Tag Archives: Night

“Mary says, ‘My Son DOES Walk on Water’!” – Matthew 14:22-33†


 

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Joke 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:

 

One week from tomorrow, my four boys go back to school; two in Middle School and two in High School.  Let us all pray for a safe year for all our students and their families.

BTW – Did I mention that my boys will not be home all day – – EVERY day (Hee, hee, hee – Party time).

 

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Today in Catholic History:


†   768 – Stephen III [IV] begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1547 – Death of Cajetanus van Thiene, Italian saint, dies1814
†   1547 – Pope Pius VII reinstates Jesuits
†   1978 – Thousands of mourners file past body of Pope Paul VI

(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 is about Jesus walking on water, and the disciples acknowledging Him as the “Son of God’.

 

(NAB Matthew 14:22-33) 22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  23 After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.  24 Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.  25 During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.  26 When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.  “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.  27 At once (Jesus) spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  28 Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  29 He said, “Come.”  Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.  30 But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  31 Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  32 After they got into the boat, the wind died down.  33 Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel directly follows last week’s account of Jesus feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 (plus) people with just five loaves of barley bread and two fish.  For the sake of the crowds, Jesus had deferred His time of private prayer and rest.  In today’s reading, Jesus finally finds some time for quiet reflection and private prayer.  He sends His disciples ahead of Him by boat, dismisses the crowds, and then withdraws to His favorite place on a mountain to pray privately.  Jesus Christ being on a mountain to pray reminds me of a Chinese proverb:

“You must climb the mountain if you would see the plain.”

 

Does the Lord seem distant when trials or adversity come your way?  It was at Jesus’ initiative that the disciples sailed across the lake, only to find themselves in a life-threatening storm:

“When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and He was alone on shore.  Then He saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them.” (Mark 6:47-48).

Can you picture being thrown about, in a turbulent sea, in a glorified open rowboat?  In the midst of all the mayhem, you look up and see a person walking towards you – – ON THE WATER!!  Though experienced fisherman and sailors, the disciples, laboring to keep the boat aright against the violent sea, are saved by Jesus in a most miraculous and mysterious way.  

The disciples were not faring well.  Indeed, they had gotten into some serious trouble.  These seasoned men of the sea were struggling to ride out the blowing wind and foaming waves, making little progress in their journey.  While Jesus was not with them in the boat, He watched over them in prayer.  When He perceived the danger of their situation, He went to them, on the sea, and startled them with His unexpected appearance.  Do you look for the Lord’s presence when you encounter difficulty or challenges?  When you are “startled”, look for God – – He is there for and with you.

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Jesus does not calm the seas immediately!  The disciples demonstrate fear and wonder when they see Jesus walking toward them on the water.  In this story, it is not the storm which is feared but the sight of Jesus Christ coming towards them on the water.  No wonder they mistake Him for a ghost.  (The “Holy Ghost” was already with them.  I wonder if they realized this bit of fact.)

Jesus is demonstrating to the disciples His power over the waters.  Remember, from earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 8:26), a similar occurrence happened on the same sea; and Jesus took control of the weather and sea then as well:

He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’  Then He got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.”  (Matthew 8:26)

In the earlier occurrence, Jesus CALLS to the disciples and calms their fears.  In this second occurrence, Jesus COMES to the disciples and calms their fears – – AGAIN!  In both these occurrences, Jesus is neither ghost, nor a spirit; He is the “Messiah” walking on the water in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The spontaneous, hasty Peter seeks proof that the person walking towards them on a path of deep water is indeed Jesus Himself.  He asks Jesus to command Him to come to Him on the water; and Jesus grants this request.  Jesus simply commands Peter:

Come!” (Matthew 14:29)

Peter actually obeys and gets out of the boat, and starts walking towards Jesus Christ on the water.  The reason given in the reading is that Peter became “frightened”.  I wonder if the real reason is that Peter realized the Jesus was going to make him the “rock” the church will be built upon; and everyone knows a ROCK SINKS!!!  (Hee, hee, sorry for this one.)

 

Peter’s human fear and self-imposed doubt overtake him as he is supernaturally walking on the water.  He cries out for help.  Jesus immediately reaches out and saves Peter as he is sinking into the sea “like a rock”!  When Jesus and Peter enter the boat, Matthew relates that the wind ceases.  The disciples, onboard this small, open vessel, confess that Jesus Christ is TRULY the “Son of God”.

Jesus’ control over the sea, in both of these “sea stories” may be meant to recall the Old Testament theme of God’s control over the “chaotic waters”:

You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.” (Psalm 65:8);

You rule the raging sea; you still its swelling waves.” (Psalm 89:10);

The flood has raised up, LORD; the flood has raised up its roar; the flood has raised its pounding waves.  More powerful than the roar of many waters, more powerful than the breakers of the sea, powerful in the heavens is the LORD.” (Psalm 93:3-4).

And so, the Lord …:

Hushed the storm to a murmur; the waves of the sea were stilled.”(Psalm 107:29).

Into today’s Reading, Jesus’ divine power is expressed by His walking on the sea instead of simply “calming” the seas:

“During the fourth watch of the night, He came toward them, walking on the sea.”(Matthew 14:25);

Through the sea was your path; your way, through the mighty waters, though your footsteps were unseen.” (Psalm 77:20);

And,

He alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea.” (Job 9:8).

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The sea is a unique place; in speaking about the sea, writer have used unique terms.  The “fourth watch of the night” (verse 25) is a nautical term meaning between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. – – early morning or late night (six of one OR half-dozen of another).  It is a historical fact that the Romans were the first to divide the twelve hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. into four equal parts called “watches.”  This is still the norm in some navies of the world.

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During this fourth watch, Jesus’ reply, “It is I” is a powerful, revelational, and declarative statement, from Jesus Himself, to the fearful disciples. The same statement is related in Mark’s Gospel:

They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’  He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.  They were (completely) astounded.” (Mark 6:50)

That powerful, declarative statement: “It is I”, literally means, “I am.”  This statement reflects the divine revelatory formula found in the Old Testament passages which reveals the hidden divinity of Jesus as the divine Son of God:

When Moses asks God, “What should I tell the Israelites when they ask, ‘who sent you?’”  God replied, “Tell them, ‘I am who am’ has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)

Later, through Isaiah, God revealed the following:

“Who has performed these deeds?  He who has called forth the generations since the beginning.  I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will also be.  Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.   Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”(Isaiah 41:4, 10, 14).

And, again in Isaiah 43, God says:

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior.  I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in return for you.  You are my witnesses, says the LORD, my servants whom I have chosen To know and believe in me and understand that IT IS I.  Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none.  … yes, from eternity I am He; There is none who can deliver from my hand: who can countermand what I do?” (Isaiah 43:1-3, 10, 13).

So, God set the stage through Moses and the prophets for identifying the “true” “Messiah”: His name shall be “I AM”!   Another translation of the Hebrew and Greek word for “I am” is “It is I”!

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This dramatic incident on the Sea of Galilee revealed Peter’s character more clearly than from the others present for this experience of a sign of Jesus’ true divinity.  Here we see Peter’s impulsivity of his faith; his tendency to act without thinking inspired him to “get out of the boat”.  Then, that same impulsivity inspired Peter to doubt, to worry, and to become scared to death.

Peter often failed and anguished as a result of his impulsiveness.  In contrast, Jesus often hinted to His disciples how difficult it will be (and is) to follow Him; how difficult His path which He taught and lived, is.  You may think and feel that you are sinking at times, overwhelmed by waves of worry, and in the depths of fear; however, the truth is: Jesus Christ is always there to take your hand.  

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Two other interesting things said by Jesus in verse 31 of today’s Gospel reading are revealing as well:

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “’O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”  (Matthew 14 :31)

First, “you of little faith” is also found in Luke, and earlier in Matthew:

“If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? (in Luke 12:28);

And,

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30).

You of little faith” is used by Jesus Christ for those of His disciples whose faith in Him is not as deeply rooted as it should be.  That was certain in Peter’s situation.

Then, the second phrase, “why did you doubt?” uses a verb distinctive to Matthew used in only one other place, in Matthew 28:17:

When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted” (Matthew 28:17).

 

The confession, “Truly, you are the Son of God“, made by all the disciples after they witnessed Jesus helping Peter back into the boat, is in striking contrast to Mark’s description that the disciples are “completely astounded“:

“He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were (completely) astounded.” (Mark 6:51)

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In summary, I believe this story is about the disciples’ growing understanding of the identity of Jesus Christ, living physically among them during their daily struggles.  Related to last week’s Gospel about the feeding of the “crowds”, today’s Gospel is also about what the disciples’ faith in Jesus will enable them to do in THEIR daily lives.  In last week’s Gospel, when the disciples see the crowds, they ask Jesus to send them away.  However, Jesus turns the circumstances around, telling the disciples to feed the crowd with the miniscule provisions they have with them.  For me, both of these Gospels tell much about what ministry “truly” is, and why we need to participate in Jesus’ ministry then, now, and into the future.

 Faith in Jesus Christ, their Savior and ours will enable the disciples to do the work (the mission) which Jesus has done and is still doing on earth.  Remember, Peter truly did walk on water.  The disciples truly fed a large mass of people mysteriously and miraculously with the five loaves and two fish.  Jesus’ disciples (all of US) can and will participate in the work of the kingdom of heaven when we allow Him into our lives, hearts, and souls.  When Peter fears and doubts, he falters in his faith.  Peter’s example teaches us that “true” Catholic Christian ministry (work) emerges from a faithful belief that Jesus is the “true” Messiah, God’s only Son:

See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route?  For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:24-26)

The mission (work) of the Catholic Church is to continue the work Jesus started during His time on earth.  The family, – – the “domestic church”, – – participates in this mission as well.  Please remember that Jesus Himself said:

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

I believe people think too logically – – too “earthly” – – in regards to this particular verse.   “Where two or three are gathered together” does not mean a direct gathering, as one unit or group.  The two or three can be separated by miles, even in different parts of the world, yet still be together – – gathered – – in praising, adoring, and worshiping God.  This is why the “Divine Office” is the official prayer of the Catholic Church.  It is said privately, and as a group, throughout the world, continuously, and in unison.

 

How do you, your family, and your friends participate in the mission (works) of the Catholic Church?  In what ways can you seek to reach out to your neighbors and other people in need through acts of kindness, mercy, and justice?  Peter wanted to be like Jesus, to walk on water as Jesus did.  Take note: Peter was “successful” for a time; but then he doubted as he focused on the externals, the waves and the wind; then he began to sink into the water (like a “rock”).  How are your acts of mercy and justice rooted in your faith in Jesus?  Pray that Jesus Christ will continue to work through you to prepare the kingdom of heaven on earth.

A great deal of failure in Catholic life is due to acting on impulse, emotional fervor, and passion without counting the spiritual cost for such actions.  Peter, in the moment of his failure called out for help, seized Jesus, and held Him firmly in his grip.  Every time Peter fell, he rose again.  His failures only made him love the Lord Jesus Christ more deeply, and to trust Him more intently.  

Jesus Christ keeps watch over us at all times, especially in our moments of temptation, challenges, and difficulties.  Do you rely on Jesus for His strength and help?  Jesus assures us that we have no need to fear if we trust in Him and in His great love for us.  When trials and temptations threaten to overwhelm you, how do you respond?  Do you withdraw?  Or do you stand your ground knowing you have a powerful ally: Jesus Christ?  Let’s “get out of the boat” and stand together in our common, “universal”, Catholic faith!!

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Franciscan Morning Prayer

 

“Jesus Lord, I offer you this new day because I believe in you, love you, hope all things in you and thank you for your blessings.

I am sorry for having offended you and forgive everyone who has offended me.

Lord, look on me and leave in me peace and courage and your humble wisdom that I may serve others with joy, and be pleasing to you all day.  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.

 

There is only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we presently say:

“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest”,

with the new liturgical text we will say:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.

While this may make many people think of round Communion wafers, the meaning here is “armies,” and it refers to the armies of angels who serve God.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Cajetan (1480-1557)

 

Like most of us, Cajetan seemed headed for an “ordinary” life—first as a lawyer, then as a priest engaged in the work of the Roman Curia.

His life took a characteristic turn when he joined the Oratory of Divine Love in Rome, a group devoted to piety and charity, shortly after his ordination at 36.  When he was 42 he founded a hospital for incurables at Venice.  At Vicenza, he joined a “disreputable” religious community that consisted only of men of the lowest stations of life—and was roundly censured by his friends, who thought his action was a reflection on his family.  He sought out the sick and poor of the town and served them.

The greatest need of the time was the reformation of a Church that was “sick in head and members.”  Cajetan and three friends decided that the best road to reformation lay in reviving the spirit and zeal of the clergy. (One of them later became Paul IV.)  Together they founded a congregation known as the Theatines (from Teate [Chieti] where their first superior-bishop had his see).  They managed to escape to Venice after their house in Rome was wrecked when Charles V’s troops sacked Rome in 1527.  The Theatines were outstanding among the Catholic reform movements that took shape before the Protestant Reformation.  He founded a monte de pieta (“mountain [or fund] of piety”) in Naples—one of many charitable, nonprofit credit organizations that lent money on the security of pawned objects.  The purpose was to help the poor and protect them against usurers.  Cajetan’s little organization ultimately became the Bank of Naples, with great changes in policy.

Comment:

If Vatican II had been summarily stopped after its first session in 1962, many Catholics would have felt that a great blow had been dealt to the growth of the Church.  Cajetan had the same feeling about the Council of Trent. But, as he said, God is the same in Naples as in Venice, with or without Trent or Vatican II (or III).  We open ourselves to God’s power in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, and God’s will is done.  God’s standards of success differ from ours.

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:

 

Role Models

 

How is Saint Francis a good model for the norm by which we can judge ourselves, and even others?

(This leads to honesty with God, and serves us well with our examination of conscience – to see how we are in the sight of God – not how other persons see us).

How is the Blessed Virgin Mary a great model for the virtue of humility?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 7 & 8 of 26:

 

07.  United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.”  Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

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08.  As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

 

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“Lazarus Came Out Of the Tomb and Saw His Shadow. We Now Have Two More Weeks Of Lent!” – John 11:1-45†


 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

Today’s Content:

  

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Yippee, the Government did not screech to a halt in such a way as to throw the earth off its rotational axis, as many feared.  Yet sadly, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) caved in on his promise to defund Planned Parenthood.  Anti-abortion lawmakers did succeed however in blocking taxpayer-funded abortions in the District of Columbia (only 50 States to go).  

President Obama succeeded in forcing Boehner, and other Republicans in Congress, to cave in on dozens of items including Planned Parenthood, while protecting favored programs like education, clean energy and medical research.  Representative Boehner, I consider defunding Planned Parenthood as a favored endeavor, and of the utmost urgency!

Yes, the mutually agreed upon bill will remove close to $40 billion from the day-to-day budgets of certain domestic agencies over six months, – – the biggest rollback of such government programs in history.  And yes, it will put the Cabinet operating budgets on a track closer to levels before President Obama took office in 2009.  Yet we (the USA) are throwing God’s miracle in trashcans 3700 times daily, 1.37 million yearly (42 million worldwide)!  Again, how SAD!!

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    
†   847 – St Leo IV begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1512 – Pope Julius II opens 5th Council of Lateranen
†   1585 – Death of Gregory XIII,  [Ugo Buoncampagni], (b. 1502), Italian Pope (1572-85)
†   1704 – Death of William Egon of Fürstenberg, Bishop of Strassburg (b. 1629)
†   1821 – Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople is hanged by the Turks from the main gate of the Patriarchate and his body is thrown into the Bosphorus.
†   1921 – Birth of Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Fulbert of Chartres; James, Azadanus and Abdicius; Saint Paternus

(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:

 

Ben: Dad, why doesn’t the bible say anything about the other three persons that Jesus raised from the dead at the same time as Lazarus?

Dad: Where did you learn that there were three other persons? Lazarus was the only one in that bible story.

Ben: Well Dad, in the bible it says that there were at least four people.

Dad: Where does it say that in the bible?

Ben: Right here Dad (showing him his bible), it says “Lazarus came forth”!

 

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Today’s reflection is about the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

 

 (NAB John 11:1-45) 1 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.  3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”  4 When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.  7 Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”  8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”  9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day?  If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  10 But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”  11 He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”  12 So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”  13 But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.  14 So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died.  15 And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.”  16 So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”  17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.  19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.  20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.  21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  22 (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”  24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”  25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”  28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”  29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.  30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.  31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”  35 And Jesus wept.  36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”  37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”  38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.  39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”  41 So they took away the stone.  And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.  42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.  So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”  45 Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

 

Today’s the second longest continuous Gospel narrative in John’s Gospel read at Mass throughout the Liturgical year.  The only Gospel reading longer is the passion narrative.  This reading invites us to reflect upon what it means to call Jesus the “Resurrection and the life”.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead is also the climax of Jesus’ signs (miracles) before His own death and resurrection.  This Gospel reading directly leads up to the decision by the Sanhedrin to eliminate (kill) Jesus out of fear and jealousy and precipitated the literal fulfillment of Hebrew prophesies found in Isaiah and elsewhere.

A theme of “life” predominates throughout this reading.  Lazarus (His name means “God is my help”) is a symbol of the real “life” that Jesus – – through His death and resurrection – – will give to all who believe in Him.  Just think of the irony in the Lazarus story: Jesus’ gift of life to His friend (and to all of us) will ultimately and directly lead to His own death on the Holy Tree of redemption.

Through Lazarus’ sickness and subsequent death, God brought glory in, and to, Jesus, His only begotten Son.  Jesus, who raised His friend from the dead, did so in an anticipation of His own death and resurrection.  We should remember these two events (Lazarus’s and Jesus’ resurrections) this week in our participation at the Eucharist, which was given to us as a foretaste of Jesus’ “transfiguration” of OUR bodies, at the Parousia, His appearing and full presence – – His second coming. 

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The background of today’s story, – – the raising of Lazarus, – – is the Jewish leaders’ growing animosity toward Jesus.  He had been in Jerusalem, taking part in the “feast of the Dedication”, which we now call, “Hanukkah”, the “feast of Lights”.  The Jewish people had been pushing him to declare plainly whether or not He was the true “Messiah” prophesized.  Jesus tells them to look to His works (and not faith alone), which will testify to His coming from God (for our sake).  Many do not believe Jesus, and a number of them try to stone Him for the [false] sin/crime of “blasphemy”, claiming equality with God the Father.

While Jesus is evading those choosing to do Him harm, word is sent to Him that His friend is ill; yet He delays His journey, purposefully, for two days.  The delay heightens the drama when He eventually arrives in Bethany.  The delay also shows Jesus’ obedience to God, who is to be glorified through Jesus’ delay and Lazarus’s eventual resurrection.  

 

The story of the raising of Lazarus is not found verbatim in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  However, Luke does record another example of Jesus Christ demonstrating His compassion and His divine authority over life and death, as found in Luke 7:11-17: 

“Soon afterward he journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.  As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  A large crowd from the city was with her.  When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’  He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’  The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, ‘A great prophet has arisen in our midst,’ and ‘God has visited his people.’  This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.” (Luke 7:11-17).  

There is another parallel between the Lazarus story and Luke’s parable of the rich man and a “poor man” also named Lazarus:

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.  When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’  Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.  Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’  He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’  But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’  He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.‘” (Luke 16:19-31).

In both stories, a man named Lazarus dies.  However, in Luke, there is a request that Lazarus return from the dead in order to convince his contemporaries of the need for faith and repentance, while in John, Lazarus does return inspiring a belief in the resurrection, and in Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”, in some among them.

 

Bethany was “about two miles” from Jerusalem as stated in verse 18 of today’s reading.  In the original Greek, it was actually about fifteen “stades“.  A stade was a measurement of 607 feet, so with using simple math, this would equate to 9105 feet, or just a tad bit over 1.7 miles.  (Yes, I do love math, and yes I can be a little type “A” when it comes to the subject of math.)

Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters as dear friends, and He often stayed in their home at Bethany.  So, why did Jesus delay in coming to Lazarus’ side when He knew that His friend was gravely ill?

In verse 4, upon hearing of Lazarus’s malady, Jesus says his illness “is not to end in death”.  Do you think this statement was misunderstood by Jesus’ disciples as referring to a “physical”, human death of the body?  In reality, Jesus meant a “NOT – – ending in death”, referring to another kind of death: spiritual death.     

Jesus’ two day delay must have confused and mystified His followers.  However, they seem to be more startled and upset when Jesus finally announced that He was going to Bethany, a town very close in proximity to Jerusalem.  They saw this action as a “suicide” mission of sorts.  Jesus’ followers (and most certainly Jesus) knew the religious authorities (the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) were set on eliminating the threat to them from Jesus.  

For Jesus to come to a place as dangerous for Him as Jerusalem was, at this Passover time was, an act of courage and an act of total trust and love in His heavenly Father.  Jesus’ explanation given to His disciples was simple and challenging at the same time:

“Are there not twelve hours in the day?” (John 11:9)

To paraphrase (a potentially dangerous thing to do with Holy Scripture), Jesus said: “There are enough hours in the day to do what one must do.”  A day, in a chronological form, can never be shortened, lengthened, hurried, or slowed, for it is a fixed period of measurement.  We each have our “day”, or “time”, whether it be short or long (even if it is only “15 minutes of fame”), if we look at a “day” as in the sequential form. 

While time is limited chronologically, there is always enough time for us to accomplish what God intends for us to finish.  Remember, God knows all, and gives each of us an allotted measure of human – – mortal – – life to do what is our part of God’s plan.  So, the choice for us is either to waste it through personal self-gratification, or use it to the greatest ability for God’s glory in all we do and say. 

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Lazarus was “sick”.  Sickness can befall us for a variety of reasons.   Jesus attributed Lazarus’ sickness to the glory of God.  The glory which Jesus had in mind, however, was connected with the Holy Cross – – The Holy Tree of Redemption.   He saw the Holy Cross as His supreme glory – – and the path to glory in the kingdom of God.  For Jesus there was no other path to glory except through the cross; this was God the Father’s plan for salvation, for Jesus Himself, for the whole family of Abraham, and for all people of all nations.. 

Jesus knew that if He went to help Lazarus He would expose himself to grave danger from those in Jerusalem who were plotting His destruction.  Jesus was willing to pay that price to help His friend; to give His life for another.  Jesus would explicitly declare this truth in what would be written a few chapters later in John’s Gospel:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Are you ready to give help – – to give your own life – – for your friend?  That may seem like a relatively easy thing to do (emphasis is on the word “may”!).  Now, let me throw out the proverbial “ringer”: as a Catholic, as a Christian, are you ready to give help? – – to give your own life? – – for one’s enemy?!! 

Jesus did not segregate the two groups; and neither should we!

 

Jesus did not let circumstances or pressure dictate what He would do.  Nor did He permit others to determine His actions or plan for salvation.  He took actions on His own initiative and on His own schedule.  How often do we try to get God to do things in our way and on our self-determined period of time?  One of my favorite old-time sayings which I just made up is:

“We are on God’s time, and His pocket watch sticks occasionally!” (DEH, 2011) 

 

Let’s go back to the reference about 12 hours in a day.  Both the Romans and the Jews divided the day into twelve equal hours from sunrise to sunset.  We would think of this division as starting around 6 AM and ending at 6 PM – – in accord with God’s natural sequence of light and dark.  The day’s work and travel ceased when the daylight was gone – – when darkness fell over the earth.  Jesus made a spiritual analogy using this concept of light and dark in our relationship with God. 

Jesus is the “Light of the World”!  He is the Son Shine that makes the Sunshine.  Remember the words, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).  For those who do not believe in Him, “the light is not in him”!  In the pre-modern scientific world of Jesus’ time, people apparently did not understand clearly the concept of light entering through the eye.  They seem to have thought of light as being in the eye, as illustrated in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels:

If your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.  And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.” (Matthew 6:23).

And,

The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness.” (Luke 11:34);

While the light of Christ is with us, and actually within us and surrounding us, then, as Paul says, we must live and walk in the truth and grace of His life, which is His light within us.  Sometimes the light within us is darkness when we are not following Jesus Christ as we should, and we then experience the need to be reconciled with God the Father.  There’s a perfect time to be reconciled with God – – NOW!!   

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When Jesus announced that when He was going to the region of Jerusalem after hearing of Lazarus’ death, Thomas showed remarkable courage, as shown in His words recorded by John:

Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.” (John 11:16)

This courage, however, was not tempered with faith, trust, and hope in God’s promise to bring a victory out of defeat – – a resurrection out of death.  The proof for this statement is that even though Thomas was a witness to Lazarus’ resurrection, he later abandoned his master, teacher, and dear friend when Jesus was arrested.  He doubted his master’s resurrection until Jesus appeared to him and showed him, directly, the wounds in His hands, feet, and side.  (Hence, how the origin of the description “Doubting Thomas” came about.).  

It is through faith, courage, trust, and love that we get the strength we need to persist through any worldly trial and/or suffering which confronts us in this human and mortal exile.  If we embrace our personal crosses with faith, courage, trust, and love in God, we too will have the assurance that we will see victory and glory made possible through Jesus Christ, our personal and familial Savior.

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When Martha and Mary met Jesus with weeping, they declared to Him that if He had been there, their brother Lazarus would not have died.  They also expressed confidence and faith that God would do whatever Jesus would ask NOW.  They TRUSTED God!  They still TRUSTED Jesus Christ!  They clearly affirmed their belief in Jesus Christ and in the resurrection of the dead “in the last days”.

Martha says that she believes Jesus to be “the Messiah”, “the Son of God”, and “the One”.   All of these titles from verse 27 are a summary of the titles given to Jesus found in all the Gospels.  As in any good book (get the pun), there is always a summary of facts just prior to the climax of the story.  The use of these titles summarizes Jesus’ role as the “one” prophesized by Moses, coming to save the “chosen” people of God.

 

Interestingly for me, the shocking phrase, “became perturbed”, in the original Greek, literally means “He snorted in spirit“.  Jesus’ “snort” is defined by Encarta Dictionary as a harsh sound produced by forcing air through the nostrils in order to express feelings, especially feelings of contempt or impatience.  Jesus’ contemporaries were upset with His delay and His slow arrival in Bethany.  But, Jesus too, was upset.  He was obviously impatient at the presence of the evil of physical death present at this scene, and at the “professional” mourners who came from Jerusalem to cry attentively at Lazarus’ tomb.  You know the old adage, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature”, and I think it is even more ill-advised to get Jesus “perturbed” at you!  A perturbed Jesus may even trump a perturbed wife; something I personally know well (without even trying most times)!

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Throughout all four Gospels, Jesus regularly refers to God as His “Father”, a translation of the Aramaic word, “abba”.  Jesus regularly addresses God with a concept of filial intimacy as a son’s relationship with, and feelings toward, His parent.  The word “abba” seems not to have been regularly used in earlier or contemporaneous Jewish sources to address God.  Other occurrences of this Aramaic word are only found in the New Testament, in the books of Romans and Galatians:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:15);

And,

As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6)

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Jesus asks to be brought to Lazarus’s tomb where He prays and calls Lazarus out from the tomb.  At this sign, – – this miracle – – many come to believe in Jesus, but others take word of the miracle to the Jewish authorities, who begin their plans for Jesus’ death.

Our Lord “cried out in a loud voice” and Lazarus came out of the tomb.  In the drama of this event, I think back to an earlier verse in John’s Gospel:

The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” (John 5:28)

Lazarus was still wrapped in his burial strips, and his face was still covered.  This man could not remove his bindings, nor could he remove what blinded him.  He needed the assistance of another, Jesus Christ, to remove his darkness and oppressive wrappings.  SO DO WE!!

In a short time, Jesus Himself will be wrapped in bindings and a cloth will be placed over His face.  However, in three days, those bindings will be found in His rock-hewed tomb untied.  Their magnificent Lord and Savior vanished from the tomb.  The cloth that was draped over His face (I believe it was the tallit, a Jewish religious prayer shawl/robe) was found folded and placed carefully (and reverently) on the shelf which Jesus laid upon, while dead.

 

What a stark difference between the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus Christ.  Lazarus was resurrected to fulfill Jesus’ ministry, God’s plan of salvation for him.  Jesus was resurrected to fulfill completely God’s plan of salvation and redemption for all of us.  

Remember, Lazarus needed help to remove his oppressive and sight-blinding bindings.  Jesus is the “authority” who instructed others to remove such bindings from Lazarus.  He will do the same for us as we allow Him more fully into our lives.   Jesus Christ is the “light of the world” who will open our eyes to the beauty of God’s creation, here on earth, and in heaven.  (Never to be blinded again.)

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Lazarus may be the luckiest and most blessed person that I can think of right now.  He had a personal, direct, and physical relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ on a daily basis.  Yet, why can’t we as well?  He lives in us in the form of the Holy Spirit, and we can personally, directly, and physically receive Him in the Eucharist at Mass and at Eucharistic Adoration on a daily basis.

Lazarus also gets to experience the gift and beauty of resurrection to bodily form twice.  He experienced a bodily resurrection, as reported in this story; and will again experience a bodily resurrection, at the Parousia.  Twice, he will experience a unique, personal, and extreme love which is emitting from his Creator and Redeemer – – Jesus Christ!  We will be privileged to experience this grace once, yet he gets a double dose!  You know what?  Once will be good enough for me!  And, in a sense, I can’t wait!  (I hope my ticket is stamped “non-smoking”, – – and is up-front, first class.  I’ve had enough of coach.)

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Set against the background of Jesus’ looming death, many elements of the raising of Lazarus prefigure the “good news” of Jesus’ own Resurrection.  Soon to face the tension and clash with Jewish authorities, Jesus acts in complete obedience to God the Father.  In raising Lazarus, Jesus shows His power over death so that when Jesus dies, those who believe in Him might remember, and take hope in His promises.  Just as Jesus calls for the stone to be rolled away from Lazarus’s tomb, so too will the disciples find the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.

Today, reflect on Baptism as a dying and rising with Jesus.  In Baptism we die to sin’s power over us, rising as children of God.  In Baptism, Jesus joins us to Himself.  As He conquered death once and for all so that we – – who believe in him – – may have eternal life, we are freed from fear of death.  With Martha and Mary, we are called to profess our belief that Jesus is indeed the Resurrection for each of us personally.  Our future will be enjoying completely the unending life in His light.

 

In Summary, Jesus’ promise of eternal life is a fundamental element of our Catholic faith.  Today’s Gospel reading encourages us to recognize, accept, and respond to Jesus’ triumph, power, and victory over death as demonstrated in the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  During this Lenten Season, we need to anticipate and to praise in Jesus conquering death – – once and for all – – by His own dying (never to be repeated), and by His Rising (in a miracle), which each of us will experience on that glorious day, the Parousia.  

We sometimes use examples from nature to help describe this miracle, this gift, this mystery of our faith.  Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself talked about the seed that dies when planted in the ground in order to produce new life:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24).

Using this image of the “grain of wheat dying to produce much fruit”, we find hope and confidence in “Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life”.

Remember Jesus’ promise from today’s Gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  What does Jesus mean by this promise in your life?  Are you confident in this promise from Jesus Christ?  Pray that you will be, and will remain confident in Jesus’ promise of eternal life.  Remember what Pope St. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:3-4: It is by believing “the precious and very great promises” that we “participate in the divine nature” of God.  (We call this Sanctifying Grace.)

The Christian creed, which is the profession of our faith, is a profession, a belief, in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and in the saving power of the Holy Trinity as demonstrated in the Resurrection of Jesus the Son.  That’s why we also proclaim a belief in a resurrection of the dead on the last day, and in an everlasting life.  This IS OUR faith and hope:  This is a biblically based statement of faith declared through today’s Gospel:

“If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11).

God gives us the power of His Holy Spirit that we may be made alive in the light of Jesus Christ.  Through the Holy Spirit, we can even experience the power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in our personal lives – – NOW – – even today!  The Holy Spirit is ever ready to change, to convert, and to transform us into people of faith, hope, and love; into faith filled sons and daughters.  Amen, and Amen.

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The Creed

(From the “New” Missal starting with Advent, 2011)

 

 

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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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.

Currently, the priest says, “The Lord be with you” five times: at the Entrance Rite, before the Gospel, when the Eucharistic Prayer starts, at “the sign of peace”, and finally at the dismissal. The new response from the congregation will be:

“And with your spirit

instead of “And also with you”.

This is a more direct translation of the Latin and matches what many other language groups have been using for years.  It will obviously take some adjustment, since we have been used to saying, “And also with you,” for so long.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Magdalen of Canossa (1774-1835)

 

Wealth and privilege did nothing to prevent today’s saint from following her calling to serve Christ in the poor.  Nor did the protests of her relatives, concerned that such work was beneath her.

Born in northern Italy in 1774, Magdalen knew her mind—and spoke it.  At age 15 she announced she wished to become a nun.  After trying out her vocation with the cloistered Carmelites, she realized her desire was to serve the needy without restriction.  For years she worked among the poor and sick in hospitals and in their homes and among delinquent and abandoned girls.

In her mid-twenties Magdalen began offering lodging to poor girls in her own home.  In time she opened a school, which offered practical training and religious instruction.  As other women joined her in the work, the new Congregation of the Daughters of Charity emerged.  Over time, houses were opened throughout Italy.

Members of the new religious congregation focused on the educational and spiritual needs of women.  Magdalen also founded a smaller congregation for priests and brothers.  Both groups continue to this day.

She died in 1835. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1988.

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:

 

Sickness/Death

 

What impression is created by St. Francis calling death his “sister”?  How did St. Francis face death?  What was his mindset?

How does St. Francis’ attitude toward sickness and death compare to your own, and/or the Catholic Church’s?

Why do we act sometimes as if it’s not right that we should be getting sick?

What virtues does Francis ask us to practice when we are sick?

Why do Christians sometimes have the idea that sickness is a punishment for having done things wrong?  Some seem to say: “If I do not picture myself as a big sinner, why should I be suffering this way”? (Reflect on Jesus’ powerful message to the apostles in John’s Gospel, chap.9:3.)

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 10 & 11 of 26:


 

10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

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11. Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.

“Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold, Jesus Christ is Eight Days Old!” – Luke 2:22-40†


  

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2011

 

General Intention: That the family may be respected by all in its identity and that its irreplaceable contribution to all of society be recognized.

 

Missionary Intention: That in the mission territories where the struggle against disease is most urgent, Christian communities may witness to the presence of Christ to those who suffer.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   672 – Death of Saint Chad
†   962 – Translatio imperii: Pope John XII crowns Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, the first Holy Roman Emperor in nearly 40 years.
†   1119 – Guido di Borgogna elected Pope Callistus II
†   1613 – Birth of Noël Chabanel, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
†   1649 – Birth of Benedict XIII, [Pierfrancesco Orsini], Italy, 245th pope (1724-30)
†   1769 – Death of Clement XIII, [Carlo Rezzonico], Pope (1758-69), at age 75
†   1854 – Pope Pius IX encyclical “On persecution of Armenians”
†   1882 – The Knights of Columbus are formed in New Haven, Connecticut.
†   1906 – Pope encyclical against separation of church & state
†   1925 – Birth of David Abell Wood, priest
†   1974 – Pope Paul VI encyclical “To Honor Mary”
†   1983 – Pope John Paul II names 18 new cardinals
†   1986 – Dalai Lama meets Pope John Paul II in India
†   1995 – Death of Andre Frossard, French publicist (Defense of Pope), at age 80
†   Feasts/Memorials: Candlemas; The Presentation of the Lord; The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; St. Adelbald; St. Cornelius
†   Eastern (Byzantine) Catholic Church: Encounter of our Lord with Simeon – Major Feast Day
†   World Day for Consecrated Life (also February 3 in the United States).

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Catholic Church’s are prayer-conditioned for your (eternal) enjoyment!”

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 10 of 13 Parts

John Paul II, in his Message in 2002, questions this and challenges us to see to it that we never fail in our faithfulness to our vocation and Profession:

If you are truly driven by the Spirit to reach the perfection of charity in your own secular state, “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity marked by a minimalist ethic and superficial religiosity” (Nove millennio ineunte 31). You must be sincerely committed to that “high standard of ordinary Christian living” to which I invited the faithful at the end of the Great Jubilee of 2000 (Ibid).

Let us be called, brothers and sisters, by these exhortations to renew our commitment and walk with courage and humility in the ways of the Lord.

It is all about, dearest brothers and sisters:

  • examining our own faith
  • examining our faithfulness to our vocation and Profession of Evangelical Life
  • examining and renewing the authenticity of our permanent “conversion”
(Continued on next published blog)
From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ presentation in the Temple.

 

22 When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” 24 and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.  25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.  26 It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.  27 He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, 28 he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: 29 “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.  38 And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.  39 When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.  (NAB Luke 2:22-40)

 

The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows that Joseph and Mary were devout Jews and faithful followers of the Mosaic Law (Like we really need more proof!).  Just as John [the Baptist] had been incorporated into the Jewish faithful of Israel through his circumcision (just a few months earlier), the infant Jesus becomes a member of God’s “chosen people” through the same action of His own “sacred” circumcision.   By Mosaic Law, it is at this time that a Jewish baby received his name:  in this case, “Jesus”, meaning “God Saves.”   Jesus is now considered part of the “chosen people” of God, in the same respect and distinction religiously as Simeon, Anna, and even the parents of John:

Both [John’s parents] were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly” (Luke 1:6)

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”  (Luke 2:25)

“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.”  (Luke 2:36-37).

 

Any woman who gave birth to a boy was unable to touch anything sacred (except her husband – [he, he]), or to enter the temple area by reason of her “legal” impurity for forty days according to the Mosaic Law:

 ”Tell the Israelites: When a woman has conceived and gives birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, with the same uncleanness as at her menstrual period.   On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in becoming purified of her blood; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled.  If she gives birth to a girl, for fourteen days she shall be as unclean as at her menstruation, after which she shall spend sixty-six days in becoming purified of her blood.  “When the days of her purification for a son or for a daughter are fulfilled, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent a yearling lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering.  The priest shall offer them up before the LORD to make atonement for her, and thus she will be clean again after her flow of blood.  Such is the law for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl child.  If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, the one for a holocaust and the other for a sin offering.  The priest shall make atonement for her, and thus she will again be clean.”  (Leviticus 12:2-8)

At the end of this period she was required by Mosaic Law to offer a year-old lamb as a burnt offering, and a turtle-dove or young pigeon as an atonement of sin.  The Holy Family could not afford the customary offering of a lamb.  According to today’s Gospel, Mary’s offering instead was two turtle-doves or two young pigeons (as allowed by Mosaic Law).  So, is this proof of Mary and Joseph led a humble and austere life?

 Yep, Jesus was born in an ordinary home without many (if any) extras or luxuries. Like all God-fearing parents, Mary and Joseph raised Jesus in a belief, fear, and wisdom of God through their Judaic religious faith, practices, and traditions.  With such devout parents, Jesus, being obedient to His mother and stepfather, grew in wisdom and grace.

 

They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem (which means “city of peace”) to present him to God.  As the firstborn son, Jesus was consecrated to God as the Law required:

Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.  You shall dedicate to the LORD every son that opens the womb; and all the male firstlings of your animals shall belong to the LORD.”  (Exodus 13:2, 12) 

 

The “Law” further stipulated that any firstborn son should be redeemed by the parents through a payment of five shekels. 

You shall take five shekels for each individual, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel.   Give this silver to Aaron and his sons as ransom for the extra number.” (Numbers 3:47-48) 

Five shekels amounted to just about 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of pure silver.   The probable reason for the Temple obligation of “redeeming” the firstborn son through the giving to the Temple expressly “five shekels” is found in the Book of Numbers:

“Every living thing that opens the womb, whether of man or of beast, such as are to be offered to the LORD shall be yours; but you must let the first-born of man, as well as of unclean animals, be redeemed.   The ransom for a boy is to be paid when he is a month old; it is fixed at five silver shekels according to the sanctuary standard, twenty gerahs to the shekel.”  (Numbers 18:15-16)

I found a couple of possible explanations for “five shekels” of silver being used for the regulation just mentioned above.  One of which I found elsewhere in Holy Scripture, and the other in Wikipedia.  

First, let’s look at Holy Scripture.  In Genesis, Rachel’s firstborn son, Joseph (You know, the one with the fancy coat) was sold by his brothers for twenty silver pieces (which is equivalent of “five shekels” per my Bible commentaries).

“They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt.”  (Genesis 37:28)

This may have established that the “standard price” for a firstborn son being “five shekels” for the ransom to “redeem” the child.  Interesting for me is that “twenty pieces of silver” was the exact price paid to Judas for betraying Jesus.  Could this infer the payment required to redeem us?!

The Second source for this amount of money comes from the “Zohar”, a book from a Jewish “mystical” belief known as Kabbalah.  Per the “Zohar”, the number five (5) is symbolic of the Hebrew letter “hei”, which was added to Abram’s name (becoming Abraham) when the time came for him to father Isaac, – – and the Jewish nation – – as written in the Book of Genesis:

No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations.”  (Genesis 17:5)

God’s choosing of the Jewish people as His “nation”, and the consecration and redemption of the firstborn alludes to Abraham.  Thus, FIVE (5) shekels is the price for redemption.

 

What we DO know for certain, is that Jesus is presented to God at the Temple in Jerusalem as a baby; paying for the privilege of being consecrated to the service of God, as was all firstborn sons of the Jewish faithful.  Jesus however, also paid for OUR privilege of being saved from sin and death through His human pain, suffering, and death on that Holy Tree some thirty odd years later into His human and earthly life.  He will again be presented in this same place, this SAME Temple, at the end of His earthly ministry.  At this time Jesus will be presented not as the newborn infant, but instead as the “Messiah Christ!!”  Still a consecrated servant of God, Jesus offered far greater than a few coins to pay for His privilege of servicing God, and redeeming His people.  He offered His life and death – – for our “redemption”. 

Simeon (His name translates to “God has heard” – WOW!) was not a priest, but instead simply just a devout worshiper, always in the Temple.  He reminds me of an elderly gentleman I know (named John) whom I see at my local parish church nearly every single time I am there.  This man is always observed picking up little pieces of trash, straightening books, cleaning the parking lot, pruning the church and grotto flowers, dusting,  – – and of course praying! 

Though not a priest, Simeon obviously was close to his (and ours) loving God in the simple and miraculous fact that he received a prophetic vision that very few fellow “sinful humans” are privileged to experience.  This vision was given to him directly from God (no messenger here), and it was about the “Messiah”.  Simeon here (and Anna later) speaks about the child “Savior” that all faithful Jews were awaiting with anticipation.  Jesus is the ONE awaited “child” who is the “Redeemer” of Jerusalem as prophesized in the Old Testament.  Simeon recognized Jesus as “a sign that will be contradicted” – – a Messiah “destined for the fall and rise of many.” (Luke 2:34)

Simeon and Anna represent the hopes and expectations of faithfully devout Jews who were looking forward to the full and true restoration of God’s rule in Israel.  The birth of Jesus joyfully and gloriously brought these hopes to fulfillment for these two faithful servants of God (and for many others also).

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Simeon prophesied that Jesus was to be “a light for revealing to the Gentiles“.  Five centuries earlier Malachi prophesied such an event (Malachi 3:1).  The Holy Spirit always reveals the presence of the Lord to those who are open, receptive and ready to receive him.  Do you recognize the presence of the Lord within and working through you?

How exciting it would be to actually see someone of a divine nature you had actually hoped and prayed for over many years, and to actually recognize that divinity in the infant child fully and truly alive and present before you.  In his excitement Simeon extols openly and publicly a beautiful prayer:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:29-30)

He is now ready to die – – ready to be with God in paradise – – because he has found “salvation” in his very presence on earth.  A salvation he had awaited his entire life.

I still remember the instance I looked at my wife on our wedding day, and each of my new-born children in the delivery room.  The excitement and happiness I felt at those moments was so elating.  Would not gazing upon the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord, have to be many times greater than these most profound moments I witnessed in my life?  I cannot wait to gaze upon you, my Lord and my all

The Jewish “Presentation” ritual, along with the associated circumcision of males, and the redemption of the first-born, points to the fact that children are truly and fully gifts from God. So why are large numbers of infants killed daily in an infanticide erroneously called “therapeutic abortions”?  There is absolutely NOTHING “therapeutic” about this tragedy! 

Remember, Simeon was not alone in recognizing the Lord’s presence in the temple.  Anna, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Anna was a beautifully spiritual woman.  Through her faith and actions, she presents a model of devoutness, righteousness, and saintliness to the trust, hope, and faith in God as we advance in age, especially into the elder years.  Advancing age, and the tragedies and disappointments of life, can easily make us sad, cynical, and hopeless if we do not have our hope and trust in eternal paradise with God firmly rooted into our soul.  Anna’s hope and trust in God and His promises grew in her with age.  It resulted in a bountiful harvest of spirituality blossoming in, through, and out of her soul and heart.  She never ceased to worship God in faith and to pray with a hope and trust in God’s plan of salvation.  

 

When reading Simeon’s prophesies, they are so somber to me.  “Many will reject Jesus.”  Even in His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus (and the Holy Family) was ostracized by neighbors who may have thought Jesus was simply an illegitimate child of Mary, whom herself was merely thought of by many “neighbors” as an “adulterer” while still only “betrothed” to Joseph.  Jesus brought a new “covenant” to all people (including His town-folks) regardless of their status, nationality, or even beliefs, past actions, and/or behaviors. 

 “And you yourself a sword will pierce” (from verse 35) is so dismal, depressing, and prophetic for me!  Who would want their mother to be in pain?  However, Mary herself will not be untouched by the various reactions to the life and teachings of her loving child, Jesus.  Her gift of being the mother of the Lord will be challenged by her son, Jesus!!  Jesus Himself describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it.”

“While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.  He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’   (Luke 11:27-28)

“He was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.’  He said to them in reply, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.’”  (Luke 8:20-21).

Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph.  He prophesied to Mary about the destiny of Jesus, and the suffering she would undergo for His sake.  The Virgin Mother was given the “blessedness” of being the true mother of the Son of God (and thus the mother of God as well).  That blessedness was also a two-edged sword, piercing her heart as her beloved Son suffered and died upon the Holy Tree.  She received simultaneously – – a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow – – as her son received a crown of thorns.

Jesus did not come wielding a sword, or destructive weapon of any kind.  Yet, He dies at the hands of others.  Weapons of evil and destruction are wielded against Him.  Instead of a destructive weapon, Jesus wielded a CON-structive weapon against evil – – His “good news” – – the Gospel of salvation!  Loyalty to Jesus leads each of us to a pointed sword pressing against our “hearts” and souls: – – our relationships, our reputations, our ambitions, and even our monetary and earthly treasures.

 

The Jerusalem Temple is long gone, leaving a simple piece of one wall as its only physical remnant to the past.  However, Jesus is now the NEW temple: (John 1:14; 2:19-22).  

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)   

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’  The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking about the temple of his body.  Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:19-22)   

In the Old Testament God manifested his presence in the “pillar of cloud” by day and the “pillar of fire” at night as He led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness.  God’s magnificent and supreme glory came to dwell in a visible way over the ark and tabernacle:

Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling, the Israelites would set out on their journey.  But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward; only when it lifted did they go forward.  In the daytime the cloud of the LORD was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud by the whole house of Israel in all the stages of their journey.”  (Exodus 40:34-38)

When the first temple was built in Jerusalem God’s glory came to rest there (cf., 1 Kings 8).  After the first temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw God’s glory leave it (cf., Ezekiel 10).  But God promised one day to fill it with even greater glory (see Haggai 2:1-9; Zechariah 8-9).  That promise is fulfilled when the “King of Glory” himself comes to his temple:  

“Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.  Who is this king of glory?  The LORD, a mighty warrior, the LORD, mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.  Who is this king of glory?  The LORD of hosts is the king of glory.”  (Psalm 24:7-10)

“I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.  Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1)

Through Jesus’ coming in the flesh along with His saving death, resurrection, and ascension we are made living temples for his Holy Spirit:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”  (1 Cor. 3:16-17) 

Open the doors to your heart, soul, thoughts, and actions for the Holy Spirit to dwell in, and to work in and through you.  Welcome Him in with open arms.  Grasp God in a bear hug of love and want.  Give Him your best in everything.

 

What a radical departure from ‘traditional’ JudaismJesus awakened and probably scared some people in His teachings, approach, and life style.  There appeared to be many reasons for not wanting to be “around” this man named Jesus, or to follow Him.  However, when condensed, all these reasons were simply and purely out of plain, simple fear; a fear that I believe stemmed from ignorance.  This ignorance could be seen throughout Holy Scripture in the fear emanated from the watchful eyes of the Temple priests and elders; and in the fear from the Roman government who was concerned about civil unrest and uprisings stemming from Jesus’ teachings and activities.

The model believer of trust and hope, the model disciple of Christ – – was Mary.  She had to decide what her role was going to be in salvation history: either to follow God’s plan or her own.  Though she was truly the faithful mother of God, Mary still had ‘free will.’  Family ties do not create faith – – only faith creates faith

She did not want to leave her homeland any more than Joseph wanted to leave.  However, according to God’s plan, Mary would have to escape to Egypt in order to protect her baby Jesus.  She would have to experience the fear of losing a child for three days in His youth.  And, Sadly, Mary would have to witness the devastation and despair of Jesus’ trial, scourging, crucifixion, and burial.

Mary, and Jesus, had to tread a rough and treacherous path hewed out for her by God, but isn’t sacrificing the “language” of love?  It is because of her sharing so much in the pain, suffering, and humiliation of Jesus, that she is called the “co-redemptrix” – – the co-redeemer – – in the Catholic Church.

Through all of these trials of faith – – Mary never faltered.  I believe she handled all these “sorrows” because she knew what was needed, and expected from herself, and from her son.  More importantly, Mary trusted in God’s providence at every stage in hers and Jesus’ life.  Even prior to Jesus’ birth, the teenage Mary had already surrendered her soul, her heart, and her body to God.  She allowed the Holy Spirit to dwell in her – – and act through her.  Mary had NO doubts about God in her life, and in her priorities.  Even in the worst of times for her and her son on this earth, she never lost her faith, love, and trust in God’s plan for her.  We can, and we need, to learn from her example.  Please help me Lord to find the strength and fortitude to love, trust, and follow you as did your blessed mother, Mary, so perfectly demonstrated for us all.  

Do you know the joy of submission to God? Do you seek to pass on the Catholic faith, helping others to grow in wisdom, grace, and obedience to His word?  What do you hope for in your life, and in your families’ future?  How can you grow in hope?  We all must place our total faith, hope, and trust in the promises of Jesus Christ.  We must rely on the love, grace, and support of the Holy Spirit.  Does your hope and fervor for God grow with age?

Jesus promised that “no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).  God gives us a mysterious grace of joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain, and which neither life nor death can take way.  One of my favorite short prayers highlights this mystery:

Jesus, there is nothing that is going to happen today that you and I can’t handle together.”

Ask Jesus Christ to renew your faith in the presence of His Holy Spirit living within you, and working through you for His glory.  Give Him thanks and praise for coming to you and each of us individually.  Thank Him for making His home (and place of business on earth) with and within you – – and through you!

 

Morning Offering

 

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, and for the intentions recommended by our Holy Father for this month.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours.

O Mary, my Queen, my Mother, I give myself entirely to you, and to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being without reserve.  Wherefore good Mother, as I am your own, keep me, guard me as your property and possession. 

St. Joseph, model and patron of those who love the Sacred Heart, pray for me.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Presentation of the Lord

 

At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the Epiphany (January 6), the observance of Christ’s birth, and the gala procession in honor of his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later—February 15. (Under the Mosaic Law, a woman was ritually “unclean” for 40 days after childbirth, when she was to present herself to the priests and offer sacrifice—her “purification.” Contact with anyone who had brushed against mystery—birth or death—excluded a person from Jewish worship.) This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple more than Mary’s purification.

The observance spread throughout the Western Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. Because the Church in the West celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25, the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas.

At the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession; at the end of the same century the blessing and distribution of candles which continues to this day became part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name: Candlemas.

Comment:

In Luke’s account, Jesus was welcomed in the temple by two elderly people, Simeon and the widow Anna. They embody Israel in their patient expectation; they acknowledge the infant Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Early references to the Roman feast dub it the feast of St. Simeon, the old man who burst into a song of joy which the Church still sings at day’s end.

Quote:

“Christ himself says, ‘I am the light of the world.’ And we are the light, we ourselves, if we receive it from him…. But how do we receive it, how do we make it shine? …[T]he candle tells us: by burning, and being consumed in the burning. A spark of fire, a ray of love, an inevitable immolation are celebrated over that pure, straight candle, as, pouring forth its gift of light, it exhausts itself in silent sacrifice” (Paul VI).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 2 & 3 of 26:

 

2.  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.

 

 

3.  The present rule, succeeding “Memoriale Propositi” (1221) and the rules approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times. Its interpretation belongs to the Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions and particular statutes. 

“He Thinks He Can Walk On Water!” – Mark 6:45-52†


            

Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1438 – Pope Eugenius IV deallocated council of Basel to Ferrara
†   1531 – Pope Clemens VII forbids English king Henry VIII to re-marry
†   1860 – Death of St John Nepomucene Neumann, 1st male US saints
†   1962 – A replica of the miraculous statue, the Holy Infant of Good Health, is presented to Blessed Pope John XXIII.
†   1964 – Pope Paul VI visits Jordan & Israel
†   The eleventh day of Christmas, and the Twelfth Night of Christmas in Western Christianity.
†   Feast day: St. John Neumann; Simeon Stylites; Pope Telesphorus

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

 Part 02 of 13 Parts

“The letter repeats John Paul II’s appeal regarding what the Church has always expected and looked for from us, in order to be able truly to rely on each one of us, just as She could rely on Francis and all his Family.”

“The Holy See constantly reminds us, authoritatively and insistently, that we are a living, integral and essential part of the Church, where we must exercise in full our role as a living body.”

(Continued on next published blog)

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

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus walking on water during a storm.

 

 

45 Then he made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  46 And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.  47 When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore.  48 Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them.  About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea.  He meant to pass by them.  49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out.  50 They had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  51 He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.  They were (completely) astounded.  52 They had not understood the incident of the loaves.  On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.  (NAB Mark 6:45-52)

 

 

 

Jesus had just fed 5000 men (and unknown women and children) with just a few fish and loaves of bread.  After this “miracle”, He tells His disciples to start for Bethsaida (across the sea) by boat while He prays.  A storm surges while they were en-route on their voyage.  These scared disciples see Jesus walking on the water obviously near the boat, and call out to Him.

(Trivia time:  The Jewish people of that time divided the night into four periods.  The “fourth watch” was the period just prior to dawn – the darkest part of the night.)

Would Jesus actually just walk “past them” (v. 48)?  He told them to go by boat in the first place!  He interrupted His prayers and came to them, getting His sandals and feet soaked. (Did Jesus ever get athlete’s feet?)  Thus, would Jesus simply walk past them in their time of need?

Heck NO, He would not!!  And, He still doesn’t walk by us today when we are in need.  Jesus is not indifferent to our tough times and situations.  He lives with us in a relationship of love with Him.

This is not the first time Jesus is seen walking on water.  In Matthew 14:22-33, not only does Jesus walk on the surface of the water, Peter does the same.  Peter steps out of the boat and walks toward Jesus, but Peter apparently lost focus or faith (or something) and starts to sink.  I personally believe Peter started sinking because Jesus made him the “ROCK”, and everyone knows rocks sink – like rocks – in water!

In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus sends his disciples away to fend for themselves in the dark of the night while a storm begins to brew on the sea.  The disciples are engrossed in the labor of paddling, and fighting against the turbulent seas.  When they saw Jesus walking on the water, did they think He was a ghost waiting for their imminent deaths?  Regardless, Jesus had to calm them with his reassuring voice:

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  (Mark 6:50)

Jesus shows His power over the raging waters as He also does in Matthew 8:26:

“He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’  Then He got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.”

You have to remember, these men were experienced fishermen.  Yet, they feared for their lives.  Jesus was not with them in the boat.  Yet, He watched over them in His actions and prayers.  When Jesus saw their fear and trouble, He came to them on the sea.  And even in this action, these disciples were startled by His sudden appearance.

In today’s reading Jesus truly expresses His power over nature through the action of His walking on the sea.  Both Mark and Matthew in their Gospels, incorporate a couple of Old Testament Bible readings into this story:

Through the sea was your path; your way, through the mighty waters, though your footsteps were unseen.”  (Psalm 77:20)

 “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea.”  (Job 9:8)

 

Jesus sent these “chosen” men ahead of Him “to the other side toward Bethsaida”.  Bethsaida was a simple and obscure village at the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  I believe Phillip, Andrew, and Peter (3 of the 12 apostles) were from this tiny village.  Bethsaida is mentioned a total of seven times throughout the four Gospels.

 

After sending His followers off via boat, Jesus “went off to the mountain to pray”.  Jesus loves to pray in private, and it is apparent going to mountain enclaves was His preference.  Jesus prayed a large amount throughout Holy Scripture, and not always on mountain tops though.  Earlier, in Mark 1:35-38, it is written:

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.  Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”  He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come.”

And, in John 6:15, Jesus withdrew to pray to evade any involvement with open defiance of the government in His role as “Savior.”.

“Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone”.  (John 6:15)

Speaking about Jesus’ habit of praying, being a devout Jew, He most certainly had a Tallit, a Jewish prayer robe or shawl, with attached tassels called “Tzitzit” at the four corners.  When in prayer, the Tallit is literally wrapped around the person’s torso and over the head.  In essence, in doing so, the devout Jew is wrapped in the “actual presence of God”, as they have (even today) a strong belief in God’s presence within the Tallit

 

Jesus was saying something extremely profound when He said,

It is I, do not be afraid!”  (Mark 6;50)

He is literally saying, “I am.”  And, in doing so, Jesus is reflecting a divine revelation of faith and fact in seven statements found in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Isaiah.  Mark is truly indicating the hidden identity of Jesus as the “Son of God”.

“God replied, ‘I am who am.’ Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14) 

“Who has performed these deeds?  He who has called forth the generations since the beginning. I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will also be.”  (Isaiah 41:4)

 “Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.”  (Isaiah 41: 10) 

“Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”  (Isaiah 41:14)

 “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in return for you.” (Isaiah 43:1-3)  (“Egypt . . . Ethiopia and Seba” were countries which God permitted the Persians to conquer in return for having given Israel its freedom.)

“You are my witnesses, says the LORD, my servants whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that it is I.  Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none.”  (Isaiah 43:10)

“Yes, from eternity I am He; there is none who can deliver from my hand: who can countermand what I do?” (Isaiah 43:13)

 

The revelation found in Jesus dividing the loaves and fish; feeding the multitudes; and even His walking on the sea completely escaped His disciples.  How could they not see the divinity that had to be associated with these events, these miracles!  Yet, they did!  Twice, in verse 52 of today’s reading, this lack of realization is proved:

They had not understood the incident of the loaves

Their hearts were hardened

Their own humanly dispositions may have prevented these men from comprehending Jesus’ self-revelation through the signs offered to them.

“When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no breadDo you not yet understand or comprehend?  Are your hearts hardened?”  (Mark 8:17)

This lack of understanding and their “hardened hearts” may be attributed to some who did not accept Jesus, and possibly even those plotting His death.   Earlier in Mark’s Gospel, a plot was enacted to bring Jesus and His followers down.

“Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’  He stretched it out and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.”  (Mark 3:5-6)

The Pharisees and Herodians (supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea) want to put Jesus to death after a series of conflicts with Him in Galilee.  Mark reports many conflicts with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes.  These conflicts come to a head with accounts of later controversies in Jerusalem. 

“Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples? But you have made it a den of thieves.’  The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.”  (Mark 11:17-18)

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech.  They came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.  You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or should we not pay?’  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.’  They brought one to him and he said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’  They replied to him, ‘Caesar’s.’   So Jesus said to them, ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ They were utterly amazed at him.”   (Mark 12:13-17)

 

How do you handle adversity in your life?  Do you “trust” God totally and completely?  Or, do you panic, fret, and become fearful?  Fear is a natural reaction, and actually has a medical term associated with the nervous system response to the stimuli of adversity: “sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ reaction”.

However, Jesus wants much more from His followers than just this normal self-preservation bodily reaction.  Jesus wants “perfect love!”

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.   We love because he first loved us.”  (1 John 4:18-19)

Jesus is the “Shepherd” and we are His sheep (and some say I am the blemished, very dark colored one, who spends a considerable amount of time with the wolves).  Being a shepherd can’t be an easy job!  Not only does a shepherd feed and guide his flock, he is willing to suffer and die for his flock.  A shepherd is with his sheep in good and bad weather, protects the flock from predator animals and robbers, and even sleeps amongst his charges.

Jesus, our “Good Shepherd”, watches over His flock continuously.  How often during times of troubles and tribulations do you call out for Him?  How often do you truly rely on His providence?  How often do you depend on His love for all of us?  Jesus assures us that we have no need of fear – – if we TRULY trust in Him and in his immense love for us.  

 

The 23rd Psalm

 

The LORD is my shepherd;
There is nothing I lack.

In green pastures you let me graze;
To safe waters you lead me;

You restore my strength.
You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.

Even when I walk through a dark valley,
I fear no harm for you are at my side;
Your rod and staff give me courage.

You set a table before me as my enemies watch;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.  Amen”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. John Neumann  (1811-1860)

 

Perhaps because the United States got a later start in the history of the world, it has relatively few canonized saints, but their number is increasing.

John Neumann was born in what is now the Czech Republic.  After studying in Prague, he came to New York at 25 and was ordained a priest.  He did missionary work in New York until he was 29, when he joined the Redemptorists and became its first member to profess vows in the United States.  He continued missionary work in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio, where he became popular with the Germans.

At 41, as bishop of Philadelphia, he organized the parochial school system into a diocesan one, increasing the number of pupils almost twentyfold within a short time.

Gifted with outstanding organizing ability, he drew into the city many teaching communities of sisters and the Christian Brothers.  During his brief assignment as vice provincial for the Redemptorists, he placed them in the forefront of the parochial movement.

Well-known for his holiness and learning, spiritual writing and preaching, on October 13, 1963, John Neumann became the first American bishop to be beatified. Canonized in 1977, he is buried in St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia.

Comment:

Neumann took seriously our Lord’s words, “Go and teach all nations.”  From Christ he received his instructions and the power to carry them out.  For Christ does not give a mission without supplying the means to accomplish it.  The Father’s gift in Christ to John Neumann was his exceptional organizing ability, which he used to spread the Good News.

Today the Church is in dire need of men and women to continue in our times the teaching of the Good News.  The obstacles and inconveniences are real and costly.  Yet when Christians approach Christ, he supplies the necessary talents to answer today’s needs.  The Spirit of Christ continues his work through the instrumentality of generous Christians.

Quote:

“All people of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons, have an inalienable right to education.  This education should be suitable to the particular destiny of the individuals, adapted to their ability, sex and national cultural traditions, and should be conducive to amicable relations with other nations in order to promote true unity and peace in the world.  True education aims to give people a formation which is directed towards their final end and the good of that society to which they belong and in which, as adults, they will have their share of duties to perform.”  (Declaration on Christian Education, 1, Austin Flannery translation).

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s  5& 6 of 26:

 5.     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.

 

6.     They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

♫“We’re Off To See the Desert, the Wonderful Desert of Egypt!”♫ – Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23†


 

 

Today is “Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph”

 

 

 

73 Days till Ash Wednesday and the Start of the Lenten Season!

& only 364 days till Christmas
I had too – sorry (kinda)!

            

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   268 – Death of Dionysius, Pope/saint
†   418 – St Zosimus ends his reign as Catholic Pope with his death
†   795 – St Leo III begins his reign as Catholic Pope with his death
†   1350 – Death of Jean de Marigny, French bishop
†   1574 – Death of Charles of Guise, French cardinal (b. 1524)
†   1751 – Birth of Clement Hofbauer, Austrian hermit, missionary, and patron saint of Vienna; known as the second founder of the Redemptorist Congregation (d. 1820)
†   1862 – Four nuns serving as volunteer nurses on board USS Red Rover are the first female nurses on a U.S. Navy hospital ship.
†   1948 – Cardinal Mindszenty (March 29, 1892—May 6, 1975) is arrested in Hungary and accused of treason and conspiracy.
†   St. Stephen’s Day, a public holiday in Alsace, Austria, Catalonia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Ireland.
†   Synaxis of Theotokos and feast of St. Joseph, King and Prophet David and St. James the Just (Orthodox Christianity).
†   The first of the twelve days of Christmas in Western Christianity.

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans are called not only to change themselves but also to be agents of change in the larger community.

Francis began his conversion in the Church of San Damiano, when he heard the crucifix challenge him, ‘Francis, repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.’  Throughout the course of his life, he realized that the ‘house’ that was in need of repair was his own contemporary society and Church.  Today Franciscans are still called to evangelize by their example, both in society and in the Church.  Following the examples of those who have gone before us, we accomplish this task in a spirit of service and humility, giving ‘testimony in word and work that there is no all-powerful one but the Lord’ – (Letter to the Whole Order, 9).

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

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about God telling Joseph in a dream to flee Israel, and his going to Egypt in order to protect Jesus from King Herod the Great.

  

13 When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.  Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”  14 Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.  15 He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”  19 When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”  21 He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.  22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there.  And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.  23 He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”   (NAB Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23)

 

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Joseph was given a unique task as the guardian and protector of Mary and Jesus.  But as a Dominican Priest (unknown to me) said of their escape and journey to Egypt with the infant Jesus, “What they guarded, guarded them.”  This Gospel reading encourages us to consider Jesus’ step-father’s protection of his “adopted” child who was brought forth into this world – and immediately placed in the face of danger from a cruel and ruthless King.  Just as happened with the announcement of Jesus’ birth (the Annunciation of Joseph), the archangel Gabriel appears to Joseph in yet another dream.  Gabriel warns Joseph of Herod’s plan to kill the infant Jesus if he can find Him.  Joseph follows Gabriel’s command and escapes with Jesus and Mary, taking flight to Egypt some 250 (or so) miles away.  They only return to their homeland after receiving word in yet still another dream telling him that it was now safe to do so.

The “Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” has always been a part of the Christmas season liturgical celebrations for as long as I can remember.  As such, we should look at today’s Gospel about the “Holy Family” in the context of what Holy Scripture tells us about Jesus’ birth.   Today’s reading directly follows the story of the Magi’s visit, and continues with Joseph (and not Mary) as the primary character in Matthew’s infancy narrative story.  So, what can we learn from the example, witness, and faith of Joseph?

Among several themes in Matthew’s infancy story, Jesus being the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies in regards to the “Messiah” is paramount.  In Matthew’s approach to chronicling the Holy Family’s “flight to Egypt” story, he is also figuratively recalling, and renewing, the exodus story of Moses found in the Book of Exodus.

Traditions about Moses applies to the child Jesus in the in today’s reading presented here, though the vital or essential  focus of the Old Testament “Biblical typology” – – (a method of biblical interpretation wherein an element or verse found in the Old Testament is seen to prefigure one found in the New Testament) – – is not Moses, but instead on “Israel” itself.

Other than because of being told to do so by the Archangel Gabriel, why does the Holy Family “flee to Egypt”?  Well, I can think of two.   Egypt was known as the “long-established” area of sanctuary and a safe haven for anyone escaping from danger in Palestine.  Examples in Old Testament Scripture can be found in the books of 1 Kings and Jeremiah:

“When Solomon tried to have Jeroboam killed for his rebellion, he escaped to King Shishak, in Egypt, where he remained until Solomon’s death.”  (1 Kings 11:40)

“When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and princes were informed of his words, the king sought to kill him. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt.”  (Jeremiah 26:21)

 However, the primary reason why the Holy Family is told to go to Egypt is because Jesus (and us) must relive and experience again the “Exodus” incident of Israel.  Remember, the Old Testament lives in the New Testament, and the New Testament fulfills the Old (something a lot of Catholics either forgot or was never taught).  The fulfillment reference in verse fifteen (15) is taken directly from Hosea 11:1; the basic experience of salvation, the exodus from Egyptian bondage.

“When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1)

The nation of Israel, God’s “chosen son”, was called out of Egypt at the time of the Great Exodus through Moses.  Jesus, the true “Son of God”, was similarly called out of that same Egypt in a “NEW” Exodus: a new migration.  The father-son relationship that exists (still today) between God and the nation of Israel was taken to a far higher and more divine level of importance with the relationship of God to Jesus – – (His Only Son) – – who even still today represents the beginning of the return, and the renewal of all Israel for all times (The Alpha and Omega).

 “Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  (Matthew 19:28)

 “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”  (Matthew 21:43)

Here the “son” is not a nation adopted as a “son of God,” – – but the child Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit in a unique and especially divine relationship to and with God.  Jesus is a son of David, and of Abraham, and of Mary, and of Joseph, BUT, – – above all, – – is THE Only Son of God!  Solely in Jesus Christ, the history, the people, and the institutions of all Israel (of all faithful followers)are concentrated and condensed, taking aim and beginning on the next (and final) era of salvation.  The flight of the infant Jesus with the Holy Family is a new exodus – – with a new and greater Moses found only in Jesus Christ.

In Exodus 2:15, Moses fled from Egypt because the Pharaoh sought to kill him.

“Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put him to death.  But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian.”  (Exodus 2:15)

In Exodus 4:19, He was told by God to return to Egypt, ‘for all the men who sought your life are dead.’

“In Midian the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go back to Egypt, for all the men who sought your life are dead.’”  (Exodus 4:19)

 

After Herod (the Great’s) death, his kingdom was divided between his three sons.  With the agreement of the Roman Emperor Augustus, “Archelaus” received about half of his father’s kingdom which included Samaria, Edom, and Judea.   He had been given the titleethnarch” (a national leader of a province) and named as Herod the Great’s successor.  His reign was from 4 B.C. to 6 A.D., with him dying about 18 A.D.

His brothers “Antipas” and “Philip II” were given the lesser titles of “tetrarchs” (similar to a governor).  Antipas ruled over Galilee (north of Jerusalem) where Jesus was brought up and carried out most of His public ministry.  Antipas also had charge over the east bank of the Jordan River.  Philip II ruled over the “Golan Heights” area northeast of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis.

 

The Holy Family did not want to be around the ruthless Herod Archelaus in Judea/Samaria, so when they settled in Galilee (the area ruled by Antipas), they set up their household in a small, obscure, and easily unnoticed village of about 200 people, called Nazareth.    

Jesus “shall be called a ‘Nazorean’”.  The tradition of Jesus’ residence of youth is firmly established by scholars as being in the town of “Nazareth.”  His public ministry “headquarters” though (at least His human one on earth) was in the seaside town of Capernaum instead.  In recently watching a special on EWTN, I learned that his headquarters was actually in a “back room” of the Apostle John’s (and John’s mother) home.  Jesus was literally a “back room” Prophet-Priest-King- Savior!! (Doesn’t that little tidbit just put a smile on your face?)

Matthew sees the quaint town of “Nazareth” as being in synchronization with God’s plan, though Nazareth is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament – even once.  Nor can any such prophecy regarding Nazareth be found in the Old Testament either.  Matthew may have perhaps inserted this little “detail of residence” here in his Gospel, to provoke his readers to consider several possibilities or elements:

T   First, simply just as a reference to a little town that just so happens to have never been mentioned in the Old Testament (though it had existed since at least the 7th century B.C.), or,

T   As a reference to the Messiah as the “branch” (neser) found in Isaiah 11:1, or finally as,

T   A reference to Jesus as a “nazir”, a “consecrated person”, in the same line as that of Samson and Samuel.

The seemingly vague expression “through the prophets” (verse 23) may be due to a connection Matthew saw between Nazareth and other texts having words remotely similar to the name of “Nazareth”.  In Isaiah 11:1, the future “Davidic king” will be “a bud”, and that this bud will blossom from the “root of Jesse.” 

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”  (Isaiah 11:1)

The connection between “Nazareth” and Isaiah’s verse above is that “neser” (pronounced nay-tser) is the Hebrew word for branch or sprout.   It could sound like the name Nazareth – – if said fast, and with a ton of crackers in your mouth – – I guess.   Matthew saw the connection anyhow (even if I don’t).  Isaiah’s prophecy about the sprout (neser) could definitely be interpreted to mean that Jesus the “Messiah” would have a simple and humble beginning.   

To Matthew the very word “neser” from Isaiah’s prophecy finds its true and totally full meaning and realization in Jesus being a “Nazarene”.  Read the rest of Isaiah 11, to its end, for further proof of this fullness and realization.  To paraphrase Isaiah 11, this lowly “Nazarene” is prophesized to become a great and righteous King, empowered by the Holy Spirit, yet ruling in a simple and peaceful way of, and with, LOVE! 

 

In Judges 13:5 and 7, the future deliverer of Israel will be one who is consecrated (a “nazir”) to God.

“As for the son you will conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.  It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.  But he said to me, ‘You will be with child and will bear a son.  So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean.  For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb, until the day of his death.’”  (Judges 13:5, 7)

A Nazirite (an alternative spelling is “Nazarite”), from the Hebrew word, “nazir” means “consecrated”.  The term refers to individuals who consecrated their lives to God; taking ascetic vows (someone who is self-denying and lives with minimal material comforts).  In taking these vows, it required of them to abstain from wine, refrain from cutting their hair, and avoiding any contact with the dead, graves, and tombs in any manner (see Numbers 6:1-21).  Three well known “Nazirites” found in Holy Scripture include Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist, (and some say perhaps Jesus himself).  In taking Nazirite vows, Jesus could be called a “Nazarene”, which may be derived from the word “Nazirite” rather than “Nazareth”. 

I see “nazir” as people who would be very strong, very direct, and very demanding in stature and speech – – such as the aforementioned Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.  Though the word nazir is closer to the word Nazareth than neser (for me anyway), I am having some difficulty seeing Jesus (even though He was consecrated to God’s service) in an “expectedly direct” role of this type.  Remember Jesus broke the mold for being unconventional in His abilities, ways, and nature.

In reality, the Holy Family probably settled in Nazareth because Joseph could find abundant work in the neighboring city of Sepphoris (about 4 miles from Nazareth), which Herod Antipas was rebuilding as his capitol at the time.  I have been given unconfirmed information that Herod Antipas was revitalizing Sepphoris – using “tax increment financing funds” (TIFF’s) to build many inns, restaurants, and Wal-marts.  It seems Antipas liked to dabble in cooking and he was well known for his “Caesar” salads & “Antipas-tas”!

 

It should also be realized that today’s reading from Mass skips over, – – totally omits – – verses 16, 17, and 18, that relates Herod the Great’s order for the massacre of the “Holy Innocents”, the infant boys (2 years of age and under) living in and around Bethlehem around the time of Jesus’ birth.  This sad event will be remembered in the Catholic Church on the “Feast of the Holy Innocents” occurring this year on Tuesday, December 28 (in just two days).

 

Today’s Mass readings should remind all of us of the complex reality and yet simple truth of Jesus’ human birth.  While the story of the Magi’s visit will be recalled at Masses on the “Feast of the Epiphany” (Sunday, January 2nd), our Christmas celebration is tempered by recognizing the fact that not everyone in Jesus’ time period (and sadly still today – I believe) received Christ’s birth with joy,celebration, respect, or submission.  

Herod’s profound greed, jealousy, and hatred fully contrasts with Joseph’s humble generosity, trust, and love for God, as well as for his obedience to God’s words relayed to him by Gabriel – the archangel messenger.  The Holy Family’s escape to Egypt – – and from the massacre that Jesus is saved from in his infancy – – could, and should, remind us that struggles and sacrifices are often required as part of the preparation for God’s salvation.  If God (in the second person of the Godhead, and divinely human nature of Jesus) is not immune from trials, persecutions, and sufferings, why do we think we should be?!

 Joseph courageously and valiantly sets aside his own preconceived plans when God called him to “get away – escape now”.  Without hesitation or question, he leaves his familiar surroundings and home lands: his home, friends and relatives.  Joseph also left behind his trade and business, his self-assured security in a livelihood of known work.  He leaves all of this, solely in order to pursue a hidden mission that God Himself entrusted to Joseph: becoming the “guardian” of the long awaited newborn King and “Messiah”!  

 

The infancy narrative, – – the birth story of Jesus Christ, – – comes to an end here.  After this Gospel reading, Joseph simply disappears, never to be seen or mentioned again.  Joseph is the only “main character” in Holy Scripture (that I know) who does not actually speak a single word in the entire Bible.  Yet he still makes his relationship, his love, his trust, and his dynamic obedience to God’s plan known without speaking “that single” word.  St. Francis most certainly had to love Joseph, for St. Joseph “preached” the Gospel without using any words!  God bless St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Do you want to know something uniquely special?  God has a specific goal, plan, and task for each one of us!  With your individual action plan, God also gives you the grace and the assurance of His guidance and His loving trust and support.  Do you trust God’s plan for your life?  Are you willing to sacrifice your own private and/or public plans for God’s plan?  Are you willing to give God your total faith, trust, and service (Your ALL) to follow whatever mission or task He gives to you, without hesitation or questioning

On this beautiful Sunday, it is quite apropos that we are asked to linger for a short time and think about the Holy Family, – – and to do this only one day after Jesus’ birth celebration.  Today, we reflect on how Joseph protected his step-son, Jesus, from imminent danger by relocating the Holy Family to Egypt; and doing so in absolute and trusting obedience to God’s word.  

Using the “Holy Family” as a perfect model for all families, we should use this feast day to recall the responsibility each family member has for each other in the family as a whole, and for your responsibility to contribute to the “good” and “needs” of the family individually.  Use today’s message in the Gospel reading as a way to recommit yourself to each other in your immediate and extended families.  After all, to be present is the greatest “Present” one can give to anyone else.

 

A Christmas Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson

 

“Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.  Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.  Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.   Amen.”

http://www.prayerguide.org.uk/christmas.htm

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Stephen (d. 36 A.D.?)

 

All we know of Stephen is found in Acts of the Apostles, chapters Six and Seven.  It is enough to tell us what kind of man he was:

At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenist (Greek-speaking) Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.  So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.  Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”  The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit…. (Acts 6:1-5)

Acts says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people.  Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke.  They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him.  He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.

In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience.  He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit.  “[Y]ou always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors” (Acts 7:51b).

His speech brought anger from the crowd.  “But [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God….’  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him…. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…. Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b).

Comment:

Stephen died as Jesus did: falsely accused, brought to unjust condemnation because he spoke the truth fearlessly.  He died with his eyes trustfully fixed on God, and with a prayer of forgiveness on his lips.  A “happy” death is one that finds us in the same spirit, whether our dying is as quiet as Joseph’s or as violent as Stephen’s: dying with courage, total trust and forgiving love.

Patron Saint of: Bricklayers; Deacons; Hungary

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

 
    

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

26.     As a concrete sign of communion and co- responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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


 

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

 

 

 

Prayer for Lighting the Advent Wreath Candles for the First Week 

 

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

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

 

 

Today in Catholic History:
    

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

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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Family Prayer for the First Week of Advent

 

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

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop!

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the Rule:

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“There Is No Need For a Cardiologist. Always Pray and Do Not Lose Heart!” – Luke 18:1-8†


 

I finished writing an article title, “Is ‘JPIC’ a Four-Letter Word?!”  It was sent to the “Franciscan Action Network” earlier this week, and I am going to post it on my Facebook page, hopefully today.  Please look for it, and read it.  It is a great little commentary on Justice and Peace from a Conservative and Franciscan viewpoint.

 

 

The Rescue of the Miners in Chile:

        

The 33 miners were found on the 33rd week of the year.  It took 33 days to drill the rescue tunnel passageway.  They were rescued on 10/13/10 which equals 33; and is the anniversary of the “Miracle of the Dancing Sun” at Fatima as well!  They were “buried alive” on the Feast of St. Mary Major.  Their first full day was the “Feast of the Transfiguration.”  They all believe that God was the “one other person” who was entombed with them throughout this ordeal, and Jesus was crucified when he was 33.

 

 

We have a new “Franciscan Saint” today.  She is in the group of six to be beatified today by our great Pope.

Saint Camilla Battista da Varano (April 9, 1458 – May 31, 1524), from Camerino, Macerata, Italy, was an Italian princess and a Poor Clare Roman Catholic nun.  She was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI in 1843 and canonized today by Pope Benedict XVI.

Born in Camerino to a wealthy noble family, her father was Giulio Cesare, the prince of Camerino.  He initially opposed her wish to enter into religious life, wishing her to marry.  When she was 23, she decided to enter the convent of the poor Clares at Urbino and then two years later to the Monastery of Santa Maria Nuova at Camarino, which was restored by her father in order to be closer to his daughter.

In 1502, her family suffered persecution and her father and brothers were killed.  In 1505, Pope Julius II sent her to found a convent in Fermo.  In 1521 and 1522 she traveled to San Severino Marche to form the local religious who in that period had adopted the rule of St. Clare.

She died on May 31, 1524, during a plague.  Her remains rest in the Monastery of the Clares of Camerino.

Wikipedia

            

Today in Catholic History:

       
            
†   532 – Boniface II ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1253 – Birth of Ivo of Kermartin, French saint (d. 1303)
†   1616 – Death of John Pitts, Catholic scholar and writer. (b. 1560)
†   1912 – Birth of John Paul I, [Albino Luciano], 263rd Roman Catholic pope (1978)
†   1923 – Catholic University of Nijmegen Neth opens
†   1979 – Mother Teresa awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
†   2006 – The United States population reaches 300 million.  (Today’s Facebook population is 500 million [3rd largest country in the world]).
†   Liturgical Calendar: Saint Ignatius of Antioch; translation of Saint Audrey (Æthelthryth); Saint Richard Gwyn; Saint Catervus; Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing – nothing.”  — Saint Francis of Assisi

 

  

Today’s reflection is about Jesus urging His disciples [and us] to pray and not lose heart, for God always hears and answers prayers.

 

1 Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.  He said, 2 “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being.  3 And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’  4 For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, 5 because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'”  6 The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.  7 Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?  Will he be slow to answer them?  8 I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  (NAB Luke 18:1-8)

 

Today’s reading is the first of two parables that Jesus gives in Luke, Chapter 18, about prayer and justice.  The second parable will be read as the Gospel at next Sunday’s Mass, and it will emphasize our attitude in prayer.  This particular Gospel reading of Luke’s is a real lesson in diligence and perseverance we should display in our prayer life, so we can keep from falling prey to “apostasy” (the renunciation of a religious or political belief or allegiance).     

While the parable may seem to look to us as if our prayers should be harassing or irritating to God, this belief would be far off-track, and missing the point.  God is not like the judge in the parable who is worn down by the widow’s frequent requests and coercion to take action.  The judge in this parable could be described as “not respectful, unwilling, and dishonest” towards her.  God, in being true and fully love, can never be impolite, unwilling, or dishonest!  I understand Jesus to be saying in this parable that if even an “unjust” judge responds to the persistence of the widow, how much more will God listen to our prayers if we are persistent?!  

Justice (e.g. for the widow in this parable) is simply a matter of giving what is due to her (and us).  Justice should always be given irrespective of position, viewpoint, or feelings.  In a perfect world, it should not have to be obtained by persistence, determination, or even coercion. 

God’s justice is totally free of indifference.  He has a special love though for the poor and marginalized that St. Francis knew and experienced so well in hugging, kissing, and caring for the poor lepers of Assisi.  But, the poor is NOT just the materially needy and impoverished!  When we lose heart; when we think that no one cares for us; or when we believe we alone in our earthly journey, with no one to “back us up” or to understand us, we are poor as well.  We are then poor of “spirit!”

In the fifth verse, the phrase “strike me” is used.  The original Greek verb translated as “strike,” actually means “to strike under the eye,” thus suggesting the extreme situation to which the intense persistence of the widow might lead.  It may be used here although, in a weaker sense, meaning “to wear one out.”

God truly wants to hear our intentions and petitions, and to respond generously all our prayers, at an appropriate time.  It is this final expression of grief from Jesus, in verse 8, which gets to the heart of this parable: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Jesus, in this lamentation, observes and remarks on how easy it can be for us to lose heart.

Remember, today’s lesson is about the perseverance and determination of the person who prays.  God wants us to be like this unrelenting widow, who had a personal, unrelenting, and loving relationship with God.  She is confident that He hears and answers all prayers, when He sees fit.  

We hassle, pester, and annoy others because it works!  We also, like the judge in this parable, often get worn down by the constant harassment and badgering of others (especially our children), asking or demanding items or time from us.  Indeed, these traits are not positive qualities, for anyone.  But, with improper behaviors aside; confidence in the goodness of a “benefactor,” and the resolve, determination (and even the stubbornness) to stay in a relationship are “heavenly-bound” traits worth emulating in our special and loving relationship with God.

Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to us.  If we want to live, grow, and persevere in our faith until the end, we must nourish it with prayer, adoration, and action!

We can easily become demoralized and give up.  We can forget, or just stop asking our heavenly Father, God, for His grace and assistance.  Jesus told this particular parable, I believe, to give a fresh hope and confidence to His followers.  We can, and should expect trials and adversities in our lives, yet we should never be without hope and trust in God’s wisdom and actions.  When Jesus returns in His magnificent glory, God’s justice will be totally revealed, triumphing over all the injustices carried out by mankind.  God’s love is always stronger than injustice, and even “death!”  Those of us that maintain a true faith and persistence for God’s love can look forward, with hope, to that day when we will receive our reward by Him.

Do you make your intentions and desires known to God in prayer?  Bear in mind that God dearly wants to answer all our prayers.  Remember, Jesus became one of us: fully human as well as fully God!  He made us His own possession!  He will always take care of us with a love we can never fully understand! 

When you feel “poor” and believe that no one gives a darn, remember that God, who loves you no matter what you have done or not done, is next to you and in you.  Have a heart-to-heart talk with Him; He always listens intently to you!

 

“Watch, O Lord”

 

“Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, & give Your angels & saints charge over those who sleep.
Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest Your weary ones.
Bless Your dying ones.
Soothe Your suffering ones.
Pity Your afflicted ones.
Shield Your joyous ones,
and all for Your love’s sake.  Amen.”

(St. Augustine)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107?)

 

Born in Syria, Ignatius converted to Christianity and eventually became bishop of Antioch. In the year 107, Emperor Trajan visited Antioch and forced the Christians there to choose between death and apostasy. Ignatius would not deny Christ and thus was condemned to be put to death in Rome.

Ignatius is well known for the seven letters he wrote on the long journey from Antioch to Rome. Five of these letters are to Churches in Asia Minor; they urge the Christians there to remain faithful to God and to obey their superiors. He warns them against heretical doctrines, providing them with the solid truths of the Christian faith.

The sixth letter was to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was later martyred for the faith. The final letter begs the Christians in Rome not to try to stop his martyrdom. “The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God. I am the wheat of the Lord; may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ.”

Ignatius bravely met the lions in the Circus Maximus.

Comment:

Ignatius’s great concern was for the unity and order of the Church. Even greater was his willingness to suffer martyrdom rather than deny his Lord Jesus Christ. Not to his own suffering did Ignatius draw attention, but to the love of God which strengthened him. He knew the price of commitment and would not deny Christ, even to save his own life.

Quote:

“I greet you from Smyrna together with the Churches of God present here with me. They comfort me in every way, both in body and in soul. My chains, which I carry about on me for Jesus Christ, begging that I may happily make my way to God, exhort you: persevere in your concord and in your community prayers” (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Church at Tralles).

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 17 & 18 of 26:

    

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

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

 

 

 

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