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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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♫“Mary, did you know …?♫ – – She Certainly Did Indeed Know!!” – Luke 1:39-45†


 

4thSunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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. pencilDan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Nativity Scene

The nativity scene (also known as a crèche, manger scene, or crib) is a depiction of the birth of JeNativity-Scenesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Nativity scenes display figures representing the infant Jesus, His mother Mary, and His Step-father Joseph.  Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, the Magi, and angels may be displayed near the manger in a barn (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals.  A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, as well as the camels belonging to the Magi.  (The symbolism of the animals of the crèche will be covered later)

A nativity scene takes its inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Luke’s narrative describes an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who then visit the humble site where Jesus is found lying in a manger, a trough for cattle feed (cf., Luke 2:8-20).  Matthew’s narrative tells of “wise men” (in Greek: “magoi”) who follow a star to the house where Jesus dwelt, thus indicating that the “Magi” found Jesus some time later (within two years after Jesus’ birth), rather than on the exact day of His birth (cf., Matthew.2:1-23).  Matthew’s account does not mention the angels and shepherds, while Luke’s narrative is silent on the Magi and the star.  The Magi and the angels are often displayed in a nativity scene with the Holy Family and the shepherds although there is no scriptural basis for their presence (cf., Luke 2:7-17).

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 (and a “living” one at that) intending thereby to cultivate the worship of Christ after being inspired by his 220px-Giotto_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_-13-_-_Institution_of_the_Crib_at_Grecciorecent visit to the Holy Land where he had been shown Jesus’ traditional birthplace.  Francis wanted to place an emphasis for Christmas being more on the “worship of Christ” than upon the secular materialism and gift giving as the priority. 

Acted out in a cave near Greccio, Italy, St. Francis’ nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles.  Pope Honorius III gave his blessing to the exhibit.  Such “nativity” performances became hugely popular and spread throughout all of Christendom.  The scene’s popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes. 

Within a hundred years of St. Francis’ act of piety and faith, every Catholic Church in Italy was 5_free_christmas_wallpaper_nativity_sceneexpected to have a nativity scene at Christmastime.  Eventually, figurines replaced the living human and animal participants.  Over time, static scenes grew to elaborate affairs with richly robed figurines placed in intricate landscape settings. 

The scene’s popularity inspired much reproduction and replication in Catholic countries throughout the world.  In the early modern period (1500 – 1700), sculpted cribs were set up in Catholic Church’s and homes, often exported from Italy.  By the end of the 1800’s, nativity scenes became popular beyond Catholic settings, and many versions of various sizes – – and in various materials such as terracotta, paper, wood, wax, and ivory – – were marketed, often with a “stable-style” backdrop setting.  In some Catholic countries still today, the nativity scene is more popular than the Christmas tree.

Animals in nativity scenes

A donkey (or ass) and an ox typically appear in nativity scenes.  Besides the necessity of animals for a manger, there is a biblical reference to Isaiah:

An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger; but Israel does not know, my people has not understood” (Isaiah 1:3).

The Gospels, however, do not mention an ox and donkey – – or any other animal – – with Jesus in the “manger”.  XMAS11-nativity-set-2-3

The ox traditionally represents “patience”, the “nation of Israel”, and the Old Testament “sacrificial worship”.  The ass represents “humility”, “readiness to serve”, and “Gentiles”.

The ox and the ass, as well as other animals, became well-entrenched as part of the nativity scene tradition.  Other animals introduced to nativity scenes – – over time and societal culture – – include camels, sheep, and even elephants.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things.  From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone.  From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God.” ~ Pope John Paul II

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Today’s reflection: Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.  How beautiful are YOUR words (prayers) to Mary?

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(NAB Luke 1:39-45)  39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lordshould come to me? 44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today is the last Sunday before Christmas.  Our Gospel reading this day prepares us to witness Christ’s birth.  We are shown in this reading “how” Jesus was recognized as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, even before His AdventWreathbirth.  Today’s Gospel turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist – – to events preceding John’s birth.  The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are reported only in Luke’s Gospel.  In reporting this event, Luke connects the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, thus establishing John’s early relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.

Today’s Gospel recalls Mary’s “actions” after the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the Archangel, “Gabriel”.  Mary travels to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who is also six months pregnant.  Elizabeth greets Mary with a true and full recognition of the “roles” that they, and their unborn children, will play in God the Father’s redemptive plan for salvation.  If we continue to read the verses following today’s reading, in Luke’s Gospel, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth’s greeting with her own beautiful song of praise, the “Magnificat”.  Both women – – Mary and Elizabeth – – recall, repeat, and endorse God’s past history of showing favor upon the people of Israel, testified to in their individual “songs of faith and praise”.

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Mary, in the early stages of her pregnancy, is in a hurry to see Elizabeth.  Mary is taking Jesus – – the “Good News”mary goes to elizabeth, the “Word” Incarnate – – to her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth – – a few days’ journey away.  Why?  I don’t believe she is motivated by a personal human fear of her pregnancy and subsequent labor & delivery, and of the fear of caring for and nurturing her soon-to-be newborn infant “king”.  However, she is a young teenager (most believe around age 14), and being pregnant is pretty overwhelming experience for ANYONE, much less a child-woman.  

Mary knows that she needs calming and wise guidance in her life.  She is probably eager and excited to see Elizabeth, and to learn from her.  This whole experience can’t help but be exciting, for both women.   Mary, in travelling to Elizabeth, will certainly help in the delivering and care of Elizabeth’s newborn, just prior to experiencing a similar event herself. 

Mary enters Elizabeth’s home, and greets Elizabeth.  The instant Elizabeth hears the pregnant-virginal Mary, Elizabeth becomes “filled with the Holy Spirit”:1-eisbacher

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit out in a loud voice (Luke 1:41).

In a charismatic moment – – talking through the divine influence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within her – – Elizabeth spontaneously erupts with a beautiful bouquet of words – – a song – – directed at Mary:

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joyBlessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45).

luke1_42_blessed_art_thou_among_women_postcard-p239058946011173125baanr_400Why is Mary “blessed”?  The word “blessed” [“makarios” in Greek] literally means “happiness” or “beatitude”.  It describes a kind of JOY which is serene, untouchable, self-contained, and independent from chance or changing circumstances of life.  

Mary is “blessed” because she heard the “Word” of God and responded to this “Word” with the gift of her WHOLE being and life!!  We too have hear the “Word” of God and are invited to join with Christ in HIS complete and total offering to God the Father as well.  Are you responding? 

In Luke, even before His birth, Jesus is identified – – as the true Lord of God’s “chosen people”.  Both Mary and Elizabeth are carrying children of destiny – – then, in the future, and forever and ever.  Kind words of love and praise are exchanged between these two women.  Together, their children, Jesus and John the Baptist, will praise God and bless each other as well – – through THEIR words and actions. 

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Elizabeth, the wife of a Temple high-priest, knew Jewish scripture well; probably better than most women of that time.  She was familiar with the verses from Deuteronomy and from the prophetess, Judith:724

Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks!” (Deuteronomy 28:4);

“Then Uzziah said to her [Judith], ‘Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies’” (Judith 13:18).

By reporting that Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you who believed”, Luke is portraying Mary as a true “believer”.  MBeliever_ary’s faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Elizabeth’s husband):

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

Mary’s role as a true “believer” – – in Luke’s infancy narrative (Chapter 2) – – should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believedafter the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as found at the beginning of the book, the “Acts of the Apostles”:

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Mary “believed” – – from the beginning – – and never wavered!!  Can any of us claim this fact as true in our own lives?  I know I can’t – – but I definitely know and BELIEVE it is true now!! 

These few words from today’s Gospel, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45) truly characterizes Mary’s whole, entire, life.  Later in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus will VirginMary2say:

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21).

In Cana, at a wedding feast, she asks her son to intervene when the wine supply ran short.  Even though Jesus never promises to do anything, she says:

Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5)

Finally, at the Holy Cross, though she did not – – could not – – understand why Jesus, her beloved son, was being Virgin-Mary-Desktop-Backgroundtreated in such a way, she remained (and remains still) the ever-faithful disciple, staying by His side when nearly all others abandon Jesus at His greatest time of need.

Mary truly – – and fully – – “believed!!  Mary was in the thick of human life with Jesus; yet, she was “one-of-us” as well!!    She is THE model for each of us in our individual lives.  Hmm, when I believe as Mary does, I will be blessed indeed!!

To be “chosen” by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow when she said, “your will be done”.  Howe51TERX4XTRL__SL160_ver, her joy was not diminished by her sorrow – – because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and in His promises.  God gives us too, a supernatural JOY, enabling us to witness to any sorrow or pain: a JOY neither life nor death can take away.  

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The . summarize titleHoly Spirit helps reveal Jesus’ identity as the saving “God” to those who believe.  Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and “sings” to Mary her praise – – because Mary bears the promised Lord Savior, the true Messiah.  We “sing” thesehailmary-1 words of praise to Mary when we pray the “Hail Mary”.  Even John the Baptist – – the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb – – is said to recognize the presence of the Lord, showing signs of his own “voiceless” song of praise, by leaping for JOY in Elizabeth’s womb.

I sometimes feel just as Elizabeth felt when Mary arrived to her home with the unborn Lord: a total awe that our heavenly Mother AND – – Jesus Himself – – would come TO me, and to stay WITH me!  It’s is challenging for why-me1me to believe that Mary, and the Trinitarian God, can love me – – a SINNER – – with a love more than I can ever imagine!  How can this happen TO ME; I do not deserve this type and amount of love?!! 

Like Elizabeth in today’s Gospel reading, I feel honored, surprised, and in total awe with what is happening in my faith life.  However, I know that it is by God’s grace that I get everything I need in this life – – His forgiveness, an awareness, love, knowledge, and the tools and abilities I need to do good works for HIM.  Everything I possess, obtain, experience, and produce in life is a blessed gift – – a grace – – from, and to, God Himself.

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It is appropri. conclusionate in this Advent season for each of us to consider the “role” of Mary in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  Elizabeth describes Mary as the “first disciple” – – as the one who “believed” God’s “Word”, as told to her, “would be fulfilled”.  Mary’s faith enabled arc_magnificather to recognize the work of God throughout, and within, her people’s history AND in her own personal life.  Her willingness and openness to God’s “Word” and “action” in her life, allowed God to work in and through her so that salvation might come to everyone – – FOREVER!!  Because Mary abandoned her “SELF” to God as His instrument, she becomes (and is) a pure and true model and symbol of the Catholic “Universal” Church still today.  May we each be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan for salvation, allowing God to work in, with, and through each us to bring others to His redemptive salvation!

In the coming together of Mary and Elizabeth, as described in today’s Gospel, we can learn that other’s can help us recognize 00000000000000066193God’s presence and action in our own lives.  The young and pregnant Mary traveled to her cousin, Elizabeth, because Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a divine sign that everything said to Mary, by the Archangel Gabriel, would truly happen.  Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her (and ALL Israel’s) Lord in view of the fact that her unborn child, John the Baptist, leapt at the sound of Mary’s greeting.  Elizabeth and Mary rejoiced together at the wonderful things God was doing in their lives.  They each sang songs of praise; they were truly ReJOYSing!!  We too are “blessed” when we have people who help us recognize God’s “Word” and “action” in our lives.  We can be, and are, God’s instrument for others among us, Re-JOY-Sing in God’s plan for us.

Think about the times you helped others, or when other’s helped 2809861_300you, in some way.  We actually need the help of others in order to recognize God’s presence and action in our own lives.  After all, we are a “COMMUNITY OF FAITH”!!  Pray that as we share our faith with others (this is called “evangelization”), we may help others recognize God’s presence and action in their own lives.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary,
Full of Grace, Mother-Mary-and-Angel-02
The Lord is with the you.
Blessed art you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/mary3.htm#ixzz2FQ8t95t0

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“Jesus IS the ‘Word’ – – And His ‘Word’ – – IS!!” – Mark 10:46-52†


30thSunday 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:

Last Sunday, October 21st, Pope Benedict XVI added seven more saints onto the roster of Catholic role models, saying their example would strengthen the Church as it tries to rekindle the faith in places where it’s lagging.  Two of the seven were Americans:

Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint from the United States.  Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” Kateri was born in 1656 to a pagan Iroquois father and an Algonquin Christian mother. Her parents and only brother died when she was 4 years old, during a smallpox epidemic that left her badly scarred and with impaired eyesight.  She went to live with her uncle, a Mohawk, and was baptized as a Catholic by Jesuit missionaries.  However, she was ostracized and persecuted by other Native Americans because her Christian faith.  She died in what is now Canada at 24 years of age;

And,

Mother Marianne Cope, a 19th century Franciscan nun who cared for leprosy patients in Hawaii.  Mother Cope led a band of Franciscan nuns to the peninsula to care for the patients, just as Saint Damien did in 1873.  

The other new saints are:

Pedro Calungsod, a Filipino teenager who helped Jesuit priests convert natives in Guam in the 17th century, and was killed by spear-wielding villagers who opposed the missionaries’ efforts to baptize their children;

Jacques Berthieu, a 19th century French Jesuit who was killed by rebels in Madagascar where he had worked as a missionary;

Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian who founded a religious order in 1900 and established a Catholic printing and publishing house in his native Brescia;

Carmen Salles Y Barangueras, a Spanish nun who founded a religious order to educate children in 1892;

And finally,

Anna Schaeffer, a 19th century German lay woman who became a model for the sick and suffering after she fell into a boiler, badly burned her legs.  These wounds never healed, causing her constant pain and suffering.

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Today’s reflection blog is my 450th to be posted.  I started blogging in late September, 2009.  During these three years, my writing style and format has grown and matured significantly. (So, please don’t read the early blog entries as they are embarrassing to me.)  My blog has been discovered, and read, by Catholics and non-Catholics (and even a few atheists) throughout the world, which for me is a marvelous grace from God.  I truly do have a deep and humbling gratitude to our magnificent Lord for imparting to me this spiritual grace. 

I wish to thank you, my readers, for looking at my thoughts and reflections on God’s “Way” to His kingdom.  I finally wish to thank a dear friend, a special confidant, and my “Spiritual Director”, all rolled into one dynamic individual, John Hough.  Without his help, my knowledge in biblical history, theology, and philosophy would still be at an undeveloped level.  He has earned a place in heaven solely for dealing with me on a weekly basis.

Some of you may ask how this blog is doing in “getting the ‘Word’ out” to others.  Well, in my first month of posting this blog (09/2009), I had 71 views or hits on my site, and only 500 views that entire first year.  As of this date, only three years later, I am averaging 314 views or hits DAILY, and I am on schedule to have over 66,000 views or hits for this year alone.  On my busiest day, 728 people visited my site (April 7th, 2012), and I have had over 108,000 total views of my site as of Friday, October 26th, 2012.  WOW!!  Thank all of you again for travelling with me – – and Christ – – on a magnificent journey in – – and to – – His kingdom.

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 Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus restores sight to the blind man, Bartimaeus.  How well do you see Jesus?

(NAB Mark 10:46-52) 46 They came to Jericho.  And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.  47 On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.  But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”  49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, he is calling you.”  50 He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.  51 Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”  52 Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”  Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today we continue to read from Mark’s Gospel.  In this reading, we find evidence of Jesus’ growing recognition, reputation, and celebrity by the “sizable crowd” accompanying Him as He continues His traveling to Jerusalem for Passover.  Jesus’ reputation as a healer has obviously preceded Him to Jericho, for a “blind man” was anxiously waiting for Jesus to pass by him on the road.  When the “blind man”, named “Bartimaeus”, hears of Jesus passing by, he calls out to Jesus, asking for His “pity”.

When Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus, the crowd around him tries to silence him.  However, this “blind man” is persistent, calling out even louder and with greater urgency in his voice.  He is strongly determined to NOT be silenced or deterred from getting Jesus’ attention.  Interestingly, the crowd’s reaction quickly changes to that of encouragement AFTER Jesus calls for Bartimaeus to come to Him.

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Jesus meets this poor “blind man” on the road to Jerusalem, but He is NOW going through Jericho.  My question: “Why did Jesus travel to Jericho?”  Let’s look at Jericho, from a geographical, biblical, and historical basis, in order to hopefully find the answer.

Jericho is about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem.  This city is believed to be the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world.  In ancient times, long before Jesus’ birth, Joshua sent two “spies” into the walled city (Jericho), where they were aided by “Rahab, the harlot” (a prostitute).  Because of her assistance, she and her family were spared from injury and death when the Israelites attacked the city.  The Israelite army first surrounded the walled city, Jericho, and after seven days of circling the city continuously, with the Ark in tow, the entire Israelite army shouted and the great and strong walls of the city came crumbling down (cf., Joshua 2:1-22).  

Jericho was the first major conquest by the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan and entered into the promised-land.  However, by Jesus’ time, the “ancient” city of Jericho from Joshua’s time – – was largely abandoned.  However, there was a newer, more modern, metropolis called “Jericho”, just to the south of the old city, planned and built by King Herod.

There is a multitude of history, significance, and biblical references to the city of Jericho.  The representation of this city being a possible sign of Jesus’ “way” – – being one of “breaking down walls” so that we can “abandon” our old ways – – is an interesting concept to explore at a later date.  However, in reality, the reason Jesus traveled through this city with a “sizeable crowd” following Him, is that it was simply the path – – the way – – of getting to Jerusalem.

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On the “way” through Jericho, Jesus came into contact with a “blind man”, “Bartimaeus”, who yells out something very startling for ANY Jew to yell out:

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me” (Mark 10:47).

Bartimaeus was determined to get near the ONE person who could meet his need.  He knew who Jesus truly was – – the true “Messiah”.  He had heard of His fame for spiritual and physical healings.  Until now, he had no means of making contact with the “son of David”, a clear reference and title for this prophesized “Messiah”.  

How could Jesus be the “son of David”?  King David lived approximately 1000 years before Jesus?  Hmm, the answer is that Bartimaeus knew Jesus, the “Christ”, and the “Messiah”, is the fulfillment of the prophecy of “David’s seed”:

When your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom.  He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne foreverI will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.  If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments; but I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from Saul who was before you.  Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

Jesus IS TRULY the promised “Messiah”; He was OF the David’s seed.  The genealogy in Luke, chapter 3, gives Jesus’ lineage through His mother, Mary.  This form of lineage is uniquely unusual as genealogies of this type were ALWAYS from the father’s side.

However, along with His blood-line through Mary, Jesus is also a descendant of David, by adoption, through Joseph, (a double whammy).  Above all though, when Jesus Christ is referred to as the “son of David”, it is referencing to His Messianic title in regard to Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) prophesies.  When this “blind man” cried out desperately to the “son of David” for help, the title of honor given to Jesus by this “blind man” declared Bartimaeus’ faith in Jesus truly being the true “Messiah” and healer prophesized in Jewish Scripture.  

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At the same time Bartimaeus is calling jesus the “son of David”, the crowd was annoyed with the blind man’s persistent shouts for Jesus’ “pity”.  Bartimaeus was disturbing their peace, and possibly interrupting Jesus as He talked while walking along the road through Jericho.  We need to realize that it was common for a “rabbi” to teach as he walked with others.  When the crowd tried to silence the blind man, Bartimaeus overwhelmed them with his emotional and enthusiastic outbursts, thus catching the attention of Jesus in the process.

Others covertly following Jesus, especially the Pharisees and Scribes, also understood what the implications of Jesus’ “way” were when they heard Bartimaeus calling out to Jesus as the “son of David”.  Unlike Bartimaeus, who cried out in faith, these people were so “blinded” by their own pride and lack of understanding of Jewish Scriptures, they couldn’t see what the “blind man” could see.  In front of them, in physical form, was the promised “Messiah-Savior” they ALL had been waiting for, to come in glory, their entire lives.  These “seeing” – – yet still “blind” – – people loathed Jesus, probably because He wouldn’t give the Temple Leaders the honor and worship they believed the Temple leaders deserved; Jesus wasn’t a “YES” man.  So, when they heard Bartimaeus hailing Jesus as the Messiah-Savior, they became angry:

Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (Mark 10:48). 

Jesus called this begging and “blind man” with His command to be “courageous” in coming to Him.  WOW!!  How often have I NOT been courageous in my life, when I was “called” by Jesus to do something?  How often have I been the one “rebuking” another, not being the humble and begging man asking for Jesus to intercede in my own life?

This poor “blind man” not only responded “courageously”, he “sprang up” in his response to Jesus’ “calling”!  Again, how often are the times when my “springs” are tied closed and unable to “spring open” when called upon.  I need to remember – – at these times in my life – – that Jesus Christ has the “Midas touch”, and can heal me as well, if I just ask Him:

Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’  The blind man replied to him, ‘Master, I want to see’” (Mark 10:51). 

And, Jesus’ guarantee is not for a lifetime, it is for ETERNITY!!

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In the last verse of today’s reading, I found a hidden message for me; something I had never seen before:

“Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.’  Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way” (Mark 10:52).

This once blind and now seeing Jewish man, Bartimaeus, was told to follow his “way” upon leaving Jesus’ presence.  However, this man decided to follow the “way” of Jesus (verse 52), instead.  Now, for me, what is so awesome about this particular word – – “WAY” – – is that Saint Paul later noted that followers of “Christianity” were called “followers of ‘the Way’” as an identity to their Christian faith (cf., Acts 19:1,9,23; 24:22)!  All I can say is, “WAY to go Paul!”

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Today’s Gospel event reveals something important and significantly relevant about how God interacts with us.  Bartimaeus was determined to get Jesus’ attention, and was persistent in the face of opposition.  Jesus could have easily ignored or rebuffed him, walking past him instead of stopping FOR him.  After all, Bartimaeus was certainly disturbing Jesus’ discourse with His followers.  However, Jesus showed that “acting” was more important than “talking”.  Jesus “walked the talk”!!  

Bartimaeus was in desperate need, AND Jesus was ready (He always IS), not only to empathize with Bartimaeus’ suffering, but also to relieve his torment of blindness as well.  You know, a great speaker can command attention and respect, but an individual with a helping hand and a big heart is loved so much more than anyone who talks, but does not follow-up with actions.  Saints Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa are prime examples for these great virtues of loving surrender and “servant leadership”. 

Jesus speaks well of Bartimaeus for recognizing Him with “eyes of faith”, granting him with physical sight in response to his faith-filled sight.  I believe we ALL need to recognize our need for God’s healing grace, and to seek out Jesus Christ, just as Bartimaeus did – – with a persistent faith and trust in Jesus’ goodness and mercy!

When Jesus restored Bartimaeus’ sight, no elaborate action was required on Bartimaeus’ part.  Let’s remember that in other “healing stories” from Mark’s Gospel, action was always accompanied with Jesus’ “Words”.  Jesus spoke the “Word”, and it happened.  Today’s reading is NOT the first time this has happened in Holy Scripture.  With His “Word”, water became wine, demons left people, and bread and wine became His true body, blood, soul, and divinity!!  Jesus Christ IS the “Word”, and His “Word” IS!!  John said it the best:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GodHe was in the beginning WITH God.  All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be.  What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race” (John 1:1-4).

Jesus Christ – – IS – – the “Word” made flesh!!

It is worthy to note that the success of Jesus’ healing power is usually associated with the faith of the person requesting His help. As an example, it is because of her faith that the woman with the hemorrhage is healed (cf., Mark 5:24-34).  When faith is absent, Jesus is “unable” to heal, as seen with His rejection in His home-town of Nazareth (cf., Mark 6:1-6).  However, in this single instance in today’s reading, Jesus simply says that Bartimaeus’ “faith” had saved him from the darkness he had lived in for probably years, if not his entire lifetime.  Jesus’ “Word” becomes the “IS”:

“’Go your way; your faith has saved you.’  Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:52). 

Once his sight had been restored, Bartimaeus followed Jesus on His way to Jerusalem, probably witnessing first-hand the Passover, Passion, and Crucifixion events of His “Messiah”.  

(Here is a little trivial fact: In Mark’s Gospel, Bartimaeus is the last disciple called by Jesus before He enters Jerusalem.)  

Bartimaeus’ words to Jesus prepare us for the final episodes of Mark’s Gospel, which begins with Jesus’ preparation for the Passover and His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  As Mark’s Gospel has shown us over the past few Sundays, Jesus will be (and IS) the “Messiah” – – the “Word” – – in a way that will be difficult for many to accept, even today.  Why and how?  Jesus will show Himself to be the true “Messiah” through His suffering and death.

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Today’s Gospel offers us a powerful example of faith and persistence in prayer.  Those in the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus for his efforts to attract Jesus’ attention.  When silencing him was attempted by the crowd, Bartimaeus called out louder and all the more.  He was persistent and bold in his confidence, and Jesus showed mercy on him, doing what Bartimaeus asked of Him.  His persistence – – and trusting confidence – – in Jesus’ helping intercession, reminds me of the confidence and trust with which my four children brought me their wants and needs.  In this “childlike” faith and trust, we truly can find the proper example of attitude towards God when approaching Him in prayer.

When we pray, Jesus wants us to be courageous, trusting, and confident, knowing He will help us, and, also knowing that we will not allow anyone to keep us from taking our needs to Him in prayer, as in the example of Bartimaeus.  So, identify the things you need most from God.  Pray a prayer of petition with the confidence that Jesus will hear AND answer your prayer.  (He does!!)  When praying your prayer of petition, respond to each petition with “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on us.”   With confidence and trust, you will get an answer!!

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Reflection Prayer

Lord, I Am Not Worthy Prayer

(based on Matthew 8:8)

“Lord, I am not worthy
to have you enter
under my roof;
only say the word
and I will be healed.

Amen.”

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“Moo-ve Over Animals, A NEW Sacrifice Is In Town; Look At The ‘Signs’!” – John 2:13-25†


 

Third Week of Lent

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
  • ·        Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

We are in our third week of Lent; only 28 days till Easter Sunday.  How are you doing with the Lenten requirements; prayer, fasting, sacrifices, and alms-giving?  This Lenten season has been a special time for me.  I feel a little closer to God more so this year than I have in the past.  Praise be to God for opening my eyes a little wider and seeing all of you with me on my journey of faith.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   638 – Death of Sophronius of Jerusalem, saint/patriarch of Jerusalem
†   859 – Death of Eulogius of Cordoba, Spanish Bishop and Christian Martyr
†   1513 – Giovanni de’ Medici is elected to the Papacy, and becomes Pope Leo X
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Vindician, Blessed John Righi, Saint Alberta, Saint Aurea

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

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Quote of the Day:

 

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” ~ CCC, no. 2558, citing St. Therese of Lisieux, Manuscrits Autobiographiques, C 25r

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus driving out the money changers from the Temple and poses to them a “mysterious” challenge: “destroy the temple and I raise it up again.”

 

(NAB John 2:13-25) 13 Since the Passover of the Jews was near,Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  14 He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there.  15 He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, 16 and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  17His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  18 At this the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them,“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  20 The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?”  21 But He was speaking about the temple of His body.  22 Therefore, when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.  23 While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.  24 But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, 25 and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

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Gospel Reflection:

In today’s Gospel we learn about how Jesus overturned the “tables” of the “merchants” and the “money-changers” in the Temple at Jerusalem.  In order to understand the relevance of Jesus’ action, we need to know a little bit about the activities that went on in and outside the Temple area.  Worship at the Temple in Jerusalem included animal sacrifices as part of some of the rituals.  So, merchants sold sacrificial animals to Jewish worshipers to be used in ritual sacrifices per Mosaic Law.  The “money-changers” exchanged “pagan” Roman coins – – with its image of the Roman emperor, – – for the Temple coins needed to pay the Temple tax.

 Jesus’ radical action at the Temple in Jerusalem is recorded in all four Gospels (a true rarity, happening in only 11 out of the 234** chronologic events found in the four Gospels).  What happens in this Gospel reading is among the key events which will eventually lead to Jesus’ arrest, trial, Scourging, and Crucifixion.  Unlike the other Gospels, John’s Gospel places this MAJOR event much earlier in Jesus’ public ministry, occurring at the very beginning of His ministry, just after His first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana (cf., John 2:1-12).

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) place the cleansing of the Temple toward the last days of Jesus’ life (Matthew, on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem; Mark, on the next day).  We need to remember that the “order” of events in the Gospel narratives is often determined more by “theological” motives than by “chronological” data.  The Gospels were written with a specific audience in mind.  For me, this is the WHY we should read each narrative story from all the Gospel books when provided. Here is a link to an excellent site which lists the scriptural readings from all four gospels about the same event, beginning with Jesus’ birth and 233 other events in chronological order:

**http://fourgospelstogether.com/chronological.html

We ALWAYS need to read the Gospel of John carefully, especially in Jesus’ relationship to the authorities of the Judaic culture of the day.  John tends to suggest a greater tension and animosity between Jesus and the Jewish authorities (the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes) than is shown in the Synoptic Gospels.  In this regard, let us remember that John’s Gospel was the last of the four Gospels to be written (believed to be written in the 90’s A.D.); and its narrative reflects the growing divide between the Jewish and early Christian communities – – after the destruction of the Temple had already occurred in A.D. 70.  Thus, a greater emphasis on the distinctions between Christianity and Judaism is found in John’s Gospel than in the Synoptic Gospels written much earlier.  More often than the other Evangelists, John mingles “post-Resurrection” reflections of his Christian community in his Gospel narrative.

John is reflecting upon the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), recalling Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple and Jesus’ prophesy regarding its destruction.  John uses this earlier story to interpret the later event of the Temple destruction and associated gruesome murders.  John explains to his early Christian community Temple worship would no longer be necessary.  Temple worship was surpassed through the events of Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection forty or so years PRIOR to the Temple’s destruction.  

Does today’s event (destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days) indicate a foretelling of the post-resurrection replacement of the Temple by the person of Jesus Christ?  I believe it certainly does!

Today’s story starts with Jesus and His disciples traveling to Jerusalem for “Passover”.  The Temple in Jerusalem was understood and firmly believed by the Jewish people and nation as the dwelling place of God among His “chosen” people.  All faithful and pious Jews were to make a pilgrimage to the Temple each year at the Passover time if at all possible.  This particular event presented in today’s reading is the first of three “Passovers” mentioned in John’s Gospel (cf, John 6:4; 13:1). Taken literally, the number of documented “Passovers” Jesus participated in points to a public ministry of at least a minimum of two years or a maximum of no more than three years.  We have always learned that Jesus’ public ministry lasted for three years.  Here is the proof scripturally.

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The “Oxen, sheep, and doves” which were being sold in the Temple were intended for sacrifice.  The “doves” were the usual offerings of the poor:

If, however, the person cannot afford an animal of the flock, that person shall bring to the LORD as reparation for the wrong committed two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a purification offering and the other for a burnt offering.” (Leviticus 5:7).

Mary and Joseph used the “poor persons” offering in “consecrating” the infant Jesus on the day of His presentation in the Temple”:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,’ and to offer the sacrifice of ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” (Luke 2:22-24)

The “Money-changers” of today’s reading were the people who took the “Temple tax” paid by every male Jew more than nineteen years of age.  This tax was usually a “half-shekel” coin:

The LORD also told Moses: When you take a census of the Israelites who are to be enrolled, each one, as he is enrolled, shall give the LORD a ransom for his life, so that no plague may come upon them for being enrolled.  This is what everyone who is enrolled must pay: a half-shekel, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel—twenty gerahs to the shekel—a half-shekel contribution to the LORD.  Everyone who is enrolled, of twenty years or more, must give the contribution to the LORD.  The rich need not give more, nor shall the poor give less, than a half-shekel in this contribution to the LORD to pay the ransom for their lives.  When you receive this ransom money from the Israelites, you shall donate it to the service of the tent of meeting, that there it may be a reminder of the Israelites before the LORD of the ransom paid for their lives.” (Exodus 30:11–16).

An interesting note of trivia: before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, every male Jew above nineteen years of age was obligated to make an annual contribution to its upkeep.  After the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D., the Roman occupiers forcibly imposed upon the Jewish nation an obligation of paying that same “tax” for the upkeep of the temple for “Jupiter Capitolinus” (AKA, Jupiter Optimus Maximus), the most important temple in Ancient Rome, located on the Capitoline Hill.  (The picture above is of that Roman temple.)

In both John’s and Mark’s Gospel, Jesus referred to the “Temple” as His Father’s house being made into a “den of thieves” or a “marketplace”:

Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”?  But you have made it a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:17);

To those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’” (John 2:16).

Jesus’ respect for His Father’s House and the Holy Scriptures of Moses’ inspired Jesus’ use of physical force to expel the “money-chargers”.  The prophecy of Malachi foretold the coming of the Lord unexpectedly to His Temple in order to clean or refine it:

The lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire … He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:1, 3).

It’s clear that Jesus knew Himself to be “that Lord” prophesized by Malachi.  His behavior is part of the living reality of the LIVING “Word”!

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So, in today’s Gospel reading, the disciples saw with a grace to see with more clear eyes Jesus as the Messiah who burned with “zeal” for God’s house.  The “blind” Jewish authorities, however, wanted proof that Jesus had divine authority to act as He did at the Temple.  They demanded a “sign” from God to prove that Jesus was right in His actions.  Otherwise, the “authorities” would treat Jesus as a fraud and a usurper of THEIR authority.  Jesus replied that the “sign” God would give would be His resurrection (however, NO ONE could understand what he meant by saying):

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

What a powerful, yet misunderstood verse this is from today’s Gospel (And I believe in ALL of Holy Scripture!).  Maybe it is because there are many verses about the destruction of the Temple occurring, in various forms, throughout the Bible.  Here are a few examples of the Synoptic Gospel’s (and in ACTS as well) speaking of the same event:

He [Jesus] said to them in reply, ‘You see all these things, do you not?  Amen, I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down’; ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, [and] come down from the cross!(Matthew 24:2; 27:40);

Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings?  There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down’; those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,save yourself by coming down from the cross.’”  (Mark 13:2; 15:29);

All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:6);

And,

“We [Sanhedrin] have heard him [Stephen] claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” (Acts 6:14).

However, in John’s Gospel, there is a figurative or symbolic contrast with the “NEW” Temple from that of Mark’s Gospel:

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

I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands” (Mark 14:58).

Today’s reading from John is symbolic of Jesus’ prophesy of His own resurrection and His resulting “NEW” community, His new “Living” Temple – – the Catholic (Universal) Church – –

He [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body.” (see John 2:21).

Interestingly, I found an Old Testament expression for the words “in three days” meaning a short, indefinite period of time:

He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence”(Hosea 6:2).

Regarding Jesus Christ, Hosea’s three days became a literal reality.  So, as I say often, the “Old” lives in the “NEW” Hosea’s prophesy.

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From today’s reading, you learned that it took forty-six years to build the Temple in Jerusalem.  Here is a little history lesson.

Forty-six years” (John 2:20), based on references found in the books of a first-century Jewish historian, “Flavius Josephus” (cf., Jewish Wars 1, 21, 1 #401; Antiquities 15, 11, 1 #380) AND Holy Scripture, places the possible date of today’s reading happening during the spring “Passover” of the year “28 A.D.”.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene …” (Luke 3:1).

Tiberius succeeded Augustus as Roman emperor in A.D. 14 and reigned until A.D. 37. The fifteenth year of his reign would have fallen between A.D. 27 and 29.  Pontius Pilate was the Prefect (a kind of mayor) of Judea from A.D. 26 to 36.  Herod, a Tetrarch (Governor), ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39.  Philip was Tetrarch of the territory to the north and east of the Sea of Galilee from 4 B.C. to A.D. 34.  Nothing is known about “Lysanias” who is said here to have been Tetrarch of Abilene, a territory northwest of Damascus (Syria).  All these dates from Holy Scripture fall into an accepted range of A.D. 27 – 29.  Per the data in Holy Scripture, Flavius Josephus is probably correct concerning the year “28” as the year of this awesome event.  (I LOVE math, as you can see!!)

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Let me ask you a question: Can I use the anger of Jesus showed in today’s reading in order to justify my own episodes of anger?  I guess it depends, doesn’t it?  We need to remember that “anger” is one of the “Capital” sins.  However, we have to remember that it was a COMPASSIONATE Jesus who took a whip to clear the Temple of the “money-changers” and the animals present there for sale:

To those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’” (John 2:16).

During His public ministry Jesus is oft-times criticized, slandered, and denounced.  He is eventually betrayed by one close to Him, resulting in His being arrested and scourged prior to His death sentence.  Even through all this horribly brutal treatment, Jesus never responded with any type of anger when the attacks were directed against Him personally.  So, why did He “go postal” at the Temple in today’s reading?  I believe it is because His “Father’s house of prayer” – – His Father’s HOME – – was desecrated by business affairs and money, and not for proper worship.  (You can “diss” me, but don’t ever “diss” my mom or dad!)  Also, animal sacrifices were to be no longer needed in the NEW Temple: Jesus Christ!!

Does Jesus’ anger, clearly displayed in today’s Gospel, justify my own angry moments, whether petty such as when a driver cuts in front of me, or serious such as when someone misrepresents or slanders me?  In reality, I probably think not!  Food for thought: when anger is self-righteous and self-serving, it is never justified. 

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In summary, after clearing the Temple of the “merchants” and the “money-changers”, John’s Gospel tells us that the people asked for a sign of Jesus’ authority for doing such a risky and presumptuous act as disrupting the “normal” course of business in the Temple.  In response to the Temple leader’s indictment, Jesus foretold His own death and Resurrection when He said:

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

Throughout John’s Gospel, the language of miraculous “signs” is distinctive.  The people of Jesus’ time, and still today, look to these “signs” for proof of His authority.  In today’s reading, we learn that the “sign” of the highest quality – – and above ALL others – – will be Jesus Himself, and the events of His betrayal, Passion, Crucifixion, death on the Cross, – – and His Resurrection – – ALL of these signs – – for our sake!!

Think about places and times when you have experienced God’s presence personally and intimately.   After His Resurrection, Jesus’ disciples finally received the grace to understand that Jesus was present with them as they gathered to pray and share a meal.  Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel that He is “God’s presence with us”!!  Thank you my Lord God for Jesus’ presence with us, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

During this Lenten season, reflect upon the meaning of this “sign” (His death and Resurrection) for You and Your world.  Take this opportunity to consider the quality of your prayer and worship.  Remember that in prayer, we seek to deepen our relationship with the “person” of Christ, Jesus Himself.  In worship “with the community”, we gather to experience anew the “Passion”, death, and Resurrection of Jesus AND its significance in our lives!  Jesus Christ promises to be present with us whenever we gather for prayer, even if we are not physically with each other, such as in the “Divine Office” prayer.  NOW, that’s a miracle!!

I feel today’s Gospel invites us to reflect upon OUR worship of God.  The Temple was an important and holy place for Jesus and His Jewish contemporaries; a place where they gathered to worship God together.  Our Catholic – Christian understanding of “worship” was transformed – – made fuller – – in light of Jesus’ “Resurrection” on that special Easter morning in Israel.  In the Catholic – Christian understanding, God is worshiped in the “person of Jesus Christ”.  As we read in today’s Gospel, Jesus Himself “IS” the “Temple” destroyed AND raised up again in three days!!  (Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!!)

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 Reflection Prayer:

  

Saint Francis’ Vocation Prayer

“Most High, Glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of our minds.
Give us a right faith, a firm hope
and a perfect charity,
so that we may always and in all things
act according to Your Holy Will.  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.

Real Presence in the Eucharist

“’For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant of my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). RSV

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). KJV

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Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). RSV

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Saint Constantine

 

Constantine was king of Cornwall.  Unreliable tradition has him married to the daughter of the king of Brittany who on her death ceded his throne to his son and became a monk at St. Mochuda monastery at Rahan, Ireland.  He performed menial tasks at the monastery, then studied for the priesthood and was ordained.  He went as a missionary to Scotland under St. Columba and then St. Kentigern, preached in Galloway, and became Abbot of a monastery at Govan.  In old age, on his way to Kintyre, he was attacked by pirates who cut off his right arm, and he bled to death.  He is regarded as Scotland’s first martyr. His feast day is March 11th.

Catholic Online
(http://www.catholic.org/saints)

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 11 & 12 of 26:

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

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

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12. Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.

 

 

“There are Good Sheep, and there are ‘BAAA’-d Sheep!” – John 10:1-10 †


 

“Good Shepherd Sunday”

The fourth Sunday of the Easter

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Please keep me in your prayers today.  After three years of formation, I am “Professing” in the Franciscan Order of, and for, “Seculars”.  This will be my final “Rite of Commitment to the Gospel Life” in the Secular Franciscan Order.  This Sacramental will be within the Mass; and within, though, for, and with the Holy Spirit in my soul, mind, heart, and body in a very unique covenant with our Almighty and Magnificent Lord Jesus Christ.

After much contemplation, meditation, and prayer, my journey has come to a point of wanting to be fully immersed in the Holy Spirit as our Order’s Seraphic Father, – – St. Francis, – – showed to his brothers and sisters in Christ.  My journey of faith has been fruitful, emotional, exciting, thought-provoking, and divinely inspiring.

I want to thank a few people for assisting me with the special journey I took to get to this point – – and a journey I will continue for the rest of my life.

First, I want to express gratitude to my wife and Sons.  They have put up with a lot of strong emotions and turmoil from me at times over the past couple of years (for which I am truly sorry).  I love them so dearly. Next, I want to thank my SFO Fraternity (Our Lady of Angels), my Regional Fraternity (St. Clare), and all the people that I have come to know as dear friends and a true “family”.  We have had our times of frustrations, short tempers, and concerns.  (I am rather stubborn at times after all – however, I know most people would never believe this [hee, hee]).  As in any family, these sad and distressing periods only highlight and enlighten the love, trust, and respect which emanates when we are together as a group.

It is important for me to give a special thanks to a dear friend, confidant, and journey partner: my “Spiritual Director”, John Hough.  Though his education, philosophy, and theology is Jesuit-based (Sorry St. Francis), no one could have done a better job in walking with me on my formation path, truly holding me up at times (an achievement in itself), and helping me to grow in the love and awe of God’s Word – – Holy Scripture, Church teachings, and traditions.  And, I also want to thank John for helping me to understand my unique role in His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  John, I love our four hour breakfasts/talks at McDonalds each and every Saturday morning.  It is quite interesting to see individual’s reactions when they see two middle-aged Catholic men, with Bibles open on the table (next to the coffee and Egg McMuffin), discussing matters of faith and Scripture.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to unendingly thank, praise, and adore my God in the Holy Trinity: Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I surrender my “self”, – – my “ALL”, – – to You and to Your “will”.  As St. Francis joyously proclaimed throughout his entire earthly life:

“My God and My ALL!”

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter is always Good Shepherd Sunday in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar Sunday.  The name “Good Shepherd” derives from the Gospel reading on this day, which is also always taken from the 10th chapter of John.  In this reading, Christ is described as the “Good Shepherd” who, by dying on the Cross, lays down His life for His sheep.

Recently, today’s Feast Day has also become known as “Vocations Sunday”, a day in which prayers should be said for vocations to the priesthood and religious life by the Catholic faithful.  This also includes praying for me and other Catholic brothers and sisters who seek a more intimate and formally “consecrated” manner of living out our faith, our hope, and our love for the Holy One of Israel, our Lord, Savior, and friend, Jesus Christ.  That’s why I am asking you, my dear readers, and thanking you for praying for me and my brethren in the Secular Order of St. Francis of Assisi.  Thank you ALL!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Shepherd_Sunday

 

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Today in Catholic History:

†   884 – Death of Marinus I, [Martinus II], Pope (882-84)
†   913 – Death of Hatto I, Archbishop of Mainz (present day Germany)
†   1252 – Pope Innocent IV issues the papal bull “ad exstirpanda“, which authorizes the torture of heretics in the Medieval Inquisition.
†   1608 – Birth of René Goupil, French Catholic missionary (Canadian Martyrs) (d. 1642)
†   1665 – Pope Alexander VII proclaims the theology of Fr. Jansen as heretical (called Jansenism).  Jansenism emphasized predestination, denied free will, and maintained that human nature is incapable of good.
†   1773 – Death of Alban Butler, English Catholic priest and writer (b. 1710)
†   1800 – Pope Pius VII calls on French bishops to return to Gospel principles
†   1891 – Pope Leo XIII publishes encyclical “Rerum novarum“, the first document of the Catholic Social Teaching tradition.
†   1912 – Alexis Kagame, Rwanda, priest/writer
†   1931 – Pope Pius XI publishes encyclical “Quadragesimo anno” discusses the ethical implications of the social and economic order.
†   1948 – Death of Edward Flanagan, American priest and founder of Boys Town (b. 1886)
†   1961 – Pope John XXIII publishes encyclical “Mater et Magistra”  (Mother and Teacher) on the topic of “Christianity and Social Progress”.
†   Feast/Memorials: Saint Achillius; Saint Isidore the Labourer; Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle; Saint Reticius; Saint Denise; Saint Dymphna; In the Coptic Church: Athanasius of Alexandria

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus BEING the gate for His sheep.

(NAB John 10:1-10) 1 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.  2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.  7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  8 All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

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What do you know about sheep and shepherds?  Realize that shepherds and sheep have a very close, unique, and personal relationship with each other.  Still to this day, sheep only follow their own shepherd; they recognize his voice – – his word – – and will not follow a stranger.  The shepherd’s job is to protect his sheep, even with his life if necessary.  In some ways, the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep is like that of a parent and child (God the Father, and His children on earth).  In Jesus Christ, our personal “Good Shepherd”, we find protection from our dangers, and the reward of an abundant and everlasting life with and in Him.

The fourth Sunday of the Easter season is called “Good Shepherd Sunday”.  In each of the three lectionary cycles (A, B, and C), the Gospel reading invites us yearly to reflect on Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”.  In each cycle the reading is from the same tenth chapter of John’s Gospel.  This tenth chapter sets the framework and basis for Jesus’ teaching about Himself as the “Good Shepherd”, leading us, – – His sheep, – – to paradise in His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  Today’s Gospel reading falls between the stories of Jesus’ curing the man born blind (chapter 9), and the resurrection of His dead friend, Lazarus (chapter 11).  Both of these “bookend” Gospel stories were just proclaimed during this year’s Lenten Season.

Following the controversy which ensued when He healed the man born blind, Jesus directs His “figment of speech” about “the sheep and the shepherd” towards the Jewish religious leaders listening to Him: specifically, the Pharisees.

The Pharisees believed in a “divine origin” of creation, found in the Jewish Scriptures known to us as the “Torah.”  The Pharisees also believed in the oral traditions received from Moses, Joshua, and the “Elders”.  Pharisees had a belief in the resurrection of the dead (unlike the Sadducees), and were intensely devoted to the “Mosaic Law”, both written and oral (again, unlike the Sadducees).  Most scholars believe that the other Temple Leadership faction, a group called the “Scribes” and who were considered experts in Mosaic Law, also belonged predominantly to this Pharisaic “party” of Temple leaders.

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Before we  dive into today’s reading, and pull away the layers of meaning hidden yet needing to be exposed with the help of the Holy Spirit, I need to explain the concept (for me, at least) of the repeated words, stressing a particular point.

Whenever Jesus says, “AMEN, AMEN”, I believe He is saying to us:

Yo, LISTEN to me.  I am about to say something very important and profound.  Open those ears and shut those mouths!!”

(Trivia time:  “Amen, amen” is said 13 times in the New Testament, all in John’s Gospel: Chapters 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 21.  The repeated word combination – – “Amen, amen” – – is used three times in the Old Testament: Numbers 5, Nehemiah 8, and Tobit 8).  Each time it is used by the writer or speaker to declare that what follows is a true teaching from God.

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Jesus Christ was not the first to use the metaphor of a “Good Shepherd” in teaching about God’s kingdom.  Jeremiah (a seldom read book of the Old Testament) criticized, and spoke against, the Kings and priests (also described as “shepherds”) who let go, – – or even led – – their “sheep”, astray.  Jeremiah wrote:

“The priests asked not, ‘Where is the LORD?’  Those who dealt with the law knew me not: the shepherds rebelled against me.  The prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after useless idols.”  (Jeremiah 2:8);

But then, God promises:

I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently.” (Jeremiah 3:15).

He then goes on to say, referring to the false shepherd in Jeremiah 2: (above):

“Yes, the shepherds were stupid as cattle, the LORD they sought not; Therefore they had no success, and all their flocks were scattered.” (Jeremiah 10:21);

In God’s name, Jeremiah promised “new shepherds” who would graze their flocks properly so that they will never be harassed or anxious again:

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.  Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.  You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deedsI myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply.  I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.  Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:1-6).

Another prophet, Isaiah, even wrote of the “Good Shepherd”:

Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!  Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!  Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.  Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care. (Isaiah 40:9-11).

And finally, Ezekiel censured false “shepherds” for their misdeeds and laziness, their greed and neglect of their responsibility:

Thus the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, in these words prophesy to them (to the shepherds): Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves!  Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?  You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured.  You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts.  My sheep were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; my sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them.  Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep; because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD.” (Ezekiel 34:1-9)

(WOW!!  What a scene.  Does any of this possibly sound familiar to you recently?)

The motif of a “shepherd” was not only related by the prophets, but also used for “Yahweh” – – God Himself – – throughout the Old Testament:

“Then he blessed them with these words: ‘May the God in whose ways my fathers’ Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day.’”  (Genesis 48:15);

“Each one’s bow remained stiff, as their arms were unsteady, By the power of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel(Genesis 49:24).

The special King of Israel, David, saying this song, remembers his early days shepherding in the hills of Israel.  This is what David sang:

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.”  (Psalm 23:1-4);

Shepherd of Israel, listen, guide of the flock of Joseph! From your throne upon the cherubim reveal yourself.” (Psalm 80:2);

And, a later prophet said this addressing God:

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, that dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.” (Micah 7:14).

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The 23rd Psalm is one of the most beloved Psalms expressing our fundamental and  necessary trust in Jesus Christ, who leads us always from dark and difficult places and into the light of His presence, the majestic peace of rest in His kingdom (our true Easter faith).

The 23rd Psalm is not the only portions in Holy Scripture to talk so eloquently about the Shepherd who will rescue from darkness and bring to restful pastures.  Later, the prophet Ezekiel wrote:

“For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.  I will lead them out from among the peoples and gather them from the foreign lands; I will bring them back to their own country and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel (in the land’s ravines and all its inhabited places).”  (Ezekiel 34:11-13).

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Today, in this Gospel reading, Jesus again presents Himself as THE promised “Shepherd”, who looks after His sheep, seeks out strays, cures the
crippled, and carries the weak on His shoulders:

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in
search of the stray
?  And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not strayIn just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14);

And Luke also writes:

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you; in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).

In addition to the title, “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ attaches to Himself the image of the “gate”, and “door” into the “sheepfold”, we now know as the Catholic Church.  As Vatican II teaches:

The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ (John 10:1-10).  It is a flock of which God Himself foretold He would be the shepherd (Cf., Isaiah 40:11; Exodus 34:11ff.), and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds; are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds (cf., John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:4), who gave His life for the sheep (cf., John 10:11-15).” (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 6, 11/21/1964).

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The “Good Shepherd” discourse is a continuation of the confrontation with the Pharisees described in John 9 (the blind man cured).  Since the image of the “Good Shepherd” is figurative, then the “hired hands” would, in fact, be Pharisees who had just excommunicated the cured blind man (cf., John 9).  Today’s reading serves as a commentary on the “cured blind man” story told in this chapter.

Throughout John’s Gospel, the Pharisees (along with the Scribes and Sadducees) failed to accept Jesus’ ministry and teaching, either out of fear, ignorance, or greed.  They showed themselves to be “thieves and robbers” (verse 1) because they tried to lead the “sheep” without themselves entering through the “gate” – – Jesus Christ.

“Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1)

Through the use of this metaphor, Jesus is telling His listeners that those who follow Him and His “way” will find an abundant and glorious life in paradise.  Jesus Christ identified “Himself” both as the “Good Shepherd”, the “door”, and the “gate” of the single, true “sheepfold”.  Still today, the current shepherds of the current sheepfold (Catholic Bishops and the Pope, making up the “Magisterium”: the teaching authority) who are faithful to Him are the ones whom the sheep (Jesus’ disciples – – US) should follow, as faithful sheep follows their shepherd.

We all have “closed doors” in our lives, places we do not wish to enter.  Places inside ourselves where we do not want to go, out of fear and hurt.  Behind these “doors” are things like old hurts, previous and present addictions and health concerns, strong hatreds, personal fears.

Jesus is telling us that He can lead each of us through His “gate”, as each one of us is a much loved part of His flock.  Jesus Christ can lead each of us, personally and individually, through the “closed doors” in our lives – – those places where there is trouble, – – so we can deal with those issues with His support, help, and love: His grace.  Jesus doesn’t stop at just opening up the “doors” of our lives: He also leads us out again, into His kingdom on earth.

As our true “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ NEVER leaves us.  In today’s Gospel reading, He is telling each if us: Don’t be afraid”!!

Jesus, our loving “Good Shepherd”, will always furnish, through the Holy Spirit indwelling within each and every one of us, all that is necessary to do God’s will:

“May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus our Lord, furnish us with all that is good, so that we may do His will.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

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A “Sheepfold” is a low stone wall opened to the sky.  It is simply a pen for sheep.  Other names for a “sheepfold”, in modern language can be “a folding” or sheepcote.  The image represented in today’s reading for the “sheepfold” is, in reality, God’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ’s metaphor about the relationship between sheep and their shepherd is based on the concept of familiarity.  So familiar was the shepherd and his sheep, that each was called by a distinct name.  Sheep recognized, and loved, their specific shepherd.  They would not follow a stranger shepherd arbitrarily.  At the end of a day grazing in the field, shepherds (still to this day) lead their sheep from pastures to a common gated
area called a “sheepfold”.  One shepherd is chosen to protect all of the community’s sheep until the next morning when each flock’s shepherd would return to lead his designated sheep to pasture again.  As shepherds move among sheep, the sheep follow only their shepherd by recognizing and following his voice – – his words.

In the winter the sheep were usually brought into a communal shelter, locked and kept secure by a guardian shepherd, usually positioned at the “gate”.  He was literally the door through which the sheep had to pass.

Each Shepherd had a distinctive call, which only his sheep would recognize and follow.  Do you believe that you have the potential of becoming this familiar in recognizing Jesus Christ’s voice?  Can you quickly discern His voice, His call, from other voices in the world?  Well, you certainly can: the gift of discernment.  This gift is the ability to make good judgments; it is every disciple’s bequest in and through Jesus Christ; it is developed as we imitate His first followers who:

“… devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42).

Paying close attention to Holy Scripture and Church teachings can help us recognize God’s “voice” and the nature of details He might be telling us:

Be attentive to him and heed his voice.  Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin.  My authority resides in him.” (Exodus 23:21)

Fellowship with other followers of Jesus Christ can build us up, helping us to see and understand whether our thoughts and actions are on target with God’s will, or not.  Fellow disciples of Jesus Christ can listen to your ideas and opinions, and advise us whether they think an idea or opinion is sound or not.

Our personal prayer can become an awesome conversation when we learn to “hear” the voice of God, who loves us above all His creations.  The Eucharist can become an intimate, cherished, and loving encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ, who wants to lead us, Himself, into a deeper understanding of His Father’s “will”.

Do not worry about trying to “find” Jesus Christ’s voice within you.  If you simply allow Him to act in and within you, you WILL follow Jesus Christ Himself, intuitively.  You already know His voice:

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

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A shepherd is the leader of a cluster of sheep, called a flock.  They recognize him as their provider, their protector, and their “ALL”Without the shepherd, the “sheep” would no longer be protected, and would succumb to a horrendous death from the evil that follows them (wolves, dogs, and coyotes – – materialism and/or Satan).  These sheep in today’s story follow their human protector, and no other; we “sheep” follow our Divine protector and no other.  Sheep “recognize his voice”, and go where he goes: we “sheep” recognize Jesus Christ’s voice and follow Him, personally and collectively.  We are a “flock”.

In today’s reading, the Pharisees (sheep not of His flock, nor shepherds) do not recognize Jesus.  They do not recognize His voice, His words, or His authority over them.  However, the people of God, as symbolized in today’s story by the blind man and the sheep, do recognize Jesus’ voice, His words, and His authority over us.

Jesus uses the image of the shepherd’s voice being recognized by the sheep to teach a divine truth: since there are “strange” voices surrounding and constantly calling to us (evil), we need to know and recognize the “voice” of Christ Himself!  His voice is continuing without end, and is addressing us through the “Magisterium” of the Catholic Church.  In following God’s specific voice, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, we are receive all the nourishment and protection our soul needs.

St. Josemaría Escrivá writes eloquently about the flow of grace given to us through the voice of Jesus Christ, in an everlasting way, through the Sacraments:

“Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a flow of grace in the sacraments.  He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way.  There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives a road of faithfulness to God.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ is Passing By, 34).

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We’ve all experienced coming into, and being part of, a group in which we did not know anyone initially.  Perhaps it was simply at a friend’s party, or at a wedding or funeral of a relative or acquaintance.  In such encounters and interactions, we naturally look for a familiar face, and listen for a familiar voice within the group or crowd of individuals.

Jesus Christ came as someone who would be (and still is) with us at every step and turn in our lives.  Even when we feel alone, lost, or confused, He is there.  He wants to be a familiar presence in our lives always; He wants His voice to be the voice which we grow to know well, and hear often.  All we need do is to allow Him to get close, and then listen.

So, listen to Jesus and let His face shine upon you:

Shepherd of Israel, listen, guide of the flock of Joseph!  From your throne upon the cherubim reveal yourself to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.  Stir up your power, come to save us.  O LORD of hosts, restore us; Let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.  May your help be with the man at your right hand, with the one whom you once made strong.  Then we will not withdraw from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.  LORD of hosts, restore us; let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.”  (Psalm 80: 2-4, 18-20)

John says that Jesus used a “Figure of speech” (verse 6) in His teaching of the “Good Shepherd”.  John the Evangelist is simply using a different word or phrase for His descriptive speech than the “parable” of the Synoptic Gospels.  However, the concepts are similar.  In His metaphor, Jesus develops and interprets the image of the “shepherd” and “the flock”, in order to ensure that all who are well-disposed to His teachings can understand the meaning of His discourse.

The Pharisees (and many other Jews) failed to understand Jesus Christ.  Their lack of understanding is nothing new for Jesus.  The same people (Pharisees and other Jews), also failed to understand the Eucharist:

“The Jews murmured about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven,’ and they said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father  and mother?  Then how can he say, “I have come down from heaven”?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Stop murmuring among yourselves. (John 6:41-43);

These same people failed to understand the true meaning of the “living water”:

“Some in the crowd who heard these words said, ‘This is truly the Prophet.’  Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But others said, ‘The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he?  Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’  So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.” (John 7:40-43);

And these same people failed even to understand or believe in the raising of Lazarus from the dead:

 “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:45-46).

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The full power of the “Good Shepherd” image came easily to the first-century Palestine inhabitants.  The Jewish people, most of whom were well acquainted with nomadic shepherds in a country where shepherds were a familiar sight.

The sheep themselves were part of a “nomadic” shepherd’s family.  These animals traveled with the family, from birth to death.  New lambs were continuously being born into the “family” group and flock.  Sights, sounds, and smells of the family, the shepherd, and the flock were familiar to these newborn lambs from the time they are born, bonding them to the shepherd as a baby does to its mother.

From the very beginning of our lives, we come to experience and grow in knowledge of God throughout our lives.  We “see”, “hear”, and “smell” God though our various lessons and interactions of life.  As we grow and age, people “from outside the fold” seem to help us interpret our experiences, and help enhance the “truths” we hold within ourselves.

There is a fine distinction, easily overlooked, in today’s reading.  In John 10:7-8, the figure of Christ is as a “gatefor the shepherd to come to the sheep.  However, in the very next verses, John 10:9-10, the figure is that of a gate for the sheep through which sheep could “come in and go out”.

In verse 7-8, Jesus will readily leave the ninety-nine “sheep” to search for and rescue the “one lost sheep”:

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you; in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).

In verse 9-10, Jesus is also the figure of a “gate” for the sheep to “come in and go out”.  With Jesus Christ as our personal “protector and supplier of all our needs”, we enter into His kingdom, in heaven and on earth.  I see this phrase of “coming and going” as living a proper and morally straight Christian Catholic life in all we do, think, believe, and say.  As a Catholic, we are called to “come” to Him, our shepherd, at His table, to receive Him truly, physically, and spiritually through the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist – – Communion, at every opportunity possible. With Jesus Christ indwelling fully within and though each of us at the dismissal of the Mass, we are told to “go out” to spread the good news, the Word of God:

Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” (St. Francis of Assisi).

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What is the lesson we are to learn in today’s Gospel reading?  I believe it is to “abandon” ourselves to Jesus Christ.  We are taught to say: “Lord, do with me what you will.”  This lesson is emphasized during the Advent Season with Mary saying:

“‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38),

And, continued with Jesus teaching us “how to” pray:

“… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

When one gives oneself to Jesus Christ, that person receives  a “Good Shepherd” who will walk with  them through every rough spot – – and knows he or she is never alone with no  “key” to enter the sheepfold.

What does today’s Gospel  reading mean to me (and to you)?  This is  a question that should be asked any,  and every time one reads Holy Scripture, especially the Gospels.  When reading and meditating on the WORD, one  must keep in mind the history, geography, and society AT THAT TIME, while at  the same time keeping it in perspective with today’s much different world and  society.  We should keep in our minds and  hearts what was meant by the “words” themselves then, and still today.  God’s WORD is truly without end:

The word of the Lord remains forever.”  (1 Peter 1:25)

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Our Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ, promises to go and gather  His sheep, scattered throughout the lands, and bring them back to “good pastures”.   Jesus  Christ is the ONLY source for  forgiveness, redemption, and salvation.   In today’s reading, by referring to the Jewish  teachers and to their traditions, Jesus rejects these “supposedly religious” men  as “thieves and robbers”.

It is so easy to recognize that the “voices” of thieves and  robbers CANNOT bring forgiveness,  redemption, and salvation.  In actuality,  these “thieves and robbers” would be  more than happy to quietly, and sneakily, steal any worthwhile virtues and  divine fortunes you have on your soul.  Please  remember, Jesus is the “Good Shepherd”  who came so that we (His sheep) may have eternal live for eternity in heaven  with Him.  Jesus is the way, truth, and  life!

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I have grown to realize that an individual who belongs to the  “true” Church of Jesus Christ, the Catholic (universal) Church, sometimes seems  to enter into “confinement”, that is, the proverbial “sheepfold”.  Maybe this feeling of confinement is because there  are things one CANNOT do in God’s kingdom.  Maybe one feels their “thinking and beliefs” have been stifled by being  a faithful and pious Catholic Christian.  (Have I peeked your interest in where I am going with this thought  process?)

Jesus Christ’s words are “true” in the Catholic  Church.  One may expect that belonging to  the Catholic Church community means giving up some freedom to think and believe  what one may want.  However, in reality,  the security one can find in the “true” Catholic Church – – founded by Jesus  Christ Himself, – – allows all of us the freedom to dream, to explore, and to  ask questions one possibly could not have ever asked before.  By belonging to a community of Jesus Christ’s  disciples, one can dream even greater dreams and experience a far greater destiny,  regardless of “who” we are in this world.  Jesus Christ has come so that we might have life; He has rescued each of  us; He will nurture each of us; and He will love each of us, as only a “Good Shepherd” can do; and only a “Good Shepherd” does.

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In concluding this reflection, (even though we have less  experience with sheep and shepherds in our fast-paced and modern society, we  can still identify strongly with the image of Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” and the “gate” for us, His sheep.  For me, Psalm 23 remains a popular and  favorite psalm for prayer in my life.  In  Jesus’ role of the “Good Shepherd”,  we know ourselves to be protected and cared for by a loving, compassionate, and  merciful God – – for the Father, by the Son, and through the Holy Spirit.

Holy Scriptures describe God as a “shepherd” who brings  security and peace to His people:

The LORD will guard your coming and  going both now and forever.” (Psalm  121:8).

Even today’s leaders,  the Catholic Priests, Bishops and Pope of Christ’s Church on earth, are called “shepherds”,  with Jesus’ image of “Good Shepherd” in mind:

“May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all  mankind, set over the community a man who shall act as their leader in all  things, to guide them in all their actions; that the LORD’S community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16-17).

Just as a shepherd kept watch over his sheep and protected  them from danger day and night, so too does Jesus stands watch over His people,
becoming the “shepherd” and “guardian” of our souls:

For you had gone  astray like sheep, but you have now  returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter  2:25).

And He has chosen to appoint “shepherds” to watch with Him,  and protect by Him, all His sheep, day and night in each generation.

We are given, in  today’s Gospel, the opportunity to reflect on our Catholic faith’s leadership,  and their role in God’s kingdom.  Jesus’  words suggest to us that those who will lead the Catholic Christian community should  be known by their faithfulness to Jesus.  Church leaders should recognize that Jesus Christ  is the “true gate” for all of His “sheep” (His followers), and that having a  good and proper relationship with Jesus Christ is of primary importance for every  Catholic leader now identified as a “Good  Shepherd”.

Jesus’ metaphor also  suggests that a faithful Catholic leader requires a good and proper relationship  with the community: the “shepherd”  knows “his sheep”, AND they (His  sheep) know him.  Catholic Christian  leaders should “truly”, and “fully”, follow the example of Jesus Christ, the “Good Shepherd”, by being faithful to Him  and being a good and proper “shepherd” themselves. (AMEN, AMEN!!)

Do you know, do you recognize, and do you desire the peace  and security of a life “truly” and “fully” “abandoned” to God as your personal  and communal “Good Shepherd”?  (Sounds hard, doesn’t it?!)  Do you look to Jesus, the “Good Shepherd”,  to receive the strength and courage you need, on a daily basis, to live and  serve Him as His faithful disciple?

Jesus Christ is the GATE.  The only way into His sheepfold, His kingdom, is THROUGH Him.  We must  enter into Him, and allow Him to enter into us (surrender ourselves), thus  filling us with His presence.  Through Jesus  Christ, we not only enter into His kingdom, but in His filling us with  “Himself”, we become the gate for others to enter into His kingdom as  well.  Very powerful; just think about  this last sentence for a while.  – – Read  Ephesians 4:11-16.

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I hope you have guessed by now that I have chosen the 23rd  Psalm as the closing prayer for today’s Gospel reflection.  Written by King David, the 23rd Psalm  is portrayed with figures of a “shepherd”  for the “flock”, and a desire for  generosity toward a guest at His feast.  The  imagery of both sections of the 23rd Psalm is drawn from the  teachings and traditions of the “40 year exodus” in the desert:

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in  his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes  with care.  They shall not hunger or thirst,  nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them; for he who pities  them leads them and guides them beside springs of water.” (Isaiah 40:11; 49:10);

And,

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant coasts, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers  them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock.” (Jeremiah 31:10).

There are five terms or phrases in the 23rd  Psalm’s beautiful song and prayer that I would like to explain prior to your  reading it on your own:

  • The right path” means the “right  way”, the “way of righteousness.”
  • A dark valley” is often translated to  mean the universally well-known, “the  valley of the shadow of death.”
  • You set a table before me” is an  expression occurring in an “exodus” perspective, as found in Psalm 78:19:

They spoke against God, and said, “Can God spread a table in the desert?” (Psalm 78:19)

  • Oil” is a well-known (at least to the  Jewish People) perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at  banquets and in the anointing of Kings: (cf., Psalm 104:15; Matthew 26:7; Luke  7:37, 46; John 12:2).
  • Goodness and love” are the blessings emitting  continuously, and without end, from God’s covenant with Israel, the “chosen”  people.

 “23rd Psalm

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

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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New Translation of the Mass

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

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

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

There is  only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we now say, “God of power and might,” with the new liturgical text we will say:

God of hosts”.

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

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Isidore the Farmer (1070-1130)

Isidore has become the patron of farmers and rural communities. In particular he is the patron of Madrid, Spain, and of the United States National Rural Life Conference.

When he was barely old enough to wield a hoe, Isidore entered the service of John de Vergas, a wealthy landowner from Madrid, and worked faithfully on his estate outside the city for the rest of his life. He married a young woman as simple and upright as himself who also became a saint—Maria de la Cabeza. They had one son, who died as a child.

Isidore had deep religious instincts. He rose early in the morning to go to church and spent many a holiday devoutly visiting the churches of Madrid and surrounding areas. All day long, as he walked behind the plow, he communed with God. His devotion, one might say, became a problem, for his fellow workers sometimes complained that he often showed up late because of lingering in church too long.

He was known for his love of the poor, and there are accounts of Isidore’s supplying them miraculously with food. He had a great concern for the proper treatment of animals.

He died May 15, 1130, and was declared a saint in 1622 with Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila and Philip Neri. Together, the group is known in Spain as “the five saints.”

Comment:

Many implications can be found in a simple laborer achieving sainthood: Physical labor has dignity; sainthood does not stem from status; contemplation does not depend on learning; the simple life is conducive to holiness and happiness. Legends about angel helpers and mysterious oxen indicate that his work was not neglected and his duties did not go unfulfilled. Perhaps the truth which emerges is this: If you have your spiritual self in order, your earthly commitments will fall into order also. “[S]eek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,” said the carpenter from Nazareth, “and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33).

Quote:

“God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…. See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food’” (Genesis 1:28a, 29–30a).

Patron Saint of: Farmers, Laborers

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Franciscan Spirituality

 

Have I developed and nurtured my Franciscan Spirituality?  Or have I been developing and practicing another style and approach?

What have I been doing recently to develop my Franciscan Spirituality?

Have my religious activities been heavily “routine” and without much “spirit”?

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

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

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

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


            

Today in Catholic History:

 

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

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

 Part 02 of 13 Parts

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

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

(Continued on next published blog)

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jesus was saying something extremely profound when He said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

They had not understood the incident of the loaves

Their hearts were hardened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

The 23rd Psalm

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

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

Quote:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

            

Today in Catholic History:


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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

  

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

A Christmas Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson

 

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

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

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

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Patron Saint of: Bricklayers; Deacons; Hungary

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

 
    

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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