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“The ‘Sign’ Read: ‘If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!’” – John 2:1-11†


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2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

T. table_of_contentsoday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveris, & Declarations:

 

Please let me explain why I did not publish a blog Wednesday.  I have a chronic eye condition known in the medical field as “keratoconus”.  Patients with this condition have misshaped globes of the eye.  Instead of the ckeratoconus-demoorneas being round and smooth, my eyes are shaped like the ends of footballs, and with ridges on their surfaces.  Thus, I wear specially made (very expensive) contacts in order to see well enough for daily living.  Without these contacts, my vision is like looking through a very thin layer of petroleum jelly.  Eventually, I will have to have corneal transport surgery on both eyes, but obviously, I wish to postpone this surgery as long as is reasonable.

One of my eyes has started to develop blood vessels on the cornea; some2816_2835_3thing very bad for future corneal transplant surgery.  Thus, I have to use four different medications on the eye throughout the day and night, and I am unable to wear a contact in this eye until some point after my surgery.  Laser surgery is scheduled for late February (He will burn the blood vessels on my cornea with the laser). 

For now, it is difficult to read due to the resultant blurriness of not wearing the contact.  For this reason, I have to limit my reflection blog to Sundays – – only FOR NOWI am also asking for your prayers in this matter.  Thank you in advance.

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Quote of the Day:

To turn water into wine, and what is common into what is holy, is indeed the glory of Christianity.” ~ Frederick William Robertson

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Today’s reflection: Jesus performs his first sign at a wedding feast in Cana.  Jesus heard and obeyed His mother, Mary – – the mother of God; Do YOU?!

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(NAB John 2:1-11)  1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.  3 When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  4 [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.  7 Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.”  So they filled them to the brim.  8 Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”  So they took it.  9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  11 Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs * in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

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Gos. Reflectionpel Reflection:

This Sunday we begin the liturgical season of Ordinary Time.  For many Sundays in this lectionary cycle (Cycle C), our readings will be taken from the Gospel of Luke.  Occasionally, however, we will read from John’s Gospel [as we do in every lectionary cycle].  Today’s Gospel reading comes from John, describing the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and His first miracle – – His first “sign”.

To situate today’s reading within the context of John’s Gospel, we need to know that this event follows Jesus’ call of His first six disciples (cf., John 1:35-51).  John tells us that Jesus and His disciples were invited to this wedding at Cana, along with Jesus’ mother, Mary.  This event is unique to John’s Gospel.  There are no parallel reports of this miraculous “sign” at Cana in any of the Synoptic Gospels.

Today’s Gospel is about “Signs (“sēmeion” in Greek).  John uses “signs” to re5030826-directional-signs-vector-or-xxl-jpeg-imageveal Jesus as the true promised Messiah to ALL “Israel”.  John uses “signs” to symbolize Jesus’ wondrous actions, His deeds.  We need to remember that the Gospel according to John is quite different in character from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  His writing style is highly literate and symbolic in nature.  It does not follow the same order, nor reproduce the same stories, as the other three Gospels.  To a much greater degree as that of the three other Gospel writers, it is the product of a theological reflection growing out of a different circle of readers, and their different traditions.  John’s Gospel was probably written in Ephesus during 90’s AD. 

John’s Gospel narrative contains a series of “signs”, seven to be exact (They will be listed near the end of this reflection.).  John’s Gospel’s relates God’s “Word” through a series of wondrous deeds – – actions – – by Jesus Himself.  It gives the impression that John is primarily interested in the “significance” of these actions. 

The first sign in today’s Gospel reading, is the “transformation of water into wine” at a wedding feast in a place called Cana (John 2:1jesus_wine1–11).  This first “sign” represents the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings (John 2:6), and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus then, and still today.  He is still actually transforming US ALL through our hearing of His “Word” and the fellowships of our Church’s seven Sacraments.

So, the Old Testament exodus stories provide the background for today’s reading:

“Recall today that it was not your children, who have neither known nor seen the discipline of the LORD, your God—His greatness, His strong hand and outstretched arm; the signs and deeds He wrought in the midst of Egypt, on Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and on all his land; what He did to the Egyptian army and to their horses and chariots, engulfing them in the waters of the Red Sea as they pursued you, so that the LORD destroyed them even to this day … Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all His servants and to all His land(Deuteronomy 11:2-4; 29:1-2).

God’s intervention in human history is anew again – – in a new, fulfilled, and fulfilling way – –  through Jesus Christ in the midst of His brethren today.

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The first verse talks about Jesus being in a place called “Cana”:

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there” (NAB John 2:1-11). 

Cana is NEVER mentioned in the Old Testament.  The only other (two) biblical references to “Cana” can be found(1) in John 4:46, which mentions Jesus, while in “Cana”, being asked to heal the son of a royal official at Capernaum; and (2) in John 21:2, where the Apostle Nathanael (Bartholomew in the Synoptic Gospels’) comes from “Cana”.  Cana of Galilee is not mentioned in any other book of the Bible, or in any other contemporary literary source.  So where is “Cana”, and why is this place significant to John?  I do not know with certainly.  Speculation is rampant among bible scholars, but I would love to find this place someday when finally discovered with certainty.  I hear the wine there is truly divine!

Also in the first verse, “The mother of Jesus” is never mentioned by name.  Matter of fact, Mary is never mentioned by name in John’s Gospel.  And, on tsecret-rosary13aop of this, Joseph is not present at the wedding feast as well.  I suspect Jesus’ earthly “father” had died sometime between his finding his lost Son in the Temple and this event some eighteen years later.

Jesus, per John, addressed His mother by saying “Woman”:

Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

This was NOT a ‘diss (slang word for “treat with contempt”) on Mary!!  Today, a child would possibly be given the “eveyesil eye” for calling his/her mother “woman” in this way.  However, in actuality, this was a normal and POLITE form of addressing one’s mother during Jesus’ time.  He also calls her by this SAME title while dying on the Holy Cross, at His most intimate – – and final – – time with her:

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son’” (John 19:26).

The word “woman” was a revealed word which was highly exulted (like the word “king”) amoung the Jewish peoples.  Jesus is “the Word made Flesh”.  When Jesus Christ calls His mother “woman”, He is revealing the promised fulfillment in Genesis:

 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Genesis 3:15).

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Wine was running low, a good “sign” of the celebration being in full force, but a bad sign because – – they are RUNNING OUT OF WINE!  So, Mary, probably helping at the celebration, goes to her son and says:

When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine” (John 2:3).

Jesus replies to “His mother”:

Woman, how does your concern affect meMy hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

If itwasn’t His time”, why did Jesus do what His mother asked?  After all, Jesus never worked miracles solely to help His family and friends.  I believe He performed this first miraculous “sign” out of OBEDIENCE to His mother, ObedienceToTheWordknowing the importance of [what we today know as] the Fourth Commandment and its great importance in God’s kingdom:

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you … Take to heart these words which I command you today…  Bind them on your arm as a ‘sign’ and let them be as a pendant on your forehead” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:6, 8)  

I wish people today saw and appreciated the need and JOY to be obedient to God’s Commandments, and not to subjugate them – – to de-prioritize them – – out of personally selfish wants and desires. 

Now, let’s go on to discuss the second (of three) points about His reply to His “mother”: 

How does your concern affect me?” (John 2:4)

Everything Jesus says is a fulfillment of Holy Scripture.  He is telling His mother that if He does what she implies, the “cats are ‘gjesusturnedwaterintowineonna be out of the bag”!  Mary is hastening God’s will, My source and My authority by doing a miracle to meet the wedding parties need.  That’s why, I believe, the third revealing point in this one verse relates to Jesus saying: 

My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

The “hour”, I believe Jesus is referring to, is His Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven:hourglass

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved His own in the world and He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

I wonder how much Jesus knew about His future at the time of the wedding feast miracle.  Did He know every single detail about His gruesome torture and death to come?  Did He know the beauty He will find in His ascension?  I believe He did.  Do you?  However, Jesus was focusing on His mother’s concern for the wedding couple.  He moved up the clock, revealing His divine authority.  So, He begins a series of seven signs here at “Cana”.

Only after John has Jesus fulfilling these seven “signs”, does the “hour” of Jesus fully arrive.  The whole Gospel of John is a progressivglory-to-god-by-brandon-halliburton-free-photo-11978e “revelation” – – a REVEALING – – of the glory of God’s only begotten Son.  At “Cana”, Jesus is beginning to reveal God the Father fully; which will ne fulfilled later when He returns – – in “glory” – – to His heavenly Father on our behalf.  Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

Jesus’ reply was tjohn2_5SCruly revealing in nature.  However, Mary was not going to take an implied “no” for an answer.  She simply looks at the “servers” and says:

Do whatever He tells you(John 2:5).

Mary knew her Scriptures well; she helped teach them to Jesus.  Mary, in her reply, may have been referencing a verse from the Book of Genesis:

When all the land of Egypt became hungry and the people cried to Pharaoh for food, Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians: ‘Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you’” (Genesis 41:55).

What I believe was important about Mary’s reason for wanting Jesus to perform a “sign” before His “time”, and His willingness to obif_mama_aint_happy_aint_nobody_happy_magnet-p147594797048165970b2gru_400ey her fully, may have been one of simple logic and survival for Jesus:

If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Do not forget the Fourth Commandment.  Jesus didn’t!!

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John goes on to report that:

There were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons” (John 2:6). 

Twenty to thirty gallons” is a litermarriageincanaal present day translation for the “two or three measures” of Jesus’ day.  This vast quantity of wine recalls prophecies of “abundance in the last days” from Jewish Scripture:

Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, flocks of sheep and cattle; They themselves shall be like watered gardens, never again neglected” (Jeremiah 31:12);

 “Yes, days are coming—oracle of the LORD—When the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps and the vintager, the sower of the seed; The mountains shall drip with the juice of grapes, and all the hills shall run with it. will restore my people Israel, they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, Plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits.” (Amos 9:13–14).

With this “first sign”, the changing of the water to wine, Jesus is replacing the “Jewish ceremonial washings” with His divine body, blood, soul, and divinity washing away all affects of original sin.  This event also presented the initial revealing – – the initial revelation – – of Jesus’ divine nature and authority at the outset of His public ministry.  

Jesus’ action in this reading points to the “wine of the new covenant” and the “bread of life” He establishes in the “Last Supper” anjesusfirstLOGOd in our present Eucharist.  It also points to the Messianic banquet which Jesus personally will host at the end of time.  (Behold the Lamb of God … Hapy are those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!)

The miracles of Jesus’ public ministry – – His “signs” – – demonstrate the power of God’s love and mercy for His people.  God’s kindness knows no limits!  And the ultimate expression of His love is revealed in the person of His Son, our Lord – – Jesus Christ.  He became flesh for OUR sake; He died for OUR redemption; He rose from the dead for OUR glorification!! 

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John ends his Gospel today by going to the beginning: the beginning of Jesus’ “signs”, the beginning of His revealed “glory”, the beginning of His public ministry, and the beginning of His disciples truly believing in Him as the true promised Messiah:

Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

God reveals His “glory” in the most unlikely places: in a stable at Bethlehem, at a wedding party in Cana, in the muddy waters of the Jordan River, and on a blood stained crosto-god-be-the-glory_137_1024x768s outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Jesus’ first public miracle – – His first “sign” – – was performed at the confident “invitation” of His mother.  In doing as His mother requested of Him, Jesus blessed a young couple, bringing JOY to their wedding feast: first, by His presence, and second, by His surprising response to Hhis mother’s concern, saving them from an embarrassing situation. 

Changing water into wine was a remarkable act of kindness; but saving the best to last was unheard of in Jesus’ day.  In Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament) wine was often seen as a gift anDo-Whatever-He-Tells-You-1024x1024d symbol of God’s blessing (cf., Deuteronomy 7:13; Proverbs 3:10, Psalm 105).  With Jesus miraculously producing 180 gallons or so of the best wine possible, and many times more than what actually was needed for the feast, He showed the superabundance of the blessings He Himself came to offer to All “Israel”, to ALL peoples.

What other signs will Jesus go on to do during His public Ministry?  Well, now would be a good time to list the seven “signs” John reveals through his Gospel:seven-signs

  • The first sign is the transformation of water into wine at Cana (Jn 2:1–11); this represents, as I mentioned earlier, the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus.

  • The second sign, the cure of the royal official’s son (Jn 4:46–54) simply by the word of Jesus at a distance, signifies the power of Jesus’ life-giving “Word”.  

  • The third sign, the cure of the paralytic at the pool with five porticoes in John 5, continues the theme of water offering newness of life.  In the preceding chapter, to the woman at the well in Samaria Jesus had offered living water springing up to eternal life, a symbol of the revelation Jesus brings.  Here Jesus’ life-giving “Word” replaces the water of the pool which failed to bring life.

  • John 6 contains two signs: the multiplication of loaves and the walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.  These signs are related to the “crossing of the Red Sea” and the manna” of the first exodus, manifesting a new exodus in process.  The multiplication of the loaves anticipates the future revelation of God in Jesus which the bread of life is His visible “sign” which we call the “Eucharist”.  

  • The sixth sign is presented in John 9, the sign of the young man born blind whom Jesus heals. This is a narrative illustration proclaiming the triumph of light over darkness.  Remember, this event takes place in the Temple during the Feast of the Tabernacles (aka, the Feast of Lights) at which there were a multitude of candelabras lighted throughout the “Holy Place”.  Jesus is presenting Himself as the Light of the Temple, and of the world.  The young man had been given his sight by Jesus.  This “sign” was an object lesson, revealing the divine power of Jesus to give light to the eyes, and at the same time, subtly revealing the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and Levites attending to the Menorah.

  • And finally, the seventh sign, the raising of Lazarus in John 11, is the climax of signs.  Lazarus is presented as a token of the real, spiritually alive, life which Jesus, THE Resurrection and THE Life, who will now ironically be put to death because of His gift of life to Lazarus, desires to give ALL to those believing in Him then, and after He was seen raised from the dead.  Notice the irony of Jesus raising Lazarus and then enduring His own death in place of Lazarus.

John’s purpose in describing these seven signs in their unique order is clearly expressed in what some bible scholars say was the “original” ending of his Gospel, at the end of Chapter 20.  Besides these seven just described:

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

Amen!!  Amen!!          

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In the Church’s lit. summarize titleurgical history, the “wedding feast at Cana” is closely associated with the “adoration of the child Jesus by the Magi” and the “Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The “sign” Jesus performs at the wedding feast is an “epiphany” (manifestation) of Jesus’ divinity to be celebrated.flickr-3699162219-hd

With these epiphanies in mind, awareness of Jesus’ Passion and death looming future on the Holy Cross is ever present in John’s Gospel.  Even in today’s narrative of Jesus’ “first sign”, the language used by John anticipates Jesus’ future Passion.  When Jesus says to His “mother” that “His hour has not yet come”, Jesus protests against her wishes in words John used again when describing Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His disciples in John 13:1.  When introducing the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet [also only found in John’s Gospel], John writes that Jesus knew His “hour had come”.  Per John, Jesus is very much in command and extremely aware of ALL that is to happen to Him, from the very beginning.

Throughout John’s Gospel, Mary is never mentioned by name, but is referred to instead as “the mother of Jesus”.  Mary is overridingly influential in Jesus’ first “sign”.  She will never abandon her Son, even being present at Jesus’ Crucifixion.  Mary was (and still is) a faithful and constant witness to the final manifestation – – “sign” and epiphany – – of Jesus’ divinity.

John’s Gospel describes seven “signs” indicating Jesus’ true divine nature and identity to His disciples.  He never speaks of these “signwordsandeedslogosas miracles because their importance is not in the deed – – the action – – which Jesus performs, but instead in what these deeds indicate in regard to Jesus’ true nature and identity.  In today’s reading, Jesus’ disciples are said to “begin to believe”.  However, no mention is made as to whether the other wedding guests are even aware of what has happened.  (But, they thought the wine was heavenly in deed!)

Here, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, John’s Gospel seeks to establish that Jesus is going to re-define and fulfill God’s promise to “Israel”.  Jesus is establishing the New Covenant promised to the Water_Wine_Renderprophets.  A hint about what this New Covenant will be like is made evident in His deed – – the action Jesus performs.  Asked to do something about the awkward situation that a lack of wine at the wedding feast would create, Jesus’ miraculous “sign” produces vast quantities of wine: six jars overflowing with over 180 gallons of superior wine.

This overflowing response to a simple human request is a vision for us – – a “sign” – – about the vast abundance of God’s kingdom.  It challenges us to respond generously when confronted with our needs, and others’, today.  Responding as best as we can, fully confident that, like the mother of Jesus, God can transform our efforts, brings the Kingdom of God to fulfillment among us here and now!

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We. conclusionddings are magnificent and breathtaking celebrations.  We go out of our way to make the occasion festive and extraordinary.  People work hard to please one another with a special kind of JOY.  What better image of the Kingdom of God can there be than070114_weddinggift a wedding feast!  Wedding celebrations are not an everyday occurrence.  ut we can anticipate the Kingdom of God each and every day through our kindness, attention, and care to one another’s needs.

Reflect about weddings and other feasts and HOW they are used as images in Holy Slove others_t_nvcripture for the Kingdom of God.  Consider how these festive occasions are images of God’s tremendous, overflowing, love for us – – and examples of how we can show our love for one another.  Think about Mary’s attentiveness to the needs of the wedding hosts, and about Jesus’ response to His mother’s request.  What can you learn from today’s Gospel story?  Reflect on, and consider ways – – actions or deeds – – in which you might show these same sort of generous and loving values in your daily life.  Create your own “sign” for God’s plan in your life and for His kingdom on earth!!

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Reflecti. prayer sfon Prayer: 

Prayer for Generosity

(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

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

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♫“All We Need is (fill in the blank), Dah, Da, Da, Da, Dah ?!”♫ – Mark 12:28b-34†


31stSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2012

 

General Intention: For ministers of the Gospel.

That bishops, priests, and all ministers of the Gospel may bear the courageous witness of fidelity to the crucified and risen Lord.


Missionary Intention: For the Pilgrim Church.

That the pilgrim Church on earth may shine as a light to the nations.

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Next Tuesday, November 4th, is “Election Day”.  I believe this is probably one of the major events of Christendom.  This date will literally effect how are community of faith will be allowed to identify itself, and how we, as individuals, will be able to practice our faith in our private and public lives. 

I fear for my Church and my ability to show my faith!!  It is being attacked overtly and covertly from many fronts today – – both secular and political.  There are two things we all MUST do for our own sakes, and for the sake of our Catholic faith: we need to pray (especially the Holy Rosary), and we need to vote with true Catholic values, virtues, and faith in mind.

Remember, are you saying to God, “Thy will be done” when it really means, “My will be done“?

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is questioned by a Scribe about the greatest commandment.  How well do you know – – and LIVE – – this “greatest of commandments”?

(NAB Mark 12:28-34) 28 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  29 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is Lord alone!  30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.  You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’  33 And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Whoa, last Sunday, we were reading about the “blind man” who receives his vision through his faith, from the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel.  And now, today, we have jumped way over to the end of the twelfth chapter.  If we were to read Chapters 11 and the first part of Chapter 12, we would hear about:

  • Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem;
  • His cleansing the Temple of merchants; and,
  • Previous questions of His “authority” and interpretations concerning “paying taxes” and “resurrection of the dead” by the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders. 

The context, therefore, for today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ growing exposure and popularity with the pious Jews before the Jewish Temple leaders.  Thus, Jesus is being questioned and tested by the Jewish authorities, attempting to find a weakness to exploit in Jesus’ teaching of faith.  Surprisingly, the Scribe who addresses Jesus in today’s Gospel seems to be (or has become) an admirer.

Jesus’ “Words” are very simple and beautiful.  He tells us we should have a faith of inclusivity and welcome, not that of rules and regulations – – EVERYONE should be welcome!!  We are told in today’s reading of Jesus’ teaching on two commandments: loving God and each other.  How hard is Jesus’ “Words” to truly abide by?  Well, I sense that many times in our lives, our faith is based NOT on loving each other as God loves us, but instead, on deciding who is IN and who is OUT of our lives.

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Today’s Gospel reading is a dialogue between Jesus and a Scribe who is impressed by the way in which Jesus has conducted Himself in answering the question asked of Him:

Which is the first of all the commandments?” (Mark 12:28).

This devoutly pious Scribe (a “scholar [or interpreter] of Mosaic Law”) compliments Jesus for the answer He gives him (Mark 12:32).  This Scribe is said by Jesus to be “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

The Temple Leaders prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements.  They made it a life-time practice to study the 613 precepts of Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament), along with the numerous rabbinic commentaries THEY created.  I believe this particular Scribe – – this inquisitor – – was on a mission from the Pharisees, testing Jesus by asking his specific question, a question the Pharisees believed would be impossible to answer correctly.  However, Jesus’ response or answer, by repeating Moses words, caused NO conflict whatsoever with the Scribes’ Jewish religious teaching.  The Scribes reaction to Jesus’ is one of praise for Him.

Why would the question asked by the Scribe be impossible to answer correctly?  Well, for the devout Jew, ALL the commandments (and there were 613 of them) were to be kept with equal obedience and care.  There really is NO “first of all commandments” for the pious Jew.  This question required Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses.  Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and many additional commandments, numbering 613 precepts or laws.  For a devout Jew, adherence to the Mosaic Law is a continuous, life-long attempt at expressing one’s faithfulness to God’s covenant with Israel through very specific behaviors.  The ranking of these commandments was regularly debated among the teachers of Mosaic Law: but ALL laws were treated as equal in observance.

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Jesus startled the Pharisee with His profoundly simple answer; and, with His obvious mastery of Mosaic Law – – Jesus’ answer revealed its true purpose.  So, Jesus is revealing that God simply requires of us to love as He loves, and that God is pure love; and that everything He does flows from His love for us!  God loved us first and our love for Him is a response to His personal, uniquely intimate way of expressing His exceeding mercy, grace, and loving kindness towards each of us. 

Interestingly, Jesus was not the only Jewish religious teacher – – rabbi during this time – – to connect these two commandments: first, the “love of God”, and second, the “love of neighbor”.  Both of these commandments were (and are) central elements of Jewish religious tradition from which Jesus learned in His youth, from His foster-father and the rabbi of Nazareth.  So, Jesus, along with ALL observant Jews (and still today), were educated on this specific precept from Deuteronomy regarding the love of God:

Hear, O Israel!  The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!  Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).

Since the “Lord alone” is God, “Israel” (the Jewish “chosen” people) need to love Him with an undivided heart, being, and strength.  Indeed, even still today, this commandment (and the other love commandment) continues to be the central aspect of contemporary Jewish religious understanding.  

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The second commandment, “love of neighbor”, is a precept from Leviticus:

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18);

Jesus’ response to His questioners proposed a fundamental and vital connection between these two precepts from Mosaic Law.  “Love of God” finds its expression IN OURlove for neighbor”.  I suspect however, that this integral linking of these two commandments was perceived in a newly rejuvenated and fresh way when Jesus taught on this issue in today’s reading.  There had to have been at least one “Ah-ha” moment for this Scribe during this discourse with Jesus.  The “love of God” comes first, and the “love of neighbor” is firmly grounded IN the “love of God”.  The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what He loves   and reject what is harmful, hateful, and contrary to His loving will and plan for each of us.  

For this curious and discerning Scribe, Jesus illustrated, through His answer, the superiority of love over legalism from God’s (and from Moses’) point of view.  The “love of God” must engage the total person (heart, mind, and soul).  However, Jesus goes beyond the extent of the question put to Him, joining to the greatest and first commandment, a second commandment, that of “love of neighbor”:

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18).

The double commandment is the source from which the “whole law” flows.

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A part of the Scribe’s reply to Jesus puzzled me:

“‘To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33).

I believe the Scribe was alluding to Psalm 40:

Sacrifice and offering you do not want; you opened my ears.  Holocaust and sin-offering you do not request; so I said, ‘See; I come with an inscribed scroll written upon me.  I delight to do your will, my God; your law is in my inner being!’ (Psalm 40:7–9).

Obedience to God’s law of love is far better than any “burnt offering and sacrifice”.  I believe that Saint Paul understood this law of love taking precedence over the laws of “burnt offerings”.  Here is what he writes:

 “For this reason, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.  Then I said, “As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”’  First He says, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.’ These are offered according to the law.  Then he says, ‘Behold, I come to do your will.’  He takes away the first to establish the second (Hebrews 10:5-9).

Notice, Jesus identifies Himself as the “ONE” “written” about “in the scrolls”; Jesus reveals the primacy of loving God (and neighbor) over the value of “holocausts and sin offerings”, which (Jesus reveals) God really “did not desire” nor “delighted in”.  So, Paul understood God, through Jesus Christ, was taking away the first laws of legalism to establish the NEW law of LOVE!!

Therefore, Jesus Christ is taking away the “burnt offering and sacrifice”, establishing Himself as the new “Sacrifice”, redeeming ALL from the sin of this world!!!  This is AWESOME!!!

No wonder then that with the last verse in today’s dialogue, the debate with the Jewish authorities comes to an abrupt end:

No one dared to ask Him any more questions” (Mark 12:34).

Were the Temple leaders finally humbled by Jesus’ “Words”?  I don’t think so.  Envy still had a tight grasp on many of the Pharisees and Scribes, as we will see when Jesus is arrested after the “Last Supper”.

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The Scribe who questions Jesus in today’s Gospel engaged in a positive dialogue with Him, giving Jesus the opportunity to express an important – – the MOST important – – precept or law of, from, and about God!.  What is interesting for me is that most Catholics (and other Christians) today believed Jesus was hated by all the Temple leaders; absolutely NOT TRUE!!  I suspect Jesus had MANY friends and advocates among the three groups of Temple leaders: the Pharisees, the Scribes (who were the interpreters and lawyers for the Pharisees), and the Sadducees.

This Individual Scribe agreed with Jesus’ teaching about “loving God” and “loving neighborbeing the first and greatest of commandments.  He agreed with Jesus that these two “connected” laws or precepts even surpass the 613 commandments having to do with certain behaviors for surviving in the desert and other laws pertaining to animal and other sacrifices in the Temple.  

From Jesus’ response to the Scribe’s question, we learn that faith in God – – and hope in His promises – – strengthen us in expressing our “love of God”, for God, and for our neighbor (and even for ourselves). Faith, hope, and love are essential for a good and proper relationship with God.  Faith, hope, and love unites each of us with Him in a unique and intimate way.  The more we know of God – – the more we love Him – – and the more we love God, the greater we believe and hope in His promises.  

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Jesus Christ, through the grace and actions of the Holy Spirit, gives to each of us a new freedom to love as He Himself loves!!  Is there anything keeping you from the “love of God” and the JOY of serving others with a generous heart?    If so, remove it for your existence, for nothing is more important than the “love of God”.  Let us remember what Saint Paul said in his letter to the Romans:

“Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:5

As Catholic Christians, our moral behavior should be guided by the two-part commandment taught by Jesus in today’s Gospel: “love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.  I believe many of us use this “love” framework within the “greatest of the commandments” as an examination of conscience each night and during each Sacrament of Reconciliation.   By examining our lives through the auspices of these two universal commandments, we learn of the challenges in following these precepts as well.  We often desire to NOT follow these coupled laws; but in our capacity as faith-filled Catholic Christians, we need to attempt at consistently honoring these commandments in our daily lives, renewing this commitment DAILY, and sometimes even moment-to-moment.

So, here is a challenge for each of you; let me know how successful you are in executing this challenge.  For one week, identify and collect news reports of how Christians (not just Catholics, but ALL Christians) show their love for God by loving and serving their neighbor.  (This will definitely be a challenge with our present secular news agencies and their anti-religious bias.) 

Think about ways in which you might contribute to the examples of “Christian service” which you hopefully found in the news reports.  Choose one of the actions you came up with or discovered in your search, and do the action yourself.  Let me know what action you came up with, and how you executed that action in your life and area. 

Finally, let us pray together in asking for God’s help in showing our love to our family, friends, and others we meet.  IT’S JUST THAT SIMPLE!!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

Act of Love

“O my God,
I love you above all things
with my whole heart and soul,
because you are all good
and worthy of all my love.
I love my neighbor as myself
for the love of you.
I forgive all who have injured me
and I ask pardon
of those whom I have injured.
Amen.”

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“You Cannot Mention My Father’s Name. However, I Truly Want You To Use MINE!” – Mark 9:38-48†


 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

As Catholics, we are to achieve a “unity of life”, letting our faith form our political decisions as we prepare to vote this November:

“We have important obligations as citizens.  But we have to carry out those obligations always in light of our duty to God” (Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles).

We, per Jesus’ “Word”, are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”  We are called to work for the common good of society, to obey just laws, and to respect society and government.  These responsibilities are what we render unto Caesar. 

What we render unto God – – IS FAITH. This means that “we can’t forget about the Church’s teachings and the demands of God’s law.  We have to make sure our participation and our contributions ALWAYS reflect the moral and religious values we find in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church.

When Catholics go to the voting booth, there are NON-negotiable aspects of Catholic social teaching.  Abortion, euthanasia, and marriage between a man and a woman, are among those that are non-negotiable!!

However, many issues ARE, and can be, debatable among Catholics.  Such issues include the economy, taxes, government spending, immigration, foreign affairs, and helping the poor and marginalized.  All these topics are matters for careful judgment – – careful CHOICE.  In such areas, we are always going to have legitimate differences of opinion over how best to apply the Church’s moral principles and teachings among members of our faith community.

So, what is a Catholic to do this November when we go to vote for our future?  What is important to remember is that we are always think and act with the mind of Christ and the mind of the Church in voting and in other civic responsibilities.

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We want with all our hearts to love, to BE “love”.  When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them.  God sees Christ, His Son, in us and loves us.  And so we should see Christ in others.” ~Dorothy Day, “My Wounded Hands“, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that whoever is not against Him – – is FOR Him.  Are YOU a fan, or a follower?

(NAB Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48)  38 John said to him, l “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  39 Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  40 For whoever is not against us is for us.  41 Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.  42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.  45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.  47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last week we heard Jesus rebuke His disciples for their arguing about who among them was the greatest.  Jesus taught them that the greatest among them will be those who serve the least among us.  Today, Jesus’ closest disciple, John, questions Jesus about an “unknown exorcist”, driving out demons in Jesus’ name.  John’s question to Jesus, in today’s reading, looks to have been motivated by simple jealousy:

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us (Mark 9:38). 

I believe John’s question is evidence that Jesus’ disciples have not completely grasped the meaning of Jesus’ “Words”.  These twelve extremely close followers of Jesus continue to compare themselves to others, especially others who appear to have greater healing powers than they possess.  They DO NOT want to share the power of Jesus’ name with others.  John and the other “disciples” even try to stop the man “because he was not following us“.

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Jesus’ reply is, in itself, filled with wisdom:

Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me (Mark 9:39).

Jesus strongly warns against jealousy and intolerance toward others who do not follow in His and our particular ways of faith, and leading to making false judgments.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian’s:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Let me ask you all a question: “Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to stand out more than us?”  I remember as a child being told by the Nuns teaching at my parochial school that ONLY Catholics would go to heaven.  All others would go to Hell, purgatory, or the infamous “limbo” (with the un-baptized infants), and going no further towards a full glory found in heaven.  Thank God (literally) that our closed-minded misunderstanding of dogma no longer exists in the Catholic faith today. 

All of us have to keep in mind that the Catholic Church was established by Christ Himself, at the “Last Supper”, and it has continued without a break in Apostolic Succession to the present day.  Yet, this “perfect” Church is filled with imperfect, sinful souls.  All can achieve the glorious perfection of heaven through their individual actions in this world, even without ever hearing the “Words” of Christ.  Christ knows all of us BY our works:

I [God] know your works (Revelations 3:15);

Christ knows all of us BY our faith and HOW we show our faith through our works:

“Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

With this in mind, there are many Catholics walking on the much easier road to Hell than much more difficult path to paradise.  These materialistic, jealous, judgmental people think they will be saved simply because they attend Mass when necessary, by sending their children to a parochial school, and by supporting their parish and diocese.  At the same time, they cheat, steal, tell lies, look at pornography, and so on.

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In today’s more medically advanced society, the “demon possession” described in Mark, might be seen as only a form of mental illness.  However, the need for healing, including for those with mental illness, was as real for them in the first-century, as it is for us still today.  “Exorcism” was a common practice during Jesus’ time on earth.  We know some people had the power to heal the symptoms of possession then, just as priests are able to do so now.  One of the strategies used in “driving out demons” was, and is still, by invoking the name of a person or figure believed to have the divine power and authority to heal: e.g., Jesus Christ.

The disciples observed that the “unknown exorcist” invoking Jesus’ name was potentially successful in his healing of others (hot-diggity-dogma!!).  This unknown healer recognized the power of Jesus’ name as truly having a divine power in itself, even though this “healer” who was not a member of the clan following of Jesus.  Even though this “healer” was an “outsider”, he must have believed in Jesus, by the fact of using His name. 

In Jesus’ reply to His disciples, He acknowledges that deeds of faith certainly can – – and DO – – precede the words of faith.  Our actions are more powerful than words alone.  Jesus continues teaching His disciples that they should not be reluctant to share Jesus’ healing powers with others.  In other words, we should “spread the wealth” of His grace and its power!!

In Mark 9:40, Jesus’ axiom truly demonstrates a broad attitude, belief, and tenet found in displaying His divine patience, lenience, and charitable tolerance toward others:

Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).

Even the smallest of considerations are shown to those who teach in Jesus’ name: – – and they will not go unrewarded!!  This axiom, this saying, compels a warning: there is NO position for a “neutral” stance where Jesus is concerned.  He Himself states to ALL present that they are either for or against Him – – they are either hot or cold.  NO lukewarm faith is allowed in His Kingdom:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot.   So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Revelations 3:15-16).

Jesus goes on further to speak about the positive effects in works of faith; in other words, those who act their faith in their love for God and others are those who are “hot”:

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward (Mark 9:41).

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Was Jesus’ exaggerating when He urged His followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences found in the last half of this reading (Mark 9:42-48)?  (I believe not.)  The last six verses (Mark 9:42-48) of this Gospel relate to the consequences of sin on one’s life.  Tying a heavy stone and being thrown into the sea, cutting your hand or foot off, or plucking your eye out, in order to save yourself from Hell, is an extremely vivid and morbid image to contemplate.  These images make me think of the idea of ALL of His children being part of His Church body.  If one of us sins, it truly affects ALL of us.  If a “sinner” remains unrepentant, they separate themselves from the Church body (Self-excommunication, which means they are out of fellowship with Christ – – until they choose to acknowledge their sin and repent). 

Just as a doctor might remove a limb, or some other part of the body, in order to preserve the life of the whole person, so too must we be ready to part with anything causing us to sin, leading to a spiritual death.  Jesus warns His disciples of the terrible responsibility of not putting stumbling blocks in the path of another.  Jesus warns us to not give offense or bad example, which may lead another to sin.  Even the first-century Jews understood that giving offense, or giving a bad example, is sinful since leads another TO sin.  If we lead another to sin, that person in turn may lead still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end – – and with assured devastation occurring – – unless someone harkens to an inspired conscious and grace, then to acknowledge their behavior as sin, and finally, to ask God’s forgiveness and mercy. 

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Remember: Christ came to heal; He was the first “medic” coming into – – and onto – – the field of battle: the Jewish nation, PLUS, ALL our individual souls, i.e., the whole human race.   His salves and bandages are the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.  They all heal our wounds of sin and strengthen our moral character.  Jesus treats ALL who come to Him (His practice is open 24 hours per day) with a pure love.  He expects us to treat people with His healing example of love.

With Jesus, there is no longer a need to cut off, or pluck out, anything to gain entrance to heaven.  Instead, we are to put on a great gift which Jesus gave to each and every one of us: the sanctifying grace of Himself and His Spirit!!  Through a proper faith in Jesus, we no longer have to worry about eternal misery with Satan.  After all, “Gehenna” does not sound like a fun place to be:

 “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

Ironically, it is interesting the number of people who end up going to Hell, even though they are aware of the consequences to their earthly actions.  There is not much, if anything, written about Hell that is positive.  So, why do we sin, knowing our action puts us on this road?  The answer is “Satan”  Satan is always wanting another soul – – NOT – – to go to paradise in heaven, but instead, to come to eternal misery and pain in HIS kingdom.  This is his only goal: JEALOUSY – – to take a soul away from GOD!!

The word, “Gehenna” (Mark 9:44, 46), is an interesting word indeed.  It refers to a valley just southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  To the Hebrew’s, this valley is known as the “Valley of Hinnom” (pronounced “gê-hinnōm”), or the “Valley of the son of Hinnom” (“gê ben-hinnōm”).  Gehenna was at one time the center of an idolatrous cult during a monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice.  This specific place is mentioned in two books of Jewish Scripture, our present-day Old Testament:

The king also defiled Topheth [a place of torment and punishment where the wicked are sent after death] in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be any immolation [killing; sacrifices] of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech [a Semitic deity]” (2 Kings 23:10);

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they go on building the high places of Topheth to sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire, something I never commanded or considered”(Jeremiah 7:31).

The concept of punishing sinners by fire, either after death, or after the final judgment, is found in Jewish apocalyptic literature:

Seventy shepherds were judged, and found guilty, and they also were thrown into that abyss of fire.  And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned.  And that abyss was on the south of that house. (Enoch 90:25-26**)

** (The “Book of Enoch” is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah.  It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from a group known as “Beta Israel”.  It is regarded however, as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church, but no other Christian group. ~ From Wikipedia)

“Gehenna” is traditionally used as an image of the invisible reality of the place of eternal punishment written about in the New Testament – – HELL!  Saying either Gehenna or Hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”, reminds me of another morbidly vivid description found in the book of Isaiah:

 “They shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against me; For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be extinguished; and they shall be an abhorrence [revulsion] to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24).

Per Isaiah, God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the “New Jerusalem” – – understood to be heaven.  As in the time of Isaiah, Jesus’ time on earth also had huge cemeteries of dead and decaying corpses, filth of every type, and societal/human waste scattered about in this “Valley of Hinnom” – – Gehenna – – JUST outside the city.  There still are many of God’s enemies surrounding us today – – the “living dead” who have rejected Jesus Christ.

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Jesus teaches us NOT to create obstacles for those who are just beginning to have faith, but to encourage even the smallest signs of faith.  In the vivid terms of today’s reading, Jesus teaches His disciples the consequences of putting obstacles before people on their road to faith.

The second part of today’s Gospel (Mark 9:42-48) contains a strong message for those sharing the responsibility of fostering faith in Jesus to others, an AWE-some responsibility.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that “FAITH” is a continuous, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, lifelong journey toward happiness – – which is God Himself!!  We don’t always understand our journey, or even stay on-track at times.  However, we should pray daily for the grace – – His grace – – to acknowledge and build upon even the smallest signs of faith, in ourselves, and in others.  This is what HOPEIS for Catholic Christians.   In today’s world, there are plenty of obstacles preventing the growth of faith in many individuals.  Pray you are not contributing to the obstacles, thus hindering another person’s continuously growing faith in Jesus Christ; instead continue to choose to encourage and strengthen that faith in others as well as ourselves.

We have a calling to confront obstacles to faith.  In dealing with obstacles confronting you, you may be called upon to use courageous, bold, outspoken word, and unpopular actions in order to surmount and break down that obstacle.  Perhaps God is calling YOU to break down that obstacle for another.  Saint Francis, a loyal member of the Catholic Church, and a radical challenger to Church of his day, broke down many obstacles in his public ministry, always with a sincere love, and with definite actions of faith and love.   Saint Francis routinely said:

Preach the Gospel, and at times, use words”.

Are you being called for a “challenge”, just as Saint Francis was called?  In a little, dilapidated, weathered chapel known as San Damiano, Jesus Christ spoke to him with the following words:

Francis, rebuild my church”!

What is Christ saying to YOU?!

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There are many people and things in our daily lives nurturing our faith, and, also attempting to hinder our faith.  Those nurturing our faith include: healthy family relationships and friendships, good literature, EWTN, Healthy Church life, retreats, and so on.  Those things that might be obstacles to our faith may include: improper relationships, scandals, bad habits, sin, and so on.

Jesus teaches us, in today’s Gospel, that we are to do everything possible to help another HAVE faith in Jesus Christ.  We are also to do everything possible to avoid creating obstacles hindering another’s faith life.  Pray that you will be a faith-filled Catholic Christian, helping others grow in faith, that you do not create obstacles for others obtaining or growing in faith.  YOU ARE the next “unknown exorcist” to proclaim God’s Word and Plan by your actions, and by passing on your faith to the next generation!

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen. 

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


 

 

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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Prayer for America” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quote of the Day:

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

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

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

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Gospel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, it is God who said:

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

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

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“On a whim, become an anawim” 

Reflection Prayer:   

“Prayer for Generosity”

 

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

St. Ignatius of Loyola

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“Do You Say ‘Yes’ To Your Faith, Or, Do You Say ‘Possibly’?!” – John 6:60-69†


21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

  Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Two years ago FAN (Franciscan Action Network) introduced the “F.R.A.N.C.I.S. Commitment to Civility in Discourse”.  I encourage each of you to take this commitment.  Send it to all your friends and ask them to take it.  Also, along with yourself, ask your friends to send it to candidates for local, state, and federal offices, and consider sending it to the media as well.

The F.R.A.N.C.I.S Commitment to Civility in Discourse

Take a quiet moment in prayer and then recite the following out loud or to yourself.  Each verb begins with a letter which, when taken together, spells out the name FRANCIS:

Commit to:

    • FACILITATE a forum for difficult discourse and acknowledge that all dialogue can lead to new insight and mutual understanding.
    • RESPECT the dignity of all people, especially the dignity of those who hold an opposing view.
    • AUDIT one’s self and utilize terms or a vocabulary of faith to unite or reconcile rather than divide conflicting positions.
    • NEUTRALIZE inflamed conversations by presuming that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith.
    • COLLABORATE with others and recognize that all human engagement is an opportunity to promote peace.
    • IDENTIFY common ground such as similar values or concerns and utilize this as a foundation to build upon.
    • SUPPORT efforts to clean up the provocative language by calling policymakers to their sense of personal integrity.

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There will be no reflection blog next Sunday September 2nd.  Sorry, but I will be actively involved in some family business which I cannot reschedule.

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Quote of the Day:

I am not moved by what I see. I am moved only by what I believe.” ~ Smith Wigglesworth, “Ever Increasing Faith”, Pentecostal Classics

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Today’s reflection: Simon Peter confesses his faith by saying Jesus alone has the “Words” of the eternal life.  What do you TRULY say about your faith?  Is it hot, cold, or lukewarm?

(NAB John 6:60-69) 60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”  61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?  62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  64 But there are some of you who do not believe.”  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.  65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”  66 As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.  67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

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Gospel Reflection:

For our Gospel today we hear the conclusion of John’s sixth chapter, known as the “Bread of Life” discourse.  In the preceding verses proclaimed in the Mass over the past few weeks, we have heard Jesus explain that He is “the Bread of Life”, given so that those who believe may come to share His eternal life (cf., John 6:47-48).  Today’s reading follows the miracle in which Jesus feeds more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish (cf., John 6:11-13).  This particular reading is about how “hard” it is to be a disciple of Christ.  My question: What is SO hard about following Christ?  Well, possibly because the “hard” in today’s reading is the audience “hearing” Jesus talking about what they perceive as cannibalism, the most serious heresy for any Jewish person.  Many in the “crowd” consider His “Words” as blasphemy.  Thus, John’s Gospel describes the crowd as “murmuring”, unable to accept Jesus’ “Words” as literally true.  Influenced by the crowd’s response, Jesus turns to His disciples, asking a question:

Does this shock you?” (John 6:61)

Jesus’ “Words” certainly shocked a good portion of His followers.  This leads to the challenge for the usually outspoken Simon Peter to declare his faith and understanding of “who” Jesus truly is: the Holy Son of God! 

Why do many of us (including some Catholics) find it easy to accept the claims which Jesus made in today’s Gospel, and others find it so “hard” to accept?  Some accept Jesus when it was (is) easy to see Him doing great works, but not when it was (is) difficult to accept His “Word” that HE is the true Son of God sent down from God the Father as Moses had prophesized.  Many are attracted to Jesus solely because He offers something irresistible: a visible sign of God the Father’s mercy and love which Jesus demonstrated (and still demonstrates today) through His supernatural works of healing and freeing us from evil through the mystery of the Eucharistic grace. 

After witnessing everything transpired during Jesus’ public ministry, I cannot believe that some of Jesus’ disciples – – His devoted followers – – were still not convinced about His divinity and true nature.  Decades later, there STILL were some in his own faith community finding it difficult to accept Jesus.  This is the reason John zeroed-in on this portion of his Gospel.  The issue here is the importance of faith as a divine gift which enables us to see and believe Jesus as what He says He truly is!

Just as the larger crowd (the 5000) struggled with Jesus’ teaching, many “disciples” present in today’s story somehow also cannot accept Jesus’ “Words”.  Jesus knows about their murmuring and responds by acknowledging their unbelief.  At the same time, Jesus reveals that only those drawn by God the Father will choose to believe in and follow Jesus to the end.  John’s Gospel reports here that many of those who had been Jesus’ disciples “murmured” and ceased to follow Him at this point in His public ministry.  The number of people following Jesus then dwindled from a crowd of more than 5,000 to possibly only 12 men and a few women and children.   It is to these Twelve men (Apostles) to whom Jesus now turns His attention; asking:

Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67).

Jesus saying this provided John the opportunity, through Simon Peter, the central, essential statement of faith, the core essence of our Catholic faith.  In essence, Jesus was asking if their faith was full and true, or if their faith had conditions attached to it.  Like most politicians today, some of whom are members of the Christian religion, and even the Catholic faith, they (and we) are siding with the majority are favorite stance instead of the morally correct position on serious issues, especially “life” issues: i.e., abortion, euthanasia, health and medical care, immigration, and so on.    So, you can see I believe Jesus’ question is being asked of ALL Catholics and other Christians – – universally.  (That means you, dear readers – – and me as well!)

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The question, “Do you also want to leave?”, is meant to inspire our declaration of faith in Jesus then, as the Holy “One” now, as His supernatural real presence in the Holy Eucharist. 

To me, this text makes me think that Jesus could be giving us an insight to His supernatural AND natural true union in the Holy Eucharist today.  My question: Is Jesus not only giving us His dual-nature union of body and blood (plus His soul and divinity) in the Holy Eucharist, but also the path we are to take on our journey to His kingdom?  I am drawn to what was written by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.  So, too, it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being,’ the last Adam[Jesus Christ] a life-giving spirit.  But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritualThe first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.  As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.  Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one (1 Corinthians 15:44–49).

The last Adam, Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:21–22) has become a life-giving spirit, a life-principle transcendent, spiritually different from the natural soul of the first Adam.  Furthermore, the “last Adam”, “Jesus the Christ”, is not just alive, but, life-giving – – a truly divine source of a real, everlasting life for others indeed.

So, in today’s reading, Jesus states:

The words I have spoken to you are spirit AND life” (John 6:63). 

By saying, “spirit and life”, Jesus is declaring that HIS “bread of life” – – the “RISEN HIMSELF” – – IS the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  WOW indeed!!!

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Many stumbled on their spiritual path when Jesus made claims which only God can make.  Jesus claimed to be “the bread of heaven” – – the very life of God – – given to us freely as the spiritual food to sustain us on our journey to the promised land of heaven.  Jesus’ discourse on “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” (cf., John 6:51-59) not only caused many of His followers to feel offended, but also pointed to – – pre-figured – – the “Last Supper”.  

Jesus did not leave any middle ground for those listening to Him.  They could either accept, that is believe His “Word” as divine and fully true, or they could reject it as the claim of an imposter.  It seems there is no “in-between”; forcing one to be either “hot” in faith, or “cold”.  A “lukewarm” faith is as unacceptable and as deadly as a “cold” faith:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelations 3:15-16).

Even the “Twelve” of His closest disciples (the Apostles) admitted His “Words” on “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” was a “hard saying” to understand (but not to believe).  Jesus promises His disciples (then and still now) nothing less than the full and complete blessing of eternal life along with a fully complete union with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus assures His disciples (then and now) that it is His (and our) heavenly Father who invites and gives the grace to follow Him – – even when it comes to the “hard sayings”.  

Jesus knew some would not only reject Him and His “Word”, but would also be offended.  Through this offended “spirit”, these people would eventually betray Jesus to His enemies.  After all, Jesus always knew that there would be those who would not believe Him, plotting to destroy Him as agents of evil:

“‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray Him” (John 6:64).

 Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus would again reiterate His prior knowledge of betrayal by others:

For he [Jesus] knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, ‘Not all of you are clean’” (John 13:11).

I cannot even fathom how someone who witnessed Jesus’ public ministry, and believed in Him at one time, could now NOT believe any longer.  Everything Jesus had promised had been fulfilled (so far), yet some still could not believe.  They saw, yet they were still blinded.  Humans can be a stupid bunch at times!!

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Jesus warned all who could hear Him:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:44).

Even with this stern yet loving warning, many of Jesus’ disciples had lost heart and returned to their former ways of life:

As a result of this, many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66). 

Was this abandonment because they could not comprehend what Jesus was truly saying when He talked about eating the true body and blood of Christ?  Or, did they leave due to an underling fear of their families and other Jews shunning them for following a man going against Jewish food laws?

Thankfully, those who stayed (and us), know a few things, however.  We know that the Holy Eucharist is a gift – – a grace – – from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  We know the Holy Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ – – transubstantiated.  And, from today’s reading, we know Jesus did not chase after anyone who left Him; giving further proof the Holy Eucharist IS the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, to be shared with all who believe!!

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Simon Peter responds to Jesus’ question about whether those “Twelve” closest to Him will also leave:

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

Simon Peter’s response reminds me of the reports of Peter’s confession of faith in the Synoptic Gospels (cf., Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20).  Peter announces, on behalf of all the Twelve, that they have come to believe all Jesus has taught about Himself:

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

Jesus is truly the “One” sent from God the Father, and in whom they (and we) have found the true path to eternal life.  Each of the four Gospels has declared this statement of faith:

Simon Peter said, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” (Matthew 16:16);

“[A man with an unclean spirit] cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’” (Mark 1:24);

Ha!  What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34);

“She [Martha] said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.  I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’” (John 11:27).

Sometimes, you definitely CAN believe what you read!!

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Today’s conclusion of John’s “Bread of Life” discourse focuses on a intimately personal faith in a life of Christian discipleship.  Each person must make his or her own judgment about who Jesus is in their own life.  In doing so, we determine the way of our life, our personal path, which we will follow to eternity.  God’s grace invites each of us – – personally – – to be a disciple of Jesus.  However, each of us must also respond to the grace of God by confessing a full and true belief in Jesus Christ being truly the “One” sent from God the Father for our redemption and salvation.   This absolute, non-conditional, faith then commits us to the righteous path of life, leading us to eternal life in a heavenly paradise.

Real faith is not blind or uninformed; faith seeks understanding and is ACTIVE – – always at work in our lives.  This is why God the Father imparts to us the help and comfort of the Holy Paraclete – – the Holy Spirit – – to enlighten the eyes of our mind and soul to understand His truth and wisdom:

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him.  May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones” (Ephesians 1:17-18).

Jesus offers His life-giving “Word” and “spirit” to those who truly and fully believe in Him, obeying His “Word” without ANY conditions.  Simon Peter’s profession of faith and loyalty was based on a personal relationship with Jesus!  His belief was not simply based on what he knew about Jesus, but in knowing that when Jesus spoke, God spoke(!); when Jesus acted, God acted!  (PERIOD!!!) . . .

Through the personal grace (gift) of faith, Simon Peter came to understand Jesus as the true Messiah Savior, the Holy “One” of God the Father.  Simon Peter believed in the “Words” Jesus spoke, because he accepted Jesus as the Son of God and therefore Savior of the world.  “Faith” is a personal response to God’s revelation of Himself to each of us.  “Faith” is the key to understanding and experiencing God’s action and work in our own personal lives.  Ask the Lord to increase your faith so you may grow in your relationship with Him and in the knowledge of His unlimited love for you.

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At baptism, we (or our parents) promised to believe (or teach) all articles of the faith.  In the example of Simon Peter, we learn each person must also make his or her own profession of faith in Jesus as the one sent by God the Father to save us.  As we matured in the faith, we learned, accepted, and believed (and still believe) Jesus Christ IS the “Word” of eternal life.  We also chose to follow the way of Christian discipleship at some point in our adult life, and hopefully still choose the same today.

Think about the promises made at your baptism (even if by someone else on your behalf).  What is the importance of this promise made by you then and now?  How are you trying to honor this commitment in your daily lives?  Please pray that you continue to grow in your faith, always remembering Jesus is the true “One” sent by God the Father – – who alone – – has the “Words” of eternal life.  

Promises are decisions; and we make numerous small decisions every day (and a few significantly important ones) which determine the course of our (and others) lives.  Being a parent, I have recently been reminded (with brutal honesty) that young people can hardly wait to be free of their parent’s – – to make their own choices.  We, as adults, learn (sometimes painfully) that certain decisions have consequences so serious that they should not be made lightly.  Just as some disciples in today’s reading did then, some people still today find it easier to give their decision-making responsibilities over to another: i.e., someone in the household, a politician, a religious leader, and so on.  In today’s first reading at Mass (from Joshua’s 24th chapter), Joshua doesn’t mince words:

“… decide today whom you will serve …” (Joshua 24:15).

Do NOT put off to another day, but decide now, today, about your faith.  Remember, Joshua’s people, reminded of all God had done for them, decided to:

 … serve the Lord, for He is our God (Joshua 24:18b).

Today’s Gospel account opened with Jesus’ disciples murmuring:

This saying is hard …” (John. 6:60).

Hard”, without a doubt – – and Jesus knew it is “hard”.   His “good news” – – the “Word” – – is not for lukewarm, fair-weather, or timid followers.  Because of this “hard saying” in today’s reading, many of Jesus’ followers became disillusioned and left Him.  The decision of the “Twelve” to stay with Jesus was NOT made because they had no other choice – – all of them had homes and families to whom they could have returned – – but was made because Jesus had “the words of eternal life“.  They were convinced and knew without any conditions that Jesus was truly the “Holy ‘One’ sent from God the Father.”

Many of Jesus’ “Words” are not easy to hear; they actually are quite challenging to one’s faith-life.  It is difficult to “love your enemies”, “lose your life for His sake”, and so on.  Like Simon Peter, those who follow Jesus Christ today, do so out of love for this Holy “One” who has the “Words” of eternal life, even though some “Words” are very “hard” and challenging indeed: yet, they are all trustworthy and BELIEVEABLE!

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Reflection Prayer: 

“O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
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”

(Collect Prayer for the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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“Who Are You, Lord, And Who Am I?!” – John 6:24–35†


 

 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary

Today’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Catholic History Today
  • ·        Joke of the Day
  • ·        Sundays Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer
  • ·        Catholic Apologetics
  • ·        A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • ·        Reflection on an article of  the OFS Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am asking for some input from my readers in regard to my blog format.  It is trying for me to amass all the information I needed for each blog normally posted on Saturdays.  For this reason, I have decided to change my format somewhat.  Starting next week, I will be splitting my blog sections between Wednesdays and Saturdays.  On Wednesdays, I will post the following sections:

  • ·        (on occasion) Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Catholic History Today
  • ·        Catholic Apologetics
  • ·        A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • ·        Reflection on an article of  the OFS Rule

Then, on Saturdays, I will continue to post these sections:

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

Please let me know your opinions on this matter, and if I should add or totally delete sections from my blog.  After all, this blog is as much yours as it is mine, because it is for YOU.

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Do not forget to vote on Tuesday, August 7th, (in Missouri at least).  Although a “Party Primary” election, local and state issues may also be on the ballot.  Voting is a “right” every eligible American should be proud to participate in as a citizen of this great “Godly” country.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1579 – Death of Stanislaus Hosius, Polish Catholic cardinal (b. 1504)
†   1900 – Death of James Augustine Healy, black Roman Catholic bishop, dies at 80
†   1912 – Birth of Abbé Pierre, French Catholic priest (d. 2007)

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches the crowds that He is the “bread of life.” We know who He is: the question I’m supposing is, “Who Are WE??!!”  Ask yourself this question: “Why are you seeking out Jesus?”

 

(NAB John 6:24–35)  24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.  25 And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  26 Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  27 Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”  28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”  30 So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?  31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:  ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  32 So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.   33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last Sunday, we heard about Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 with 5 loaves of barley bread and two fish, leaving enough leftover to fill twelve wicker baskets.  Between last Sunday’s Gospel and today’s Gospel is the short story of the disciples leaving for Bethsaida for Capernaum by boat as Jesus leaves for “the mountain alone” (John 6:15).  After an unknown amount of time (probably several hours at least):

the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus” (John 6:24).

This Sunday we continue to read from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, but not in continuity with last Sunday’s Gospel.  What we are not told (and what the “crowd” did not see) is the story between these two readings: Jesus’ walking on water (cf., John 16-21).  This event will be explored, and possibly revealed, in my reflection blog at a later date.

In today’s gospel, upon discovering the absence of Jesus and His closest of disciples, the crowd went in search for them:

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus” (John 6:24).

Upon finding their “New Moses” (please refer to my reflection from last week), they inquired of Jesus how He arrived there, and arrived there BEFORE them (since they knew Jesus went into the mountains):

When they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (John 6:25)

In the dialogue that follows, Jesus unfolds for us the gift of “Himself”, which He gives to us in and through the Holy Eucharist.

The crowd had come by boat, the fastest way possible for them, knowing Jesus would have had to walk to Capernaum since there were no other boats available for Him to use.  However, Jesus’ answer was NOT the one they were expecting to hear:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (John 6:25). 

Amen, Amen” – – Interesting words indeed!  A little trivia time: did you know there are 25 “Amen’s” in John’s Gospel alone (with only 52 “Amen’s” total in all 3 of the Synoptic Gospels)?  So, why do you suppose Jesus decided to start a sentence with a word never before used at the beginning of a statement?  These initial “Amen’s” are truly unique to Jesus, and are unparalleled, otherwise unknown in any other Hebrew writings.  Why (?) – – the reason is that “Amen” – – at the beginning of a sentence – – does not refer to the words of a previous speaker as one would assume (I bet His English teacher was mad at Him for such usage!).  I believe Jesus used the combined (and amplified) words “Amen, Amen” to introduce a new thought, a new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom on earth and in heaven.  In this case, the new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom is in seeing and believing His signs of His divine nature.

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Jesus goes on to say in today’s reading:

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal(John 6:27).

Jesus is telling all who come to Him (then and now) to change their priorities, both in life and in death.  Our secularized and materialistic world will someday perish.  I am sure we have all heard the axiom, “You can’t take it with you”.  This axiom references the materialistic, worldly items we accrue though life.  What you WILL take with you on your day of judgment is the way – – the “how” – – you USED these materialistic items, and the “way and how” of using ALL of God’s graces, powers, and “Words” given to you freely and FREE!  (Jesus has already paid the cost!!)

Jesus answers the crowd, saying who HE truly is:  “the bread of life”:

“This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:50, 51, 54, 58).

Only through Jesus Christ’s grace, can you, I, or anyone else, enter into God the Father’s Kingdom.  Only through Jesus Christ are we provided the life-sustaining food (and water) which endures and gives eternal life:

Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

The above verse (John 4:13) gives a new meaning to Christ being present – – truly and fully – – in each morsel and drop of both “species” of the Eucharist: the body and blood of the Risen Jesus Christ!

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Having heard what Jesus just said, the crowd wanted to know:

What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” (John 6:28).

Jesus answered:

This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent.” (John 6:29)

That just seems to be a little too simple, maybe even cunning or crafty, in the simplicity of His “Words”.  Many believe that ALL you have to do is simply “believe Jesus is the ‘one’ sent by God”.  However, there is a “little” more to this statement than just “believing”; for to believe, one must also accept the premise that Jesus is truly “the one sentas prophesized in Jewish scripture.  In reality, in order to believe Jesus is truly “the one sent”, you must also believe ALL that the prophets had to say about this “one sent”.

  

Image from the following website:
http://www.cai.org/bible-studies/
prophecies-concerning-jesus-and-their-fulfilment\

In believing, the crowd would be accepting that Jesus IS (and STILL IS) fulfilling EVERY prophecy made from the entirety of the great Prophets of old; where and who He would be born to, His work and mission, how He would die, His resurrection, and His ascension into heaven.  Through Jesus Christ, these prophecies of a “kingly” and “suffering” Savior Messiah had arrived to this crowd (and to US!)! 

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This crowd wanted even further proof from what they had already seen – – as a perfect sign in itself – – with the multiplication of the bread and fish.  So, the crowd says to Jesus:

What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?” (John 6:30).

Haven’t they seen ENOUGH to prove who Jesus truly and fully was (and is)?  Oh, those of so little faith!!  Then again, they were not the first ones to ask for proof from Jesus regarding His divine nature.  They were not the first to ask for, nay, demand a sign.  So, when:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven. (Matthew 16:1);

Then, Jesus responds thusly:

An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’ ” (Matthew 16:4).

Luke further elaborated on this:

 “While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.  Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation’” (Luke 11:29–30).

The “Son of Man” was a “sign” to this generation (and ours) as Jonah was a “sign” to the Ninevites of his generation.  Jonah is the “sign”, and his message was repentance, and, looking at and seeing the supernatural dimension of their lives.  Jesus is the “sign”, and His message was also that of repentance, and, looking at and seeing the supernatural divine nature of the “Son of Man”.

The Jews of the Exodus story demanded a “sign”, demanding bread from Moses – – and God gave them “manna”.  The crowd demanded from Jesus what the Israelites demanded of Moses – – a “sign” – – the “bread from heaven”:

 “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31). 

For the Jews of His day, Jesus is declaring that He IS the prophesized “sign”, the “bread from heaven” as revealed in Exodus:

 “Then the LORD said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. …  But Moses told them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. … Moses then told Aaron, ‘Take a jar and put a full omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to keep it for your future generations.’” (Exodus 16:4-34)

 This “bread from heaven” – – the “manna” – – was a divine sign, a gift from God the Father to His children.  This “manna” is similar to a natural substance, still found today in small quantities, on the Sinai Peninsula, and is associated with the honey-like resin from the tamarisk tree.  However, God’s “manna” is clearly an extraordinary, supernatural sign of God’s providence toward His “chosen” people, who needed His help.  Per Jewish tradition, the “manna” – – the “food” from heaven – – was (and is) expected to reappear miraculously at Passover, during “the last days”.  Christian tradition regards the “manna” of Exodus as a type of the Eucharist which Jesus fulfilled and is still fulfilling today.

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In verse 6:31, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat”, Jesus now starts referencing a single, specific, part of the prayer He taught to His disciples during the “Our Father” prayer:

Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

St. Francis of Assisi explained this specific portion of the “Our Father Prayer” in a beautiful and succinct way:

“Give us today our daily bread: Your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to remind us of the love God showed for us and to help us understand and appreciate everything that He did or said or suffered.”

Jesus Christ IS OUR DAILY BREAD!!  (I can’t say this fact enough!)  Through Jesus in the Eucharist, we are reminded and showed to understand and appreciate the true, and full totality of His life, death, resurrection, ascension, promises, hope, love, trust, and return – – in our lives NOW!!.  HOLY WOW!!!  HOLY AWESOME!!!

The “manna” of the Exodus story prefigured, and pointed to, the superabundance of the unique “bread” of the Eucharist which Jesus gave to His disciples on the eve of His sacrifice.  The “bread” Jesus offers His disciples still sustains us not only on our journey to His heavenly paradise; it also gives us the abundant supernatural life of God Himself, sustaining us now and for all eternity.  

When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ Himself, who makes us sharers in His body and blood, thus partaking in His divine life.  The Holy Eucharist is the “supernatural food” of healing – – for both body and soul – – and gives us strength for our journey to the paradise of God’s heavenly banquet (cf., Hebrews 12:18-24).

After initially answering the crowds question for a “sign”, Jesus then directly and unequivocally says:

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35).

I believe Jesus could not have been much clearer.  The people present certainly knew Jesus was referring to the prophecies in Isaiah and Amos among others:

 “All you who are thirsty, come to the water!  You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!  Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what does not satisfy?  Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.  Pay attention and come to me; listen, that you may have life.  I will make with you an everlasting covenant, the steadfast loyalty promised to David.”  (Isaiah 55:1–3);

“See, days are coming—oracle [revelation] of the Lord GOD— when I will send a famine upon the land: Not a hunger for bread, or a thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD. … On that day, beautiful young women and young men shall faint from thirst” (Amos 8:11–13).

Jesus makes a claim which only God can make: He is the true “bread of heaven” which can satisfy the deepest hunger, thirst, and longing every human being experiences in life.  We must believe in Christ, listen to His “Word”, pay attention to Him – – and most importantly – – “come to” Him in the Eucharist!!

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In today’s Gospel, there are four exchanges between Jesus and the crowd.  In the first, the crowd, after finding Jesus already at Capernaum, before them, asks a very “matter of fact” question: “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  Jesus replies by identifying their motivation in pursuing Him: their being fed earthly, worldly, bread.  Jesus acknowledges their physical feeding, yet challenges them to see beyond their material needs.  Instead, they (and we) should be seeking out Jesus because He can give eternal life!

As the second dialogue begins, it seems that the crowd might be on their way to accepting Jesus and His mission.  They ask: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  Jesus replies that the “works of God” is that they “BELIEVE” (have faith in) the one sent from God.  

Notice, Jesus is clearly declaring that He IS the One sent by God the Father – – the “New Moses”!!

However, in the third dialogue, the crowd reveals their inability to see Jesus’ true identity; the crowd reveals their “blindness”.  They ask Jesus for a sign so that they might know Jesus is truly sent from God the Father.  This request for a sign sounds strange since Jesus had just fed more than 5000 people, and for the most part, the SAME people now asking for a “sign” again.  I must add, what more is expected from Jesus to prove His true divine nature?  (Maybe He needs to raise someone from the dead!  Um … wait; He does, including Himself!)

The crowd cannot see beyond the surface of the “sign” Jesus gave in the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  By their description, they identify Jesus with Moses.  So, just as Moses gave the people “manna” in the desert, the crowd wanted Jesus to give them a sign so they will know Jesus was truly from God.  They were looking to identify Jesus as a “prophet” without realizing “God the Son” was standing before them.  

As God “fulfilled” the crowd’s ancestors’ needs in the desert, so God still provides food for eternal life (and still provides NOW TODAY)!   In the bread which they received from Jesus, they received physical nourishment as well as spiritual nourishment.  Jesus wanted the crowd then (and wants us today) to see beyond the surface – – to the One who provides true nourishment, God the Father through God the Son working through the Holy Spirit, even through material things.

The conclusion of the dialogue also further reveals the crowd’s “blindness”: they CANNOT “see” the divine Christ in their midst.  They asked for what Jesus had just told them they have found: “Sir, give us this bread always” (verse 34).  Jesus answers plainly that He Himself IS the “Bread of Life” they are seeking; the Bread of Life who will satisfy every hunger and thirst.  We can understand this fact better when we remember that God revealed His name to the “chosen” people of Israel as “I am” – – “Yahweh”.  Jesus claims this name – – “I AM” – – for Himself!!  Jesus’ claim [to fame] will bring many into His kingdom.  On the other hand, Jesus’ claim – – though it is true – – will have a negative effect as well, for some.  In the weeks ahead, in the Gospel readings at Mass, we will see how this claim offended others in the crowd.

Jesus offers a new relationship with God, a new life – – a life of sacrificial love, selfless service, and the forgiveness of others – – corresponding to God’s mercy, goodness and loving kindness.  This new life is a life of holiness, purity, and truth, corresponding to God’s holiness.  This new life is a life of obedience and trust, corresponding to God’s offer of abundant life, peace, and happiness.  This is the true definition of “work” which Jesus directs us to do, and enables us to perform through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I am truly hungry for the “bread” which comes down from heaven; and I thirst for the “Words” of everlasting life in, with, and through God!!  (What about you?)

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Sometimes, we don’t recognize the wonderful things our Trinitarian God has done for us in ours, and in others, lives.  Sometimes, out of habit or need, we simply forget and ask for further evidence of His love and care.  Pray that God, in these times, will remove our “blindness” so that we can receive and appreciate – – with thanks, praise, and love – – all the wonderful things which God truly accomplishes in our lives.

St. Francis said, Who are You, Lord, and who am I?”  The “manna” from heaven and John’s supernatural Christology (nature, character, and actions of Jesus Christ) draws out the theme of nourishment from God, and especially, the new life we receive through Christ, who is the “Bread of Life”.  How awesome and wonderful is it that we ALL have a Trinitarian God who is close to us – – truly one of us – – through the “Risen” human flesh of Jesus, and as near and physically present as in the Holy Eucharist.  We need to come to realize that the importance of the immanent nature (God existing in, and extending into, all parts of the created universe) of God is truly and absolutely important for our daily spiritual lives!!

The second half of Saint Francis’ question above, Who am I?” is as equally important as the first half, Who are You, Lord.  I might rephrase this question as: “Who am I that I can relate to my (and your) immanent God and His call to freedom and a new life?”  Like the Israelites, we actually sometimes desire a bondage to our personal addictions or societal failings.  Let us remember that we do have choices.  We can choose to feed on the “Bread of Life”; or we can feed on the “dry bones” of an exploited, materialistic, and secularized human existence without everlasting life.  (Here Fido, you take the bone and I’ll take the bread!)

It is interesting for me that, often, we are not only complacent with oppressive situations and rewards in life, we are also even sometimes “grateful” for the mere “scraps” we receive in life.   We need to remember that in times of trials and tribulations, the “scraps” of worldly materialistic items and conveniences are no match for the overwhelmingly bounty of God – – through the “Bread of Life”, Jesus Christ!

Recall the wonderful gifts God has given you, and the remarkable deeds God has accomplished in and through you.  Remember, it is truly important to stop and count our blessings.  We can all easily miss recognizing all of the wonderful things God has done (and does) for us on a daily basis.  Recall that we have this gift from Jesus – – in the Eucharist – – TODAY and FOREVER!!  (and even in heaven!)   Thank God for all He had (and has) given to us. 

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Bread of Life Prayer

 

“Bread of Life, you feed
us through word and sacrament.
The bread we share
a remembrance
of your presence with
us. Strengthen us for
service, that seeds we sow
in fertile places
might grow and flourish,
that food we share
in fellowship
might nourish and revive,
that words we share
in our daily walk
might glorify your name.
Bread of Life, you feed us
through word and
sacrament that we might feed others.
Blessed be your name!  Amen.”

http://www.faithandworship.com/Jesus_bread_of_life.htm

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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

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.” (Hebrews 1:1-3) RSV.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3) KJV.

***

But of the Son he says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom. … And, ‘Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands’” (Hebrews 1:8, 10) RSV.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.  … And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands (Hebrews 1:8, 10) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint [Commemoration] of the Day:  Dedication of the Church of St. Mary Major Basilica

 

First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431.  Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honoring God through Mary.  Standing atop one of Rome’s seven hills, the Esquiline, it has survived many restorations without losing its character as an early Roman basilica.  Its interior retains three naves divided by colonnades in the style of Constantine’s era.  Fifth-century mosaics on its walls testify to its antiquity.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centers of the Church.  St. John Lateran represents Rome, the See of Peter; St. Paul Outside the Walls, the See of Alexandria, allegedly the see presided over by Mark; St. Peter’s, the See of Constantinople; and St. Mary’s, the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.

One legend, unreported before the year 1000, gives another name to this feast: Our Lady of the Snows.  According to that story, a wealthy Roman couple pledged their fortune to the Mother of God.  In affirmation, she produced a miraculous summer snowfall and told them to build a church on the site.  The legend was long celebrated by releasing a shower of white rose petals from the basilica’s dome every August 5.

Comment:

Theological debate over Christ’s nature as God and man reached fever pitch in Constantinople in the early fifth century.  The chaplain of Bishop Nestorius began preaching against the title Theotokos, “Mother of God,” insisting that the Virgin was mother only of the human Jesus.  Nestorius agreed, decreeing that Mary would henceforth be named “Mother of Christ” in his see.  The people of Constantinople virtually revolted against their bishop’s refutation of a cherished belief.  When the Council of Ephesus refuted Nestorius, believers took to the streets, enthusiastically chanting, “Theotokos!  Theotokos!”

Quote:

“From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God, in whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs.  Accordingly, following the Council of Ephesus, there was a remarkable growth in the cult of the People of God towards Mary, in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation…” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 66).

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 5 & 6 of 26:

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

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

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

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“If Jesus Felt A Need To Pray, Shouldn’t WE Do Likewise?!” – John 17:11b-19†


    

Seventh Sunday of Easter

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:

 

My Oldest son’s (Dan, III) last day of school, and his last day at work was this week.  He leaves for boot camp in a month and a half, planning to be a part of Naval Special Operations Group as an “Aviation Rescue Swimmer”.  He’s NOW a man, and I am still concerned for him – – and SOooo PROUD of him!!  It is hard to describe the feelings I have over his “adulthood” and the danger he has chosen to place himself in for OUR protection (He even had a full-ride scholarship and turned it down to serve our country).  I Love him and want to keep him safe – – but can’t. I can only pray for him instead, placing him in God’s hand.  Please pray for him as well.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   325 – The First Council of Nicaea – the first Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church – is held
†   1277 – Death of Pope John XXI (b. 1215)
†   1444 – Saint Bernardino of Siena, Italian Franciscan missionary (b. 1380) dies at age 63
†   1470 – Birth of Pietro Bembo, Italian cardinal (d. 1547)
†   1571 – Venice, Spain & Pope Pius form anti-Turkish Saint League
†   1825 – Death of Papaflessas, Greek priest and government official (b. 1788)
†   1906 – Birth of Giuseppe Siri, Italian Catholic cardinal (d. 1989)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Bernardine of Siena; Saint Lucifer; Saint Austregisilus; Saint Ivo of Chartres; Abercius and Helena

(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:

 

“I don’t honestly believe that any man or woman can get all priorities in life straight alone.  We will always have doubts, fears, tensions, and wonderings without prayer.  We will continuously feel as if we are involved in a great juggling act with all the balls up in the air at once, soon to come plummeting to the ground.  But before God in prayer, we can get our priorities in right order and become one: one integrated person in Jesus Christ.” ~ Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., “Appointment with God“, Apostolate for Family Consecration

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Today’s reflection: Jesus prays for His disciples

 

(NAB John 17:11b-19) 11 Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.  12 When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.  13 But now I am coming to you.  I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.  14 I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.  16 They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  17 Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth.  18 As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  19 And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The background of today’s reading – – Jesus’ prayer to His Father – – comes at the conclusion of Jesus’ farewell discourse He delivered to His disciples at the Last Supper.  The entire 17th chapter of John’s Gospel is a prayer by Jesus – – to His Father – – entrusting and committing Himself to His Father and expressing His care and concern for His disciples.  At the end of this prayer, Jesus and His disciples depart for the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus will ultimately be arrested, starting His Passion and Execution. 

In reading this “Prayer of Jesus” at Mass during the Easter Season, and through the lens of His upcoming Resurrection, we know that the light of Jesus Christ has definitely overcome the darkness of sin and death in our world.  In the opening line of Jesus’ prayer to His Father, we hear Jesus pray that His disciples will be kept “in the name” He was given by God the Father.  We know salvation is given to us in the name of Jesus, and Jesus’ name—“God saves”—announces His mission on our behalf.

Since the sixteenth century, this 17th chapter of John’s Gospel has been called the “high priestly prayer” of Jesus.  Through this “prayer”, Jesus speaks as OUR intercessor.  He uses words addressed directly to God the Father and NOT to His disciples, who instead, probably overhear Jesus at prayer.  

On the eve of His sacrifice on the cross, and in the presence of His disciples, Jesus made His high priestly prayer: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that they may be one as we are one“.  Jesus prayed for the unity of His disciples and for ALL who would believe in Him.  Jesus’ prayer for His people is that we be united with God the Father, in His Son, and through His Holy Spirit; and we will be joined together in unity with all who are members of Christ’s body.

Jesus’ prayer is one of petition, starting with His asking for an “intercession” in the reading just prior to today’s (cf., John 17:6–19), and for the “security” of future disciples immediately after this particular Gospel reading (cf., John 17:20–21).  Many phrases appear to be reminiscent of Jesus’ example of “how” WE should pray: “the Our Father” prayer.  

Although still in this world, Jesus already looked on His earthly human ministry as a thing of the past.  Jesus has, up to this time, stated that His disciples could not follow Him:

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.  You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.” (John 13:33);

Simon Peter said to him, ‘Master, where are you going?’  Jesus answered [him], ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.’” (John 13:36).  

Now, in today’s reading, He wishes them to be with Him “in union” with God the Father:

When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.  But now I am coming to you.  I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.  I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”  (John 17:12–14).

Several important themes appear throughout Jesus’ prayer to His heavenly Father.  First, Jesus’ prayer reaffirms the complete “union” between Himself and God the Father.  Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus has been presented as the “ONE” who preexisted with God the Father, AND, as the “ONE” sent by God the Father to do His work on earth.  In today’s reading, we hear Jesus include ALL His disciples, all of us, in this “union” with His Father.  We are reminded through Jesus’ prayer, that Jesus Christ IS the source of Christian unity.  Through Jesus Christ, we are united with one another AND with God Our Father Himself. 

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So, who is Jesus talking about when He mentions the “son of destruction” in today’s Gospel?  Is it the same “person” John mentioned in a different “title” a few chapters prior:

“I am not speaking of all of you.  I know those whom I have chosen.  But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.’” (John 13:18).

I wonder, is Jesus talking about Judas Iscariot, about Satan himself, or about any of his evil disciples on earth?  I believe the answer is, in a way, “YES” to all three possibilities.  What I also believe is that those who follow Jesus with a certainty of faith, trust, and love, will not be overcome by the “son of destruction”!!  John, in his next chapter, will go on to explain this fulfillment of faith, trust, and love: 

“This was to fulfill what he had said, ‘I have not lost any of those you gave me.” (John 18:9).

The above verse (John 18:9) is also referring to two other places in John’s Gospel:

And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day.” (John 6:39);

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.” (John10:28).

By following Jesus, by have faith, trusting and loving Him, we become His “trusted friend”, eating His “bread”, and thus allowing Him to dwell IN each of us – – nurturing us with His grace:

“Even my trusted friend, who ate my bread, has raised his heel against me” (Psalm 41:10);

When comparing John 13:18 with Psalm 41:10 verse, “Even my trusted friend…has raised his heel against me”, John is characterizing specifically Judas as a false friend.  However, Jesus had many “false friends”, even still today. 

So, Jesus warns His followers about the danger of betrayal, especially toward Himself, or His Heavenly Father:

The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.  It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24);

The enormity of such a horrendous deed is such that it would be better not to exist than to do it.  Judas Iscariot was a close disciple of Jesus and should have realized the enormity of his betrayal of Him.  As stated in Bible’s the book of ACTS, Judas was truly and fully warned:

“My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.” (Acts 1:16).

Judas Iscariot was led into an act of deception by not allowing the Holy Spirit to act in and through him.  Instead, Judas allowed the “son of destruction” to claim him.

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Let’s leave Judas and come back to Jesus.  What motivated Jesus to lay down His life on the cross – – as THE atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world?  Well, it was love – – love for His Father in heaven and love for each and every one of us who are made in the image and likeness of God the Father.  Jesus was sent into this world by His Father for a purpose, and that purpose was a mission of love to free each one of us from the slavery to sin, Satan, fear, death, and hopelessness.  Through His endless and infinite love, Jesus dedicated Himself out of pure JOY.

Jesus, in today’s reading, speaks of the joy that can fill each of us who dedicated themselves to His will:

I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely” (John17:13).

A “complete joy” is an important theme for John to relay to his audience.  He previously mentioned a possessing of a “complete joy” in chapter 15 as well:

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11).

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In this prayer from today’s Gospel, Jesus describes part of His mission in a language of “protection”.  He has protected those who were given – – to Him – – by God the Father; and we hear echoes of dualism reflected throughout.  Beginning with the opening chapter, John has presents Jesus’ human mission in the context of an immense struggle between good and evil – – represented by light and darkness.  In Jesus’ human and divine presence, His disciples have been protected from Satan.  Now, as Jesus is preparing His return to His Father, He prays that His disciples will continue to be protected from the “evil one”.  We can’t help but note the validation of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, “the Our Father”.

In Jesus’ prayer to His (and our) Father in Heaven, He utters a simply complex petition resembling a part of the “Our Father Prayer”.  The petition John is referring to in today’s reading is, “deliver us from the evil one.”  

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world j but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

We know this petition is taught to all His disciples, for it can be found in two of the Synoptic Gospels as well, Matthew and Luke:

Do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13);

Do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11:4).

In all three instances of God the Father’s protection from the “final test”, they refer to Satan rather than to abstract evil.

Do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13);

In Jewish “apocalyptic” writings, a period of severe trial will come to ALL before the end of the age.  This period has sometimes been called the “messianic woes” by some Jewish people, yet even still today.  The three examples of this petition just mentioned (John’s, Matthew’s, and Luke’s) asks for Jesus’ disciples (including us) to be safe a “final test”.  Even Paul’s Second letter to his Thessalonians, and John’s first letter to his roman Jewish Christians, relays this promise of safety and security from Satan and evil:

“The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3);

We know that no one begotten by God sins; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the evil one cannot touch him.” (1 John 5:18).

Also present in this 17th chapter is the distinction between the world and the disciples.  Disciples are in the world, but they do not belong “TO” the world.  Like Jesus, they (and we) are sent INTO the world for the world’s salvation, knowing the world may not accept His disciples with open arms.  Again, we hear reverberations of John’s theme of the cosmic battle between light and darkness; the world PREFERING darkness.  However, His “light” will never be overcome by the darkness – – His light of truth will prevail.

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Jesus asks His Father to “consecrate” His disciples “in the truth”, and that “truth” being His “Word”:

Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

So, what is “consecrate”? – – what is “truth”? – – and what is “word”?   To consecrate is to make holy, to set apart, to sanctify.  In essence, consecration is a purification of oneself through the words and actions of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through you.  (It is a great flushing out of the old self and a gaining of a new and improved “self” – – with and in Christ.)  Peter teaches about this “purified selves” in his first letter to the Christian communities in Asia Minor (A peninsula of western Asia between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; generally the same area as Asian Turkey.):

 “Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

Jesus also said, “Consecrate in the Truth”.  What is “truth”?  Per the dictionary, “truth” is something honest and sincere, corresponding to fact, or to reality.  Purifying oneself in the honest and sincere fact and reality of Jesus as the “Son of God”, – – OUR personal Redeemer and Savior – – IS the ultimate goal for any Catholic Christian.  Consecrating or purifying oneself in “truthIS immersing oneself in His “Word”!!  In wrapping ourselves in God’s “Word”, we are wrapping our “selves” into what has ALWAYS been, and will always “BE”:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to beWhat came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)

The “Word” is MUCH more than simply words written into a book.  God’s “WordBegan ALL, Created ALL, Lives through ALL, and Lights the way for ALL.  When the Deacon or Priest holds up the book of the Gospels in procession, or at the Reading of His “Word” (in Mass), he is holding up GOD for all to SEE!!  God’s “Word” burns brightly in each of His disciples.  How bright is your flame?

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In the last two verses of today’s reading, Jesus wraps His “truth”, His “Word”, around each of His disciple, cloaking them in His personal love and protection as He sent them (and us) to continue His work in this world:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” (NAB John 17:18-19).

From this day forward, the eleven disciples closest to Jesus were now to be forever called “Apostles” (which means, “those sent”), for they were “sent” out to proclaim His “Word”, love, and peace.  This “sending” of the Apostles (and us – His current disciples) is also the subject of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the Eleven:

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

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

“And He said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:46-47).

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In summary, Jesus’ aim and mission was to glorify His heavenly Father.  All He said and did truly gave glory to His Father in heaven.  Jesus saw glory in the cross rather than shame.  Obedience to His Father’s will was His glory.  Jesus kept His Father’s word, even when tempted to forgo the cross.  Jesus did not rely on His own worldly human resources and strength to accomplish His Father’s will.  Instead, He trusted in His Father to give Him strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of opposition, trials, and temptation.  We are encouraged to take up our personal crosses (the big ones and little ones), following our Lord Jesus wherever He may call us to go.  Jesus will give us the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to live as His disciples.

Reading today’s prayer of Jesus, as found in John’s Gospel, during the Easter Season, and through the lens of His upcoming Resurrection, we know that the light of Christ has definitely overcome the darkness of sin and death in our world.  In the opening line of Jesus’ prayer to His Father, we heard Jesus pray that His disciples will be kept “in the name” which He was given by God the Father.  We know salvation is given to us in the name of Jesus, and that Jesus’ name—“God saves”—announces His mission on our behalf.

Jesus prayed that His disciples would be sanctified and consecrated in God’s truth and holiness.  The scriptural word for “consecration” comes from the same Hebrew word meaning “holy” or “set apart for God”.  This word, consecration, also means “to be equipped with the qualities of mind and heart and character for a task or service”.  Just as Jesus was called by His Father to serve in holiness and truth, so are we called and equipped for our task of serving God in the present world as His ambassadors.  

God’s “truth” frees us from ignorance and the deception of sin.  It reveals to us God’s goodness, love, and wisdom; and it gives us a desire for God’s holiness.  The Holy Spirit is the source and giver of all holiness.  As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, He transforms us by His purifying fire, and changes us into the likeness of Christ.  Is your life consecrated to God – – Look in the mirror?

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To conclude, one of the greatest gifts we are given in life is protection from harm.  We personally, in family, and in society, work together to keep one another safe from physical harm.  Think of the effort we parents have taken to make our homes child proof for example.  We, as Christians, also attempt to protect each other from emotional harm as well.  In another example, we attempt to talk to one another in a way as not to hurt one another’s feelings by our words.  And, most importantly, we, as Christians, should work together in protecting each other from what might harm another spiritually.  

When we work together to strengthen God and community, we build a spiritual strength making us able to turn from what would lead us away from God and the Church.  Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in today’s reading is also a prayer for us today.

Jesus left them, and US, with a great blessing along with His sending out message found in today’s reading; a blessing of calm and harmony – – “PEACE”:

 “[Jesus] said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” (John 20:21–22).

I end today’s reflection with the same blessing He gave to each of us, – – “Peace BE With You” as well.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The ‘Our Father’ Prayer

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Scripture and Tradition

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

**

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).

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).

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444)

Most of the saints suffer great personal opposition, even persecution. Bernardine, by contrast, seems more like a human dynamo who simply took on the needs of the world.

He was the greatest preacher of his time, journeying across Italy, calming strife-torn cities, attacking the paganism he found rampant, attracting crowds of 30,000, following St. Francis of Assisi’s admonition to preach about “vice and virtue, punishment and glory.”

Compared with St. Paul by the pope, Bernardine had a keen intuition of the needs of the time, along with solid holiness and boundless energy and joy.  He accomplished all this despite having a very weak and hoarse voice, miraculously improved later because of his devotion to Mary.

When he was 20, the plague was at its height in his hometown, Siena.  Sometimes as many as 20 people died in one day at the hospital.  Bernardine offered to run the hospital and, with the help of other young men, nursed patients there for four months.  He escaped the plague but was so exhausted that a fever confined him for several months.  He spent another year caring for a beloved aunt (her parents had died when he was a child) and at her death began to fast and pray to know God’s will for him.

At 22, he entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained two years later.  For almost a dozen years he lived in solitude and prayer, but his gifts ultimately caused him to be sent to preach.  He always traveled on foot, sometimes speaking for hours in one place, then doing the same in another town.

Especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine devised a symbol—IHS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, in Gothic letters on a blazing sun.  This was to displace the superstitious symbols of the day, as well as the insignia of factions (for example, Guelphs and Ghibellines).  The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings.  Opposition arose from those who thought it a dangerous innovation.  Three attempts were made to have the pope take action against him, but Bernardine’s holiness, orthodoxy and intelligence were evidence of his faithfulness.

General of a branch of the Franciscan Order, the Friars of the Strict Observance, he strongly emphasized scholarship and further study of theology and canon law.  When he started there were 300 friars in the community; when he died there were 4,000.  He returned to preaching the last two years of his life, dying while traveling.

Comment:

Another dynamic saint once said, “…I will not be a burden, for I want not what is yours, but you…. I will most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your sakes” (2 Corinthians 12:14).  There is danger that we see only the whirlwind of activity in the Bernardines of faith—taking care of the sick, preaching, studying, administering, always driving—and forget the source of their energy.  We should not say that Bernardine could have been a great contemplative if he had had the chance. He had the chance, every day, and he took it.

Patron Saint of: Advertising; Gambling; Compulsive behavior; Italy; Public relations

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 20 & 21 of 26:

20. The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international.  Each one has its own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

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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.

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