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“Go, Get Out of Here! Go Get Some Fish For Me To Clean!” – Mark 6:7-13†


 

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I love today’s readings immensely.  For me, it’s proof that Jesus not only wanted, but insisted on each of us to go out to the masses – – the very people we meet on our daily journeys through life – – and preach the Gospel, and to spread the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (the charisms, from which the word “charismatic” originates): Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and the Fear of the Lord [an awe confirming hope in the Lord].  This last charism is a hard one to understand for most of us.  Simply speaking, “fear” is not the fear of being harmed.  Biblical fear is the desire not to offend God, an awareness and certainty that God will supply us with the grace (the gift) which we need in order to keep from offending Him (Some call it “piety”).

The seven gifts (charisms) of the Holy Spirit are spelled out in the prophetic Old Testament book of Isaiah:

“The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.  Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide” (Isaiah 11:2-3).

(Per NAB Bible footnote: The Septuagint and the Vulgate read “piety” for “fear of the Lord” in its first occurrence, thus listing seven gifts.)

These graces, gifts, or charisms, are present in their fullness in Jesus Christ Himself.  However, these special gifts from God the Father are found in all Christians who are in a state of grace.  We receive them when infused with “sanctifying grace”, the life of God within us, at the moment of each Sacrament!!  You can read more about charisms of the Holy Spirit throughout the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” especially paragraphs 688, 798 – 800, and 2003 specifically.  To learn more about “sanctifying grace”, read paragraphs 1266, 1999-2000, and 2023-2024, among others.  There is a whole section in the catechism dedicated solely to the Holy Spirit; please review.

If you do not own a copy of the catechism, my question is, “WHY NOT?!!”: it is the Catholic “rule book”, a living part and parcel with the Catholic “instruction manual”, the Catholic Bible (73 book edition).  However, to save the day, there is an online edition available here: http://old.usccb.org/catechism/text/.

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Today in Catholic History     

†   1099 – First Crusade: Christian soldiers take Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem after the final assault of a difficult siege.
†   1205 – Pope Innocent III states Jews are doomed to perpetual servitude and subjugation due to crucifixion of Jesus.  (This was corrected by John XXIIII)
†   1274 – Death of John F Bonaventure, Italian/French Theologian. A Dominican and a Saint of the Catholic Church
†   1823 – A fire destroys the ancient Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
†   1850 – Birth of Francesca Xavier Cabrini, [Mother Cabrini], 1st US saint
†   1898 – Death of Jean Baptiste Salpointe, the first Bishop of Arizona and the second Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico. (b. 1825)
†   1944 – Death of Marie-Victorin, French Canadian  De La Salle Christian Brother and botanist (b. 1885)
†   1953 – Death of Servant of God Archbishop Mar Ivanios, founder of the Bethany Ashram order of monks [India]. (b.1882)
†   1992 – Pope John Paul II hospitalized for 3 weeks to have tumor removed

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

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Quote of the Day:

“Once you become a good steward of the graces God has given you, then you are in a position to extend them to others.  There is no better way to live your life.  It will then be said of you, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21).” ~ Sr. Anne Shields, S.G.L., “To Be Like Jesus“, Servant Books

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Today’s reflection: Jesus instructs His disciples, and then sends them to preach repentance.

 

(NAB Mark 6:7-13) 7 He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.  8 He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.  9 They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.  10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there.  11 Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”  12 So they went off and preached repentance.  13 They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The readings at Mass tell a story about God calling His “prophets”, and later “apostles”, to go out and spread the good news, the Word of God, and the Gospel of the Lord.  In the first reading, the Lord appears to Amos, and commands him to go and prophesy to the people of Israel in Bethel, under the authority of Amaziah, the priest of Bethel.

I find it truly interesting that like most of the men and woman whom God “calls”, Amos did not consider himself a prophet or even worthy of God’s grace.  It is often said:

“God does not call the qualified but God qualifies the called.”

That’s why Amos declares to Amaziah:

I am not a prophet, nor do I belong to a company of prophets.  I am a herdsman and a dresser of sycamores, but the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” (Amos 7:14-15).

This week’s Gospel, and the one for next week (cf., Mark 6:30-34), relates to us the “how” Jesus sends and commissions His twelve disciples to minister – – in His name – – and of their return to Jesus afterwards.  Interestingly, these two passages (this next week’s) are not presented together in Mark’s Gospel.  Inserted between these two stories is the report of Herod’s fear that Jesus is actually John the Baptist himself, somehow reincarnated back from the dead.  (Did Herod believe in zombies?) 

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ ministry is presented in connection with the teaching of John the Baptist – – and John’s rejection and death.  Jesus’ public ministry begins after John the Baptist is arrested.  So, John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ – – the Savior Messiah – – who preached the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God which John the Baptist heralded during his prophetic ministry of baptizing as a sign of a true conversion and repentance (a “metanoia”).

While we do not read the details about John the Baptist in our Gospel this week or next week, our Lectionary sequence stays consistent with Mark’s theme: the close connection between John’s and Jesus’ ministries.  Recall that last week we heard how Jesus was rejected in his hometown of Nazareth (cf., Mark 6:1-6).  Mark’s insertion – – NOW – – of a reminder about John the Baptist’s ministry, and his death at the hands of Herod, makes a similar point: John was also rejected, imprisoned, and murdered for his faith and obedience to the “Word”!  Mark reminded his readers about this dangerous context of rejection with regard to Jesus’ ministry for Himself AND for His disciples: preaching, metanoia, repentance, and the Kingdom of God, was a dangerous business for both.  Mark wanted his readers to remember that we, too, may (and will) find resistance as we choose to be disciples of Jesus, following our own personal “Way of the Cross”.

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Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus sent out specifically the “Twelve”.  These twelve were selected from among all of Jesus’ disciples; they are named by Mark in chapter three of his Gospel:

Simon, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot. 

Mark notes that these twelve are also called “apostles” (meaning “one who is sent”).  But why did Jesus choose “twelve”?  Well, the number twelve is a symbolic number, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  By naming “twelve apostles”, Jesus is showing His mission to be in continuity with the intention, will, and plan of God the Father for His “chosen” people, Israel.

This preparation for the mission of Jesus’ “Twelve Apostles” is seen in the two-fold call:

(1) They are the first disciples, called to be “fishers of men” – – “sent out” to preach and heal in His name:

“As He passed by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.  Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  Then they abandoned their nets and followed Him.  He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They too were in a boat mending their nets.  Then He called them.  So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed Him” (Mark 1:16–20);

and:

(2) The “Twelve Apostles” are set apart – – to be with Jesus in a new, unique, and intimate way – – to receive authority to preach and expel demons:

“He went up the mountain and summoned those whom He wanted and they came to Him.  He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with Him and He might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: [He appointed the twelve:] Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom He named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.” (Mark 3:13–19). 

Now these twelve closest and most intimate disciples of Jesus Christ are given the specific mission to exercise God’s authority – – in word and power – – as representatives of Jesus during the time of their formation.

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Jesus’ instructions to the apostles are very specific.  He repeats that mission to “preach”, “to share His authority”, “to heal”, and “to drive out demons” (No easy task – – then – – or NOW!).   Jesus sends them in pairs, establishing His mission as a communal endeavor.  There are NO “independent” Catholics.  We ALL make up the ONE, Holy, Catholic (Universal), and Apostolic Church; we are ALL part of Christ’s body.  When one sins, it literally affects every other part of the body of the Church, just as an injury affects the entire human body.  When one part is “redeemed”, the body is healthier.

Interestingly so, in Mark, the use of a walking stick (Mark 6:8) and sandals (Mark 6:9) is permitted, but not so in Matthew nor in Luke:  

Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.  The laborer deserves his keep.” (Matthew 10:9-10);

Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.” (Luke 10:4).

Mark does not mention any prohibition against visiting pagan territories or entering Samaritan towns.  These differences indicate a certain adaptation to the unique conditions of Christian communities in and outside of Palestine; they also suggest in Mark’s account a later activity in his particular church.  

Jesus also instructed the “apostles” to travel lightly, without the customary food, money, and extra set of clothes normally taken on trips.  These instructions obliged the Twelve to be dependent on the hospitality of others they met along their journey of faith, preaching, and healing.  They were to do no more than that of Jesus Himself, for Jesus also depended on others to provide for His needs.

Jesus required His “apostles” (and other disciples) a total and absolute desire for, and dependence upon God the Father for food and shelter, which He would provide through other people and the Holy Spirit:

“By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, ‘This is a deserted place and it is already very late.  Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’  He said to them in reply, ‘Give them some food yourselves.’  But they said to him, ‘Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?’  He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?  Go and see.’ And when they had found out they said, ‘Five loaves and two fish.’  So He gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass.  The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties.  Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to [His] disciples to set before the people; He also divided the two fish among them all.  They all ate and were satisfied.  And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish.  Those who ate [of the loaves] were five thousand men.” (Mark 6:35–44);

And,

“In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, He summoned the disciples and said, ‘My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.’  His disciples answered him, ‘Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?’  Still He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ ‘Seven,’ they replied.  He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.  Then, taking the seven loaves He gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to His disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd.  They also had a few fish.  He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also.  They ate and were satisfied.  They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets.  There were about four thousand people.” (Mark 8:1–9).

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These twelve men, sent in pairs,  were also instructed to remain in the same house where they were accepted, and stayed as guests as long as there was a need (Mark 6:10).  This instruction kept them from moving to another home offering greater comfort, better food, and more luxurious shelter; this helped them avoid any impression of seeking advantage for themselves, and prevented dishonoring any host.  

“Shaking the dust off one’s feet” (Mark 6:11) functioned as visual and external sacramental act of sorts, testifying against those who rejected the call to repentance, those who rejected an internal belief, and the redemption offered through faith in, through, and with Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah.

By “shaking the dust frpm one’s feet”, these apostles of Christ were indicating a complete disassociation – – a disclaimer of any connection or involvement — with such unbelievers.  These non-believers did not want to have what these apostles of Christ had to offer to them; Christ is never to be forced on anyone.  After all, not everyone is going to be open to accept or believe what the Apostles came to say and to perform in their midst.  However such refusals did not – – could not – – stop their (Christ’s) mission on earth.

Interestingly, this concept of refusing to accept or believe is not only for strangers with whom we come into contact in our lives; it very well (and often) does include neighbors, coworkers, fellow parishioners, and even those within our own immediate families.   I recall personally, my attempts to get men and women I KNOW who would love the experience and divine encounter from attending an ACTS retreat (a type of Catholic “Cursillo” retreat).  I, at times, became SOooo frustrated at the lack of enthusiasm and outright refusal by others, (sometimes even indignantly), at my invitation to this time of fellowship, community, spirituality, theology, and enjoyment.   I must add no one who has attended, ever was disappointed by participating in an ACTS retreat.  It wasn’t I making their experience and encounter so awesome and enjoyable; it was the Holy Spirit awakening and being set free within them which creates all the joyful emotions, and renewed faith, one encounters on such a retreat. 

It has taken me a few years of such bad exposures and experiences while evangelizing to realize that, when we “rub someone the wrong way”, when we fail to “connect” with someone the first time when evangelizing, I learned the need for giving them some time and space to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through them for a change of heart.  After all, we are ultimately on God’s time, not ours.

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Jesus sent these brave and devoted men out to drive off demons as they:

Anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mark 6:13).

Using oils of various types was a common medicinal remedy during Jesus’ time on earth.  However, the use of oil as an instrument (a sacramental) to facilitate a cure, is seen – – in this particular case – – as a vessel of divine power, a divine grace, for healing.

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In Summary, when Jesus spoke of power and authority, He did something truly unique: He married “power” and “authority” with “love” and “humility”.  The “world” and the “flesh” seek power for selfish gain; However, Jesus teaches us to use it for the good and welfare of our neighbors – – our communities.  

Jesus, today, still continues to send us into the world as His disciples – – His little apostles.  However, like the first disciples, we are not, nor ever will be, sent out alone.  Jesus gave us a great gift, a great grace, the community of the Church.  The Church (not the building, but the people) strengthens our life and desire for discipleship.  The Christian message can only be authentically proclaimed in, with, and through the community of faith – – and faith-full – – the true Church of Christ.  In our work and words with others, we build this community of faith; and we should be inviting others to share in this great gift from God the Father Himself!  I challenge you to ask someone to attend Mass with you this week, next week, and so.  As any “fisherman” knows, you throw in the hook and sometimes nothing happens; and occasionally a great catch is “taken home”!

Why does Jesus tell the apostles to “travel light” – – with little or no provisions needed for their journey?  Why did Jesus want them to live in poverty?  Answer: to live in His Holy Spirit: “Poverty of spirit” freed them (and frees us) from greed, materialism, and preoccupation with possessions, thus making more than enough room for God’s wants, needs, and provisions to fill us completely and fully.  Jesus wants His disciples (still today) – – US – – to be dependent UPON HIM and not on one’s self.  Jesus wants to work in, with, and through, each of us for His glory.

Every day we are called to prophesy (to encourage) and to preach (to testify).  By right and power of our Baptism we are called to be priest and prophet.  Many times when I felt unqualified when asked to perform a task, I felt inadequate for the task at hand.  However, I learned that, if I just said “yes”, surrendering to the Holy Spirit, God the Father would “qualify” me, the unqualified.   He would give me the tools and knowledge to complete the task He has called me to complete in His name. 

So how do we spread the good news?  St. Francis made it very clear:

“Preach the Gospel and use words only when necessary”.

St. Francis also made it clear that we should preach the Gospel to all of God’s creation.  (So, talk to your dogs and cats about today’s Gospel.)

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In conclusion, families who work together, accomplishing the humdrum, routine household tasks, know the benefits of cooperation are more than simple efficiency.  In sharing daily tasks, we accomplish more; AND, we also build lasting, enjoyable, relationships.  So, Jesus sent His disciples in pairs to preach, teach, and heal in His name.  Perhaps the work of the apostles was accomplished more effectively in pairs; and more importantly, Jesus’ own mission was actually accomplished – – more authentically! – – (Whoa, think on this last statement.  It is pretty heavy theologically and philosophically).  Jesus’ message can only authentically be proclaimed in, with, and through His/OUR “community” of faith – – a Universal (“Catholic”) Church [in the singular].  

Think about some household tasks which are more easily accomplished when done with two or more people working together.  Why does working together not only make the job easier, but also make the task more fun?   Well, probably because you and the others helping are able to spend time together in “community”.  

Knowing the advantages and capabilities of “community”, why do you think Jesus sent out His disciples in pairs?  Jesus STILL continues to give us “communities” with which we intimately share our life of discipleship: our family AND the community of the local and universal Church.  The Lord Jesus Christ entrusts us with His gifts and talents.  Are you eager to place yourself at His service (?), to do whatever He bids of you (?); to witness His truth and saving power to whomever and wherever He sends you?

Please pray we ALL continue to rely on the support of the community of the Church in our life of discipleship.  The Holy Spirit is the oxygen for our souls, and for the living universal Church community, breathed into us by Christ Himself!  Wow, let me finish with this UNIQUE analogy of the community of the universal (Catholic) Church:

The Catholic Church is a:

SOLE             (meaning “singular” or “ONE”, and, a type of white “fish”)
COMMUNITY
OF

SOULS
           (meaning “fishers of men”)!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

“O God, who show the light of your truth
to those who go astray,
so that they may return to the right path,
give all who for the faith they profess
are accounted Christians
the grace to reject whatever is contrary to
the name of Christ
and to strive after all that does it honor.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.  Amen.”

(Prayer for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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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 who 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, Laying on of hands for 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.

Christ’s Divinity

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’” (Isaiah 9:6) RSV.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) KJV.

***

“Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16-17) RSV.

“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Bonaventure (1221-1274)

 

Bonaventure, Franciscan, theologian, doctor of the Church, was both learned and holy.  Because of the spirit that filled him and his writings, he was at first called the Devout Doctor; but in more recent centuries he has been known as the Seraphic Doctor after the “Seraphic Father” Francis because of the truly Franciscan spirit he possessed.

Born in Bagnoregio, a town in central Italy, he was cured of a serious illness as a boy through the prayers of Francis of Assisi.  Later, he studied the liberal arts in Paris.  Inspired by Francis and the example of the friars, especially of his master in theology, Alexander of Hales, he entered the Franciscan Order, and became in turn a teacher of theology in the university.  Chosen as minister general of the Order in 1257, he was God’s instrument in bringing it back to a deeper love of the way of St. Francis, both through the life of Francis which he wrote at the behest of the brothers and through other works which defended the Order or explained its ideals and way of life.

Comment:

Bonaventure so united holiness and theological knowledge that he rose to the heights of mysticism while yet remaining a very active preacher and teacher, one beloved by all who met him.  To know him was to love him; to read him is still for us today to meet a true Franciscan and a gentleman.

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 (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

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

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

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♫“Mary, Did You Know …!”♫ – Luke 1:26-38†


 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am still on the road to recovery, and feeling better each day.  Thanks for all the prayers, and please continue.  I, in return, am also praying for each of your intentions.

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 Today in Catholic History:    

†   821 – Death of Theodulf, Bishop of Orléans
†   1352 – Etienne Aubert elected as Pope Innocentius VI †   1442 – Death of Pierre Cauchon, French Catholic bishop (b. 1371)
†   1837 – Birth of Adolf Daens, Belgian priest/Dutch party founder (CVP)
†   1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Optissima Pax
†   Feasts/Memorials: Gatianus of Tours; O Adonai; Our Lady of Expectation; Greek Orthodox Church – Feast of Sebastian the Martyr

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

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“If there’s one sign or mark of living love it is selflessness.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One

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Today’s reflection is about the Archangel “Gabriel” visiting Mary to announce her conception and the Incarnation of the “Word” to be made flesh: Jesus.

 

(NAB Luke 1:26-38) 26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read the story of the Archangel “Gabriel’s” announcement to a young teenager, Mary, about the birth of her only son, Jesus.  This story, as presented today, is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Mark (This liturgical years Gospel writer) does not even cover the infancy narratives as well.  

On this last Sunday of Advent, the liturgy shifts from a two-week focus on John the Baptist to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Both John and Mary serve as important figures for our reflection during this season of Advent.  They each played active, involved, and instrumental roles in preparing the way for Jesus Christ.  Last week we reflected on John the Baptist’s announcement that the “Savior” was among us, although not yet recognized.  This week we reflect upon Mary’s example of faith, love, and obedience to God the Father.  These traits permitted her to receive the angel’s message that God’s Son would be born to her, as a human person, and as one of us.

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I love the infancy narratives found in Luke’s Gospel.  I have read it to my children many times throughout their CHRISTinMASS Seasons.  Reading Luke’s narrative while sitting around the home nativity scene, with its simple crib, can be a helpful way of presenting our Catholic faith to family and friends.  The symbolism of the crib brings to my mind the “mystery” and “action” of God’s love being made visible and revealed – – manifested – – in the simple poverty of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem city.  

Along with the mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation, Saint Francis loved this same infancy narrative so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223.  His “Nativity scene” (though not live) has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRISTinMASS decorations, both outside and inside the home.  What better way is there to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTinMASS?!”

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the CHRISTinMASS Nativity Scene:

It still retains its value for evangelization today. Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true CHRISTinMASS because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Corinthians 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Luke 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium. There is no other Christmas.

Т

Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, and carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood. We learn for instance, five things:

(1) Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.

(2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”

(3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and complementary terms possible, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she had with God (This is known, I might add, from the perfect past-participle part of speech Gabriel used.  This form was what caused Mary to be “greatly troubled” – – because that form states something special happened to her way in the past, and is now still present within her.)

(4) The son Mary will give birth to is described in “messianic” terms, learned from her famous ancestor, King David.

And finally,

(5) Her son [Jesus] will be called both the “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

Т

Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God (the angel) telling you that God is pleased with you??!  Mary’s initial reaction to this angel we know of as “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God”), was naturally one of surprise, and also with some obvious initial fear.  Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe.  Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.

I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction to Gabriel’s acclamation.  She places her whole self: body, heart, and soul into the hands of God.  She trusts God, and now His messenger, accepting God’s grace, gift, and responsibility – – immediately!  I believe that she is believing the message ordaining her to the Motherhood of God Himself, to become manifest in the human form of her baby boy, Jesus.  In doing so, Mary became not only the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to ALL mankind.  Now that is “awesome” indeed!!

Т

The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message given by the (same) Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah about the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both events, the Archangel Gabriel appears to the “future parents,” who are at first unsettled by the vision:

Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.” (Luke 1:12)

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29)

Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel NOT TO FEAR!

But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’” (Luke 1:13)

Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’” (Luke 1: 30-31)

And, after his announcement he declares:

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Both Zechariah and Mary initially objected to Gabriel’s announcement:

Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’” (Luke 1:18)

But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’” (Luke 1:34)

Finally, a sign is given to each as a confirmation of his announcement of God’s decision or purpose and plan:

But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:20)

And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.” (Luke 1:20)

Т

Mary questions Gabriel of “how this is possible”, for she never had any sexual relations.  Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response.  Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus.  The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the “power” of God.  Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He IS the “Son of God!”

Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, then why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!

Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence for the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God the Father.  Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God the Father.  Mary is thus the true model of discipleship for all Catholics.  She believed God!  We should believe God!  She learned to “have no fear”!  We should learn to “have no fear”!

 

Gabriel puts a particular focus and emphasis on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of DavidANDSon of God”.  In verse 32 of today’s reading, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”.  Later, in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.”  ”Most High” is a title for God which was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts).  You can see each of these references by reading Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.

Т

In my thirty plus years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting. All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear in regards to delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital.  (Thank God they didn’t realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times than them – – but I could bluff well.)  Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age.  Once, I even took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years old (YES, 13!); she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home.  To make the matters worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ended in an abortion.  (You do the math!)  Now, surprisingly, this young mother was probably only a year or two younger than Mary when she became pregnant with Jesus!

I am sure Mary had some fear – – what woman wouldn’t!  I have yet to see a woman in labor without some fear; and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control).  I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age mind.  Examples: How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy?  How would her own family treat her?  Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know that she used cloth because the Holy Family was “eco-friendly.”)  What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph?  Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery? (This was his right per Jewish law.)  Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?  

She was a young girl of about fifteen.  Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood?  I would think not.  Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child! (Hee, hee! – – Just had to laugh on this one.)

There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle.  Yet Mary said “YES” with little hesitation! She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body!  Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new “covenant” of God – – coming to fruition with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her unique Divine Son.

I have to believe that God is not only a benevolent, merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment. Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.”  Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity.  Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment?  Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you?  Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise.  Others, including the “tepid” (lukewarm) of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell.  (I am saying “yes” too, and am looking forward to a crown for me as well – – have you?)

In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Mystery” of the Rosary.  It is called the “Annunciation”, wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel.  In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth.  Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Luke says these specific words when Gabriel appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth, Mary, for a specific purpose – – to offer Mary an insight about her cousins husbands strange infirmity of not being able to speak since his time of priestly service six months ago; and to alert her to something marvelous: her cousin, Elizabeth, is also pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit – – and is already in her “sixth month”.

This information inspired Mary to go help her cousin in the last three months of her “elderly” pregnancy. (This, by the way, is the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.)

Т

Now, one of the challenges of our Catholic faith is to recognize the mysteries of God’s plan for each of us and to inspire us to remain open to God’s “will” and God’s actions in our personal world experience.  Filled with God’s grace, Mary models for us the kind of faith needed (and desired by our Lord for us) to cooperate in God’s personal plan of salvation for each of us.  Like Mary, we are given the awesome opportunity to cooperate in God’s saving plan.  On this final Sunday of Advent, our Gospel invites us to consider how our preparations for CHRISTinMASS are making us more aware of God’s grace working in our lives today.

Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility?  To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion.  This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God.  She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us!  Yet, think about this – – realize that each of us is chosen by God in very specific and important ways as well.  We all have been given many gifts, graces, and talents from God the Father.  AND, importantly, we are expected to share them with the world.  As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others – – to help them serve God to their fullest.

Please identify some of the talents and treasures God has given you.  In what ways could, and should, these talents be used in helping others?  Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her.  Will you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did – – without question or pause?!

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To summarize: We have all probably been familiar with the story of the Annunciation for some time.  It is fitting that we recall how God the Father announced the birth of Jesus as we make our final preparations for our celebration of the coming birth of Jesus Christ.  The Archangel Gabriel visited Mary, a virgin “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.  Mary greeted the angel’s news with wonder and awe.  She asked how it could be possible that she could give birth to a child.  In his reply, the angel Gabriel announced the seemingly impossible reality: the child to be born would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and would be God the Father’s own, and only-begotten Son.  Gabriel informs Mary of another miracle; her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant despite having been thought to be “barren” due to her old age (some say in her 80’s).  Mary’s response to the angel is her personal fiat, (means “Let it be done” – -used also as a formal or official authorization of something).  Her response is the best example of complete faith, trust, love, and obedience to God the Father.

For me, the story of the “Annunciation” should bring to one’s mind God the Father’s amazing and supernatural action in salvation history.  God the Father chose a young human person, Mary, to give birth to His Son so that ALL humanity would know God’s kindness, mercy, and salvation.  Thus, Jesus was born as one of us, fully human AND yet, also fully divine.  This is the “mystery” we prepare to celebrate this and every CHRISTinMASS Season, the mystery of His Incarnation, becoming truly human.  In the model of our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, pray that all of us will come to recognize God’s saving plan for us and respond with obedience, trust, hope, and love as she did!

What have you been doing to prepare for CHRISTinMASS?  How have these preparations helped you to celebrate better the “central mystery” of CHRISTinMASS, the Incarnation?  The Gospel today talks about how Mary was prepared for her role in Christ’s birth.  What enabled Mary to say “yes” to God?  Please pray that God’s “grace” will enable you to be more faithful and obedient to God.  This is mt CHRISTinMASS wish for each of you.

ТТТ

 

 Reflection Prayer:

 

Magnificat

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.  Amen”

ТТТ

  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.

 

“Oral Tradition” Found in Holy Scripture

 

You, then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2). RSV

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2) KJV

 

“‘Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1: 12). RSV

“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” (2 John 1:12).KJV 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Poverty

 

Why do Catholics today find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

Why did Catholics in Saint Francis’ time find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

What do you know of Saint Francis’ “romance and marriage” with Lady Poverty?

ТТТ

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’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.

“Oaky- Doakie! Get Me Pregnant; My Son Will Grow Up To BE a GOD, Or a Doctor, Or a Lawyer, Or a … !!” – Luke 1:26-38†


 

“The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary”

 

 

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

 
 †   1626 – Birth of Christina, queen of Sweden who abdicated after becoming Catholic
†   1768 – Death of Jean Denis Attiret, French Jesuit missionary (b. 1702)
†   1854 – Pope Pius IX proclaims dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which hold the Blessed Virgin Mary free of “Original Sin”
†   1864 – Pope Pius IX publishes encyclical Quanta cura (“Syllabus errorum”)
†   1869 – 20th Roman Catholic ecumenical council, Vatican I, opens in Rome
†   1965 – Pope Paul VI signs 2nd Vatican council
†   Eastern Christianity Major Feast Day: Conception of the Theotokos (Mother of God) by Anna
†   Feast Day: The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (Holy Day of Obligation in Ireland, U.S.); Saint Eucharius, first bishop of Trier 

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans acknowledge that life is sacred and are dedicated to a consistent ethic of life

 

“Since life is the first gift given us by God, Franciscans have a profound respect for human life.  The itinerancy which is part of the Franciscan vocation helps the followers of Francis and Clare understand better the fragility of life and to support the most vulnerable in society. Because of this, the Franciscan family, from its earliest moments, embraced active non-violence and articulated a theology and ethics centered in love.  This spiritual perspective includes respect for those who disagree with us, as shown in the dialogue between Francis and the sultan.” 

“When I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me turned into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I delayed a little and left the world.”  St. Francis, The Testament, 1-2.

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

On the sixth day, God created the platypus. And God said: let’s see the evolutionists try and figure this one out.

 

Today’s reflection is about the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, and Mary responds, “Let it be done to me as you say.”

 

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived  a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.”  38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.  (NAB Luke 1:26-38)

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  This feast day celebrates God’s choice of Mary to be the Mother of Jesus (and us all).  In preparation, God preserved Mary from the stain or mark on her soul from original sin.  This reprieve from original sin was from the moment of her conception.  Thus, Mary’s role was prefigured from the very beginning of time!  Our Blessed Virgin Mary was also the first to receive the benefits and graces from the salvation that her Son – – Jesus Christ – – would secure for all mankind.

I love the infancy narratives in Luke’s Gospel.  I have read it to my children many times throughout the years of CHRIST-mas Seasons.  The home nativity scene, with its simple crib can be a helpful way of presenting our faith to family and friends.  The crib helps us to think about, and consider, the mystery of God’s love revealed in the poverty and simplicity of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem.  Saint Francis loved these same infancy narratives, along with the mystery of the Incarnation, so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223.  The Nativity scene has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRIST-mas decorations as well, both outside and inside the home.  What better way to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTmas!”

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the Christmas Nativity Scene:

“It still retains its value for evangelization today.  Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true Christmas because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Cor 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Lk 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium.  There is no other Christmas.”

Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood.  For instance, we learn (1) that Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.  (2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”  (3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and esteemed of terms, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she has found with God.  (And, with a perfect past-participle part of speech at that, I might add!)  (4) The son Mary is to conceive is described in messianic terms.  And, finally, (5) He [Jesus] will be called “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God telling you that God is pleased with you?!  Mary’s initial reaction to this angel, called “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God.”), was naturally one of surprise, and also probably with some fear attached to his appearance.  Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe.  Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.

I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction.  She places her body, heart, and soul into the hands of God.  She accepts His grace, gift, and responsibility.  God is granting to her the Motherhood of God Himself, in the human form of Jesus.  In doing so, Mary not only became the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to all mankind.  Now that is “awesome!!”

The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message from the archangel Gabriel to Zechariah of the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both, Gabriel appears to the “future parent,” who is at first unsettled by the vision.

Luke 1:12: “Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.”

Luke 1:29:                “         But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”

Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel not to fear.

Luke 1:13: “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’”

Luke 1: 30-31: “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’”

And, after the announcement is made,:

Luke 1:14-17: “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”

Luke 1:31-33: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

 both Zechariah and Mary initially objects (Luke 1:18, 34),:

Luke 1:18: “Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’”

Luke 1:34: “But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’”    

and finally, a sign is given to confirm the announcement (Luke 1:20, 36).

Luke 1:20: “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

Luke 1:36: “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.”

Mary questions Gabriel “of how” is because she has never had any sexual relations.  Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response.  Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus.  The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the power of God.  Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He is the “Son of God!”

Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!

Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence to the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God.  Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God.  Mary is the true model of discipleship for all Catholics.

Gabriel puts a particular focus on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of David” and “Son of God”.  In verse 32, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”.  Further on in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.”  “Most High” is a title for God that was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts).   You can see each of these references by going to Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.

In my thirty years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting.  All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear with the situation of delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital.  (If they only realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times; but I could bluff well.)  Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age.  Once though, I took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years of age (YES, 13!), and she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home.  To make the matter worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ending in an abortion.  (You do the math!)  Now realize, this child was probably only a year or two younger than Mary!

I am sure Mary had some fear.  I have yet to see a woman in labor that hasn’t, and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control).  I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age, head.  How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy?  How would her own family treat her?  Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know she used cloth because the Holy family was “eco-friendly.”) What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph as of yet?  Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery?  (This was his right per Jewish law.)  Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?  She was a young girl of about fifteen (15).  Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood?  I would think not.  Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child!  (He, he!  I had too.)

There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle.  But Mary said “YES” with little hesitation!  She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body!  Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new covenant of God – – coming to fruition through Jesus Christ.  She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, through Jesus Christ.  Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – through Jesus Christ.  

God is a benevolent and merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment.  Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.”  Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity.  Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment?  Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you?  Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise.  Others, including the “tepid” of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell.

In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Rosary Mystery” called the “Annunciation” wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel.  In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth.  Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Gabriel says these specific words when he appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth—Mary, for a specific purpose.  

Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility?  To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion.  This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God.  She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us!  

Yet, realize each of us is chosen by God in many specific and important ways.  Each of us are given many gifts, graces, and talents by God; and we are expected to share them with the world.  As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others; to help them serve God to their fullest.

Today, identify some of the talents that God has given to you.  In what ways should these talents be used in helping others?  Mary was given a special task by God.  Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her.  Can you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did?! 

 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of god, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Feast of the Immaculate Conception

 

A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern Church in the seventh century. It came to the West in the eighth century. In the eleventh century it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. In the eighteenth century it became a feast of the universal Church.

In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

It took a long time for this doctrine to develop. While many Fathers and Doctors of the Church considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, they often had difficulty in seeing Mary as sinless—either at her conception or throughout her life. This is one of the Church teachings that arose more from the piety of the faithful than from the insights of brilliant theologians. Even such champions of Mary as Bernard and Thomas Aquinas could not see theological justification for this teaching.

Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They point out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset.

Comment:

In Luke 1:28 the angel Gabriel, speaking on God’s behalf, addresses Mary as “full of grace” (or “highly favored”). In that context this phrase means that Mary is receiving all the special divine help necessary for the task ahead. However, the Church grows in understanding with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led the Church, especially non-theologians, to the insight that Mary had to be the most perfect work of God next to the Incarnation. Or rather, Mary’s intimate association with the Incarnation called for the special involvement of God in Mary’s whole life. The logic of piety helped God’s people to believe that Mary was full of grace and free of sin from the first moment of her existence. Moreover, this great privilege of Mary is the highlight of all that God has done in Jesus. Rightly understood, the incomparable holiness of Mary shows forth the incomparable goodness of God.

Quote:

“[Mary] gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and she was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.

“It is no wonder, then, that the usage prevailed among the holy Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, fashioned by the Holy Spirit into a kind of new substance and new creature. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the splendors of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is, on God’s command, greeted by an angel messenger as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28). To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38)” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

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 8 & 9 of 26:

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

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

 

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

“Wine First; Now Bread: Am I a Brewer, Baker, or a Healer?!” – Matthew 15:29-37†


 

Holy Father’s (Popes) Monthly Prayer Intentions for December, 2010

    

The Experience of Personal Suffering as a Help to Others who Suffer, and Opening Our Doors to Christ

 

General: That our personal experience of suffering may be an occasion for better understanding the situation of unease and pain which is the lot of many people who are alone, sick or aged, and stir us all to give them generous help.

 

Missionary: That the peoples of the earth may open their doors to Christ and to His Gospel of peace, brotherhood and justice.

 

 

 

Today is my (and my wife’s) twentieth wedding anniversary.  Though I jokingly say to all who will listen that “twenty years with her is like twenty minutes – – underwater”, I literally cannot remember a time without her.  The two of us are truly of ONE nature.  I love her so much, and that grows exponentially each and every day STILL.  When will the honeymoon be over?!

  

Today in Catholic History:


†   660 – Death of Eligius/Eloy, French bishop of Tournay-Noyon; saint
†   772 – Pope Adrian I elected to Papacy
†   800 – Charlemagne judges the accusations against Pope Leo III in the Vatican.
†   1521 – Death of Pope Leo X, [Giovanni de’ Medici], Italian Pope (1513-21), at age 45 (b. 1475)
†   1580 – Death of Giovanni Morone, Italian cardinal (b. 1509)
†   1581 – Death of Edmund Campion, English Jesuit (martyred) (b. 1540)
†   1581 – Death of Ralph Sherwin, English Catholic saint (b. 1550)
†   1581 – Death of Alexander Briant, English saint (b. around 1556)
†   1830 – Death of Pope Pius VIII (b. 1761)
†   1989 – USSR Pres Mikhail S Gorbachev meets Pope John Paul II at the Vatican
†   Feast Day: St Eligius

(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:

 

Franciscans are dedicated to the care of creation, seeing all creatures as brothers and sisters.

   

“Saints Francis and Clare had a relational understanding of creation. All creatures, from the smallest to “our Sister, Mother Earth,” were sisters and brothers, part of the very family of God.  Because of this, Francis was named the patron saint of ecology by Pope John Paul II.  Following this tradition, St. Bonaventure developed a theological and spiritual vision that acknowledged all creation as emanating from the goodness of God, existing as a “footprint” of God, and leading us back to God if we are able to “read” nature properly. He spoke of creation as the first book that God wrote.”

“This is the royal dignity which the Lord Jesus assumed when he became poor for us that he might enrich us by his want and would make us truly poor in spirit, as heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven. I do not wish to relinquish this royal dignity.”  St. Bonaventure, Major Legend, Chapter VII

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

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus feeding and healing many on a mountain.

 

29 Moving on from there Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there.  30 Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.  They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.  31 The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.  32 Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.”  33 The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?”  34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”  “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.”  35 He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.  36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  37 They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.  (NAB Matthew 15:29-37)

 

The mountain is a “classic” place for encounters with God throughout both the Old and New Testaments.  Many centuries prior to this event encountered in today’s Gospel, Isaiah prophesized in Chapter 25:6-9 that on a mountain the Lord “will provide for ALL peoples.”  He will feed, heal, and destroy death.  On this mountain, Jesus Christ gives love, joy, hope, peace, a purpose, and freedom; to heal and energize all of us – – with LEFTOVERS!! 

This is not the story of the feeding of the five thousand as found in Matthew 14:13-21.  What makes this one different from the former is that Jesus is taking the initiative by summoning the disciples.  Also different is the numbers of the crowd: 4000 men versus 5000 men in the former story.  Finally, the crowd was with Jesus for three days, seven loaves were multiplied, and seven baskets of fragments remained after all had eaten to satisfaction. 

Here is another example in support of Jesus’ healing ministry.  Our divine physician made many house calls by travelling to those in need.  Many people who were in good physical shape, who were maimed, and who were sick and/or injured sought out Jesus.  He not only healed the physical body, He healed the spiritual soul as well.

Many of the healed people in this Gospel reading are possibly Gentiles.  Through Jesus’ ministry they became part of a reassembled Israel.  Jesus came for ALL, not just two of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Jew, Gentile, Samaritan, Pagan, etc.; does not matter to God.  They are all His creation and equally allowed the opportunity to gain entrance to God’s almighty kingdom.

In verse 31, the people “glorified the God of Israel.”  In writing this Matthew was obviously influenced by Isaiah 29:23:

“When his children see the work of my hands in his midst, they shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel.”

How prophetic is this verse from centuries before Jesus.  I love how the Old Testament is in the New, and the New Testament fulfills the Old.

Jesus had “pity for the crowd”  Can you possibly picture someone being so mesmerized, enthralled, and captivated in someone’s speech, abilities, and presence that they are with Him “for three days and have nothing to eat.”  I picture heaven just this way.  Motivated by a strong and loving compassion for all the people with Him, Jesus took the initiative to care for them: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

They were in a desert!  There were no 7-Elevens, Quick Trips, or grocery stores in the area.  Where could they get bread and fish?  This part of the story is reminiscent of the feeding of the Israelites with manna during the Exodus (Exodus 16:4-12):

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.  Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not.  On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in, let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”  So Moses and Aaron told all the Israelites, “At evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, as he heeds your grumbling against him.  But what are we that you should grumble against us?  When the LORD gives you flesh to eat in the evening,” continued Moses, “and in the morning your fill of bread, as he heeds the grumbling you utter against him, what then are we? Your grumbling is not against us, but against the LORD.”  Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole Israelite community: Present yourselves before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.”  When Aaron announced this to the whole Israelite community, they turned toward the desert, and lo, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!  The LORD spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.  Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.” 

The provision of manna in the wilderness is a precursor to this event in the New Testament.  Jesus is now providing HIS “bread” in abundance for the hungry to those who seek Him.

Why “seven” loaves of bread?  It is a very interesting number for the “Bread of Life” that Jesus gives to all in His presence.  In the Hebrew, seven is “shevah.  It is from the root “savah, to be full or satisfied, have enough of.  So, the meaning of the word “seven” is referring to a fullness and completeness; a goodness and perfection.  Nothing can be added to Jesus’ life sustaining gift to us, or taken from it, without damaging it.

In verse 36, Jesus “Gave thanks.”  He said a blessing, probably similar to the blessing found in Matthew 14:19: 

“… and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.” 

Eucharist is a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving.”  This “thanksgiving” was a blessing of God for His benefits and graces.

The taking of the bread, – – “Jesus’ bread of life,” – – saying a blessing, and finally breaking and sharing His bread of life with His disciples to further share with the crowds matches up with the actions of Jesus’ praying over the bread at the Last Supper found in Matthew 26:26.  

What I think is more interesting is Matthew’s not mentioning Jesus dividing the fish.  I wonder if this was done on purpose, as “fish” is not part of the Eucharistic meal.  I believe what Matthew DID NOT say in this respect is perhaps more significant than the breaking of the bread.

“They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over – – seven baskets full.”    That number of fullness and completion – – seven – – again, and in the same reading.  There is apparently a special message that Mathew is trying to get across to His readers.  The number seven in this context may recall the nations of Canaan (Acts 13:19):

“When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance”

 and the first seven Deacons (Acts 6:5):

“The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.”

The leftovers from this profound event were greater than “seven” times the amount food they started with.  God’s promises and graces are immeasurable.  When He gives, He gives in great abundance!!  You will be “satisfied” to “fullness and completeness” (that #7) in Jesus’ Eucharistic meal!!

Earlier, I proposed that many Gentiles were present, and were healed in these three days in Jesus’ presence.  Thus, they have been included and integrated into the fullness and completeness of Israel – – God’s chosen kingdom.  In other words, all are invited into God’s Kingdom!

Jesus fulfilled all their profound hungers and human weaknesses.  Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise to give what is needed to live.  Jesus’ reveals a sign of God’s kingdom, an expression of His power, and His divine and intense mercy and love for all His creation.  When God gives, he gives in abundance!!  He gives us more than we deserve!  Have you thanked Him?  NEVER underestimate the love, power, and graces of God in your lives.  He is always very generous!!

 

Psalms 23:1-6

“A psalm of David”

 

“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength.  You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.  You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.  Amen”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed John of Vercelli (c. 1205-1283)

 

John was born near Vercelli in northwest Italy in the early 13th century. Little is known of his early life. He entered the Dominican Order in the 1240s and served in various leadership capacities over the years. Elected sixth master general of the Dominicans in 1264, he served for almost two decades.

Known for his tireless energy and his commitment to simplicity, John made personal visits—typically on foot—to almost all the Dominican houses, urging his fellow friars to strictly observe the rules and constitutions of the Order.

He was tapped by two popes for special tasks. Pope Gregory X enlisted the help of John and his fellow Dominicans in helping to pacify the States of Italy that were quarreling with one another. John was also called upon to draw up a framework for the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. It was at that council that he met Jerome of Ascoli (the man who would later become Pope Nicholas IV), then serving as minister general of the Franciscans. Some time later the two men were sent by Rome to mediate a dispute involving King Philip III of France. Once again, John was able to draw on his negotiating and peacemaking skills.

Following the Second Council of Lyons, Pope Gregory selected John to spread devotion to the name of Jesus. John took the task to heart, requiring that every Dominican church contain an altar of the Holy Name; groups were also formed to combat blasphemy and profanity.

Toward the end of his life John was offered the role of patriarch of Jerusalem, but declined. He remained Dominican master general until his death.

Comment:

The need for peacemakers is certainly as keen today as in the 10th century! As followers of Jesus, John’s role falls to us. Each of us can do something to ease the tensions in our families, in the workplace, among people of different races and creeds.

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 1 & 2 of 26:

 

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.

 

 

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.

“Jesus is King Over Sinners, Thieves, And The Dredge of Society! Which One Are You?!” – Luke 23:35-43†


 

Today is
“The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King”

 

 

This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States.  I wish to thank all of you for reading this blog, and sharing my profound and growing faith I have in our Magnificent and Glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

Get your Advent Wreath out and cleaned up and ready to go for next week.

  

  

    

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   235 – St Anterus begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   496 – Death of Pope St Gelasius I
†   695 – Pope Sergius names Willibrord as archbishop Clemens of Friezen
†   1567 – Birth of Anne de Xainctonge, Founder of the Society of the Sisters of Saint Ursula of the Blessed Virgin, French saint (d. 1621)
†   1854 – Birth of Benedict XV, [Giacomo PGB marques della Chiessa], 258th Pope (1914-22)
†   1964 – Pope Paul VI signs 3rd sitting of 2nd Vatican council

(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:

 

…Jesus did far more than give us an example of heroic meekness and patience. He made meekness and nonviolence the signs of true greatness.  Greatness will no longer consist in lifting oneself up above others, above the crowd, but in the abasing of oneself to serve and lift others up.”  – Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., CAP; Beatitudes: Eight Steps to Happiness, Servant Books 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus being crucified under the title “King of the Jews.”

 

35 The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.”  36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine 37 they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”  38 Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”  39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.”  40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”  42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  (NAB Luke 23:35-43)

 

All three readings at today’s Mass focus on “kingship.”  Not the kingship our world has traditionally understood, but one that comes from suffering, persecution, and death rather than a kingship of power, greed, and wealth.  History is filled with kings whose reign was characterized by selfishness, narcissism, and bloodshed.  These kings dealt with other areas and individuals, even in their own kingdom, with a greedy and sadistic brutality.

The Catholic Church ends our “liturgical year” with the celebration of the “Feast of Christ the King.”  Today’s Gospel proclaims and demonstrates a grand mystery of our faith.  In this moment of Jesus’ suffering, humiliation, and crucifixion, He is revealed as our “King” and “Savior!”

Luke’s Gospel is loaded with surprising “paradigm shifts!”  A paradigm shift is much more than two coins totaling twenty cents moving around in your pocket.  A paradigm shift is a change in basic assumptions one has, such as a change in beliefs, traditions, and actions.

Jesus stirs the proverbial “pot” by proclaiming throughout His entire teaching ministry that the poor are rich, that sinners find salvation, and that the Kingdom of God is found in our midst.  But here, – – while Jesus is dying a horrible death on the cross, – – we witness probably the greatest paradigm shift of all.  We are confronted with the crucified Jesus, – – who, through faith, – – reveals to us that HE IS the King and Savior of all as Isaiah had foreseen seven to eight centuries before Jesus Christ (Isaiah 52:14 – 15; 53:2-17).  A beautiful quirk of fate is that the inscription placed above Jesus’ head on the cross, as a description of His “crime”, placed there to humiliate and mock Him and His followers, actually contains the most profoundly TRUE fact of faith!!  Instead of a crown of jewels, Jesus chooses to instead wear a crown of thorns as a symbol of His reign.

The last half of this Gospel reading, verses 39 – 43, is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Jesus’ short sentence to the penitent thief reveals Luke’s understanding, and his firm belief, that the destiny of all Christians is “to be with Jesus.” 

In a special, short moment of his life, the “penitent thief” was saved by his spontaneous belief of Jesus’ innocence, righteousness, and His special nature as Messiah.  As the Temple leaders and Roman soldiers laughed at, heckled, and taunted Jesus, a thief crucified by His side recognized Jesus as the “Messiah” and “King of the Jews”.  In doing so, this penitent “sinner” found salvation through Jesus’ life and “soon-to-be” death.  Three separate events happened nearly simultaneously in this poor criminals’ heart, body and soul: events that saved him.

First, he admonished the other sinner, on the other side of Jesus for mocking Jesus.  Second, in front of all present, he confessed his own faults, crimes, and sins.  Finally, this suffering man, (whose name has come to be known as “Dismas”) asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus would reign as King over all of us.  For Dismas, his cross was only a transition, a door, or gate into God’s glory and eternal life in paradise that very afternoon.  He had a “true” faith that began instantly to produce real supernatural effects in himself and in others present who were witnessing this event.

Jesus IS “King”; but not the kind of king we, or His Jewish brethren, expected, imagined, or thought possible.  He held no “political” office.  He did not lead an army.  He was not a dictator who demanded a suppressed liberty or blind obedience.  And, He never used fear, force, or guilt to maintain His rule. 

So, how does Jesus rule from heaven even today?  The answer is quite simple and poetic: Jesus rules with “love!  Jesus’ kingship is different from all others, not in power, but in nature and manner.  His kingship is fortified with love and righteousness.  Jesus’ love, His divine love, has conquered, restored, and inspired millions of people including me and you.  Jesus’ divine love has sustained and converted a multitude of saints and sinners!  Jesus’ love for all of us has literally changed history!  Do you plant the seed of love in others? Do you spread love to those around you as our King Jesus shows us?

His divinity was hidden from many people in His hometown, in the Temple, and possibly even among some of His “followers”.  It seems only those who had the belief of faith in the divinely human Jesus were able to see Jesus the “Messiah.”  

Many of us today still struggle to recognize Jesus as the King: the “Messiah, the Savior and Liberator of all people, and for all people.  Today’s Gospel reading invites us to recognize that Jesus Christ, the crucified One, is indeed King and Savior for and of all of us.  Jesus is at once the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18) and the “firstborn of all creation!” (Colossians 1:15)

I know I am the “king” of my house.  I claim to “wearing the pants” in my family.  (But my wife tells me which ones to put on!)  Seriously, most of us have never been personally exposed to true “royalty” such as a “king”.  Due to today’s media, most of us DO have some sense of what being “royalty” means.  Royalty is depicted as having control and power over the “subjects” of their kingdom.  We also know “subjects” are prone to give royalty their individual loyalty, faithfulness, and reverence.

Jesus is a “King” in a way that is dramatically different from our traditional understandings of royalty.  Christ’s rule reaches to all places, people, and times.  Jesus manifests his sovereign rule through His death on the Cross, resurrection, and ascension into glory, by which He offers salvation to all.

What does it mean to be a king?  What does it mean to be a “subject” to a king?  How did the people of His time respond to Jesus being nailed to the cross?  How do YOU respond to Jesus being nailed to the cross?  Do we have the faith that Dismas had while he died on the cross next to Jesus?  Finally, how do you recognize and honor Jesus Christ – – the KING?! (Your King?!)

Christmas is literally right around the corner.  With the celebration of the “birth” of Jesus happening in just a few weeks, why are we having a Gospel reading about the end of Jesus’ human life? (Good question, Eh?)  The answer is because today is the end of the Church Liturgical Year.  Through our King’s death on the cross, a new Advent of never ending paradise is opened for all of us.  Today is a great day to start anew, to dedicate yourself to His love and mercy, and to convert from your secular ways.  Following Jesus, our KING, entails living differently than what the rest of society expects and even encourages.  Enter His kingdom and live eternally – Let Him be your KING! 

 

  

Thanksgiving for the Blessings of the Past Year

 

“O God, the beginning and the end of all things, who is always the same, and whose years do not fail, we now, at the close of another year kneel in adoration before You, and offer You our deepest thanks for the Fatherly care with which You have watched over us during the past year, for the many times You have protected us from evils of soul and body, and for the numberless blessings, both temporal and spiritual, which You have showered upon us.  May it please You to accept the homage of our grateful hearts which we offer You in union with the infinite thanksgiving of Your divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with lives with You and reigns forever and ever.  Amen.”

(Adapted from prayer found at
http://www.yenra.com/catholic/prayers)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Feast of the Presentation of Mary

 

Mary’s presentation was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century. A church was built there in honor of this mystery. The Eastern Church was more interested in the feast, but it does appear in the West in the 11th century. Although the feast at times disappeared from the calendar, in the 16th century it became a feast of the universal Church.

As with Mary’s birth, we read of Mary’s presentation in the temple only in apocryphal literature. In what is recognized as an unhistorical account, the Protoevangelium of James tells us that Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old. This was to carry out a promise made to God when Anna was still childless.

Though it cannot be proven historically, Mary’s presentation has an important theological purpose. It continues the impact of the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the birth of Mary. It emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.

Comment:

It is sometimes difficult for modern Westerners to appreciate a feast like this. The Eastern Church, however, was quite open to this feast and even somewhat insistent about celebrating it. Even though the feast has no basis in history, it stresses an important truth about Mary: From the beginning of her life, she was dedicated to God. She herself became a greater temple than any made by hands. God came to dwell in her in a marvelous manner and sanctified her for her unique role in God’s saving work. At the same time, the magnificence of Mary enriches her children. They, too, are temples of God and sanctified in order that they might enjoy and share in God’s saving work.

Quote:

“Hail, holy throne of God, divine sanctuary, house of glory, jewel most fair, chosen treasure house, and mercy seat for the whole world, heaven showing forth the glory of God. Purest Virgin, worthy of all praise, sanctuary dedicated to God and raised above all human condition, virgin soil, unplowed field, flourishing vine, fountain pouring out waters, virgin bearing a child, mother without knowing man, hidden treasure of innocence, ornament of sanctity, by your most acceptable prayers, strong with the authority of motherhood, to our Lord and God, Creator of all, your Son who was born of you without a father, steer the ship of the Church and bring it to a quiet harbor” (adapted from a homily by St. Germanus on the Presentation of the Mother of God).

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 21 & 22 of 26:

 

21.     On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.

 

22.     The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.