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


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

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For January 2013. pencil

 

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

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

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

Blessings to all!

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

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

A child is boren” in the English of today:

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

I wish you all a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

Mike [DePue] ofs

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Qu. thought2ote of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

and, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

A Relationship Prayer

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

 

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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Prayer for America” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quote of the Day:

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

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

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

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Gospel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, it is God who said:

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

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

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“On a whim, become an anawim” 

Reflection Prayer:   

“Prayer for Generosity”

 

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

St. Ignatius of Loyola

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“Tom, Tom, Tom – – Am I Like You In Not Just TRUSTING in Him? And Tom, Do You Also Know Your Head Is On Fire?!” – John 20:19-23†


Pentecost Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Today in Catholic History
  • ·        Quote of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer
  • ·        Catholic Apologetics
  • ·        A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the OFS Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

It’s been a little over one year since I made my solemn profession in the Secular Franciscan Order.  Has it changed me?  It changes me EVERY single day; – – and definitely for the better!  I have loved my journey, my peeling back of many layers of my faith, my relationship with God.  I pray my “journey” continues to be as fruit-filled as the past few years since having my own personal “Pentecost” experience.  Thank You Lord!!

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Have a safe and happy Memorial Day this Monday.  Please take some time to remember the sacrifices our military has made in defending our freedom.  Remember: “freedom is NOT free”.  Please fly the US flag with pride and dignity – – for ALL to see!!

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   735 – Death of “Bede”, English historian and theologian (b. 672 or 673)
†   1601 – Birth of Antoine Daniel, Jesuit missionary and martyr (d. 1648)
†   1651 – Birth of Louis-Antoine, Cardinal de Noailles, French cardinal (d. 1729)
†   1979 – Pope John Paul ordains John J O’Conner as a bishop
†   Feasts/Memorials: Augustine of Canterbury; Venerable Bede; Saint Julius the Veteran; Pope John I; Hildebert; Bruno, Bishop of Würzburg; Eutropius

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

“Look for God.  Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.” ~ Quote from book, “Eat, Pray, Love“.

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Today’s reflection:  Jesus appears to His disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

(NAB John 20:19-23) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The Easter Season concludes with today’s celebration, the Feast of Pentecost.  On Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the “Apostles” gathered together in the upper room in Jerusalem; this event marks the beginning of the Church.  The story of Pentecost (with the “tongues of fire” and “speaking in strange languages”) is found in today’s first reading, the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-11).  

The account in today’s Gospel, John 20:19-23, recounts again, how Jesus personally gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to His disciples, just in a slightly different way.  Interestingly, this event takes place on Easter Sunday in John’s Gospel.  There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts. It is simply for us to know that after His death, Jesus Christ truly fulfilled His promise of sending to His disciples a “helper”, an “Advocate” – – the Holy Spirit – – who enabled them to be His witnesses throughout the world in their words and actions (and to be ours today).

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The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to His disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb empty.  This appearance of the Risen Jesus Christ happens on the evening of the “first day” (Easter Sunday) on which He rose from the dead.

The “mystery” of Jesus’ Resurrection is that He personally and truly appeared to His disciples, His followers, NOT as a spirit, but in truly human, bodily (“resurrected” flesh and blood) form.  However, as with His appearances to Mary Magdalene and to the travelers on the road to Emmaus some time later, Jesus’ resurrected and transfigured bodily form was not readily recognized to His disciples.

Yes, the Resurrected Jesus had a physical presence, but the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus Christ unless He allowed. His Resurrected body, though “transfigured”, nonetheless, showed the five “marks” of His crucifixion: hands, feet, and side.  The “Risen” Jesus chose to reveal the glory and magnificence of His Resurrection to His disciples, – – gradually, – – over a forty-day period of time.

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Today’s Gospel puts the spotlight on a specific Apostle, “Thomas”.  John’s Gospel also calls him “Didymus” (Hee, hee; what a funny name. “Yo, Diddy-man, let’s play ball.”).  Didymus is the Greek word for “twin”; and, the name “Thomas” is actually an Aramaic word, also for twin.  Other manuscripts give Thomas yet another name: “Judas” as well.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in the Roman Catholic tradition; it would get too confusing with a “Judas (Thomas)”, a “Judas (Iscariot)”, and a “Judas” Thaddeus, also called “Jude”.

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  However, he was also the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time.  Thomas for me was a bona fide, natural pessimist. Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people “rising from the dead”.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas is reported as saying to Jesus’ other disciples:

Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage (As all the Apostles) to stand with Jesus during His passion and crucifixion.  After Jesus’ death, Thomas apparently withdrew from the other disciples.  He wanted solitude rather than fellowship during his time of difficulty and hardship.  A few days later, he doubted the women, even Mary Magdalene, who reported seeing the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He even doubted his fellow disciples, personally hand-picked by Jesus Christ Himself, even though he too was one of the “chosen” few.  When Thomas finally gained the courage to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus made His presence known to them again, and to Thomas personally and intimately.  Jesus then reassured Thomas that He had indeed overcome death and had “Risen” again to new life in, with, and through God, His heavenly Father, AND the Holy Spirit.  The Risen Jesus also reassured them all – – in His appearing to them – – that they will rise again, as well.

John’s narrative of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples – – without or with Thomas – – has somewhat rough parallels in Mark and Luke’s Gospels, as compared to today’s John 20:19-23;

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said his, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:19-23).

Now, compare these verses above with the following verses from Mark and Luke.  First, from Mark:

(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:14-18).

And, then from Mark:

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39).

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Even after hearing the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women, and after seeing the empty tomb, they all (not just Thomas) were still weak in their faith, and extremely fearful of being arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Jesus’ “Resurrected” – – Transfigured and perfected – – human body was then, and is STILL, free of earthly physical limitations and constraints.  Jesus Christ appeared to His frightened and hiding disciples despite the fact that their doors were locked and secured.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24 of today’s reading, was not with these other disciples when the “Risen” Jesus first appeared to them that “first night”.  Ten of the Twelve Apostles (Judas was already dead and Thomas was absent) are gathered together in extreme fear, and together in one room or building within the city walls of Jerusalem.

Jesus surprisingly and miraculously appeared to them in this “fortress”, greeting His disciples with the gift of “peace” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit”.  In doing so, Jesus freed them (and us still today) from their fears and anxieties, commissioning them to continue the work of the Resurrection which He had begun during His earthly ministry; His mission, now theirs in the first century, and ours today in this century:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

During His appearance, Jesus showed the integral, vital, and fundamental connection between “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and God’s “forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus did what only love, trust, and faith actually, naturally, and even supernaturally does for the body and soul.  He commissioned His weak, frightened, and timid Apostles to carry the Gospel – – His Word – – to the ends of the earth: to ALL peoples and ALL nations.

This sending out, this commissioning of the Apostles, parallels the “sending out” of Jesus Himself by His heavenly Father in heaven: God.  Jesus fulfilled His mission through His perfect love, trust, and obedience to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Jesus called His disciples to continue this mission, AND, He calls each of US to do the same NOW, and in the future.  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He also “breathes” on each of us, imparting to each of us, the exact same Holy Spirit, thus equipping us with power, grace, and strength to do the will of His Father, their Father, and OUR Father, in heaven:

Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘” (John 20:17)

Jesus did something which only love and trust and can do.  He commissioned His weak and timid “Apostles” to carry His Gospel – – His “good news” to the ends of the world.  Jesus fulfilled His mission on earth through His perfect love and perfect obedience given over to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  He called His disciples, AND, He calls us to do the same!  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, so to, He breathes on us (personally, uniquely, and intimately) the same Holy Spirit, furnishing each of us – – personally, uniquely, and intimately – – with His power, grace, and strength.

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Jesus greeted His followers twice in this reading using the same words of greeting both times: “Peace be with you.”  I believe this greeting was customary among all the Jewish people of the time.  He greets His followers with the same warmth and affection He displayed to them prior to His Passion and dying.  (I believe He also greets us the same way still today.)

Peace be with you” may have been simply an ordinary greeting for Jesus to give, however, John intends here to echo an earlier verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

An inherent theme of rejoicing in today’s reading also repeats and reinforces an earlier verse found in John’s Gospel:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:22).

Jesus, in essence, recreates His customary character of familiarity, closeness, and understanding of His Apostles as friends, and even brothers, in using this “customary” greeting upon His return.

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John mentions Jesus showing His disciples “His Hands and His side” in order to dispel any thought of His presence being ONLY a spirit.  Luke talks about Jesus’ “hands and feet,” basing his version on Psalm 22:17:

’Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40);

Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” (Psalm 22:17 – RSV).

There is no longer any doubt of the image before these followers, these disciples, being Jesus Christ, Himself, truly “Risen” from the dead.

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By means of Jesus’ sending: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you“, the eleven trusted and personally picked disciples were made “Apostles”, a word meaning, “those sent with full authority”.  Another example of Jesus sending His disciples out into the world with God’s authority can be found just a little earlier in John’s Gospel, in which Jesus Himself prays:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:18).

It is note-worthy that John does not use the noun “Apostle” in reference to the eleven “hand-picked” men.  However, the solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the eleven men in the Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew says:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19).

Now, Mark says:

He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15).

And, Luke says:

“… repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).

Universal power, “full authority”, belongs to the risen Jesus Christ.  And, He freely gave the eleven “Apostles” a mission that is also universal.  They were sent out to make disciples of ALL nations: Gentiles and Jews alike; and this required a participation in the universal power and fulfilled authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  As Apostles – – now sent – – they have become full delegates of Jesus Christ, their Lord and their God.

Pope Leo XIII explained how Jesus Christ conveyed His mission on earth to the Apostles:

What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded? This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated. This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did. ‘As the Father bath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21). ‘Ad thou bast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18). […] When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching. ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth. Going therefore teach all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20). So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish. ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned (Mark 16:16). […] Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own – ‘He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me’ (Luke 10:16). Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father. ‘As the Father sent Me so also I send you’ (John 20:21).” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 6/29/1896).

The Apostles are “ambassadors of Christ”.  In this ambassadorship mission, Bishops become the successors of the Apostles; thus, Bishops then also share in Jesus’ consecration, mission, and divine authority:

Having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and mission. The office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests. Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.” (Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorrum Ordinis, 12/07/1965)

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This action of “breathing on them” recalls a verse from Genesis:

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed on the first man, Adam, and gave him life.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ – – now called Apostle’s – – are given a new spiritual life coming directly from Jesus, the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit.

“Breathing on” someone also brings to my mind prophesies found in Ezekiel 37.  In his prophesy, Ezekiel sees the revivification (an imparting a new life, energy, or spirit to something or somebody) of the “dry bones” of the whole house of Israel.  It is a very interesting chapter and read, so please read Ezekiel 37, which deals with prophesies of the salvation of all Israel, written hundreds of years prior to Jesus Christ’s birth.

Today’s Gospel reading is John’s version of the “Pentecost” narratives: the Holy Spirit coming onto the Apostles. There is a definite connection presented between the imparting of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ’s glorious and magnificent ascension to His heavenly Father, making for an awesome vision or image for the reader.

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The Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) defined that the power to forgive sins is exercised in the Sacrament of Penance, known in the Catholic Church today as the “Sacrament of Reconciliation”.  Matthew uses very similar words in describing this grace imparted to the “Eleven” Apostles, and STILL continuing through their spiritual descendants: Catholic Bishops and Priests, all of whom being in a direct line of faith with the first Bishops: the Apostles.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19);

And,

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18).

There are many instances in rabbinic literature of the “binding-loosing” imagery used today. In reflection, I believe there are several meanings to this metaphor of “binding and loosing”.  I think there are two acts of special importance to these words: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The Apostles’ exercise of authority in the Catholic Church on earth is confirmed in heaven through the actions of the Holy Spirit.  In this way, there is an authoritive and intimate connection between the Catholic Church on earth AND the kingdom of heaven.

The “Sacrament of Reconciliation” is, for me, the most inspiring and uplifting manifestation of God’s mercy.  This beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church is described so vividly in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (cf., Luke 15:11-32).  God always awaits us, with His arms wide open (open as wide as when He was stretched on the Holy Cross), waiting for us to turn, to repent and to return completely to Him.  If we do repent and return, He will immediately and lovingly forgive us (no questions asked), restoring us to the dignity of being His son and daughter.

The Popes have consistently recommended for Catholics to have a regular practice of using this most beautiful and loving of Sacraments:

To ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated. By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.” (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 88, 6/29/1943)

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Thomas initially doubted that the one present before him was the “Risen” Jesus Christ.  After Jesus placed Thomas’ fingers into the open wounds of His crucifixion, Thomas extolled:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas’ reply is not simply exaltation, a feeling of intense or excessive happiness, awe, and exhilaration.  It is a declaration – – a venerable “act of faith” – – in the divinity of his dear friend, Jesus Christ.  These words, “My Lord and my God”, were an unexpected and sudden prayer of faith, praise, and joy; a prayer still often used by Catholics, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist (the Eucharist – Communion).

Consider John’s following statement:

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion linking this (John 20:28) with the first verse of his Gospel:

… and the Word was God.“ (John 1:1)

I have been asked many times what “THE WORD” actually means. I believe an exact definition cannot ever be truly complete as it is such an intimate, personal, unique, and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

“The Word” (from the Greek word “logos”) is a term which combines God’s living, very active, and creative word; His incarnate pre-existing Wisdom;  His being THE instrument or tool of creative activities; and the definitive, authoritative, completely full, supreme precision and clearness of His truth, love, and trust for us.  (Wow!! That’s a mouthful, and yet still incomplete!)

“THE WORD” is our Bible! – – an acronym (B.I.B.L.E.) for our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”!

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Consider the following verse:

Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29)

This verse of today’s Gospel can be viewed as a type of beatitude, maxim, or guiding principle from Jesus Christ, meant for future generations.  What Jesus is saying is that faith, and not sight, is what truly matters in believing and trusting in His kingdom.

Like everyone else, Thomas needed the grace of God in order to “believe”.  However, in addition to God’s grace, he was given an extraordinary confirmation of Jesus’ living presence, power, and divinity over ALL.  Just imagine how Thomas felt having Jesus Christ place his very fingers into His wounds.  Thomas’ faith would have had more worth if he had truly accepted and believed the testimony of the other Apostles without any need for proof.  Revealed truths are normally transmitted by word; by the “testimony” of others who, – – sent by Jesus Christ, and aided by the Holy Spirit, – – preach the Word: the guarantee and security of faith in Jesus Christ:

“He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15-16)

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The final two verses (about performing many other signs and coming to believe) in today’s Gospel reading are unmistakably a start of John’s conclusion to his Gospel.  He clearly states, as only a good author does, his reason for writing the book, his Gospel.  These last verses sum up John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel – – to have ALL people believe Jesus Christ was, and is still now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in our Old Testament (His First Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe a saving truth, – – the heart and foundation of Revelation, – – that Jesus Christ IS God; and by believing, we begin to share and participate in His eternal life.

What I found interesting for me, personally, in researching these verses is that I discovered a few manuscripts from the early Church which actually state: “continue to believe”, instead of John’s “come to believe” (verse 31).  I think John actually implied a missionary purpose for His Gospel by using these particular words.  He was urging his readers to go out and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John had a definite opinion about eyewitness testimony leading to the “truth”:

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe.” (John 19:35).

Other manuscripts (the “few” I just mentioned), suggest to me that its readers, its audience, consisted of Christians whose faith needed to be deepened or motivated by John’s particular book (Gospel).

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I see the story of Thomas as an excellent exemplification of our Catholic experience today. We are ALL called to believe “without seeing”!  Thomas’s doubt is, in reality, hardly surprising from a “human” understanding.  The reports of Jesus’ appearance were barely credible even to the disciples who had seen Him, and witnessed Him being brutally crucified, died – – and then hastily buried.

Thomas’s human nature compelled him to want physical, observable, and provable, “hard” evidence that the person who appeared to the disciples after Jesus’ death – – was indeed – – the same Jesus who had been crucified and buried.  So, Thomas was given a special opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to actually and personally take action on his human desire for this “hard” proof.  Thomas is OUR eye-witness that Jesus is truly, fully, and really “Risen” and “Alive” today, in OUR lives.

When Thomas recognized his Master, his friend, and his Leader, he came to believe.  He proclaimed that Jesus was “truly Lord and truly God!”  Through the gift and grace of faith, we also proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord, Savior, and our God.  My daily “mantra” prayer which I repeat continuously throughout the day somewhat mirrors Thomas’ exclamation:

My God and My All; I Love You and I Trust You!” (DEH)

Jesus died and rose that we too might have new life in, with, and through Him.  Jesus Christ offers each of us a new life in His Holy Spirit so that we may know and walk with Him personally in His “new way of life”.  Jesus Christ offers to each of us, personally, individually, and uniquely, a new way of life, given to each of us through the power of His Resurrection, AND all of these are continued in the seven Sacraments of the Holy Catholic “Universal” Church.

Think about Thomas’s response to reports of the risen Jesus Christ.  Is Thomas’s doubt a reasonable one?  How does Jesus respond to Thomas and his human doubt?  (Is it with frustration, anger, or love?)  Jesus grants Thomas the evidence that he needed to believe, but Jesus also affirmed the faith of those who will be called upon to believe without a “hard-proved” first-hand experience.

Many of us can relate to Thomas’s response to news that the disciples had actually seen Jesus AFTER His death on the cross.  Some of us want to see for ourselves too.  We grow in faith by learning to trust the experiences and knowledge of others.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we receive the same “Holy Spirit” that Jesus brought to His first disciples.  We are among those who are “blessed” because we believe without having seen!

In the context of the feast of Pentecost, today’s Gospel reading reminds us about the fundamental, essential, and central connection between the gifts of “peace” and “forgiveness” in and through the action of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus greeted His disciples with a gift of peace.  He then commissions His disciples to continue the work that He had begun: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Jesus “breathes” the Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and sends them to continue His work of reconciliation through the “forgiveness” of sins.

Jesus’ act of breathing the Holy Spirit upon the apostles mirrored God’s act of breathing life into Adam.  Interestingly, both the Greek and Hebrew words for “spirit” can also be translated as “breath.”  Today’s Gospel reminds us that the Catholic (Universal) Church is called to be a reconciling – – “forgiving – – presence in the world.  The reconciling presence of Christ is celebrated in the Catholic Church’s “Sacramental” life.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are cleansed of sin and become a new creation in Christ.  In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Catholic Church celebrates the infinite mercy of God the Father through His forgiveness of sins.  This reconciling presence of the Holy Spirit working in and through each of us is also to be a way of life for ALL Christians.  When placed in situations of personal and/or public conflict, we are to be agents of peace, forgiveness, and harmony, among ALL His people.

The readings for our celebration of Pentecost remind us of a “transformative event” taking place when His first Christians, His first disciples, “were all in one place together” (Acts 2:1), in union.  Unity in the Body of Christ completely reflects the unity of the Holy Trinity.  Jesus tells His disciples:

Everything that the Father has is mine and the Holy Spirit “will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:15). 

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are ONE in “love” which Jesus personally offers to each of His disciples as “peace”.

As we transition from the consolation of the Easter Season to the daily invitations of Ordinary Time, how can we foster the unity of the Spirit within the Body of Christ, the Catholic (Universal) Church?  This “unity” is a gift, a grace we receive, and NOT a “goal we achieve”; thus, we are responsible for cultivating our desire to respond fully to this magnificent gift from God Himself.  In all of our interactions with fellow members of His body, we should exercise the Holy Spirit’s fruits:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Lord may “be glad in His works” (Psalm 104:31) in, with, and through each and every one of us.

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Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the Church.  Today’s Gospel, for Pentecost, reminds us that the Church begins with the command “to forgive”.  Within our family and friends – – the domestic church – – we learn how “to forgive” and to “accept forgiveness”.  The gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to do both!!

Today is a fitting time to share a celebration of reconciliation with family and friends.  Gather together and sit quietly for a few minutes, inviting everyone to reflect upon their need to forgive and to receive forgiveness.  If there is a situation or issue needing attention, spend some time reflecting on how it might be addressed appropriately and lovingly.  Reflect on how Jesus Christ gave us the gift, His grace, of the Holy Spirit to help us in both, the work of “forgiveness”, and to bring us peace in, with, and through, Him.  Pray together the “Prayer to the Holy Spirit” asking the Holy Spirit to help each of those present. Finish by sharing with one another the Sign of Peace as Jesus did so magnificently in today’s Gospel.

I will end by sharing my peace with you as well:

Peace be with each of you”.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart with Your holy gifts.  Let my weakness be penetrated with Your strength this very day that I may fulfill all the duties of my state conscientiously, that I may do what is right and just.  Let my charity be such as to offend no one, and hurt no one’s feelings; so generous as to pardon sincerely any wrong done to me.  Assist me, O Holy Spirit, in all my trials of life, enlighten me in my ignorance, advise me in my doubts, strengthen me in my weakness, help me in all my needs, protect me in temptations and console me in afflictions.  Graciously hear me, O Holy Spirit, and pour Your light into my heart, my soul, and my mind. Assist me to live a holy life and to grow in goodness and grace.  Amen.”

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Catholic Apologetics:

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Faith and Works

“‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 7:21) RSV.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) KJV.

**

“‘Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you?’” (Luke 6:46) RSV.

“Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Augustine of Canterbury (d. 605?)

In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England.  Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome.  Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel.  Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless.

Augustine again set out.  This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian.  Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized.  After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see.  He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands.  As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester.

Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success.  Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure.  Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors.

Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible.  The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England.  Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”

Comment: Augustine of Canterbury comes across today as a very human saint, one who could suffer like many of us from a failure of nerve.  For example, his first venture to England ended in a big U-turn back to Rome.  He made mistakes and met failure in his peacemaking attempts with the Briton Christians.  He often wrote to Rome for decisions on matters he could have decided on his own had he been more self-assured.  He even received mild warnings against pride from Pope Gregory, who cautioned him to “fear lest, amidst the wonders that are done, the weak mind be puffed up by self-esteem.”  Augustine’s perseverance amidst obstacles and only partial success teaches today’s apostles and pioneers to struggle on despite frustrations and be satisfied with gradual advances.

Quote: In a letter to Augustine, Pope Gregory the Great wrote: “He who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps.”

Patron Saint of: England

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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Prologue to the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS):

Prologue

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).

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“Is There Anything To Eat?; This Past Weekend Has Been A Trying One For Me!” – Luke 24:35-48†


 

Third Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Today in Catholic History
  • ·        Joke of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer
  • ·        Catholic Apologetics
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I wish to extend a SUPER happy birthday Pope Benedict XVI and Mother Angelica.  To Octogenarians who are still young in heart ans faith.

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Today in Catholic History:     

 

†   296 – Death of Pope Caius (or Gaius)
†   536 – Death of Agapitus I, Italian Pope (535-36),
†   536 – Death of Pope Agapetus I
†   1073 – Pope Alexander II buried/Ildebrando chosen as Pope Gregory VII
†   1164 – Raynald of Dassel names Guido di Crema as anti-pope Paschalis III
†   1610 – Birth of Alexander VIII, [Pietro Ottoboni], Italy, lawyer/Pope (1689-91)
†   1994 – Death of D. Nauta, theologist/church historian/lawyer, at age 96

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus appears to His disciples [again] and shares a meal with them.

 

(NAB Luke 24:35-48) 35 Then the two [men on the road to Emmaus] recounted [to the disciples hiding in Jerusalem] what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  36 While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  37 But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  38 Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”  40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  41 While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  42 They gave him a piece of baked fish;43 he took it and ate it in front of them.  44 He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On the third Sunday of Easter, we continue to hear Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances to His disciples following His Resurrection.  Luke’s Gospel, like each of the other Gospels (cf., Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–15; John 20:19–23), focuses on Jesus appearing to His disciples in Jerusalem and their commissioning for their future ministry.  Luke goes further in having the risen Jesus appear to two men traveling back to their home, probably in or near Emmaus.  These two men, no longer blinded to the risen Christ hurried back to Jerusalem, sought out Jesus’ disciples, and told them of their experience.

Jesus then (as in any good mystery story) miraculously and suddenly appears before all those assembled in this “faith-filled” hiding space.  Standing amongst them, Jesus lovingly states:

Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36).

Their response to Jesus, per today’s reading, was one of “startling terror”, thinking “they were seeing a ghost”!  These are the VERY FIRST words Jesus says to His disciples AFTER they had abandoned Him to His accusers, torturers, and crucifiers.  His first words were one of “peace” and not “What happened to you?” or “Where were you?” or “You abandoned me, why?”

I am sure Jesus’ disciples felt like they had betrayed Him, and knew and felt that they should have had a royal “chewing out” from Jesus, at a minimum.  However, Jesus is God, who is pure love, and responded with a pure love for His disciples.  How relieved and gratified were these startled, terrified men to know Jesus Christ not only DID rise from the dead, but also wished only “peace” for them personally – – AND for all that believed in Him.

Peace be with you.” was a most appropriate greeting for a loving Jesus Christ.  The disciples truly had the experience and shock of the death of someone they loved, and feared for their own safety and lives as well.  “Peace” is what they needed more than anything else.  Along with this greeting of “Peace”, Jesus gave another grace, another gift: “forgiveness”. The inherent linking of “peace” and “forgiveness” is quietly made in the final verses of today’s reading.

They thought they were seeing a “ghost”; yet the figure before them is not a “ghost”.  Jesus invites them to experience His resurrected body with their senses, to look and to touch.  The figure standing before them is truly flesh and bone, still bearing the marks of His crucifixion.  Although the disciples cannot forget His suffering and death, “peace” begins to take root in their hearts, with their fears and turmoil turning to feelings of joy and amazement instead.

Jesus was NO “ghost”!!  He is STILL as human NOWTODAY – as He was on that day, and on the day he was crucified.  He is the physical (and scriptural) proof that there truly is a “life after death” (physical death anyhow).  He IS NOT just a divine memory; AND we are disciples of the LIVING Jesus, not just disciples of our memory of Him!

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The disciples last saw Jesus as a weak and beaten man, who died – – as a human – – on the cross in a most humiliating and torturous way.  Jesus seemed to be “powerless” over the events leading to His ultimate death.  He certainly did not meet the expectations of who the Messiah was to be per Jewish tradition.  If He WAS the Messiah, why did He allow this to happen to Him?  Why would He allow Himself to be as humiliated and embarrassed as He was?

As further proof of His identity and of His resurrected body, Jesus eats with His disciples.  The disciples have known Jesus best through the meals which He has shared with them.  Descriptions of these meals are a defining element of Luke’s Gospel.  By eating with his disciples after his Resurrection, Jesus recalls all these meals, and most importantly, he recalls the Last Supper.

Luke’s report of this Last Supper and the meals which Jesus shared with them after His Resurrection unveils for us the uniquely important significance of the Holy Eucharist.  Having shared a meal with His disciples, Jesus Christ now uncovers for them the significance of what was written about Him in the Scriptures.  Our celebration of the Mass is ALSO an encounter with Jesus – – in fact, the same uniquely important encounter as the disciples!!  So, we encounter Him, this same Jesus, through the Liturgy of the Word and the Sacrament of the Eucharist which is literally the Sacrament of Thanksgiving.  As Jesus commissioned His disciples to be witnesses to what Holy Scriptures foretold, OUR celebration of the Eucharist ALSO commissions US today.  Like the first disciples, we too are sent to announce the “good news” of Jesus Christ, truly risen from the grave.

With His appearance to them, and eating with them, the disciples were given a grace and gift of a revelation in their individual and communal faiths.  They were now able to believe more fully because they had seen the proof of Jesus’ new resurrected life, which they came to understand Jesus’ victory, thus overcoming sin, Satan, and death!

Luke is the only evangelist to mention Jesus’ eating with His disciples.  Jesus didn’t come solely to be seen, to be touched, or to be heard; He came and ate with His disciples just as He did the night of His arrest.  Jesus, still today, does not wish to be simply seen and heard, He wants to converse with each of us; He wants to share a meal with each of us – – personally, uniquely, and intimately – – ALWAYS!!

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We are like the Apostles, especially Matthew; we don’t usually believe unless we see with our own eyes.  The Gospels attest to the true reality of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.  Jesus goes to great lengths to prove to His disciples that He is no mere ghost or illusion – – no trick of the eye.  He shows them the marks of His crucifixion, explaining how Holy Scripture foretold His suffering death AND rising.  (Please read 1 Peter 1:10-12.  It has a “glorious” connection to this last sentence.)  

Jerome, an early church bible scholar, comments:

As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them … Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (From a letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)

Jesus, on the Holy Cross, is one of the central aspects of the Gospels, but it DOESN’T JUST STOP there!  Through His death on the cross, Jesus truly defeated our enemies – death, sin, and Satan; and won mercy & pardon for our sin.  Jesus’ cross then, is the bridge to heaven and the way to paradise.  So, the way to glory IS through the cross.

When the disciples saw the “Risen” Lord, they did not react to Him with “joy”; they reacted with “startle” and “fear”!  After all, how can a death lead to life?  How can a cross lead to glory?  Well, only Jesus Christ could reveal to us the “joy” and “glory” of enduring suffering with faith to a new life.  He gives each of us the power to overcome the fear, worry, and even despair caused by sin, Satan, and death.  Just as the first disciples were commissioned to bring the “good news” of salvation to ALL the peoples of ALL the nations, both Jew and Gentile alike, so we too are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to all among whom we live – – EVERYWHERE and at ALL times.  

Have you truly witnessed to the “joy” of the Gospels personally?  Do you truly witness to the “joy” of the Gospels to those around you?  As the Franciscans say, do you take the:

“Gospel to life and the life to Gospel”?

Hmm, is this something to think about for you?

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To conclude, Catholic Christian life is sustained by God’s “Word” in Holy Scripture and by Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.  We are especially sustained in our faith through our attendance and PARTICIPATION at our weekly (and hopefully daily) celebration of Mass.  Today’s Gospel should remind us that Holy Scripture and the Eucharist are given to us so that OUR words and deeds of bearing witness to Christ might be strengthened.

Jesus came to His followers, not the inverse (other way around) – – AND He Still does today and will in the future!!  Jesus took (and still takes) the initiative in overcoming sin, Satan, and death with us!  Jesus provided (and still provides) His reassurance and promise of everlasting life!  Jesus comes to us in the Holy Eucharist and through the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through each of us personally, intimately, and uniquely.  All we have to do is to receive Him, to allow Him to dwell in us, and to let Him work through us each and every day.  Really, all we have to do is simply to BELIEVE and to be His WITNESS in today’s society!!  How?  Well, as Saint Francis said to his brother friars:

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

This week, think about the importance of memories and the importance of the meals you have shared together with family and friends, and will share in the future.  Both, these memories and the anticipation of future meals, will strengthen the love you share for ALL involved.  In a similar way, our Catholic Christian life is also strengthened by sharing God’s Word (memories) and the Eucharist (meal) at Mass.  Recall the “mission” which Jesus gave to His disciples after their shared meal in today’s reading.  The Holy Eucharist also sends us to be Christ’s witnesses in the world today.  Pray that you, and each of us, will be strengthened by God’s “Word”, and by Jesus’ “presence” in the Holy Eucharist in order to be more faithful “witnesses” to our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Tantum Ergo 

Saint Thomas Aquinas

“With heads bowed let us now worship a sacrament so great;
And let the old teaching give way to the new;
Let faith reinforce our belief where the senses cannot.

To the Father and the Son let there be praise and jubilation,
Salvation, honor, virtue, and also blessing;
To the Holy Spirit let there be equal praise.  Amen.”

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Catholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Honor Due to the Virgin Mary

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

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“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.  For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name’” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’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.

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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.

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“Doubting Thomas Came To Believe in Jesus – – AND – – Also In The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus And …!” – John 20:19-31†


    

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday [TODAY]), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ Himself to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.

A plenary indulgence (the forgiveness of all temporal punishment resulting from sins that have already been confessed) is granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy if to all the faithful who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and “in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. ‘Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!’).”

A partial indulgence (the remission of some temporal punishment from sin) is granted to the faithful “whom, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.”

(From http://catholicism.about.com website)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1220 – Death of Adolf of Altena, Archbishop of Cologne
†   1250 – Pope Innoncent III refuses Jews of Cordova Spain to build a synagogue
†   1610 – Death of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (b. 1546)
†   1652 – Death of Patriarch Joseph, head of the Russian Orthodox Church
†   1793 – Death of Ignacije Szentmartony, Croatian Jesuit missionary and geographer (b. 1718)
†   1853 – Protestant church questions king Willem III Roman Catholic Bishops
†   1889 – Death St. Father Damien, Belgian missionary to Hawaii Leper Colony (b. 1840)
†   1902 – Pope Leo XIII encyclical “On Church in US”
†   1942 – Birth of Francis X. DiLorenzo, American Catholic prelate
†   1945 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Communium interpretes dolorum”
†   1949 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Redemptoris nostril”
†   1652 – Death of Patriarch Joseph, head of the Russian Orthodox Church

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection: Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.

 

(NAB John 20:19-31) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” 28Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.  31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter in each of the lectionary cycles.  This detail alone should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus described in today’s reading.  This particular Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to the disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb was empty.  This appearance of the Risen Jesus Christ happens on the evening of the “first day” (Easter Sunday Eve) on which He rose from the dead.

The “mystery” of Jesus’ Resurrection is that He personally and truly appeared to His disciples, His followers, NOT as a spirit, but in bodily (“resurrected” flesh and blood) form.  However, as with His appearances to Mary Magdalene and to the travelers on the road to Emmaus some time later, Jesus’ bodily form was not readily recognized to His disciples.

Yes, the Resurrected Jesus had a physical presence, but the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus Christ unless He allowed.  His Resurrected body, though “transfigured”, nonetheless, showed the five “marks” of His crucifixion: hands, feet, and side.  The “Risen” Jesus chose to reveal the glory and magnificence of His Resurrection to His disciples, – – gradually, – – over a forty-day period of time.

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Today’s Gospel puts the spotlight on an Apostle, “Thomas”.  John’s Gospel also calls him “Didymus” (Hee, hee; what a funny name.  “Yo, Diddy-man, let’s play ball.”).  Didymus is the Greek word for “twin”.  And, the name “Thomas” is actually an Aramaic word, also for twin.  Other manuscripts give Thomas yet another name: “Judas”.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in Roman Catholic tradition; it would get too confusing with a “Judas (Thomas)”, a “Judas (Iscariot)”, and a “Judas” Thaddeus, also called “Jude”.

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  However, he was the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time. 

Thomas, for me, was a bona fide, natural pessimist.  Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people “rising from the dead”.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas is reported as saying to Jesus’ other disciples:

 “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage (as all the Apostles did) to stand with Him, Jesus, during His passion and crucifixion.  After Jesus’ death, Thomas apparently withdrew from the other disciples.  He wanted solitude rather than fellowship during his time of difficulty and hardship.  A few days later, he doubted the women, even Mary Magdalene, who reported seeing the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He even doubted his fellow disciples, personally hand-picked by Jesus Christ Himself, even though he too was one of the “chosen” few.  When Thomas finally gained the courage to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus made His presence known to them again, and to Thomas personally and intimately.  Jesus then reassured Thomas that He had indeed overcome death and had “Risen” again to new life in, with, and through God, His heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit.  The Risen Jesus also reassured them all – – in His appearing to them – – that they will rise again, as well.

John’s narrative of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples – – without or with Thomas – – has somewhat rough parallels in Mark and Luke’s Gospels, as compared to today’s John 20:19-23;

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  (Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  And when he had said  his, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:19-23).

Now, compare these verses above with the following verses from Mark and Luke.  First, from Mark:

(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.  He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:14-18).

And, then from Mark:

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39).

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Even after the two (at least) disciples, after they heard the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women, and saw the empty tomb; they all (not just Thomas) were still weak in their faith, and extremely fearful of being arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Jesus’ “Resurrected” – – Transfigured and perfected – – human body was then, and is STILL free of earthly physical limitations and constraints.  Jesus Christ appeared to His frightened and hiding disciples despite the fact that their doors were locked.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24, was not with these other disciples when the “Risen” Jesus first appeared to them that “first night”.  Ten of the Twelve Apostles (Judas was already dead and Thomas was absent) are gathered together in extreme fear, in one room or building within the city walls of Jerusalem.

Jesus surprisingly and miraculously appeared to them in this “fortress”, greeting His disciples with the gift of “peace” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit”.  In doing so, Jesus freed them (and us still today) from their fears and anxieties, and then commissioning them to continue the work of the Resurrection which He had begun during His earthly ministry; His mission, now theirs in the first century, and ours today in this century:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

During His appearance, Jesus showed the integral, vital, and fundamental connection between “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and God’s “forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus did what only love, trust, and faith actually, naturally, and even supernaturally does for the body and soul.  He commissioned His weak, frightened, and timid Apostles to carry the Gospel – – His Word – – to the ends of the earth: to ALL peoples and ALL nations.

This sending out, this commissioning, of the Apostles parallels the “sending out” of Jesus Himself, by His heavenly Father in heaven: God.  Jesus fulfilled His mission through His perfect love, trust, and obedience to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Jesus called His disciples to continue this mission, AND, He calls each of US to do the same, now and in the future.  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He also “breathes” on each of us, imparting to each of us, the exact same Holy Spirit, equipping us with power, grace, and strength to do the will of His Father, their Father, and OUR Father, in heaven:

Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘”  (John 20:17)

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 Jesus greeted His followers twice in this reading using the same words of greeting both times: “Peace be with you.”  I believe this greeting was customary among all the Jewish people of the time.  He greets His followers with the same warmth and affection He displayed to them prior to His Passion and dying.  (I believe He greets us the same way still today.)

Peace be with you” may have been simply an ordinary greeting for Jesus to give, however, John intends here to echo an earlier verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

An inherent theme of rejoicing in today’s reading also repeats and reinforces an earlier verse found in John’s Gospel:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:22).

Jesus, in essence, recreates His customary character of familiarity, closeness, and understanding of His Apostles as friends, and even brothers, in using this “customary” greeting upon His return.

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 John mentions Jesus showing His disciples “His Hands and His side” in order to dispel any thought of His presence being ONLY a spirit.  Luke talks about Jesus’ “hands and feet,” basing his version on Psalm 22:17:

’Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’  And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40);

Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” (Psalm 22:17 – RSV).

There is no longer any doubt of the image before these followers, these disciples, being Jesus Christ, Himself, truly “Risen” from the dead.

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By means of Jesus’ sending: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you“, the eleven trusted and personally picked disciples were made “Apostles”, a word meaning, “those sent with full authority”.  Another example of Jesus sending His disciples out into the world with God’s authority can be found just a little earlier in John’s Gospel, in which Jesus Himself prays:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:18).

It is note-worthy that John does not use the noun “Apostle” in reference to the eleven “hand-picked” men.  However, the solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the eleven men in the Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew says:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19).

Now, Mark says:

He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15).

And, Luke says:

“… repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).

Universal power, “full authority”, belongs to the risen Jesus Christ.  And, He freely gave the eleven “Apostles” a mission that is also universal.  They were sent out to make disciples of ALL nations: Gentiles and Jews alike; and this required a participation in the universal power and fulfilled authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  As Apostles – – now sent – – they have become full delegates of Jesus Christ, their Lord and their God.

Pope Leo XIII explained how Jesus Christ conveyed His mission on earth to the Apostles:

What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded?  This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated.  This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did.  ‘As the Father bath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21).  ‘Ad thou bast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18).  […]  When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching.  ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth.  Going therefore teach all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20).  So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish.  ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned (Mark 16:16).  […]  Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own – ‘He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me’ (Luke 10:16).  Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father.  ‘As the Father sent Me so also I send you’ (John 20:21).” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 6/29/1896).

The Apostles are “ambassadors of Christ”.  In this ambassadorship mission, Bishops become the successors of the Apostles; thus, Bishops then also share in Jesus’ consecration, mission, and divine authority:

Having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and missionThe office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests.  Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.” (Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorrum Ordinis, 12/07/1965)

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This action of “breathing on them” recalls a verse from Genesis:

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed on the first man, Adam, and gave him life.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ – – now called Apostle’s – – are given a new spiritual life coming directly from Jesus, the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit.

“Breathing on” someone brings to my mind prophesies found in Ezekiel 37.  In his prophesy, Ezekiel sees the revivification (an imparting a new life, energy, or spirit to something or somebody) of the “dry bones” of the whole house of Israel.  It is a very interesting chapter and read, so please read Ezekiel 37, which deals with prophesies of the salvation of all Israel, written hundreds of years prior to Jesus Christ’s birth.

Today’s Gospel reading is John’s version of the “Pentecost” narratives: the Holy Spirit coming onto the Apostles.  There is a definite connection presented between the imparting of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ’s glorious and magnificent ascension to His heavenly Father, making for an awesome vision or image for the reader.

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The Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) defined that the power to forgive sins is exercised in the Sacrament of Penance, known in the Catholic Church today as the “Sacrament of Reconciliation”.  Matthew uses very similar words in describing this grace imparted to the “Eleven” Apostles, and STILL continuing through their spiritual descendants: Catholic Bishops and Priests, all of whom being in a direct line of faith with the first Bishops: the Apostles.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19);

And,

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18).

There are many instances in rabbinic literature of the “binding-loosing” imagery used today.  In reflection, I believe there are several meanings to this metaphor of “binding and loosing”.  I think there are two of special importance to these words: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The Apostles’ exercise of authority in the Catholic Church on earth is confirmed in heaven through the actions of the Holy Spirit.  In this way, there is an authoritive and intimate connection between the Catholic Church on earth AND the kingdom of heaven.

The “Sacrament of Reconciliation” is, for me, the most inspiring and uplifting manifestation of God’s mercy.  This beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church is described so vividly in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (cf., Luke 15:11-32).  God always awaits us, with His arms wide open (open as wide as when He was stretched on the Holy Cross), waiting for us to turn, to repent and to return completely to Him.  If we do repent and return, He will immediately and lovingly forgive us (no questions asked), restoring us to the dignity of being His son and daughter.

The Popes have consistently recommended for Catholics to have a regular practice of using this most beautiful and loving of Sacraments:

To ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated.  By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.”  (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 88, 6/29/1943)

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Thomas initially doubted that the one present before him was the “Risen” Jesus Christ.  After Jesus placed Thomas’ fingers into the open wounds of His crucifixion, Thomas extolled:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas’ reply is not simply exaltation, a feeling of intense or excessive happiness, awe, and exhilaration.  It is a declaration – – a venerable “act of faith” – – in the divinity of his dear friend, Jesus Christ.  These words, “My Lord and my God”,  were an unexpected and sudden prayer of faith, praise, and joy; a prayer still often used by Catholics, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist (the Eucharist – Communion).

Consider John’s following statement:

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion linking the first verse of his Gospel:

… and the Word was God.“  (John 1:1)

I have been asked many times what “THE WORD” actually means.  I believe an exact definition cannot ever be truly completed as it is such an intimate, personal, unique, and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

“The Word” (the Greek word is “logos”) is a term which combines God’s living, very active, and creative word; incarnate pre-existing Wisdom; being THE instrument or tool of God’s creative activities; and the definitive, authoritative, completely full, supreme precision and clearness of His truth, love, and trust for us.

“THE WORD” is our Bible! – – an acronym (B.I.B.L.E.) for our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”!

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Consider the following verse:

Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29)

This verse of today’s Gospel can be viewed as a type of beatitude, maxim, or guiding principle from Jesus Christ, meant for future generations.  What Jesus is saying is that faith, and not sight, is what truly matters in believing and trusting in His kingdom.

Like everyone else, Thomas needed the grace of God in order to “believe”.  However, in addition to God’s grace, he was given an extraordinary confirmation of Jesus’ living presence, power, and divinity over ALL.  Just imagine how Thomas felt having Jesus Christ place his fingers into His wounds.  Thomas’ faith would have had more worth if he had truly accepted and believed the testimony of the other Apostles without any need for proof.  Revealed truths are normally transmitted by word; by the “testimony” of others who, – – sent by Jesus Christ, and aided by the Holy Spirit, – – preach the Word: the guarantee and security of faith in Jesus Christ:

“He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15-16)

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The final two verses (about performing many other signs and coming to believe) in today’s Gospel reading are unmistakably a start of John’s conclusion to his Gospel.  He clearly states, as only a good author does, his reason for writing the book, His Gospel.  These last verses sum up John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel – – to have ALL people believe Jesus Christ was, and is now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in the First (Old) Testament (the first Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe this saving truth, – – the heart and foundation of Revelation, – – that Jesus Christ IS God, and by believing, we begin to share and participate in His eternal life.

What I found interesting for me, personally, in researching these verses is that I discovered a few manuscripts from the early Church which actually state: “continue to believe”, instead of John’s “come to believe” (verse 31).  I believe John implied a missionary purpose for His Gospel by using these particular words.  He was urging his readers to go out and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John had a definite opinion on eyewitness testimony leading to the “truth”:

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe.” (John 19:35).

Other manuscripts (the “few” I just mentioned), suggest to me that its readers, its audience, consisted of Christians whose faith needed to be deepened or motivated by this particular book.

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In concluding, I see the story of Thomas as an excellent exemplification of our Catholic experience today.  We are ALL called to believe “without seeing”!   Thomas’s doubt is, in reality, hardly surprising from a “human” understanding.  The reports of Jesus’ appearance were barely credible even to the disciples who had seen Him, and witnessed Him being brutally crucified, died – – and then hastily buried.

Thomas’s human nature compelled him to want physical, observable, and provable, “hard” evidence that the person who appeared to the disciples after Jesus’ death – – was indeed – – the same Jesus who had been crucified and buried.  So, Thomas was given a special opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to actually and personally take action on his human desire for this “hard” proof.  Thomas is OUR eye-witness that Jesus is truly, fully, and really “Risen” and “Alive” today, in OUR lives.

When Thomas recognized his Master, his friend, and his Leader, he came to believe.  He proclaimed that Jesus was “truly Lord and truly God!”  Through the gift and grace of faith, we also proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord, Savior, and our God.  My daily “mantra” prayer which I repeat continuously throughout the day mirrors Thomas’ exclamation:

My God and My All; I Love You and I Trust You!” (DEH)

Jesus died and rose that we too might have new life in, with, and through Him.  Jesus Christ offers each of us a new life in His Holy Spirit so that we may know and walk with Him personally in His “new way of life”.  Jesus Christ offers to each of us, personally, individually, and uniquely, a new way of life, given to each of us through the power of His Resurrection, AND all of these are continued in the seven Sacraments of the Holy Catholic “Universal” Church.

Think about Thomas’s response to reports of the risen Jesus Christ.  Is Thomas’s doubt a reasonable one?  How does Jesus respond to Thomas and his human doubt? (Is it with frustration, anger, or love?)  Jesus grants Thomas the evidence that he needed to believe, but Jesus also affirmed the faith of those who will be called upon to believe without a “hard-proved” first-hand experience.

Many of us can relate to Thomas’s response to news that the disciples had actually seen Jesus AFTER His death on the cross.  Some of us want to see for ourselves too.  We grow in faith by learning to trust the experiences and knowledge of others.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we receive the same “Holy Spirit” that Jesus brought to His first disciples.  We are among those who are “blessed” because we believe without having seen!

Many of us have heard the saying, “Seeing is believing!”  Take some time to consider what this maxim really means.  What are some things we believe because we see them? (My parent’s love for me is an example)  Is there anything we believe without seeing? (For me, it’s Santa and the tooth fairy, along with protons and neutrons).  Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith sometimes asks us to believe things we cannot see with our eyes.

We are among those whom Jesus called “blessed”.  What is the basis of your faith in Jesus Christ?  It should be the witness of the first disciples (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the rest of the Apostles), the Holy Gospels, the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit in your life and the lives of others, and in the community of the Catholic Church.  It is simply a matter of FAITH!!

In our normal “human” lives there will be presented to each of us many opportunities for conflict.  Jesus did not promise us the absence of conflict in our lives, and on our paths to Him.  Instead, He gave us the grace and gifts of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation in order to reduce our personal and unique conflicts.  The measure of a true Catholic Christian is not the absence of conflict, but the manner in how conflict is resolved in our lives.  Filled with the race, the gift, of the Holy Spirit, we ask Jesus to help us to bring peace and forgiveness to situations of conflict in our daily lives.

Today, right NOW, take this opportunity to examine how you resolve conflict.  Recall a recent argument or disagreement and how the conflict was resolved.  Was the conflict resolved peacefully, in the way and spirit of Jesus Christ’s example?  If not, what alternatives might be tried in the future for a proper Christian response to conflict?  We have each received Jesus’ grace and gift of the Holy Spirit, and that same Holy Spirit imparted to the first Apostles helps each of us, personally, uniquely, and intimately, to be people who forgive ALL others and seeks peace in their life and their world.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so
much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Purgatory:

“Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) RSV.

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.  If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) KJV.

***

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey …” (1 Peter 3:18-20) RSV.

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient … “ (1 Peter 3:18-20) KJV.

***

But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life..” (Revelations 21:27) RSV.

“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelations 21:27) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Caesar de Bus (1544-1607)

 

Like so many of us, Caesar de Bus struggled with the decision about what to do with his life.  After completing his Jesuit education he had difficulty settling between a military and a literary career.  He wrote some plays but ultimately settled for life in the army and at court.

For a time life was going rather smoothly for the engaging, well-to-do young Frenchman.  He was confident he had made the right choice.  That was until he saw firsthand the realities of battle, including the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacres of French Protestants in 1572.

He fell seriously ill and found himself reviewing his priorities, including his spiritual life.  By the time he had recovered, Caesar had resolved to become a priest.  Following his ordination in 1582, he undertook special pastoral work: teaching the catechism to ordinary people living in neglected, rural, out-of-the-way places.  His efforts were badly needed and well received.

Working with his cousin, Caesar developed a program of family catechesis.  The goal—to ward off heresy among the people—met the approval of local bishops.  Out of these efforts grew a new religious congregation: the Fathers of Christian Doctrine.

One of Caesar’s works, Instructions for the Family on the Four Parts of the Roman Catechism, was published 60 years after his death.

He was beatified in 1975.

Comment:

“Family catechesis” is a familiar term in parish life today.  Grounded in the certainty that children learn their faith first from their parents, programs that deepen parental involvement in religious education multiply everywhere.  There were no such programs in Caesar’s day until he saw a need and created them.  Other needs abound in our parishes, and it’s up to us to respond by finding ways to fill them or by joining in already established efforts.

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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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

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

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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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“May the Best Man Lose His Life – – to Jesus!” – Matthew 18:15-20†


 

Twenty-Third Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Popes Prayer Intentions for September

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, asks that we join him in prayer for the “concrete problems that trouble the Universal Church, especially those of the missions.”  These are our Holy Father’s prayer intentions for September:

GENERAL INTENTION:
That all teachers may know how to communicate love of the truth and instill authentic moral and spiritual values.

MISSIONARY INTENTION:
That the Christian communities of Asia may proclaim the Gospel with fervor, witnessing to its beauty with the joy of faith.

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Next Sunday is the 10th anniversary of this country’s attack by fundamentalist Islamic Terrorists.  Please pray for all the affected souls (dead and alive) from this disaster of pure hated.  Lord, please be in our prayers, hearts and mind, on this sad, yet glorious day.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   422 – St Boniface I ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1085 – Death of Irmgarde van Keulen, German countess of Aspel/saint
†   1571 – Catholic coup in Scotland
†   1781 – Los Angeles, California, is founded as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (the City of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of the Little Portion) by 44 Spanish settlers.
†   1918 – Jhr Ch Ruys de Beerenbrouck, Jhr. Charles Joseph Maria Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (1 December 1873 – 17 April 1936) was a Dutch nobleman and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1918 to 1925 and again from 1929 to 1933, who becomes 1st Dutch Catholic premier

(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:

 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” ~ Proverbs 15:1

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching His disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.

 

(NAB Matthew 18:15-20) 15 “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  19 Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

What’s the best way to repair a damaged relationship?  Jesus offers His disciples a special grace of spiritual freedom and power for restoring the broken or injured relationships within His faith community.  He makes it very clear that His followers should not tolerate a break, infringement, or outright violation in relationships among themselves.

This reading gives direction to the actions of Jesus Christ’s reputable disciples toward those who have strayed from their teachings and practices.  Today’s discourse is the “how-to” for dealing with someone who sins, and yet continues within the community (Sort of like many of our present day Catholic Legislators).  Them, and many others in the Catholic Church today are “Catholics Only In Name”: “COINs”!!

 

Today’s Gospel is taken from a part of Matthew’s book which is sometimes called the “discourse on the Church” or the “church order discourse”.  In this section of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks more directly, openly, and frankly about Catholic (Universal) Church discipline and Church order.  

Today’s reading is only one of two instances wherein Jesus uses the word “church” in Matthew’s Gospel.  In Matthew’s record of Jesus’ “Word” and teachings, we can also hear and experience reverberations of the kinds of questions and problems faced by the first-century Catholic Christian community for whom he wrote.

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Not in today’s reading, but found immediately prior to this reading (Matthew 18:1-14), is the first part of the “discourse on the Church.  Matthew addresses the Catholic Christian community’s concern about hierarchy.  In this previous “first” part, Jesus responds to the disciples’ question about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  His response indicated that those who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven must be like children!!  He further cautioned the “church leaders” who might lead His disciples going astray – – off path of salvation, by accident or purposely.

Next is today’s part, the second section of Jesus’ “discourse on the Church”, Matthew 18:15-20.  Here, Jesus addresses a very common occurrence in the early Christian community: a dispute between two or more members of His Catholic Church.

Sin must be confronted, and help must be offered, in restoring a damaged personal or communal relationship of love, trust, and faith.  When these relationships between brothers and sisters of Christ are damaged, then we must spare no effort; we must use all resources – – human and divine – – to help the brother or sister “at fault” to see their error, and to set the relationship “just and righteous” again.

Regardless of the decision in dealing with one in error, the church’s judgment will be ratified in heaven – – by God the Father Himself.  The three-step process of rectification in today’s reading relates (though not exactly) to the Qumran community procedures found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (see 1QS 5:25–6:1; 6:24–7:25; CD 9:2–8).

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In the conclusion of today’s reading, Jesus ends with a proverb about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to a very small number of prayers (Hope hopeful is this!!).  Jesus Christ is always in “the midst” of any gathering of His disciples, no matter how small.

After reading and reflecting on this Gospel reading multiple times, I wonder whether this context of prayer, as portrayed in today’s reading, has anything to do with the preceding judgment of the unrepentant sinner.  It seems uncertain in context, but not in concept.  Let’s see what I say about this, in detail, later.

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Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters in a fair way; a procedure which continues, in a very similar form, to this day.  First, the victim should privately address the offender and attempt to resolve the dispute without outside involvement.  If this fails, then the victim should bring two or three witnesses and confront – – in a loving manner – – the “offender” again.  If the dispute is still unresolved, the matter should be brought to the attention of the entire church community.

Finally, and sadly, if the offender refuses to adhere to the restoration arranged by and approved by the church community, then Jesus Christ Himself suggests the “offender” may be expelled from the Church, – – “excommunicated”.

 

Jesus starts His discourse with a profound and heavily-laden theological sentence:

“If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) 

Your brother”, from verse 15, is the colloquial term for a Catholic Christians fellow disciple in Christ.

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (Matthew 23:8).  

The bracketed words, “against you”, (also in verse 15) are words widely attested to in many versions of Holy Scripture.  However, they are not in the ancient manuscript texts, “Sinaiticus” and “Vaticanus”, nor in some other written documents.  Their omission in these important documents only broadens the type of sin in question to ANY type of sin!  

Still in verse 15, “Won over” literally means “gained.”  Saying, “we won over this person”, means this person has come too understood, and corrected his fault.  In doing so, he has gained his own personal insight, and, at the same time, you gain a friend and companion on your faith journey.

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Taking two or three with you as witnesses (verse 16) when confronting a person who is in error, is not a new concept.  In actuality, this exact model is even covered in Moses writings, the Torah:

One witness alone shall not stand against someone in regard to any crime or any offense that may have been committed; a charge shall stand only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)

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What is meant by the word “church” (verse 17) in this reading?  The words, “the church” is the second of the only two instances of this specific word in Matthew’s Gospel; the other being Matthew 16:18:  

“I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

Here, it refers not to the entire church of Jesus Christ, as in Matthew 16:18, but instead, to the local congregation instead.

 

Also in verse 17, what did Jesus mean when He said, “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector”?  Well, history shows that in first-century Palestine, observant and pious Jews avoided any interaction with “Gentiles” and “tax collectors” – – “heathen sinners”!!  In the same way, Catholic Jewish-Christian disciples of this biblical time also had to separate themselves from the arrogantly un-repented, sinful member who refused to repent, even when convicted of his sin by the whole church (his brothers and sisters in Christ).  This person was (and still is) to be put outside the fellowship of the Catholic Church community; he or she is “excommunity-cated”.

 

The harsh language about Gentile and tax collector points to a stage in Matthew’s first-century Catholic (Universal) Church, wherein, it was principally composed of Jewish Christians.  Though this period of a “Jewish-only” Catholic Church has long since passed, the principle of exclusion (including the severest form, excommunication) for such a sinner remains to this day, and has spread from Matthew’s local church, to the entire worldwide church community.  Saint Paul even made a similar demand for excommunication in his first letter to the Corinthians (Corinthians 5:1-13), in regards to incest and pride:

“It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans—a man living with his father’s wife.  And you are inflated with pride.  Should you not rather have been sorrowful?  The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst.” (1 Corinthians 5:1–2).

 

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on Jesus’ instruction (and if anyone knew about sin, he did!!):

 

When any one sins against us, let us take great care, not for ourselves, for it is a glorious thing to forget injuries; only forget thine own injury, not thy brother’s wound.  Therefore ‘rebuke him between thee and him alone,’ intent upon his amendment, but sparing his shame.  For it may be that through shamefacedness he will begin to defend his sin, and so thou wilt make him whom thou desirest to amend, still worse.  ‘Rebuke him’ therefore ‘between him and thee alone.  If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother;’ because he would have been lost, hadst thou not done it.  But ‘if he: will not hear thee,’ that is, if he will defend his sin as if it were a just action, ‘take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established; and if he will not hear them, refer it to the Church; but if he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.’  Reckon him no more amongst the number of thy brethren.  But yet neither is his salvation on that account to be neglected.  For the very heathen, that is, the Gentiles and Pagans, we do not reckon among the number of brethren; but yet are we ever seeking their salvation.” (Sermon 82.7)

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What can we learn from today’s reading, along with the above passage from St. Augustine, about how to repair a damaged relationship?  

If you feel you have been wronged by someone, Jesus Christ says the first step is to speak directly, yet privately, to the individual who has done you harm.  The worst thing one can do is dwell on any grievance, poisoning the mind, heart and soul.  Retaining grievances (resentment) makes it more difficult to go directly to the person who caused the damage.  If we truly want to settle a difference with someone, we need to do it “face-to-face” and “heart-to-heart”.  

If this fails to resolve the issue, then the second step is to bring another person (or persons) to help in the “repair of the relationship”.  This “witness” should be mature, wise, and compassionate person rather than someone who may be equally hot-tempered and/or judgmental.  Remember, the goal is not to put the “offender” on trial, but to persuade the “offender” to see his error, and to be reconciled with each other (and the church).  

If this loving (and second) interaction fails, we still must not give up.  Instead we should seek the help of the entire Catholic Christian community – – the “Church”.  Notice the emphasis and importance is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Catholics, who will pray, seeking a solution for reconciling the matter, based on Christian love and wisdom rather than relying on coercive force, threats, and legal action.

Lastly, if the church fails to bring about reconciliation, what else is there to do?  Jesus Christ says we have the right to abandon stubborn and inflexible offenders, treating them like social outcasts.  

The tax-collectors and Gentiles were regarded as “unclean” by the religiously pious Jews.  However, we know from Holy Scripture that Jesus was often a companion and friend of tax-collectors; He ate with them, and even praised them at times!  Even if excommunicated, we should always hope and pray for a conversion of heart in the “offender”, and reconciliation with the church family.

 

Jesus does not discourage, in any way, disagreements within the Church community.  After all, being human in nature, disagreements are inevitable.  He even acknowledged the reality of conflict and error in our world, and offers His disciples a specific, respectful, and loving means for addressing such matters.  

I love what Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen had said about disagreeing with the “infallible teachings” of the Magisterium:

“You have two choices if you disagree with the Church’s infallible teachings:

1)  Change your mind, or
2)  Change your mind!!”

(Bonus Trivia Question:  Can you name ALL the “infallible” teachings of the Catholic Church.  You may be surprised at how many there are in fact.  The answer will be at end of today’s reflection.)

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Let’s go on to the next verse:

“I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

Except for the use of both singular and plural verbs for “bind” and “loose” in verse 18, it is practically identical with Mathew 16:19b:

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16:19b).

Many bible scholars take it as a granting (a grace given) to all Jesus’ disciples what was previously given to Peter (the first Pope) alone.

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It is in the conclusion to today’s reading (verses 19 & 20) that a great message of hope is found: Jesus is “truly” present with the Catholic Church community, and will guide His Church community in its relationships.  If decisions are taken to Him in prayer, then His church community can be assured of the Holy Trinity’s assistance.

 

Some bible scholars take verses 19 and 20 as relating to “prayer” when the church community gathers in order to deal with the specific un-repentant sinner of verse 17.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:17).

Unless an “a fortiori” argument (argument “from [the] stronger [reason]”) is assumed, this seems unlikely to me.  After all, God’s answer to the prayer of “two or three” (as stated in both verse 19 AND 20) envisions a different situation than prayer involving the entire church body (the congregation).  In addition to this argument for a separate meaning and purpose, the object of “prayer” in today’s reading is expressed in the most general of terms, as it expresses “anything for which they are to pray”, and is not specific to the un-repentant sinner.

 

However, this last verse of today’s great message is one of “hope inspired by a grace”, from Jesus Christ Himself:

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

His presence guarantees the value, merit, and importance of prayer.  This verse is similar to one attributed to an unknown Rabbi, executed in 135 A.D., at the time of the second Jewish revolt:

“…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them (Pirqê ’Abôt 3:3).

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In conclusion, conflict and disagreements are a natural part of family, church, and societal life.  Yet, within these groups, we are given an opportunity to learn how to “fairly” resolve disagreements by treating people with love and respect.

It needs to be reiterated, Jesus Christ refuses NO ONE who is ready to receive pardon, healing, and restoration.  A call to accountability is inevitable, and we can’t escape it, both in this life, and at the “Day of Judgment” (the “Parousia”) when our Lord Jesus Christ will return.

Do you tolerate broken relationships?  Or, do you seek to repair, restore, and amend relationships in the way God gives you, through opportunity and His grace given process?  While we have the opportunity to do so in this life, we must not give up on our stubborn, inflexible, “offenders”.  Instead, take every opportunity and make all effort to win them back into the fold – – with, in, and through the grace and power of God’s healing love and wisdom.  

This week, reflect on your way of resolving disputes at work, and at home.  What kinds of things produce disagreements for you?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches His disciples the proper way to handle conflicts within the Catholic (Universal) Christian community – – the Church.  Try to summarize Jesus’ steps He personally proposed for resolving conflicts.  How might today’s Gospel enlighten you in handling disagreements?  

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus also promised (and still promises) He will help those who pray to Him with their needs.  Pray that you (and your family and friends) will learn to handle inevitable conflicts in a respectful, loving, Christian way.

 

(Bonus Trivia Question Answer:  There are only TWO “ex cathedra” (infallible) teachings in the Catholic Church; both are about the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

First, is her “Immaculate Conception”, declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and grandfathered in after the First Vatican Council’s declaration of papal infallibility in 1870.  And the second is about her bodily “Assumption” into heaven, declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950.)

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely.  More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal.  It will now say, I have greatly sinned and later adds through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that
I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;

therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Rose of Viterbo (1233-1251)

 

Rose achieved sainthood in only 18 years of life.  Even as a child Rose had a great desire to pray and to aid the poor.  While still very young, she began a life of penance in her parents’ house.  She was as generous to the poor as she was strict with herself.  At the age of 10 she became a Secular Franciscan and soon began preaching in the streets about sin and the sufferings of Jesus.

Viterbo, her native city, was then in revolt against the pope.  When Rose took the pope’s side against the emperor, she and her family were exiled from the city.  When the pope’s side won in Viterbo, Rose was allowed to return. Her attempt at age 15 to found a religious community failed, and she returned to a life of prayer and penance in her father’s home, where she died in 1251.  Rose was canonized in 1457.

Comment:

The list of Franciscan saints seems to have quite a few men and women who accomplished nothing very extraordinary.  Rose is one of them.  She did not influence popes and kings, did not multiply bread for the hungry and never established the religious order of her dreams.  But she made a place in her life for God’s grace, and like St. Francis before her, saw death as the gateway to new life.

Quote:

Rose’s dying words to her parents were: “I die with joy, for I desire to be united to my God.  Live so as not to fear death.  For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening, but sweet and precious.”

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:

 

Peace

 

How do you explain what “peace” is? 

What are some different meanings for the word “peace” – among governments, neighbors, in families, relationships?

What did Francis mean by this word: “Peace”?

What does Sacred Scripture mean by this word: “Peace”?

Since we are called to be “peacemakers” by Christ, go line by line and explain how each suggestion (pledge line) of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis [above] helps promote peace.

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsections #’s 4 & 5 of 26:

04.  The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people. 

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.   Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

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05.  Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.

 

 

“Thomas, Thomas, Thomas! My Much Beloved Doubting Thomas!” – John 20:19-31†


 

Divine Mercy Sunday

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:

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday [TODAY]), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ Himself to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.

A plenary indulgence (the forgiveness of all temporal punishment resulting from sins that have already been confessed) is granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy if to all the faithful who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and “in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. ‘Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!’).”

A partial indulgence (the remission of some temporal punishment from sin) is granted to the faithful “whom, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.”

(From http://catholicism.about.com website)

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John Paul the Great is Beatified today.  One more step till he is officially declared a Saint in the Catholic Church.  I am excited and in awe.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1555 – Death of Marcellus II, [Marcello Cervini], Italian Pope (1555), at age 53
†   1572 – Death of Pius V, [Antonio Ghislieri], great-inquisiteur/Pope (1566-72) (born 1504)
†   1948 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Auspicia quaedam”, an encyclical on worldwide public prayers to the Virgin Mary for World peace and the solution of the problem of Palestine.
†   1987 – Pope John Paul II beatifies Edith Stein, a Jewish-born Carmelite nun who was gassed in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.
†   Feast/Memorials: Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker; Saint James the Less; Saint Philip the Apostle; Saint Andeol; Saint Asaph; Saint Brieuc; Saint Sigismund of Burgundy; Saint Theodulf; Saint Augustin Schoeffer

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Thomas coming to believe because he saw Jesus at His first appearance to the Eleven, (soon to be) “Apostles” and touched His wounds.

 (NAB John 20:19-31) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus
came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  31 But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

 

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The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to the disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb was empty.  This appearance happens on the evening of the first day on which He rose from the dead.

The “mystery” of Jesus’ Resurrection is that He personally and truly appeared to His disciples, His followers, NOT as a spirit but in bodily (“resurrected” flesh and blood) form.  However, as with His appearances to Mary Magdalene and the travelers on the road to Emmaus, Jesus’ bodily form was not readily recognized to His disciples. 

Yes, the Resurrected Jesus had a physical presence, but the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus Christ unless He allowed them.  His Resurrected body, though “transfigured”, nonetheless, showed the five marks of His crucifixion: hands, feet, and side.  The “Risen” Jesus chose to reveal the glory and magnificence of His Resurrection to His disciples, – – gradually, – – over a forty-day period of time.

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Today’s Gospel puts the spotlight on Thomas, the Apostle.  John’s Gospel also calls him “Didymus” (Hee, hee; what a funny name.  “Yo, Diddy-man, let’s play ball.”).  Didymus is the Greek word for “twin”.  The name “Thomas” is actually the Aramaic word for twin.  Other manuscripts give Thomas
yet another name: “Judas”.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in Catholic tradition; it would get too confusing with a “Judas (Thomas)”, a “Judas (Iscariot)”, and a “Judas” Thaddeus, also called “Jude”.

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He also was the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time.  Thomas was a bona fide, natural pessimist to me.  Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people rising from the dead.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas said to the disciples:

“Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage to stand with Jesus during His passion and crucifixion.  After Jesus’ death, Thomas apparently withdrew from the other disciples.  He wanted solitude rather than fellowship in his time of difficulty and hardship.  He doubted the women, even Mary Magdalene, who reported seeing the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He even doubted his fellow disciples, hand-picked by Jesus Christ Himself, as he too was one of the “chosen” few.  When Thomas finally gained the courage to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus made His presence known to them again, and to him personally.  Jesus then reassured him that He had indeed overcome death and had “Risen” again to new life in, with, and through God, His heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit.  He also reassured them all in His appearing to them, that they will rise again, as well.

John’s narrative of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples, without or with Thomas, has somewhat rough parallels in Mark and Luke’s Gospels,
as compared to today’s John 20:19-23;

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  (Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  And when he had said  his, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:19-23).

Now, compare these verses above with the following verses from Mark and Luke.  First, from Mark:

“(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raisedHe said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:14-18).

And, then from Mark:

“While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39).

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Even after the two (at least) disciples saw the empty tomb after they heard the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women; these same disciples (not just Thomas) were still weak in their faith, and extremely fearful of being arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Jesus’ “Resurrected” – – Transfigured and perfected – – human body was then, and is now free of earthly physical limitations and constraints.  Jesus Christ appeared to His frightened and hiding disciples despite the fact that their doors were locked.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24, was not with the other disciples when the “Risen” Jesus appeared to them that first night.  Ten of the Twelve Apostles (Judas was already dead and Thomas was absent) are gathered together, in one room or building, in Jerusalem out of extreme fear.

Jesus greeted His disciples with the gift of “peace” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit”.  In doing so, Jesus freed them from their fears and anxieties, and then commissions them to continue the work of the Resurrection that He has begun; His mission, now theirs:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

During His appearing, Jesus showed the integral, vital, and fundamental connection between “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and God’s “forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus did what only love, and trust, and faith actually, naturally, and even supernaturally does.  He commissioned His weak and timid Apostles to carry the Gospel – – His Word – – to the ends of the earth: to all peoples and nations.

This sending out, this commissioning, of the Apostles parallels the “sending out” of Jesus by His heavenly Father: God.  Jesus fulfilled His mission through His perfect love, trust and obedience to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Jesus called His disciples, AND, He calls each of US to do the same.  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He also “breathes” on each of us, imparts to each of us, the exact same Holy Spirit, who equips us with power, grace, and strength to do His will of His Father, and their Father in heaven:

Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘”  (John 20:17)

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Jesus greets His followers twice using the same words of greeting both times: “Peace be with you.”  I believe this greeting was customary among all
the Jewish people.  He greets them with the same warmth and affection as He displayed to them prior to His Passion and dying.

Peace be with you” may have been simply an ordinary greeting for Jesus to give, however, John intends here to echo an earlier verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

This theme of rejoicing in this reading also repeats and reinforces an earlier verse in John’s Gospel:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:22).

Jesus, in essence, recreates His customary character of familiarity, closeness, and understanding of His Apostles as friends, and even brothers, in
using this “customary” greeting.

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John mentions Jesus showing His disciples “His Hands and His side” in order to dispel any thought of His presence being ONLY a spiritLuke talks about His “hands and feet,” basing his version on Psalm 22:17:

“’Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’  And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40);

“Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet –.” (Psalm 22:17 – RSV).

There is no longer any doubt of the image before them being that of Jesus Christ, Himself, truly “Risen” from the dead.

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By means of Jesus’ sending: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you“, the eleven trusted and personally picked disciples were made “Apostles”, which means, “those sent with full authority”.  Another example of Jesus sending His disciples out into the world with God’s authority can be found just a little earlier in John’s Gospel, in which He Himself prays:

“As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:18).

It is note-worthy that John does not use the noun “Apostle” in reference to the eleven “hand-picked” men.  The solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the eleven men in the Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew says:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew
28:19).

Now, Mark says:

“He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15).

And, Luke says:

“… repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).

Universal power, “full authority”, belongs to the risen Jesus.  And He freely gave the eleven a mission that is also universal.  They were sent out to
make disciples of all nations: Gentiles and Jews alike; and this required a participation in the universal power and fulfillness of authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  As Apostles now sent, they have become full delegates of Jesus Christ, their Lord and their God.

Pope Leo XIII explained how Jesus Christ conveyed His mission on earth to the Apostles:

“What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded?  This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated.  This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did.  ‘As the Father bath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21).  ‘Ad thou bast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18).  […]  When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching.  ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth.  Going therefore teach all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20).  So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish.  ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned’ (Mark 16:16).  […]  Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own – ‘He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me’ (Luke 10:16).  Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father.  ‘As the Father sent Me so also I send you’ (John 20:21).” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 6/29/1896).

The Apostles are “ambassadorsbof Christ”.  In this ambassadorship mission, Bishops are the successors of the Apostles; Bishops also then share in Jesus’ consecration, mission, and divine authority:

“Having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and mission.  The office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests.  Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.” (Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorrum Ordinis, 12/07/1965)

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This action of “Breathing on them” recalls a verse from Genesis:

“The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed on the first man, Adam, and gave him life.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ – – now Apostle’s – – new spiritual life comes directly from Jesus, Son of God, through the Holy Spirit.

“Breathing on someone” brings to my mind prophesies found in Ezekiel 37.  In his prophesy, Ezekiel sees the revivification (an imparting a new life, energy, or spirit to something or somebody) of the “dry bones” of the whole house of Israel.  It is a very interesting chapter and read, so please read which deals with prophesies of the salvation of all Israel, hundreds of years prior to Jesus Christ’s birth.

Today’s Gospel reading is John’s version of the “Pentecost” narratives: the Holy Spirit coming onto them.  There is a definite connection presented between the imparting of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ’s glorious and magnificent ascension to His heavenly Father that makes for an awesome
vision or image.

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The Council of Trent defined that the power to forgive sins is exercised in the sacrament of penance, also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Matthew uses very similar words in describing this grace imparted to the “Eleven” Apostles, and continuing through their spiritual descendants: Catholic Bishops and Priests, all of whom being in a direct line of faith with the first Bishops: the Apostles.

“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19);

And,

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18).

There are many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery used today.  In reflection, I believe there are several meanings to this metaphor of “binding and loosing”.  I think two others meanings have a special importance to these words, “binding and loosing”: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The Apostles’ exercise of authority in the Catholic Church on earth is confirmed in heaven.  In this way, there is an authoritive and intimate connection between the Catholic Church on earth and the kingdom of heaven.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is, for me, the most inspiring and uplifting  manifestation of God’s mercy.  This beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church is described so vividly in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (cf., Luke 15:11-32).  God always awaits us, with His arms wide open (open as wide as when He was on the Holy Cross), waiting for us to turn, to repent and to return completely to Him.  If we do so, He will immediately and lovingly forgive us, restoring us to the dignity of being His son and daughter.

The Popes have consistently recommended for Catholics to have a regular practice of using this most beautiful and loving of Sacraments:

“To ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated.  By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.”  (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 88, 6/29/1943)

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Thomas initially doubted that the one present before him could be the “Risen” Jesus Christ.  After Jesus placed Thomas’ fingers into the wounds of His crucifixion, Thomas extolled:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas’ reply is not simply exaltation, a feeling of intense or excessive happiness, awe, and exhilaration.  It is a declaration, a venerable “act of faith” in the divinity of Jesus Christ.  These words were an unexpected and abrupt prayer of faith, praise, and joy, still often used by Catholics, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist (the Eucharist – Communion).

Consider John’s following statement:

“Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion with the first verse of his Gospel:

“… and the Word was God.”  (John 1:1)

I have been asked many times what “THE WORD” actually means.  I believe an exact definition cannot ever be truly completed as it is such an intimate and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

The Word” (the Greek word is “logos”) is a term which combines God’s living, very active, and creative word; incarnate pre-existing Wisdom; being THE instrument or tool of God’s creative activities; and the definitive, authoritative, completely full, the supreme precision and clearness of His truth, love, and trust for us.

“THE WORD” is our Bible! – – our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”: the B.I.B.L.E.!

Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29):

This verse of today’s Gospel can be viewed as a type of beatitude, maxim, or guiding principle from Jesus Christ, meant for future generations.  What He is saying is that faith, and not sight, is what truly matters.

Like everyone else, Thomas needed the grace of God in order to “believe”.  However, in addition to God’s grace, he was given an extraordinary confirmation of Jesus’ living presence, power, and divinity.  Just imagine how Thomas felt having Jesus Christ place his fingers into His wounds.  Thomas’ faith would have had more worth if he had truly accepted and believed the testimony of the other Apostles without any need for proof.  Revealed truths are normally transmitted by word; by the “testimony” of others who, – – sent by Jesus Christ, and aided by the Holy Spirit, – – preach the Word: the bond, the guarantee, and the security of faith in Jesus Christ:

“He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15-16)

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The final two verses (performing many other signs, and coming to believe) in today’s Gospel reading are unmistakably a start of John’s conclusion
to his Gospel.  He clearly states, as only a good author does, his reason for writing the book.  These last verses sum up John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel – – to have all people believe Jesus Christ was, and is now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in the Fist Testament (Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe this saving truth, – – the heart and foundation of Revelation, – – that Jesus Christ is God, and by believing this begin to share and participate in His eternal life.

What I found interesting for me, personally, in researching these verses I discovered that a few manuscripts from the early Church actually state: “continue to believe”, instead of John’s “come to believe” (verse 31).  I believe John implied a missionary purpose for His Gospel.  He was urging his readers to go out and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John has a definite opinion on eyewitness testimony leading to the “truth”:

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows  that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe.” (John 19:35).

Other manuscripts (the “few” early ones that I just mentioned), suggest to me that its readers consisted of Christians whose faith needed to be deepened or motivated by their particular book.

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In concluding, I see the story of Thomas as an excellent exemplification of our Catholic experience today.  We are ALL called to believe “without
seeing
”!   Thomas’s doubt is, in reality, hardly surprising from a “human” understanding.  The reports of Jesus’ appearance were barely credible to the disciples who had seen Him, witnessed Him, being brutally crucified, died, and then hastily buried.

Thomas’s human nature compelled him to want physical, observable, and provable, “hard” evidence that the person who appeared to the disciples after Jesus’ death – – was indeed – – the same Jesus who had been crucified and buried.  Thomas was given a special opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to actually and personally take action on his desire for this “hard” proof.  He is OUR eye-witness that Jesus is really “Risen” and “Alive” today, in OUR lives.

When Thomas recognized his Master, his friend, and his Leader, he came to believe.  He proclaimed that Jesus was “truly Lord and truly God!”  Through the gift and grace of faith, we also proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord, Savior, and our God.  My daily “mantra” prayer which I repeat continuously throughout the day mirrors Thomas’ exclamation:

“My God and My All; I Love You and I Trust You!” (DEH)

Jesus died and rose that we too might have new life in Him.  Jesus Christ offers each of us a new life in His Holy Spirit so that we may know and walk with Him personally in His “new way of life”.  Jesus Christ offers to each of us, personally and individually, a new way of life, given through the power of His Resurrection, and all of these are continued in the seven Sacraments of the Holy Catholic “Universal” Church.

 

Think about Thomas’s response to the reports of the risen Jesus Christ.  Is Thomas’s doubt a reasonable one?  How does Jesus respond to Thomas? (Is it with frustration, anger, or love?)  Jesus grants Thomas the evidence that he needed to believe, but Jesus also affirmed the faith of those who will be called upon to believe without a “hard-proved” first-hand experience.

Many of us can relate to Thomas’s response to the news that the disciples had seen Jesus.  We want to see for ourselves too.  We grow in faith by learning to trust the experiences and knowledge of others.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we receive the same “Holy Spirit” that Jesus brought to His first disciples.  We are among those who are “blessed” because we believe without having seen.

Many of us have heard the saying “Seeing is believing!”  Take some time to consider what this saying really means.  What are some things we believe because we see them? (My parent’s love for me is an example)  Is there anything we believe without seeing? (For me, it’s Santa and the tooth fairy, along with protons and neutrons).  Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith sometimes asks us to believe things we cannot see with our eyes.

We are among those whom Jesus called “blessed”.  What is the basis of your faith in Jesus Christ?  It should be the witness of the first disciples (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the rest of the Apostles), the Holy Gospels, the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit in your life and the lives of others, and in the community of the Catholic Church.

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 “Act of Faith

 
“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Amen.”

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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New Translation of the Mass

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

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

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

During the Preparation of the Gifts, the prayers of the priest have several changes, but the only change for the assembly is the addition of the word “Holy” to the response just before the Prayer over the Offerings.  Where we now say, “for our good and the good of all his Church,” the new text says, “for our good and the good of all His Holy Church.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph the Worker

Apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955.  But the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers has a much longer history.

In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation.  Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating.  Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Comment:

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15).  The Father created all and asked humanity to continue the work of creation.  We find our dignity in our work, in raising a family, in participating in the life of the Father’s creation.  Joseph the Worker was able to help participate in the deepest mystery of creation.  Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work.  Thus, if you wish to be close to Christ, we again today repeat, ‘Go to Joseph’” (see Genesis 41:44).

Quote:

In Brothers of Men, René Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: “Now this holiness (of Jesus) became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of word, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God…in relation to this mystery, involves the conviction that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of someone who is poor and obliged to work for his living.”

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:

Daily Conversion II

What is the “spirit of lent” in the church year?

Was Francis a Christian “fundamentalist”?

In what ways do change and conversion require detachment and humility (a form of poverty)?

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Secular FranciscanOrder (SFO)
Rule #’s 1 & 2 of 26:

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

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

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02.  The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this family circle.  It is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered throughout the world and open to every group of the faithful. In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state. By their profession they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of Saint Francis by means of this rule approved by the Church.