ordinary labors, actions, and lives.  The Wise Men were “called” in their ordinary glimmering occupations of studying and dreaming in the flickering stars; Moses was shepherding his flock when told to start a travel export company of sorts; Elisha was plowing his land when summoned to help another prophet, and to take care of a “jezebel”; and Amos was looking after his herd of sheep, his grove of fig trees, and counting his money when was given his mission.

Jesus’ calling of the first disciples gave to each of them a part in His work and mission.  Their “calling” entailed an abandonment of family, friends, and their former ways of life.  (Note: later bible verses suggest that the first disciples’ separation from their families may not have been as complete as the verses in today’s Gospel might lead us to believe.)  Is it surprising that three of the four chosen today (Simon, James, and John) are prominent among Jesus’ disciples (and Apostles) as having a closer and more personal relationship with Him than any others following Him?  They had the privilege of witnessing events in Jesus’ life and ministry which the other disciples did not see and experience.

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” (Matthew 17:1; 26:37) 

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’  He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.”  (Matthew 26:36-37).

 

 

The reading today ends Jesus’ first ministry actions as reported in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapters 3 and 4).  His ministry activities of teaching, proclaiming the good news of God (the Gospel), and healing will continue for the next three years on earth, and still continues today through the actions of the Holy Spirit working in and through each of us in a personal way.

 

Today’s Gospel reading ends with a description of Jesus’ ministry – – as it is beginning – – in that small fishing village of Galilee.  

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.”  (Matthew 9:35)

Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God with his life and work.  He teaches in the synagogue and preaches of the “kingdom”.  Jesus’ ability to cure people’s diseases and illness is a “sign” of God’s kingdom.  In Jesus’ ministry, we can already begin to see the Kingdom of God among us.

 

Could it be that the message for us today is to balance the fundamental “call” to be a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ with the challenge to be “fishers of men”, even within our own little circle of families and friends?  Initiating, and maintaining this balance will probably necessitate that we – – change some of our “priorities” – – in respect to our own families, friends, AND GOD!

Itemize and list the duties and activities of your typical day.  What are your “priorities” in your daily details and schedule?  How do you respond and react when your daily plans are interrupted or must be changed?  With your daily life in mind, reflect on the faith, trust, and example of the first disciples who “immediately” dropped everything they had and knew to follow Jesus.  Does your “priorities” and schedule give witness and evidence of placing God first in your life?  What might you do in order to better reveal and expose that God is your priority?

Do you show others around you the joy of the Gospel – – God’s “LIVING” Word?  Do you pray for your friends and family, co-workers, and the marginalized to come to know Jesus Christ?  Do you pray for them to grow in the beauty and acknowledgement of His eternal and unending love?  Please pray that you will always give witness, confirmation, and external signs that God comes first in your life.

“Only when a person is struck and opened up by Christ can true community grow.”  (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI] “The Theological Locus of Ecclesial Movements”)

 

 

Psalm 27

 

“The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom do I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom am I afraid? 

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’S house
all the days of my life,
that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord
and contemplate his temple. 

I believe that I shall the bounty of the Lord
in the land of the living. 
Wait for the Lord with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord. 
Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Mother Marianne Cope (1838-1918)

 

Though leprosy scared off most people in 19th-century Hawaii, that disease sparked great generosity in the woman who came to be known as Mother Marianne of Molokai.  Her courage helped tremendously to improve the lives of its victims in Hawaii, a territory annexed to the United States during her lifetime (1898).

Mother Marianne’s generosity and courage were celebrated at her May 14, 2005, beatification in Rome.  She was a woman who spoke “the language of truth and love” to the world, said Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. Cardinal Martins, who presided at the beatification Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, called her life “a wonderful work of divine grace.”  Speaking of her special love for persons suffering from leprosy, he said, “She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus.  Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother.”

On January 23, 1838, a daughter was born to Peter and Barbara Cope of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany.  The girl was named after her mother.  Two years later the Cope family immigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York.  Young Barbara worked in a factory until August 1862, when she went to the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York.  After profession in November of the next year, she began teaching at Assumption parish school.

Marianne held the post of superior in several places and was twice the novice mistress of her congregation.  A natural leader, three different times she was superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, where she learned much that would be useful during her years in Hawaii.

Elected provincial in 1877, Mother Marianne was unanimously re-elected in 1881.  Two years later the Hawaiian government was searching for someone to run the Kakaako Receiving Station for people suspected of having leprosy.  More than 50 religious communities in the United States and Canada were asked.  When the request was put to the Syracuse sisters, 35 of them volunteered immediately. On October 22, 1883, Mother Marianne and six other sisters left for Hawaii where they took charge of the Kakaako Receiving Station outside Honolulu; on the island of Maui they also opened a hospital and a school for girls.

In 1888, Mother Marianne and two sisters went to Molokai to open a home for “unprotected women and girls” there.  The Hawaiian government was quite hesitant to send women for this difficult assignment; they need not have worried about Mother Marianne!  On Molokai she took charge of the home that Blessed Damien DeVeuster (d. 1889) had established for men and boys.  Mother Marianne changed life on Molokai by introducing cleanliness, pride and fun to the colony.  Bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women were part of her approach.

Awarded the Royal Order of Kapiolani by the Hawaiian government and celebrated in a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mother Marianne continued her work faithfully.  Her sisters have attracted vocations among the Hawaiian people and still work on Molokai.

Mother Marianne died on August 9, 1918.

Comment:

The government authorities were reluctant to allow Mother Marianne to be a mother on Molokai.  Thirty years of dedication proved their fears unfounded.  God grants gifts regardless of human short-sightedness and allows those gifts to flower for the sake of the kingdom.

Quote:

Soon after Mother Marianne died, Mrs. John F. Bowler wrote in the Honolulu Advertiser, “Seldom has the opportunity come to a woman to devote every hour of 30 years to the mothering of people isolated by law from the rest of the world.  She risked her own life in all that time, faced everything with unflinching courage and smiled sweetly through it all.”

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 23 & 24 of 26:

 

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

  

24.  To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

“Floods and Thieves Cannot Keep Jesus Away; Only ‘SIN’ Can!” – Matthew 24:37-44†


 

Today is the first day of Advent, and only 27 days till CHRIST-mas.  Woo-Hoo!!  Yippee!!  We are looking forward to both Jesus’ birth and His final return at the “End Time:” the Parousia.  At this time He will bring us into His kingdom fully and personally.  Can anyone get a better gift than this?

 

 

 

Prayer for Lighting the Advent Wreath Candles for the First Week 

 

All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, forever and ever. – AMEN.”

http://www.loyolapress.com/family-advent-wreath-blessing.htm

 

 

Today in Catholic History:
    

  
†   741 – St Gregory III ends his reign as Catholic Pope with his death

†  1095 – On the last day of the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II appoints Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy and Count Raymond IV of Toulouse to lead the First Crusade to the Holy Land.
†  1880 – Death of Aires de Ornelas e Vasconcelos, (Portuguese) Archbishop of Goa (b. 1837)
†   1944 – Death of Camille Looten, Belgian priest/literature historian
†   1959 – Pope John XXIII publishes encyclical Princeps Pastorum
†   Feast Day: Pope Gregory III; Catherine Labouré
† Eastern Orthodox Church: Using the “Julian Calendar.” it is the beginning of the Nativity Fast; Repose of Saint Herman of Alaska;  Venerable Paisius Velichkovsky; Martyr Stephen the New of Mount Saint Auxentius;  Basil; Stephen; two Gregories; John; Andrew; Peter; Anna; and many others.

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Do what you can and pray for what you cannot yet do.” – Saint Augustine

Edited by Raymond Arroyo: The Prayers & Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica, Doubleday

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling His followers that the coming of the Son of Man (the Parousia) will find many people not prepared, and that His disciples should always be ready for the day of the Lord.

 

37 For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  38 In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.  39 They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.  So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man.  40 Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.  42 Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  43 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.  44 So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.  (NAB Matthew 24:37-44)

 

Wow!  What a weekend we had this year.  My wife and kids were up at four a.m. to go shopping this past Friday (Black Friday).  I was laughing as they excitedly, but still very sleepily, walked out the front door on their “little excursion” with craziness of “the good kind.”  In today’s Gospel reading we are advised to “stay awake and to be prepared.”  Would all these shoppers stand in line in the late night/early morning as willingly to do the same thing outside the local parish Church to grasp a “spiritual” gift from God?  Would they be willing to lose sleep for something that can’t be purchased anywhere in this universe, yet still must be accepted at whatever cost, and used daily in order to “live”?  Now is the time to be alert, to “stay awake,” and to prepare for His gifts, and His coming.

Let’s use this Advent season to remind us that we are already living in the “end times”.  It began with the “FIRST” coming of Jesus Christ, with His incarnation and birth in that cold manger.  It will be fully completed with His return at the Parousia.  This second “coming” is guaranteed; only the time that it will fully occur is unknown.  Also guaranteed at the Parousia is a swift judgment, which for many will be unexpected.  Oh, how sad, for Jesus frequently warned His followers not to be caught unprepared when that day finally arrives.  

Today is a new beginning in the Church year and a new beginning for us as well.  It is never too late to start living in Jesus’ footsteps – – to follow His path.  This “Advent season,” the next four Sundays, will end with the birth of Jesus.  For Catholics, this season is a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord, the Messiah.  Now is the time to remember two crucial elements of our faith: the “final coming” of the Lord in glory (the Parousia), and “the Incarnation” of the Lord in the birth of Jesus Christ.  Vigilant waiting, preparation, and justice are the important lessons of any Advent.

Good role models for the Advent season or Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38).  Like sentinels at the Temple, they patiently awaited the “Messiah”.  Their faith, hope, and trust never failed them.  They waited for the fulfillment of God’s promises with perseverance unequalled by anyone.  The Holy Spirit lived in them, and exuded from them, in their eagerness to see God’s salvation fully realized with His glorious entrance to this sinful world in human form.  Their prayer and steadfastness allowed them both to see the “Messiah” when brought to the Temple by His Holy earthly parents.  God’s view and behaviors became their views and behaviors, and His life became their lives.

The Gospel of Matthew will be the principal Gospel read this Liturgical year (Cycle A).  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speak about the need for “staying awake”, for “watchful waiting”, for the “coming of the Son of Man”.

Matthew’s Gospel was probably written about or after 70 A.D.  Scholars believe that Matthew wrote for a mostly Jewish population, yet a population that wasn’t centered on the Temple in Jerusalem.  Remember, the Temple (and a large portion of Jerusalem itself) was destroyed around this time in history.  These Jewish Christians tried to come to terms with their relationship towards Judaism and “The Way” (an early name for “Christians”) that Jesus established and preached.  There were many Christians who believed that the events of the world surrounding them, such as the destruction of the Temple, gave evidence of the imminent return of the Lord – “in glory” (the Parousia).

Let’s go WAY back in history.  The people in Noah’s time ignored the Lord’s warning of judgment.  They missed the boat, literally!  The Old Testament account of the flood put little emphasis on what was vital for Matthew when he said that the unexpected flood befell on those who were not prepared for the deluge of water (verses 37- 39).  Luke also had a corresponding passage, in Chapter 17:26-27: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”   

What does Jesus mean when he says that one will be taken and another left? Associating with “desirable” friends and acquaintances (especially those who are very pious) does not guarantee anyone an “E-ticket” to heaven.  No matter how close someone may be to God, we cannot hitch a ride with them.  God offers to each of us a personal invite and relationship.  One only needs to simply accept Him, or reject Him; there is no neutral territory when it comes to the final judgment.  

In today’s reading, those “taken” meant “taken into God’s kingdom”, with “will be left” meaning “left for destruction”.  As is very prevalent and typical throughout the New Testament, people will be dealt with, in an opposite way to their present condition, in God’s Kingdom.  In the context of today’s reading, God’s judgment will be based on how ready we are for the coming of the Son of Man (the Parousia).  Luke’s corresponding verses can be found in Chapter 17:34-35: “I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.”   

Matthew’s primary theme of alertness, eagerness, and preparedness is assisted in the telling with the daring contrast of the “Son of Manto a “thief” who comes to break into a house.  Luke’s counterpart is in Chapter 12:39-40: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” 

If you knew that a thief wanted to steal your possessions, wouldn’t you guard it with your life?  God promises each of us an inheritance and reward which he calls a “treasure beyond measure” (Matthew 13:44-46) – – the Lord himself!!  The kingdom he offers us is a kingdom of true and everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.  

It is uselessness to look for signs of the return of the “Son of God”; there will be none!   As a thief sneaks in during the night so will the Lord’s glorious coming be.  So, how do we prepare for the Parousia?  It is about the “waiting” and what to do while waiting!  Jesus compared the vigilance required of His followers to that of the vigilance a homeowner has when he knows the thief’s plan.  If one knows that the thief’s deed is looming, one remains alert and vigilant.  In kind, if we become lax in our Catholic life, practices, and worship, we may be caught unprepared.

My brother used to run in marathons.  My nephew and his wife regularly participate in bi- and triathlons.  For them, preparation is essential.  It took months to achieve their goal.  In the same token, we have an entire season to get ready for Christ’s entrance with His human birth.

Runners need to eat a healthy in a healthy way for the energy needed to finish the race.  They pace themselves, working mile by mile or minute by minute, and not trying to hurry up the process unwisely.  Runners travel light, with no extra baggage weighing them down. 

Our Advent “meal” is prayer, Sacraments, and Holy Scripture.  We can lighten our load as well by examining our consciences every day; to repent of our sins.  We should approach this Advent season with the same sense of patience as the long-distance runner.  Just put one step in front of the other on God’s path, and deal with the obstacles as they come, knowing the end is just ahead of you.  With each step you get a little closer to your goal of salvation and eternal paradise with God.  The awesome thing is that God is at your side, running with you all along the way, pacing Himself to your tempo.  He will help you if you stumble on His path, and He will encourage you if you allow Him.

The holiday season is upon us full-blast.  Many feel the pressure to get EVERYTHING ready for Christmas – – TODAY, if not yesterday.  With the readings today, we get a stark reminder to be ready for something much more important than the secular aspects of Christmas.

What does it mean to be ready for the Parousia?  Reflect on how you can help others be a better Catholic.  Commit to one thing that you will do this Advent season to help another be a better Catholic.  Write your commitment down on a piece of paper in large print and post it in a prominent place (i.e., on the front door of the refrigerator, the coffee pot, or the television); a place where you will see your commitment note multiple times each day.  Pray to God daily for His help in your commitment.  On Christmas day, reflect on how well you succeeded in your commitment, and how well you are prepared for God’s coming and judgment.

God knows our struggles, and he gives grace and help wherever we need it.  God’s judges each of us individually according to how we have responded to his gracious invitation.  He gives us fresh hope each day so that we can keep our eyes on an eternal reward waiting for each of us.  Now that is true love!!

 

A Family Prayer for the First Week of Advent

 

Father in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love, and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.  Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth.  We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.  Amen.”

http://www.loyolapress.com/advent-family-prayer.htm

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. James of the Marche (1394-1476)

 

Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop!

James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances.

James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence.

With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the “four pillars” of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching.

To combat extremely high interest rates, James established montes pietatis (literally, mountains of charity) — nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects.

Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James was canonized in 1726.

Comment:

James wanted the word of God to take root in the hearts of his listeners. His preaching was directed to preparing the soil, so to speak, by removing any rocks and softening up lives hardened by sin. God’s intention is that his word take root in our lives, but for that we need both prayerful preachers and cooperative listeners.

Quote:

“Beloved and most holy word of God! You enlighten the hearts of the faithful, you satisfy the hungry, console the afflicted; you make the souls of all productive of good and cause all virtues to blossom; you snatch souls from the devil’s jaw; you make the wretched holy, and men of earth citizens of heaven” (Sermon of St. James).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the Rule:

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Was Jesus a Republican or Democrat!?” – Mt 23:27-32†


 

Exactly four months till CHRISTmas day!  That is 122 days, or 17 weekends, 107 weekdays, and about 100 or so school days.  Isn’t everybody excited NOW!!

 

Today in Catholic History:

 
    
†   1282 – Death of Thomas Cantilupe, English saint
†   1624 – Birth of François de la Chaise, French confessor of Louis XIV of France (d. 1709)
†   Liturgical Feasts: Genesius of Arles; Saint Louis IX of France; Saint Joseph Calasanz.

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

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart. — Francis of Assisi

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ “calling-out the Scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites!”

  

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.  28 Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.  29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’  31 Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; 32 now fill up what your ancestors measured out!  (NAB Mt 23:27-32)

 

The gospel today is a diatribe of criticism and censure by Jesus to the Scribes and the Pharisees in Jerusalem.  Jesus is definitely driving home a point by literally calling the Scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites!”  While a deep antagonism and conflict existed between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees, and is well founded in the various clashes between them, this tongue-lashing reflects a deep disagreement that probably goes beyond that of Jesus’ ministry.  This disparity needs to be seen as expressing the bitter conflict that still existed between the Jewish Pharisees and the early Jewish-Catholic Church of Matthew’s time later in the first century A.D., long after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven body, soul, blood, and divinity.

Jesus’ speech is not purely anti-Pharisaic though.  Matthew observes in “his” Jewish-Catholic Church, many of the same faults that Jesus found prevalent in the Pharisaic Jewish temples of Jesus’ time on earth.  Matthew is warning his fellow Christians, through this Gospel reading and Jesus’ words, to look at their own conduct and attitudes: to not fall into the same trap the Scribes and Pharisees fell into.   

The sixth “woe” —  about bright and gleaming tombs with rotting flesh and bones inside, just as  the preceding “woe” (not in this reading) about cleansing the outside of the cup, but not the inside, —  deals with a concern for externals, and the neglect of what is inside oneself.  Jesus is telling the temple officials that although they appear “whitewashed” on the outside, they are full of dead bones and filth on the inside.  I can picture Him being visibly upset, and nearly yelling at those church officials present, while stretching out his arm with a finger pointed at each of them.

Do you know anyone who always has to have the newest fashion, yet snub their nose at others they feel live “beneath” them?  Have you ever done this, and don’t answer to quickly!?  Let me throw a few sentences at you, and see if any come even close to something you may have said:

  • How do you like my new haircut?
  • See my new cell phone.  It has all the best gadgets on it.
  • My family ALWAYS vacations in Florida.
  • My children can’t go anywhere but _______! Fill in the elite and very expensive ivy-league type high school in the area.  (I purposely left out a few very specific names of schools in my area, as to not grossly offend someone.  There were several I could use, including a couple of [sadly] Catholic High Schools in the area, which gives the impression they are TOO GOOD for the average person.)
  • Let me pay the bill with my “platinum” credit card.

All of these sentences carry the sins of pride, greed, and envy; plus, depending on the circumstance, also the sins of gluttony and sloth.  Besides these 3-5 “capitol or cardinal” sins, the person saying anything similar to this is extremely close to breaking the 8th and 10th Commandments (Thou shall not bear a false witness, and Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property, respectfully). 

Contact with dead bodies during Jesus’ time on earth, even if the person was unaware, caused ritual impurity for that person.  Ritual uncleanness was, for all essence, contagious and the individual was separated from the temple and society.  This is why people with a skin disease such as leprosy were not allowed in the cities, much less the temples.  Any impropriety with cleanliness, religious or personal was scrutinized, and the person treated severely.    For this reason, tombs were white-washed so that one would not contract any impurity inadvertently.

The final “woe,” is the most serious of the seven mentioned in this Gospel chapter.  It is nothing less than that of an indictment from Jesus.   It portrays the temple Scribes and Pharisees position and status in society, as being in the same relationship of their ancestors “who murdered the prophets and the righteous.”

The Scribes and Pharisees honored the murdered prophets of old, by building tombs, and then decorating their memorials with trinkets and gems.  Plus, the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time asserted that they would have not participated in their ancestors’ crimes of murdering the prophets if they had lived during their ancestor’s period of time.  Jesus made a very clear and profound statement in declaring the Scribes and Pharisees as being most definitely the “true” children of their ancestors.  The Scribes and Pharisees were boldly ordered by Jesus to “fill up what those ancestors measured out!”  This order manifests the Jewish belief that there was a specific allotment, a measure, of suffering that had to be completed prior to God’s final judgment taking place.

What do you think the crowd listening to Jesus this day were thinking and doing?  Some in the crowd were probably nodding their heads in total agreement, while others (especially the Scribes and Pharisees) were visibly upset or confused at what Jesus was saying to them in a very public way.  Do you think the majority of the crowd was happy and elated that Jesus “called out” the “quasi-politicians” of the Jewish religion?  Or, do you believe the majority present was upset that He was attacking the temple officials that took care of their specific spiritual needs. 

Was Jesus looked upon as the “outsider” attacking the “incumbent,” similar to how present day politics work?  Rhetorically, was Jesus a Republican or Democrat?  My answer is WHO CARES: but I believe the correct answer is neither.  Jesus’ political party was that of “Messiah and Savior from God!”

All communities have its portion of trouble-makers, but I prefer to call them “Sh!t-disturbers” because they enjoy the ability to “stir the cr@p!”  These people have a tendency to abuse the generosity of others, similar to the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time that is preached about in today’s Gospel reading.

For us reading and reflecting on this Gospel today, Jesus is simply giving us another example of how important our example is to others, for as St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words!”

 

“Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament”

 

“We adore You, O Lord Jesus Christ,
in this Church and all the Churches of the world,
and we bless You, because,
by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.  Amen.”
 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Louis IX, King of France 1215-1270

 

Patron of the Secular Franciscan Order

 

King St. Louis was born in the castle at Poissy near Paris on April 25, 1215. His devout mother, Blanche, was determined that he should be educated not only for the earthly kingdom he was to govern, but still more for the kingdom of heaven. She accustomed him to look upon all things in the light of faith, and thus laid the foundation for that humility in good fortune and endurance in misfortune which characterized the holy king.

Louis was crowned king when he was only 12 years old. His mother, however, was entrusted with the actual government of the kingdom during his minority. Meanwhile, Louis was being educated in all the duties of a Christian prince. Among his instructors there were several Franciscan friars, and later on the young king himself joined the Third Order of St. Francis.

Louis had governed his kingdom for several years in his own name, when he vowed, in the course of a serious illness, that if he would recover, he would make a crusade to the Holy Land, to wrest the holy places from the hands of the infidels. Upon regaining his health he at once carried out his vow. He took the fortress of Damietta from the Saracens, but was taken captive after his army had been weakened by an epidemic.

After he had borne the sufferings of a prisoner of the infidels for several months with holy serenity, the terms for his release were submitted to him; but there was attached to these terms an oath, that if he did not fulfill them, he would deny Christ and the Christian religion. The holy king replied: “Such blasphemous words shall never cross my lips.” They threatened him with death. “Very well,” he said, “you may kill my body, but you will never kill my soul.” Filled with admiration at his steadfast courage, the finally released him without objectionable condition. After securing many other terms favorable to the Christians, he was obliged to return to France, since his mother had died in the meantime.

In the government of his kingdom, Louis proved how profitable piety is in every respect. He promoted the welfare of the country and his people in a remarkable manner. His life as a Christian and as a Christian father was so exemplary that he has been found worthy to be chosen as the patron and model of Tertiaries. The most important principal of his life was the observance of the laws of God under all circumstances. His biographer assures us that he never lost his baptismal innocence by mortal sin. He himself set such store by the grace of baptism that, in confidential letters, he took pleasure in signing himself “Louis of Poissy,” because it was in the parish church there that he had been baptized.

Louis never tolerated cursing or sinful conversation either among the servants or among the courtiers; and never was he heard to utter an unkind or impatient word. he wished to avoid all unnecessary pomp and luxury at court, so that more help could be rendered to the poor, of whom he personally fed and served several hundred. His wardrobe was as simple as it could fittingly be, and at all times he wore the insignia of the Third Order under his outer garments. On special occasions he publicly wore the habit of the Tertiaries.

In order to curb sensuality he not only observed all the fasts of the Church with unusual severity, but denied himself certain food for which he had a special craving. He was a most solicitous father to the 11 children with which God blessed his marriage. He himself prayed with them daily, examined them in the lessons they had learned, guided them in the performance of the works of Christian charity, and in his will bequeathed to them the most beautiful instructions.

He fostered special devotion to the sufferings of Christ; and it was a great consolation for him when he gained possession of the Crown of Thorns, for the preservation of which he had the magnificent Holy Chapel built in Paris. When serious complaints concerning the oppression of the Christians in the Holy Land reached his ears, he undertook a second crusade in 1270, but on the way he died of the plague, contracted while visiting his sick soldiers.

Amid exclamations of holy joy because he was going into the house of the Lord, he surrendered his soul to God on August 25. St. Louis was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297.

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

 

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

 

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

“Martha! There Were Glass Ceilings in First Century Palestine: Ask Mary; She Broke One!” – Luke 10:38-42†


Sorry for being late in posting this reflection.  My wife and kids just came home from camping and float trip, and I wanted to spend a few minutes with them.

 

Today in Catholic History:
 

†  64 – Great fire of Rome: A fire begins to burn in the merchant area of Rome and soon burns completely out of control while Emperor Nero reportedly plays his lyre and sings while watching the blaze from a safe distance.
†  1334 – The bishop of Florence blesses the first foundational stone laid for the new campanile (bell tower) of the Florence Cathedral, designed by the artist Giotto di Bondone.
†  1100 – Death of Godfrey of Bouillon, Protector of the Holy Sepulcher, de facto King of Jerusalem
†  1925 – Death of Louis Nazaire Bégin, Roman Catholic cardinal and Archbishop of Quebec (b. 1840)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

“If we secretly feel a desire to appear greater or better than others, we must repress it at once” ~ St. Teresa of Jesus†


Today’s reflection is about Jesus visiting the house of Martha and Mary, and discipleship for men and women.

Now as they [Jesus and the Disciples] went on their way, he [Jesus] entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ (NRSV  Luke 10:38-42)

 

The story of Martha and Mary illustrates the importance of hearing the words of the teacher: Jesus.  It also demonstrates a concern Jesus had about women of that time.  Jesus was one of the very first “equal-rights” proponents, breaking with the social conventions of His time.  This is demonstrated in that Jesus is alone with women who are not related to Him; a woman serves Him instead of the master of the house serving Him; and He teaches a woman in her own house, all in opposition to societal norms.  Just as the Samaritan (from last Sunday’s Gospel reading) would not be a model for neighborliness; a woman, in Jesus’ time, would not sit at the feet of a teacher; be alone in the house with Him; nor would serve Him directly.

Women of first-century Judaic Palestine were to be hardly seen, and never heard, especially in public.  Women were very much a marginalized group, just like the Samaritans.  For Martha’s sister, Mary (NOT to be confused with the Blessed Virgin Mary), to “sit at the Lord’s feet” is significant indeed.  Mary, just like Martha, should have been instead preparing a “proper” welcoming of hospitality, which always included food for any guest (i.e., Jesus).  Her taking the posture and place of a disciple at the master’s feet, reveals a characteristic attitude of Jesus towards the women around Him.

The story of the Good Samaritan that precedes this Gospel reading opens with the words “a certain man,” and today’s reading opens with the words a certain woman.”  The Samaritan was an example of how a disciple should see and act; and the woman, Mary, an example of how a disciple should listen.  I also don’t see Martha’s activities as necessarily wrong either.  After all, you can’t have a real “communion” [an intimacy, connection or fellowship] with Jesus without service, as well as faith!  Martha just lost her perspective, which caused her to lose her temper.

Interestingly, both of these people do what is NOT expected of them.  Women had a significant role in Jesus’ ministry which was unprecedented in Jewish Society.  His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was with Him throughout His public ministry: never leaving His side.  All of His male Apostles deserted Jesus in the garden on Holy Thursday; but at least several women stayed by His side throughout His scourging, walk with the cross, His crucifixion, and even at and after His death.  The first person to see the Risen Lord on that Easter Sunday morning was a woman.  During His public life, women followed Jesus, and provided for Him and the others out of their own resources:  Besides Mary and Martha, others included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, plus many others.

Women today still have a significant role in Jesus’ ministry on earth.  Some argue that women are considered a second class in the Catholic Church.  Though I am a male, I strongly disagree!!  Women have a very active role in the Church family.  Women are on Parish Councils and Boards; run Parish and Diocease based programs such as schools, PSR programs, RCIA programs, and other church functions.  Women primarily teach and administrate in our schools, including Catholic seminaries, write books and lecture, evangelize and even run Missionary Societies and programs.  And most importantly, women are usually the lead person in the rearing of children, and are the instrumental teacher of the Catholic faith to future generations.  The only role that a woman is not allowed is that of the Permanent Diaconate and Priestly vocations (including the Episcopacy).  The reason, to put it simply, is that Jesus was a male and that He (and the Apostles) never appointed any females to these roles, at any time.  There have never been female clergy in the Catholic Church, so the church can never have female clergy.

The parable of the Good Samaritan and this story, both exemplify how a disciple is to fulfill the dual command which begins this chapter of Luke’s Gospel:  to love God (shown by Mary),  and to love neighbor (shown by the Samaritan).  These two “essentials” of daily life are necessary for inheriting the Kingdom of God.  By using the examples of a Samaritan and woman, Jesus is saying that something more is needed than what the social codes of that day, or even today call for to gain entrance to the Kingdom.  Social rules and boundaries were obviously very stringent in first-century Judaic Palestine.  However, to love God with all one’s heart, and to love one’s neighbor regardless of social, religious, ethnic status; or position in society, required breaking those rules and norms.  

I believe this message of love needs to be advocated and preached to today’s world through all potential methods available.  We need to imprint the “beatitudes” in our hearts; and to live them continuously, and without any prejudice.  Food for thought: what is my relationship with God?  Am I the servant, the listener, or the conversationalist in my relationship with God?  Or, am I just too pre-occupied to think about Jesus and my relationship with Him?  I pray that I am a little bit of the first three (servant, listener, conversationalist), and none of the last (pre-occupied)!

The Kingdom of God has never changed, and never will change, for it is already perfect.  It is a society without distinctions and boundaries between its members.  It is a society that requires times for seeing and doing, and also times for listening and learning at the feet of a teacher.  How can I help break down the boundaries that separate people; and bring the Kingdom of God on earth to all, by learning, seeing, and doing in my everyday life ?

I would like to close this reflection with a prayer that expounds that no boundaries should separate us, and that we are all His children: the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the “Our Father.

 

Our Father”

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those
who trespass against us
;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Szymon of Lipnica 1439-1482

In the summer of 1453 when St. John Capistrran visited Cracow, the capital of Poland, at the invitation of the Polish King Casimir, his sermons produced veritable miracles of conversion. Many of the young people, too, among them many students from the University of Cracow, resolved to renounce the world and begged the holy preacher for the habit of the Franciscan Order.

One of these was Szymon of the little town of Lipnica not far from Cracow.

He had just taken his bachelor’s degree in the humanities, and what is of greater consequence, by means of childlike veneration of the Blessed Virgin he had preserved his purity of heart unsullied.  

Although he had lived an innocent life, he now lived a life of great penance in the order, observed long fasts, scourged his body, and always wore a penitential girdle.  On the feasts of our Blessed Lady he added a second one, in order to win her special favor.

After he had been ordained a priest and been entrusted with the office of preacher in the convent church of Cracow, his words bore the impress of such zeal and eloquence that he brought back countless sinners from the paths of iniquity; and he then guided them on the path of Christian conduct with loving gentleness. Many of his auditors were moved to aspire to higher perfection.

Szymon entertained an ardent desire to shed his blood for the Faith, and he hoped to be sent to Palestine to labor among the Saracens.  This hope, however, was not fulfilled. He did have to suffer many hardships, but after devoutly visiting the holy places, he returned safely to Cracow. There another type of martyrdom was destined to procure for him the eternal crown.

In the beginning he resumed his task of preaching with renewed zeal. He was obliged also to accept various positions in the order, including that of provincial.  He was ever active for the welfare of his brethren and of all men, and allowed himself only the most necessary repose.  He used to say that he hoped to enjoy a real rest when God would grant him eternal rest.

His motto was: “Pray, work, and hope.”

About the year 1482, an epidemic broke out in Cracow and raged with terrible fury. Filled with love for his neighbor and the spirit of holy zeal for the salvation of souls, Father Szymon devoted himself entirely to the service of the sick. It was not long before he, too, was attacked by the dread disease.

Filled with gratitude to God for this privilege and with Christian hope in a merciful judgment, he died a martyr of charity on July 18, 1482. Numerous miracles occurred at his grave, whereupon the Holy See approved his veneration. Beatified February 24, 1685 by Blessed Pope Innocent XI, he was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on June 3, 2007.

from THE FRANCISCAN BOOK OF SAINTS
edited by Marion Habig, ofm
Copyright 1959  Franciscan Herald Press 
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #18:

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

“I Told You So Before, & I’ll Tell You Now; Don’t Break the Law! Now, Go Teach All Those Fools” – Mt 5:17-19†


I want to congratulate five friends and brothers/sister in Christ that are celebrating a Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order tonight.  These good Catholic men and women have studied hard, and had a large amount of reflection, meditation, and prayer to get to this point.  They are already great Franciscans, and are ready to travel this much further on their journey of faith, peace, love, and desire to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as St. Francis of Assisi demonstrated.

        

Today in Catholic History:

        
† 373 – Death of Ephrem the Syrian, Christian hymnodist
† 597 – Death of St. Columba, Christian missionary (b. 521)
† Liturgical feasts: Saint Alexander, martyr; Saint Columba; Blessed Columba, abbot, confessor; Saint Diomedes; Saint Edmund, bishop of Canterbury, confessor (Translation day); Saint Efrem (Saint Ephraim), deacon, Doctor of the Church; Saint Liborius, bishop (of LeMans), confessor; Saint Primus and Felicianus, martyrs; Blessed Richard, bishop of Andria, Apulia; Saint Vincent, deacon, martyr; Saint Pelagia, virgin, martyr; Blessed Diana d’Andalo

Quote or Joke of the Day:
       

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. –  St. Augustine

            

Today’s reflection is about the need to follow the laws of old, still present with Jesus.      
     

Jesus said to His Disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  (NAB Matthew 5:17-19)

Jesus did not come to change, tinker with, amend, or even abolish the Mosaic laws; nor the words and prophesies of the prophets that came before Him.  Jesus came out of a need to literally fulfill the all the laws and ALL prophesy spoken about the “Messiah” and a new kingdom to come!  I know (there may be more) of about sixty (60) prophesies from the Old Testament, which was written between 400 and 1500 years before the birth of Jesus.  To fulfill ALL prophesy is a statistic improbability, except for the true “Messiah!”

In a somewhat bizarre but realistic twist, the “new kingdom” is a direct “child or offspring” of the old.  Catholics, in my opinion are a “second” generation or cousin of the Judaic religion.  Jesus extols this when He said that the smallest tidbit of the law will stay intact for eternity.  Jesus requires us to follow the laws and “the commandments,” which Moses received from God. 

Maybe this is the key to what Jesus is wanting understood: the Laws were given to us by God via Moses, on Mt. Sinai; and since God cannot create anything naturally imperfect, the laws He gave us are indeed perfect in nature; and of no need to be amended, changed, or deleted.

Those who break any of the commandments, even in the smallest of ways; or teaches others to do so, are guilty of a moral evil (sin) that affects the entire body of Christ; the human Church (us), along with the divine Holy Trinity.  The slightest “sin” of any type affects the entire Church, and separates that individual with sin from God. 

Whoever obeys and teaches the commandments are truly walking in the path of Christ.  The greatest gift one can give another is “of themselves!”  Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind, and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:25-28); and do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law” (Mt 7:12).  Peace, love, and humility were the gifts God gave to us, and a must for us to share with all people we come into contact.  A talent or gift not shared is a talent or gift wasted!

To fulfill the Mosaic Law appeared at first, for me, to mean literally following each of the laws according to the slightest detail, until the end of time.  After a time of reflection, I believe that maybe this “passing away” of heaven and earth is not necessarily the end of the world as most one would think, but the dissolution of our understanding and knowledge of the existing universe for a more divinely inspired understanding.  Maybe, we are living in the new and final age now, as prophesied by Isaiah as the time of “new heavens and a new earth.”  In Isaiah 65:17; 66:22, He declares, “Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind; As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make Shall endure before me, says the LORD, so shall your race and your name endure.)

Jesus’ ministry on earth was the cusp of this “new kingdom,” and His mission did not deviate from previous Old Testament prophesy, and remained within the framework of Mosaic Law; BUT with a significant anticipation of a new age and kingdom to come.  In this new kingdom, He calls ALL of us to witness and teach.  We are all responsible to help others gain knowledge, and to help “shape” the souls of others, as well as our own. 

We remember more through our eyes than we ever will by what we read or hear.  We need to show all others how to live a proper Catholic lifestyle, by demonstrating a proper Catholic lifestyle at all times.  St. Francis was definitely right when he said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

Just For Today

“Oh, God, give me grace for this day.  Not for a lifetime. Not for this week. Not for tomorrow, but just for this day.

Direct and bless everything I think and speak and do for just this one day, so that I have the gift of grace that comes from Your presence.

Oh God, for today, just for this day, let me live generously & kindly, in a state of grace and goodness that denies my many imperfections, and makes me more like You.  Amen.” – unknown

  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Ephrem (circa 306-373)
      

Poet, teacher, orator and defender of the faith, Ephrem is the only Syrian recognized as a doctor of the Church. He took upon himself the special task of opposing the many false doctrines rampant at his time, always remaining a true and forceful defender of the Catholic Church.

Born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia, he was baptized as a young man and became famous as a teacher in his native city. When the Christian emperor had to cede Nisibis to the Persians, Ephrem, along with many Christians, fled as a refugee to Edessa. He is credited with attracting great glory to the biblical school there. He was ordained a deacon but declined becoming a priest (and was said to have avoided episcopal consecration by feigning madness!).

He had a prolific pen and his writings best illumine his holiness. Although he was not a man of great scholarship, his works reflect deep insight and knowledge of the Scriptures. In writing about the mysteries of humanity’s redemption, Ephrem reveals a realistic and humanly sympathetic spirit and a great devotion to the humanity of Jesus. It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.

It is surprising to read that he wrote hymns against the heretics of his day. He would take the popular songs of the heretical groups and, using their melodies, compose beautiful hymns embodying orthodox doctrine. Ephrem became one of the first to introduce song into the Church’s public worship as a means of instruction for the faithful. His many hymns have earned him the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit.”

He preferred a simple, austere life, living in a small cave overlooking the city of Edessa. It was here he died around 373.

Comment:

Many Catholics still find singing in church a problem, probably because of the rather individualistic piety that they inherited. Yet singing has been a tradition of both the Old and the New Testament. It is an excellent way of expressing and creating a community spirit of unity as well as joy. Ephrem’s hymns, an ancient historian testifies, “lent luster to the Christian assemblies.” We need some modern Ephrems—and cooperating singers—to do the same for our Christian assemblies today.

Quote:

Lay me not with sweet spices,
For this honor avails me not,
Nor yet use incense and perfumes,
For the honor befits me not.
Burn yet the incense in the holy place;
As for me, escort me only with your prayers,
Give ye your incense to God,
And over me send up hymns.
Instead of perfumes and spices,
Be mindful of me in your intercessions.

(From The Testament of St. Ephrem)

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

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #9:
     

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