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“The ‘Pagan’ Had It Right; Jesus Truly IS the ‘Son Of God’ – And So Are We!” – Mark 15:1-39 (Shorter Form)†


Palm Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

This week is known throughout the Church as “Holy Week”, with the last few days being days full with ceremonies and of special notice.

Today is Palm Sunday (or, “Fig Sunday” by some):

On the sixth Sunday of Lent we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Worship services include blessing of the palms and a procession.  The liturgical color is red. 

Spy Wednesday:

This is an old and uncommon name for the Wednesday of Holy Week, which commemorates Judas’ agreement to betray Jesus (cf., Matthew 26:3-5, 14-16).

PASCHAL TRIDUMM:

Holy Thursday (AKA, Maundy Thursday):

 The name “Maundy Thursday” is derived from Jesus “mandate” to love one another as He loves each of us.  This day celebrates the institution of the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Ordination.   Some may also know it as “Shear Thursday.”

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion:

Good Friday is an obligatory day of fasting within the Catholic Church.  This day commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the Holy Cross.  Worship customs include Veneration of the Cross, communion from the reserved Maundy Thursday host, and the singing or preaching of the Passion (reading or singing excerpts of the Passion story from John’s gospel).  In the Catholic Church, the liturgical color was formerly black, but is now red.

Holy Saturday:

 This is the final day of Holy Week.  There are few specific customs associated with Holy Saturday, except that it is the final night before the Feast of the Resurrection, which begins at the Great Easter Vigil.

Other customs and events, including “Tenebrae” (a ceremony in which the gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of readings and psalms are chanted or recited), have developed as Holy Week customs.  Generally, Holy Week is a busy time for Catholic and Orthodox Christians, as we build up to the Queen of all Church Feasts, Easter (Pascha).

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Here is a link to a sight for making crosses out of the palms received at mass today (with pictures and “how to” video):

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Palm-Frond-Cross.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   705 – Greek pope John VII chosen as successor to John VI
†   1283 – Birth of Ludwig IV of Baveria, Roman Catholic Bavarian emperor (1314-47)
†   1682 – Death of Franz Egon of Fürstenberg, Bavarian Catholic archbishop (b. 1625)
†   1939 – US recognizes Franco government in Spain at end of Spanish civil war.  Pope Pius XII congratulates Generalissimo Franco’s victory in Spain
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Hugh of Grenoble; Saint Waleric

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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In today’s reflection, Jesus is sentenced to death and crucified.  The centurion who witnessed Jesus’ death declares, “This man was the Son of God.”

  

(NAB Mark 15:1-39 [Shorter Form]) 1 As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.  2 Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  He said to him in reply, “You say so.”  3 The chief priests accused him of many things.  4 Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer?  See how many things they accuse you of.”  5 Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.  6 Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested.  7 A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.  8 The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.  9 Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”  10 For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.  11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.  12 Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what [do you want] me to do with [the man you call] the king of the Jews?”  13 They shouted again, “Crucify him.”  14 Pilate said to them, “Why?  What evil has he done?”  They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”  15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.  16 The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.  17 They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.  18 They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.  They knelt before him in homage.  20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.  21 They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.  22 They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of the Skull).  23 They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.  24 Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.  25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.  26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”  27 With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.  28 29 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha!  You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself by coming down from the cross.”  31 Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.”  Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.  33 At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  34 And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  35 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.”  36 One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”  37 Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.  38 The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  39 When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

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Gospel Reflection:

 This Sunday, Palm or Passion Sunday, is the first day of our faith’s Holy Week.  Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, are together called the “Easter Triduum”, three special days that are a highlight of the Catholic Church Liturgical year.

 There are two Gospels proclaimed at today’s Mass.  The first Gospel (with two choices) is just prior to the procession with palms, and tells of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem (cf., Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16).  Riding on a borrowed “colt”, Jesus was hailed by the crowds as they blessed God and shouted “Hosanna!” in His presence – – ALL filled with GREAT JOY being in His presence.  A few days later, the crowd is not “hailing” Jesus, they are instead “mocking and jeering” Him, calling for His death.

Mark presents Jesus’ “Passion” and death on the cross as the consequence of an on-going tension between the Jewish authorities (both Temple and secular) and Jesus Himself.  This tension escalates throughout His public ministry, culminating in the events of today’s reading.  The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” occurred when Jesus drove the merchants and moneychangers from the Temple (cf., Mark 11:15).  After this event, the chief priests and Scribes began secretly seeking a way to put Jesus to death. 

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Today’s Gospel starts with the WHOLE Sanhedrin gathering together to plot against Jesus; they “Held a council” (verse 1).  In the original Greek, “held a council” comes from the verb, “poieō” which can mean either “convene a council” or “take counsel.”  In today’s reading, I prefer a variant form of this verb, meaning “reached a decision”.  Today’s event is the climax of Temple authorities plan’s, started a long time before Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem for THIS particular  Passover celebration:

The Pharisees went out and immediately took counselwith the Herodians against him to put him to death.” (Mark 3:6).

Mark 14:64 (In the long form of today’s reading) describes this “council” as happening as a “trial” during the night (is this sneaky or what?!).  Matthew, unlike Mark, did not consider the Sanhedrin as judging Jesus in a night session. Even so, the handing over of Jesus to the chief government official, Pilate, is because the Sanhedrin did not have right or ability to put their “plotted” sentence of death into effect.

When Jesus was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish “court” – -the council of Jewish priests, scribes, and elders – – He was charged with “blasphemy” (disrespect for God or sacred things), citing His threat in the Temple:

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19).

Mark states one reason for Jesus’ arrest and prosecution.  Luke’s Gospel tells us that “three” false accusations were leveled against Jesus (cf., Luke 23:1-2).  The first charge: Jesus stirred-up sedition within the community.   Secondly, Jesus encouraged people not to pay taxes to Caesar.  And lastly, Jesus took on the title, “King”.   When Jesus was brought before Pilate, the “chief priests” presented His crime as a purely political one (and not a religious), claiming that Jesus said He was “the king of the Jews”.  

So, the Sanhedrin “handed Him [Jesus] over to Pilate”, simply because they lacked the authority to condemn and execute their wishful sentence:

You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as deserving to die.” (Mark 14:64).

With this “evidence” in hand, the Sanhedrin sent Jesus to Pilate.  Through this Roman prelate, Jesus was tried, beaten, and put to death:

Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15);

John goes into greater detail, reporting why the Sanhedrin could not complete their plan, and why they used Pilate to bring their dubious design to fruition:

“Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.’  The Jews answered him, ‘We do not have the right to execute anyone” (John 18:31).

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The second verse in today’s reading states:

 “Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’” (Mark 15:2)

In the accounts of the four evangelists a certain irony surrounded the use of this title, “king of the Jews”.  It is used in today’s reading as an accusation against Jesus.  While Pilate himself uses this “accusatory” – – but correct – – term three times in today’s reading (Mark 15:2, 9, 12).  Jesus is aware of the irony in their false accusations, and in their evil reason for the chief priests to hand Jesus over for a quick trial and condemnation:

“For he [Jesus] knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.” (Mark 15:10).

Their worldly influence and power overtook their role as leaders of the Jewish faith.

Pilate publicly heralded Jesus “the King of the Jews” three times, and I have no doubt that he did so three times just to irritate and annoy the chief priests and Pharisees.

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The crowd at Jesus’ “trial” had to be different from the one meeting and hailing Him with palm branches, at the city gates a few days earlier.  This crowd was angry, wanting Barabbas released over Jesus.  So why did the crowd want Barabbas released rather than Jesus?  And, who was the violence-oriented Barabbas”, and how could a crowd be coerced into calling for his release over Jesus?  The Aramaic name “Barabbas” means “son of the father”.  The irony of the choice offered by Pilate, between “Barabbas” and Jesus – – the “TRUE” son of the Father – – would be evident to those present.  Barabbas was a bandit known for violence. 

Jerusalem was filled with zealots and insurrectionists.  This is why so many Roman forces were always in Jerusalem during the Passover time, it being a time of high tension and religious fervor among the crowds.  Barabbas was probably part of a insurrectionist group known for murder and assassination (making him NOT a friend of either the Jewish nor Roman authorities).  With this little fact in mind, the crowd present, calling for his release, was very likely supporters of Barabbas (like a first century “Robin hood” type cult figure).  The crowd who came on this occasion, very like came because they believed that Pilate may offer Barabbas’ release at the time of the feast.

With Jesus’ situation being incited by the “chief priests” (Mark 15:11), the crowds demanded loudly for Jesus to be executed by crucifixion, a peculiar and terrifyingly horrible form of Roman capital punishment.  

What finally coerced Pilate to sentence a just man such as Jesus to death?  Pilate did not want report being sent to Rome in which he is accused of supporting a dangerous man “known” for inciting the people to accept Him as their “true king” and thus assisting in a revolt against Roman authority in Palestine.  (Political blackmail occurred in the first century, just like today.)  So, Pilate relented in order to avoid having a charge brought against Him in Rome (Any charge against him would not be healthy for him).  Pilate sacrificed justice – – and Jesus Christ – – in order to save his face within the government, his job, and potentially, his life.  Are you personally willing to sacrifice YOUR reputation and position for truth and justice, or, are you willing to go the way of Pilate? 

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None of us can avoid the inevitable — our own death.  We can try to avoid it, even trying to block it from our minds, but the truth is WE WILL ALL DIE SOMEDAY (I believe).  Dying usually involves at least some mental and physical suffering, along with some type of loss and separation for most of us.  We can choose to live well, and we can choose to die well, through a life-long spiritual undertaking (Sounds hard, and may be for most in living in this materialistic world.  Fortunately for each of us, there is something stronger than death – – and that is free and unlimited love:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

Jesus embraced the Holy Cross knowing it was His Father’s will, and knowing His Father’s way for Him was to die for our salvation.

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Let’s get back to Pilate’s actions with Jesus’.  The choice Pilate offers the crowd, between Barabbas and Jesus (verse 15), is in accordance with the Roman custom of the time for releasing one prisoner, chosen by the crowd present, at the Passover feast:

Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished.” (Matthew 27:15).

This custom of the Roman government in Jerusalem is also mentioned in the Gospels of Mark and John (cf., Mark 15:6; John 18:39), but not in Luke’s Gospel.  Actually, outside of these three Gospels, there is no direct confirmation or evidence for this “freeing” practice by Pilate.  Scholars are divided in the historical reliability of such a practice as releasing a prisoner at Passover.

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Scourging was the usual preliminary “event” for anyone being crucified.  I wonder: was Jesus forced to experience a more “thorough” and brutal scourging than the other two “criminals” chosen to be hanged with Him that day?  (I am going to put this one on my “to ask” list for when I meet Him. [I pray I meet Him!])

After Jesus is condemned by Pilate, and “scourged”, He is taken to the “Praetorium”.  The “Praetorium” was the residence of the Roman governor when in Jerusalem; his usual place of residence being at Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast.  The Roman governor went to Jerusalem during the great feasts, when the influx of pilgrims posed the danger of a nationalistic riot by partisan zealots.  Some scholars believe the “Praetorium” in Jerusalem may have been, instead, the old palace of Herod in the west of the city, or the fortress of Antonia northwest of the Jewish Temple area.

Jesus is in the “Praetorium” and obviously was given some “special” treatment, since “the whole cohort” was assembled to mock, jeer, and beat Him.  A Roman “cohort” usually numbered about six hundred soldiers.  (That is truly a lot of “special” treatment!!)

After the mockery and beating of Jesus by the Roman soldiers in the Praetorium, AND after Jesus had previously been scourged by the Roman torturers, Jesus began His “death walk” to Golgotha; His personal way of the cross.  Jesus was so weakened, the soldiers:

Pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian … to carry His cross (Mark 15:21)

I need to note that a condemned person suppose to carry his own instrument of torture and death, usually the crossbeam of the cross.  The Roman soldiers chose a man known as “Simon”.

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Before we continue, let me give a little geography lesson: Cyrenaica was a Roman province on the north coast of Africa, with Cyrene being its capital city.  Cyrene had a large population of Greek-speaking Jews.  “Simon” may have been living in or near Jerusalem, or may have come to Jerusalem as a Passover pilgrim.  

So who was “Simon of Cyrene”, and why was he picked to assist Jesus on His death walk?   Mark’s recording the precise name, “Simon”, was probably due to his being known among early Christian believers; his being among Jesus’ first disciples.  We know Simon came from a long distance, Cyrene (in North Africa, present-day Libya), for the Passover feast. Once he was picked by the soldiers, he really had no choice in the matter at hand, since Roman authority could not be challenged without serious consequences.  

Mark also records that “Simon” was the father of “Alexander” and “Rufus” (Mark 15:21).  Since Mark wrote his gospel for the Christian community at Rome, it is likely that the two sons of Rufus were well-known to the Church in Rome as fellow Christians.  

WOW!!  Here, in this event found in today’s reading, a “theme” comes to the forefront with the “Simon of Cyrene” event.  He takes up Jesus’ cross, and follows Him.  Likewise, a large crowd comprised of fellow followers of Jesus also followed Jesus on His “way” of the Cross of Redemption and Salvation.  Just think, Christian disciples were (and still are) to follow in the footsteps of Jesus to the Holy Cross (and beyond).  

Who knows what would have happened if “Simon” had not been required to carry Jesus’ cross.  “Simon” may never have been challenged with the true message of the cross, or the personal and intimate spiritual meaning of the Christian faith found in the Holy Cross.  Perhaps “Simon” became a believer and passed on his faith to his family as well through this encounter with Jesus.  How often do you take up your cross willingly to follow Jesus in His way of love and sacrifice for others?

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The Romans reserved crucifixion for their worst offenders.  It was designed to be the most humiliating and excruciatingly painful way they knew for execution.  The criminal was stripped and nailed to a cross erected in a public place, usually along a roadside or highway near the town where the criminal was known and could be viewed by everybody who passed by him.  On the cross, a healthy man could live for several days before he expired from hunger, thirst, exhaustion, along with the mental psychosis associated with hours to days of constant torture.  Crucifixion was a slow and agonizing death, usually succumbing to asphyxiation.  The victim was hung on the cross in such a fashion that his lungs quickly filled with fluids (pulmonary edema) and he could not breathe unless he pulled his chest upward and gasped for breath.  Every movement brought excruciating, nerve-racking, pain due to the large nails that purposely severed major nerves in the arms and legs.  Eventually, exhaustion led to the criminal’s asphyxiation.  If the soldiers wanted to speed the process up, they broke the victim’s legs to prevent ease of breathing (cannot lift themselves), causing asphyxiation to occur more rapidly.

 

Verse 24 of Today’s reading states:

Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.” (Mark 15:24)

Per Roman custom, the clothing of an executed criminal went to his executioner(s).  The description of this procedure in Jesus’ case, and written in all four Gospels, is clearly inspired by a Psalm found in the Old Testament:

They divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:19).

However, this Psalm verse is actually quoted ONLY in Johns Gospel:

So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,’ in order that the passage of scripture might be fulfilled [that says]: “They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.”’” (John 19:24_.

John has each line of the Psalms poetic match literally carried out in two separate actions, in the Old Covenant and in the New Covenant brought in by Jesus Christ.

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So, Jesus is on the Holy Cross.  Pilate had the criminal charge against Jesus – – the reason for His execution – – nailed above His head on the cross.  The inscription, written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek said:

The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).

Jesus’ death was a falsely charged penalty for political reasons, by questionable enemies of His.  The charge against Jesus was that He had “claimed” to be “the King of the Jews”, the “Messiah”.  The inscription, which hung over the crucified Jesus, differs with slightly in each of the four Gospels.  John’s account is more detailed, and gives the equivalent of the Latin:

INRI = Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum.

(So that’s what “INRI” means!  Jesus being a man, I thought it meant “I Never Read Instructions”!)

It seems only John mentions its multilingual character, and Pilate’s role in keeping the title unchanged:

Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.  So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews,” but that he said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’  Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’” (John 19:20–22)

The crowd, witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion, says to Him:

You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.” (Mark 15:19-30)

The crowd’s reaction and words toward Jesus also is reminiscent of a verse from the Psalms:

All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me (Psalm 22:8).

The authorities deliberately executed Jesus besides two known criminals.  This was also designed to publicly humiliate Jesus even more, ranking Him with properly accused robbers before the crowds. 

Wow!! Can you picture the mental torment Jesus went through, along with the physical pain he experienced?!  Jesus had been mocked first by the Sanhedrin, then in a way by Pilate, followed by the soldiers during the scourging and in the Praetorium, then along his “death march”, and finally while on the cross by another crucified criminal AND with individual witnesses, Scribes, and Temple Priests.  Jesus endured this physical, emotional, and spiritual torture for about six hours of hanging on the cross.

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The Jews wanted a “king” who would free them from tyranny and foreign domination.  Many had high hopes that Jesus would be the Messianic king.  Little did they understand what kind of “kingship” Jesus claimed to have!  Jesus came to conquer hearts and souls for an imperishable kingdom rather than to conquer perishable lands and entitlements.  

Jesus died not only as King of the Jews, but King of ALL nations as well.  His victory over the power of sin, Satan, and the materialistic world, was accomplished through His death on the cross AND his resurrection.  In today’s reading, Jesus exchanged a “throne of glory” for a “cross of shame” solely in order to restore us to glory with God the Father as His adopted sons and daughters.  Do you recognize Jesus Christ as your personal King and Lord Savior?  Do you exalt His name as truly holy?

 

Throughout his Gospel, Mark depicts Jesus’ disciples as rarely being perfect models of faith, thus doing little to invoke confidence in their capacity to continue Jesus’ ministry after His death.  They fare no better in Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ Passion and death.  

I will give several examples of “poor” discipleship.  The first example can be found in the Last Supper narrative, when the disciples insisted that none among them would betray Jesus.   

Also, when Jesus predicted that His Apostles faith would be shaken in the events ahead (those reported in today’s reading), Peter and the other disciples protested vehemently.  Yet, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus returned three times to find them sleeping.  Jesus prayed in agony over His impending fate while His disciples slumbered through the night.  

Finally, and just as Jesus predicted, Peter denied Jesus, AND, nearly every one of His disciples were absent during Jesus’ Passion and death on the cross.  Only the women who had followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee were present at Jesus’ Crucifixion.  However, they also remained at a distance.

Just think about this for a while.  The Holy Cross brings us face-to-face with Jesus’ suffering, personally and up close.  We need to remember that Jesus was alone on the cross; all His disciples (except John, the “beloved” disciple) had deserted Him except for His mother and three women.

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At about three in the afternoon (per Mark), Jesus cried out in a loud voice:

’Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34)

What Jesus cried out is an Aramaic interpretation, and restated, from the Psalms:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22:2).

In Mark’s Gospel, the verse, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani”, is cited entirely in Aramaic.  Matthew partially retains the verse, but changes the invocation of God to the Hebrew “Eli” (instead of “Eloi”), thus making the verse more easily related to the statement of the following verse in today’s Gospel (Mark 15:35) about Jesus’ calling for Elijah:

Look, he is calling Elijah”  (Mark 15:35).

In this verse (Mark 15:35), some of the crowd believe Jesus is calling to “Elijah” from the Holy Cross.  This is how “some in the crowd” took Jesus, who yelled out “Eloi” (verse 34), as saying, “Elijah”.

We have to also remember that at the Transfiguration of Jesus, His disciples had actually seen Elijah (and Moses).  Elijah is as important to the Jewish faith as is possibly the Holy Spirit is to Christians.  “Elijah” himself was taken up into heaven (cf., 2 Kings 2:11), and he is also believed by the Jewish faithful as coming to the help of those in distress.

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Let’s get back on track with today’s reading.  When Jesus was nailed to the cross He was already more than half-dead.  The scourging, along with the crown of thorns beaten into His skull, had already nearly killed Him prior to His crucifixion.  In such a state, it is all the more remarkable to see Jesus with a clear sound mind and a tranquil heart when approaching death after six hours on the cross. 

Jesus was offered some wine mixed with myrrh to ease His pain, and He refused it.  He willingly embraced His suffering and death for OUR sake because He knew and loved us all when He offered His life as an atoning sacrifice.  Through His scourging, crucifixion, and death, Jesus truly shows us the depths of God’s redeeming love and forgiveness for each of us. 

When Jesus “breathed His Last”, all Hell broke loose (maybe literally).  “The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (verse 38).  There were two “veils” in the Temple of Jerusalem.  The outer “veil” was at the entrance of the Holy Place, and the inner “veil” separated all from the “Holy of Holies” (cf., Exodus 26:31–36).  Only the high priest could pass through the latter “veil”, and then only on the “Day of Atonement” (cf., Leviticus 16:1–18).

The “torn veil” in this reading was probably the inner “veil” (the ultra-important one for the pious Jews).  The meaning of this particular “veil” may be that with Jesus’ death, ALL people – – EVERYONE – – now have “access” to the presence of God PERSONALLY!!  It could also signify that the Temple, with its “holiest” part now standing exposed, is irreverent in God’s new covenant and kingdom, and will soon be destroyed; which it was in 70 A.D. (some 40 years later).  

To tear a curtain (“veil”) as big, thick, and heavy as the one in the Temple of Jerusalem had to be a truly miraculous event indeed.  Early Jewish tradition states that the Temple veil was as thick as a man’s hand (about four inches), had to be opened by three-hundred priests working together, and that horses tied to each side could not pull it apart.  (Information was taken from the Talmud, Josephus’ writings, and other Jewish literature.)

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Jesus’ death was agonizing and humiliating.  Remember, normally a crucified man could last for several days on a cross.  Jesus’ had already been scourged, beaten with rods, and had a crown of thorns pounded into His skull.  It is no wonder He died by mid-afternoon.  I am somewhat surprised He even made to the cross.  Mark graphically describes what occurred at His end – – His death – – as “darkness coming over the whole land”

 “At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” (Mark 15:33). 

This was Satan’s hour as he saw the Son of God dying on the cross.  But that death was also his surprising undoing as well.  Through His obedience unto death, Jesus reversed the curse of Adam’s disobedience, winning freedom and pardon for us:

“He Himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24).

One of the great consequences of sin is that it separates us from God.  Since Jesus bore the weight of OUR sins upon Himself, He experienced in His agony on the Holy Cross what this separation was truly like. 

 

Jesus “bowed His head and gave up His spirit” knowing that the battle over sin and death was won.  Even on the cross Jesus knew the joy of victory.  What God the Father sent Him into the world to do has now been fully accomplished.  Jesus Christ offered Himself “without blemish” – – the sacrificial lamb – – to God, and he defeated sin by the sacrifice of Himself:

 “For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that He might now appear before God on our behalf.  Not that He might offer Himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by His sacrifice.” (see Hebrews 9:24-26).

There is no greater proof of God’s love for us than the willing sacrifice of His Son on the cross.

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In a way, the ending of today’s Gospel returns to the theme of its beginning:

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].?” (Mark 15:2);

Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).

In the “Gentile” (non-Jewish, PAGAN) Centurion’s declaration upon Jesus’ climatic death, he came to believe Jesus was “TRULYthe “Son of God”.  This Centurion’s dramatic and instantaneous conversion of faith indicates the fulfillment of the good news announced in Mark’s prologue:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].” (Mark 1:1).

This Centurion’s conversion can also be seen as the “first-fruit” of Jesus’ Passion and death on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation.  What a harvest for God’s kingdom.

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Let’s wrap up this long reflection with a nice bow.  Mark, throughout his Gospel, challenges his audience to consider the claim with which his Gospel begins: “Jesus is the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).  When we read his account of Jesus’ Passion, we begin to understand and internalize the deeper theological statement being made with Jesus’ death.  

Per Mark, Jesus understood His death to be preordained as part of His Father’s plan.  Jesus humbly accepted His death in obedience to God’s will.  Jesus foresaw His betrayal by Judas, and Peter’s thrice denial of Him as well.  At His arrest, Jesus acknowledged that the preordained “time had arrived”, remaining confident, yet silent, before His accusers.  After He was sentenced to death, Jesus did not speak again until His final cry from the cross, at which time the bystanders misunderstood, and believed that He was calling for Elijah (in His need for help).  The Roman Centurion, however, affirmed that “Jesus is truly the Son of God”.  For me personally, nowhere in Holy Scripture is this concept revealed more fully than in His death on the Holy Cross.

Meditate on the Holy Cross for a short time.  What does it means to make a statement of faith in Jesus, and in His obedient suffering and dying, which revealed Himself to us as God’s “Only-Begotten Son”.

Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week; Easter is nearly here (and I can have coffee again!).  During this week, prepare yourselves for Easter by prayerfully reflecting on the events of Jesus’ Passion and death.  Why not display a crucifix in a prominent place (such as right next to the television or computer monitor) as reminder of the redemption and salvation that Jesus Christ won for us through His sacrifice, for humbly following God’s way and plan.  In this way, the entire week can become a personal and intimate “way of the cross” for you!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 The Apostles Creed

 

“I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day, He rose again.
He ascended to Heaven and is seated
at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living
and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.  Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The Papacy

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’  A second time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’  He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’  Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’  And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know that I love you.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:15-17) RSV

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?  And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Hugh of Grenoble (1052-1132)

 

Today’s saint could be a patron for those of us who feel so overwhelmed by all the problems in the world that we don’t know where to begin.

Hugh, who served as a bishop in France for 52 years, had his work cut out for him from the start.  Corruption seemed to loom in every direction: the buying and selling of Church offices, violations of clerical celibacy, lay control of Church property, religious indifference and/or ignorance.  After serving as bishop for two years, he’d had his fill.  He tried disappearing to a monastery, but the pope called him back to continue the work of reform.

Ironically, Hugh was reasonably effective in the role of reformer—surely because of his devotion to the Church but also because of his strong character.  In conflicts between Church and state he was an unflinching defender of the Church.  He fearlessly supported the papacy.  He was eloquent as a preacher.  He restored his own cathedral, made civic improvements in the town and weathered a brief exile.

Hugh may be best known as patron and benefactor of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order.

Hugh died in 1132. He was canonized only two years later.

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 1 & 2 of 26:

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

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

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

 

 

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“Dan’s Ultimate Manifestic Quality Statement! Me, Me, Me; OOoo, OOoo, OOoo, Me; Pick Me LAST!” – Matthew 20:1-16†


   

 

Twenty-Fifth 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:

 

This blog-post marks two full complete years of writing my reflections.  In these two years I have written and published 387 separate reflections on various issues, predominately religious, and nearly always based on the days Gospel reading from the Roman Catholic Missal.

My blog has had over 40,000 individual visits in these two years.  In the first month (September 2009), there was an average of 5 people visiting my site per day.  I am now averaging about 125 visits per day, with the busiest being May 7, 2011 (296 hits), and the busiest month occurring in May, 2011 (6528 hits).  Thank you for coming to my site, and especially for coming back repeatedly.  Please spread the word to your friends and family about my reflection blog.

I have to give a special thanks and graditude to my dear friend and Spiritual Director, John Hough.  John is a very active member of my parish and participates in the ACTS retreat faith fellowship encounters I attend every Saturday morning, consisting of a group (usually about 14-20 people), showing our faith by participating in the following:

Rosary before Mass, Mass itself, then the Divine Mercy Chaplet after Mass, and finally ending with some cholesterol enhancement at the local McDonalds Restaurant.       

Besides John’s impressive and extensive knowledge of the Catholic faith, both theological and philosophical (he has multiple advanced degrees), has a vast methodical understanding of the English and Kenoi Greek languages; a “troubling” knowledge for me at times as he edits my papers.  (I have an especially bad problem with consistently using the word, “that”, and with separating my nouns from my verbs in sentences.)  He pulls no punches grammatically, theologically, and in pushing my gaining in understanding the nuances and “truths” of faith, philosophy, tradition, and Holy Scripture.  (I love him for “pushing” me forward on the “true” path, God’s path.)

John frequently laughs at my interpretations of the Sunday Gospel.  Only last week, he commented on how I can delve far and deep into a theological thought, and then associate it to a whimsical cartoon character’s action, in one paragraph.

It is true; I have learned to peel back the many layers of Catholicism, faith, and tradition.  My family often says that I get too “extreme’ in explaining a facet of our faith.  When a group from the local Church of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon’s) came to the door, my wife said to them prior to leaving the room:

“I feel sorry for you guys!” 

I’m not sure what she meant by her statement.  However, they did leave with Rosaries in their hands and shaking their heads somewhat.  (They have never been back, though I have seen them in the neighborhood.)  (Thank you Holy Spirit for you interactions through me on this day!!)

The Holy Spirit has brought John Hough into my life.  Through John (and the Holy Spirit) I have gained a grace of a profound, mysterious, and insightful view of God’s love, trust, and faith in me; and a grace to spread the mustard seeds of faith, love, trust, and hope to others.  Thank you John, my “true” Brother in Christ!

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   324 – Constantine the Great decisively defeats Licinius in the Battle of Chrysopolis, establishing Constantine’s sole control over the Roman Empire.
†   1502 – Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) lands at Costa Rica on his fourth, and final, voyage.
†   1663 – Death of St Joseph of Cupertino, Italian saint (b. 1603)

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

 

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Joke of the Day:

 

 

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching of God’s generous mercy in the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

 

 

 

(NAB Matthew 20:1-16) 1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  5So they went off.  [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  6Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  7They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’  He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’  8When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  9When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  10So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  11And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  13He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  14Take what is yours and go.  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  15[Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous?’  16Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

With the unemployment rate the way it is in this country, – – and continuing to plummet daily, – – today’s Gospel reading probably hits home with most if not all of us, in a unique and extraordinarily personal way.  So many family homes have been affected by the devastation of jobs being eliminated and/or moved to third-world countries where labor wages and other business costs are much less than in the United States.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus moves from Galilee to teach in Judea.  Here, He will be sought out by large crowds, and “tested” by the Pharisees on issues such as marriage and divorce.  Jesus also will encounter a rich young man who is interested in obtaining eternal life and wondering what he is “lacking” since he believes he has been following the commandments all along.  Jesus’ response to the rich young man is to invite, challenge him to be “perfect” y leaving ALL his possessions and follow Jesus Christ full-time.  The rich young man felt unable to accept Jesus’ invitation.

Is the rich young man going to be one of the first, or one of the last, into God’s kingdom?  Think about this when you get to the conclusion of today’s Gospel reading:

 “The last will be first, and the first will be last”. (Matthew 20:16)

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Today’s parable is about a landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard several times throughout the day, and then paying ALL the laborers the same wage regardless of how long they worked in the vineyard.  On the surface, the parable of the workers in the vineyard appears to be a reproach to common sense.  Reason states: those who work a longer day “ought” to be paid more than those who work just an hour or two.  When viewed in this way, the landowner certainly seems extremely unfair.  This intelligent and emotional response is,  in reality, because we comprehend today’s parable in our own preconceived notions of how fairness and equality should be quantified.  However, ….

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Why does the landowner seek out, and then hire laborers throughout the entire day?  I usually like the simplest and most direct answers.  So, I think my answer that he, the landowner, simply doesn’t want to exclude anyone willing to work.  The Land owner hired individuals, even in the late afternoon, so they wouldn’t go home payless and hungry.

This landowner definitely had and displayed a compassion for the others around him as demonstrated by his actions.  In a sense, he was walking in Jesus’ footsteps – – he was “Walking the Talk”.  Too bad the laborers which were hired “first” (at dawn) did not grasp the landowner’s outlook on society, on life in general, on godly business principles and on mercy and kindness to others.

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To continue, in my miniscule understanding of Biblical interpretations, different understandings have been given to the very last verse:

The last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16). 

This verse from today’s reading is similar to another verse a little earlier in Matthew:

Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first” (Matthew 19:30).

The just mentioned verse (Matthew 19:30), and the following (verse 8 from today’s reading) are the inverses of Matthew 20:16:

“When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’” (Matthew 20:8). 

In view of Matthew’s association of the “first-last” references with today’s parable along with the verse from Matthew’s previous chapter, in its reverse order, I’m thinking the order may mean that all who responded then (and still respond today) to Jesus’ call – – at whatever time (first or last), – – will receive the benefits and graces of His kingdom: a true gift from, and of, God.  Through Jesus’ parable, Matthew is suggesting that there is an unparalleled equality of ALL His disciples (workers), in their payments of eternal life as a “free”, already “paid-for” (by Jesus’ sacrifice), gift!

The catalyst which opens this story to a controversial discussion and various opinions among the workers and landowner is verse 8:

“When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’” (Matthew 20:8). 

This particular facet of the story has no other purpose than to show “how” the first laborers come to know what the last laborers were paid (verse 12).

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If you pay attention to the reading, the landowner paid on the terms which were negotiated.   What did the landowner mean when he said to the laborers:

“…I will give you what is just.”? (Matthew 20:4)

The landowner acted justly.  I realize that he did not actually say “what” they would be paid as a wage when hiring the laborers.  Although this wage was not stipulated, it is inferred to the reader that it would be a “fair” wage “for the amount of time worked”.  As most people, I would reasonably assume that the laborers who started at nine in the morning (not at dawn), and those hired later, would be paid differently respective: more for those early starters than for the late comers.  However, in God the Father’s kingdom there are no differences, no prejudices, no separations, and no seniority lists.  All in heaven are equally joyful, pure, and perfected before the throne of God, each in their proper order. 

This parable, however, goes far beyond his being “just”.  We come to see that the landowner is not simply just, he is exceptionally just; he is even radically just.  But, he has given those who labored in the field for a full day their rightly due wages.  But he has also given a full-day’s wage to those who worked only one hour or so.  No one is cheated, but a few receive copiously from the landowner – – just as we receive from God – – more than what is merely justifiable or due.  God, like the landowner, is radically just and copiously generous.  The workers who complained are made to look foolish as they “grumble” over the fact that the landowner made all his laborers equal.  Indeed, what more could one ask for than to be treated as an equal at work or anywhere else?

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To continue on, in verse 13, the landowner says two distinctive phrases in one sentence, “My friend”, and “I am not cheating you”.  In calling the laborers his “friend”, he is expressing a true caring for the specific individual(s).  He sought out a special, unique, and personal type of relationship with him (them).  The land owner further stressed that he was not treating anyone unjustly.  On the contrary, he only asked of each laborer to perform a certain function, then paid each of them what he had promised.  This landowner’s relationship with another individual should not be of any concern to anyone else.  After all, the landowner gave to the laborer(s) what he promised him (them).

God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit asks of each of us to perform certain function: to love, trust, and have faith in Him; to love, trust, and have faith in others with whom we come into contact.  He wants to have an intimate, personal, and unique relationship with each of us.  In doing so, He will give to each of us what He has promised: an eternal relationship of joy with Him in paradise.

My thoughts on this parable remind me about something my Spiritual Director had to say one day.  We were discussing the graces and talents which each of us are given.  He pointed out the two coffee cups on our table, one small and one much larger.  He said that when each cup is totally full – they are totally full and can hold no more.  That is how graces and talents are with us.  We can be totally full of grace, and though one of our “cups” is larger than the other, it makes no difference – both are totally full of grace!  Can the “cup” get larger?  Definitely, but it makes no difference on what God can give; He gives us all we can hold!

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At first sight, the laborers appear to have an appropriate grievance against the landowner.  The earlier workers labored longer, so they “deserved” more than those who only worked “fewer” hours and not all day, even if it meant that their fellow co-workers had to endure smaller pay.  In retrospect, and in consideration of today’s economic environment, we need to look at this parable from another viewpoint other than the laborers’.  They ALL received something else that day besides the “fair” wage for the work they performed: they received a JOB, a gift of mercy and generosity!  These laborers were bringing home “the bacon”; well, at least money, to their families.

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We should look at this situation in today’s Gospel from the viewpoint of the last laborers to be hired that day.  Standing on that street all day, without any income had to be a major stressor for them.  Their concerns for their family’s welfare had to weigh heavily on their minds.  What a cross to carry for them.  For most of the day, they worried about how they were going to feed and clothe their family – – (not to mention their home, car insurances, their children’s college educations, and future wedding expenses – -).  Then suddenly and unexpectedly, a stranger – – toward, and at the end of the work day – – offers each of them a job.  How excited and relieved do you think these individuals were?  Do you think they were appreciative workers?, trying to do their best?  When we say something is “unfair,” please take a second look, flip that coin over, as it may very well not only be “fair”, but be a godly “Christian” approach to the situation!

God calls and asks EACH of us to do certain things, and if we do them, we will be compensated with what He has promised.  Others may be asked to do certain things differently, and the truly lucky ones are going to be asked to do more than anyone else.  Yep, those of us who arrived early, and are affected by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, are given more graces (and talents) to share – – more work!!

Grace is like that elusive mustard seed found often in the bible parables: it starts as a small, nearly invisible seed in our heart and in our soul.  With care and love, it grows to engulf (in a very good way) our words, actions, faith, soul, and our relationships with others.  Those who find God’s promise of redemption and salvation, at the end of their life’s journey, through the “Sacrament of the Anointing” while on their deathbed will not have enough time to nurture a huge bush or tree of graces like one growing over many years in others.  Yet, they will still have the same bounty as everyone else in God’s kingdom.  There is NO difference in feeling or reward when it comes to the eternal joy and magnificence found in being face-to-face in the presence of God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and His (and our) beautiful Mother, Mary.  Heaven is the ultimate “Equal Opportunity” experience, the ultimate manifested equality within the Trinitarian family of God!

To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:19-20);

And,

“One body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

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The landowner’s conduct of hiring throughout the day involved no violation of law or justice toward any of the laborers.  His only problem, “per-se”, is having a virtue of generosity toward the later hires.  Virtue is a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent.  Virtues should be valued as a foundation for principles of good moral life and ethics in decision making.  Virtues not only promote, but also reveal the character and moral well-being of individuals, and society as a whole.  Virtues are AWESOME!!  Virtues are likenesses of God Himself:

I know, my God, that you put hearts to the test and that you take pleasure in integrity. With a whole heart I have willingly given all these things, and now with joy I have seen your people here present also giving to you generously.” (1 Chronicles 29:17)

The laborers resentment over the “fair” wage is the sin of “envy.”  Envy is a vice contrary to virtue.  Envy is a feeling of unhappiness or greed in regard to another’s advantages, successes, possessions, and so on.  In other words, the laborers are breaking the 10th Commandment:

Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property.”  (Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21)

Envy is a deadly, capital, or cardinal sin (depending on which catechism you read).  Envy is not a light matter; it is a “mortal” sin, deforming the soul, and can lead to eternal separation from God in the hell of the individual aloneness within himself – – unless acknowledged, confessed, corrected, and repented through the Sacrament of Reconciliation with and oneself.

The workers in this parable sound very much like bickering, backbiting children, comparing what they have been given individually, and then complaining to their parent: “It’s unfair!”  Children have a tendency to equate love with gifts and other material things.  This tendency can give way to a spirit of “entitlement”, which offsets the spirit of gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation.  Any effort we make to overcome the tendency toward entitlement, to keep love from being entwined and linked to things like gifts and possessions, will enable us to accept “fully” the love which God freely and generously gives to each of us – – PERSONALLY!!!

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To conclude: until recently, I thought the landowner was totally unfair to the “early risers”, the ones willing to get to work early.  Upon reflection, I have realized that this “unfairness” was certainly not the case at all.  Regardless of the individual workers situations, the landowner treated each and every one in a fair, just, and loving way.

This parable reminds us that although God owes us nothing, he offers ALL GOOD abundantly, copiously, and spontaneously.  We are occasionally tempted to think that our own actions deserve more of God’s abundant and overflowing grace, than the actions of others.  However, God’s generosity cannot be quantified or partitioned into different amounts for different people – – He gives us His ALL, to each of us – – uniquely and personally.  When we think of “how much” we deserve, we are relating to God on “OUR” terms rather than accepting God’s radically different ways – – His plan for us.

God is generously opening the doors of his kingdom to all who will enter freely, both those who have labored a life-time for Him and those who come to Him at the last hour.  While the grace is the same, the motive for one’s labor makes all the difference.  Some work only for “reward” and not out of love as a gift.  They will only put as much effort in as they think they will get out.  Others labor out of love and joy for the opportunity to work, to give, to accomplish.  The Lord calls His disciples to serve God and neighbor with generosity and joy.  Do you perform your work and duties with cheerfulness for the Lord’s sake?  Do you give generously to others, especially to those in need?

 

Please consider these further questions.  Why did the laborers in today’s reading grumble?  Was the landowner’s assessment over wages accurate and just?  Now, look for any tendency you may have to make comparisons.  Ask yourself if these comparisons are helpful in your relationships.  Sadly, we are sometimes like these laborers when we make comparisons in our daily lives.

Love cannot, and should not, to be measured – – it is NOT a quantitative virtue.  Sit quietly, acknowledging God’s great love for you as an individual.  Reflect on the time, talents, and treasures you have to offer; and how you can best share these graces from God the Father to others in your life.

Many of us have been given more than we need for life and comfort.  In comparison to the extreme and devastating poverty in many parts of this world in which we live TODAY, most of us reading this reflection actually live in comparative royalty.  How generous are we with what we have earned or been given.  On a daily basis, we are offered many opportunities to share what we have with others.  This sharing does not necessarily mean materialistic items; it also means spiritual wealth through prayers and kindness to the others we meet – – Time, Talents, and Treasures.

God wants us to be like the “landowner” was with each of his laborers.  In this Gospel reading, it is written:

You too go into my vineyard.” (Matthew 20:7)

All of us should respond to Jesus’ “call” in the unique way we are capable of doing so.  Each of us has a distinct and personal “calling”, regardless of the time (first or last, early or late) in our lives.  In answering this call from God, we will receive “the same” inheritance of benefits in, and of, God’s kingdom.  Please do not forget that heaven is a grace in itself; an awesome, beautiful, and everlasting gift of God.  (Oh, by the way, please read a great book: “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back”, by Todd Burpo.)

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 

Prayer for Vocations

 

“Lord Jesus, as you once called the first disciples to make them fishers of men, let your sweet invitation continue to resound: Come, follow Me!

Give young men & woman the grace of responding quickly to your voice.  Support our bishops, priests & consecrated people in their apostolic labor.

Grant perseverance to our seminarians & to all those who are carrying out the ideal of a life totally consecrated to your service.  Awaken in our community a missionary eagerness.  Lord, SEND WORKERS TO YOUR HARVEST and do not allow humanity to be lost for the lack of pastors, missionaries and people dedicated to the cause of the Gospel.

Mary, Mother of the Church; the model of every vocation, help us to say ‘Yes’ to the Lord Who calls us to cooperate in the divine plan of salvation.  Amen.”

  

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

  

ТТТ

 

 

New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The third form of the penitential rite, with the various invocations of Christ (e.g., “You came to call sinners”) will be much the same (not much of a change), though an option is added to conclude each invocation in Greek:

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

instead of in English: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy”, as it is presently.  The first two forms (found in the past two previous blogs) may conclude with this threefold litany too, either in English or in Greek.

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

 

 

ТТТ

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663)

 

Joseph is most famous for levitating at prayer.

Already as a child, Joseph showed a fondness for prayer.  After a short career with the Capuchins, he joined the Conventuals.  Following a brief assignment caring for the friary mule, Joseph began his studies for the priesthood.  Though studies were very difficult for him, Joseph gained a great deal of knowledge from prayer.  He was ordained in 1628.

Joseph’s tendency to levitate during prayer was sometimes a cross; some people came to see this much as they might have gone to a circus sideshow.  Joseph’s gift led him to be humble, patient and obedient, even though at times he was greatly tempted and felt forsaken by God.  He fasted and wore iron chains for much of his life.

The friars transferred Joseph several times for his own good and for the good of the rest of the community.  He was reported to and investigated by the Inquisition; the examiners exonerated him.

Joseph was canonized in 1767.  In the investigation preceding the canonization, 70 incidents of levitation are recorded.

Comment:

While levitation is an extraordinary sign of holiness, Joseph is also remembered for the ordinary signs he showed.  He prayed even in times of inner darkness, and he lived out the Sermon on the Mount.  He used his “unique possession” (his free will) to praise God and to serve God’s creation.

Quote:

“Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own.  When a man trains himself to acts of virtue, it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this.  The will is what man has as his unique possession” (St. Joseph of Cupertino, from the reading for his feast in the Franciscan breviary).

Patron Saint of: Air travelers, Astronauts, Pilots

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)

ТТТ

 

 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis

 

How does Francis identify himself?

What attitude toward the Sacrament of the Eucharist does Francis express in his writings?

How and why does Francis express that the focus of our lives is “to praise God”?

Francis writes: “…hate our bodies with their vices and sins”.  What specifically are we to “hate”?  How does this compare to the spirit of “Canticle of the Sun”?  How does this compare to Romans 8:5-8?

 

ТТТ

 

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 18 & 19 of 26:

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.

Т

19.  Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.  Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others.  Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.

 

 

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


            

Today in Catholic History:

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

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Suffering with truth decay?  Brush up on your Bible.

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Joy in Suffering”

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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


 

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

 

 

 

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

This event occurs only one time every 823years. 

AND,

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

BUT the best news is that:

Jesus comes every moment of every day!

 

Today in Catholic History:


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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

 

  

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“In Gratitude”

 

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

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Patron Saint of Earthquakes

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

    

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

 

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

 

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

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

“Heaven is the Ultimate “Equal Opportunity” Crowd!” – Mt 20:1-16†


Going to the Chapel, and I’m Going to Get, Umm, – “retreated.”  Yep, I am going on our Franciscan (SFO) annual retreat this weekend.  So, I may be a little late in posting a reflection on Sunday, but it will get done.  If there are any intentions, please be comforted that I intend to pray for any of your intentions (this sentence is close to a “department of repetition department” sentence).  Pax  [PS – Please pray for good weather]

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   849 – Death of Walafrid Strabo, German monk and theologian
†  1503 – Death of Pope Alexander VI (b. 1431)
†  1559 – Death of Pope Paul IV (b. 1476)
†  1579 – Birth of Charlotte Flandrina of Nassau, Roman Catholic nun (died 1640)
†  1596 – Birth of Jean Bolland, Flemish Jesuit writer (d. 1665)
†  1857 – Birth of Libert H. Boeynaems, Belgian Catholic prelate (d. 1926)
†  1952 – Death of Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, Chilean Jesuit saint (b. 1901)

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

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Forbidden fruits create many jams.

  

Today’s reflection is about the landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day, and paid all the same.

 

1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2 After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3 Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  5 So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  6 Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  7 They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’  8 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  9 When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  10 So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  11 And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  13 He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  15 (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’  16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  (NAB Mt 20:1-16)

 

With the unemployment rate the way it is in this country, today’s Gospel reading probably hits home with most of us, and in a very unique and special way.  So many homes have been affected by the devastation of jobs being eliminated and/or moved to third-world countries where labor is so much less than in the United States.

This parable is about a landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day and then paying all the laborers the same wage.  It is difficult to know whether he actually composed it, or received it as part of his education and faith formation.  If the latter, what was the original reference?  In its present context, it is closely association with Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”   

Why does the landowner go find and hire laborers throughout the day.  As I believe in simple answers, I think it is because he doesn’t want to leave out anyone willing to work.  This landowner definitely had compassion for the others around him.  In a sense, he was walking in Jesus’ footsteps.  Too bad the laborers that were hired first did not grasp the landowner’s outlook on society, on life in general, on Christian business principles, and on kindness to others around them. 

Different interpretations, in my understanding, have been given to the verse about the first being last and the last being first.  In view of Matthew’s associating it with today’s parable, and then substantially repeating it, but in its reverse order at the end of the parable (verse 16), probably means that all who respond to the call of Jesus at whatever time (first or last), will be inheriting the benefits of the kingdom: the gift of God.  In other words, Matthew is suggesting through Jesus’ parable, that the equality of all the disciples is in the reward of inheriting eternal life.

When the landowner said to the laborers (verse 4), “What is just,” I recognized that he did not actually saying what they would be paid as a wage.  Although the wage was not stipulated, it is clear to the reader that it would be a fair wage for the amount of time worked.  I, as most people would have assumed, believed that these and the subsequent would-be hires for the day would be paid less.  But in God’s Kingdom there are no differences, no prejudices, and no separations.  All in heaven are joyful, pure, and perfected before the throne of God.

Verse 8, Beginning with the last . . . the first” is the catalysis that open this story to a potentially controversial discussion and various opinions.  This particular aspect of the story has no other purpose that I can see, other than to show how the first laborers knew what the last laborers were paid (verse 12).

In verse 13, the landowner says two distinctive articles or phrases, “My friend,” and “I am not cheating you.” In calling the laborers his friend, he is expressing a caring for that individual, and that he wished a type of special relationship with that individual.  He further stresses that he was not treating anyone unjustly.  He only asked for the laborer to perform a certain function, and then paid him what he promised.  This landowner’s relationship with another individual should be of no concern to anyone else.  The landowner gave to the laborer what he promised him.

This reflection on the above paragraph makes me think about something my Spiritual Director had to say one day.  We were talking about the graces and talents each of us are given.  He pointed out the two coffee cups on our table, one small and one much larger.  He said that when each cup is totally full – they are totally full and can hold no more.  That is how graces and talents are with us.  We can be totally full of grace, and though one of our “cups” is larger than the other, it makes no difference – both are totally full of grace!  Can the “cup” get larger?  Definitely, but it makes no difference on what God can give; He gives us all we can hold! 

The laborers, at first sight, had an appropriate grievance against the landowner. They worked more, so they deserved more than those that only worked a “few” hours and not all day, even if it meant that their fellow co-workers had to suffer.  In hindsight, and in consideration of today’s economic environment, they (and we) need to see things from another viewpoint.  They received something else that day besides the “fair” wage: they received a JOB!  These laborers were bringing home money to their families.

Everyone needs to look at this situation in today’s Gospel from the viewpoint of the last laborers to be hired for that day.  Standing on that street all day, without any income had to be a major stressor.  Their concerns for their family’s welfare had to weigh heavy on their minds.  What a cross to carry for them.  For most of the day, they worried how they were going to feed and clothe their loved one’s (not to mention college educations).  Then this stranger, at the end of the day, offers them a job.  How excited and relieved do you think those men were?  Do you think they were appreciative workers, doing their best?  When we say that something is “unfair,” please take a second look, as it may very well not only be fair, but the Christian thing to do!

God asks of us to do certain things, and if we do them we will be compensated with what He has promised.  Others may be asked to certain things differently, and the truly lucky ones are going to be asked to do more.  Yep, those of us that have arrived early, and are affected by the grace of our Lord, are given more graces to share. 

Grace is like that elusive mustard seed found often in bible parables: it starts as a small, nearly invisible seed on our soul.  With care and love, it grows to engulf (in a very good way) our soul, faith, and our relationships with other.  Those that find the redemption and salvation of God’s promise, through the Sacrament of the Anointing while on their deathbed, will not have enough time to nurture a huge tree of graces like those that others may grow over many years, but will still have the same bounty as all others.  There is NO difference in the eternal joy and magnificence of being in the presence of our Lord Jesus, and His (and our) beautiful Mother, Mary.  Heaven is the ultimate “Equal Opportunity” crowd.

The landowner’s conduct of hiring throughout the day involves no violation of law, justice, or gratitude towards any of the laborers.  His only “problem per-se” was having the virtue of generosity towards the later hires.  In my belief, virtues are a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent and valued as a foundation for principles of life, and good morality and ethics in decisions.  Virtues promote the individual and collective societies well being.

The laborers resentment over the “fair” wage is a sin of vice: it is “envy.”  Envy is a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, and so on.  In other words, the laborers are breaking the 10th Commandment: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property.”  Envy is a deadly, capital, or cardinal sin (depending on which catechism you read).  Envy is not a light matter; it is a “mortal” sin that destroys the life of grace, and creates a threat of eternal damnation in hell to the individual, if un-repented.

Until recently, I thought the landowner was totally unfair to the early risers; the ones that were willing to get to work early.  Upon meditation and reflection, I have realized that this “unfairness” was certainly not the case at all.  Regardless of the individual situations any of these workers may have had, the landowner treated each and every one on a fair, equal, and loving basis. 

Many of us have been given more than we need in life.  In comparison to the extreme and devastating poverty in many parts of the world, we actually live as royalty.  How generous are we with what we have earned or been given.  On a daily basis, we are given many opportunities to share what we have with others.  This sharing does not only mean materialistic items; it also means our spiritual wealth as well, through prayers and kindness to the others we meet.

God wants to treat each of us as the landowner did.  In Matthew 20:7, it is written, “You too go into my vineyard.  “Any of us who responds to Jesus’ call, and each of us has a distinct and unique calling, regardless of the time (first or last) in our lives, will receive “the same” in inheriting all the benefits of God’s kingdom.  And please do not forget that heaven is a grace in itself; a gift of God.

 

“Prayer after Confession”

 

“O almighty and most merciful God, I give You thanks with all the powers of my soul for this and all other mercies, graces, and blessings bestowed on me, and prostrating myself at Your sacred feet, I offer myself to be henceforth forever Yours.  Let nothing in life or death ever separates me from You!  I renounce with my whole soul all my treasons against You, and all the abominations and sins of my past life.  I renew my promises made in Baptism, and from this moment I dedicate myself eternally to Your love and service.  Grant that for the time to come, I may detest sin more than death itself, and avoid all such occasions and companies as have unhappily brought me to it.  This I resolve to do by the aid of Your divine grace, without which I can do nothing. Amen.”

From Catholic Prayers Website
http://www.yenra.com/catholic/prayers

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jane Frances de Chantal (1562-1641)

 

Jane Frances was wife, mother, nun and founder of a religious community. Her mother died when Jane was 18 months old, and her father, head of parliament at Dijon, France, became the main influence on her education. She developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, lively and cheerful in temperament. At 21 she married Baron de Chantal, by whom she had six children, three of whom died in infancy. At her castle she restored the custom of daily Mass, and was seriously engaged in various charitable works.

Jane’s husband was killed after seven years of marriage, and she sank into deep dejection for four months at her family home. Her father-in-law threatened to disinherit her children if she did not return to his home. He was then 75, vain, fierce and extravagant. Jane Frances managed to remain cheerful in spite of him and his insolent housekeeper.

When she was 32, she met St. Francis de Sales (October 24), who became her spiritual director, softening some of the severities imposed by her former director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to defer this decision. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.

After three years Francis told her of his plan to found an institute of women which would be a haven for those whose health, age or other considerations barred them from entering the already established communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation (hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness.

The usual opposition to women in active ministry arose and Francis de Sales was obliged to make it a cloistered community following the Rule of St. Augustine. Francis wrote his famous Treatise on the Love of God for them. The congregation (three women) began when Jane Frances was 45. She underwent great sufferings: Francis de Sales died; her son was killed; a plague ravaged France; her daughter-in-law and son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the plague and she put all her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick.

During a part of her religious life, she had to undergo great trials of the spirit—interior anguish, darkness and spiritual dryness. She died while on a visitation of convents of the community.

Comment:

It may strike some as unusual that a saint should be subject to spiritual dryness, darkness, interior anguish. We tend to think that such things are the usual condition of “ordinary” sinful people. Some of our lack of spiritual liveliness may indeed be our fault. But the life of faith is still one that is lived in trust, and sometimes the darkness is so great that trust is pressed to its limit.

Quote:

St. Vincent de Paul (September 27) said of Jane Frances: “She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself…But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

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 #18 of 26:

 


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.