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“Let’s ‘Gather’ And Get The ‘Flock’ Out Of Here!” – John 10:11-18†


Fourth Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

My third son made his Confirmation in the Catholic Church today.  I am so proud of him.  I pray he, and all my children, find a love, trust, and hope for our faith.

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Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1380 – Death of Catherine of Siena, Italian saint (b. 1347)
†   1429 – Joan of Arc arrives to relieve the Siege of Orléans
†   1670 – Pope Clemens X elected
†   1863 – Birth of Maria Theresa Ledochowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic nun (d. 1922)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Catherine of Siena; Saint Robert (d.1111); Saint Wilfred the Younger; Saint Peter of Verona; Saint Hugh of Cluny

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus says that He is the “good shepherd” who knows His sheep.

 

(NAB John 10:11-18) 11 I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  12 A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.  13 This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.  14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.  16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.  17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.  This command I have received from my Father.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The fourth Sunday of Easter is also called “Good Shepherd” Sunday.  Unless we consider this 10th chapter in the greater context of John’s Gospel, we will miss the radical nature of the statement Jesus makes when He declares Himself to be the “Good Shepherd”.  Today’s reading follows Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the rejection of this miracle by the Jewish Pharisees and leaders, who questioned Jesus’ authority to heal.  Jesus responds to this challenge by calling Himself the “Good Shepherd”.  In doing so, He criticized the Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders.  The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders became so angry that they attempt to stone and arrest Jesus (cf., John 10:31,39).  This controversy with the religious leaders will, from this point on, continue and grow in intensity until Jesus’ arrest and public death.

In today’s reading, Jesus describes His relationship with His followers as similar to the relationship between a “good shepherd” and His sheep.  As a good shepherd will risk and lay down his life in order to protect his sheep, Jesus willingly sacrifices Himself for the good and welfare of His sheep.  Jesus contrasts His actions of the “good shepherd” with the actions of the “hired shepherd” who abandons the sheep in the face of danger.  In today’s Gospel reading, we learn the Pharisees and the other religious leaders understand that Jesus is referring to them when He describes the “hired shepherds”. (he, he, he)

The “good shepherd” figure is allegorical (figurative or symbolic) in origin.  Jesus loved parables, and also loved using allegory to explain the unexplainable.  Like a parent trying to teach conceptual ideas to a toddler, He uses simple words to project a picture in our own minds of what He means to convey.  I believe that even with these simple teaching tools and tricks, there is no way we, as sinful human beings, can ever grasp the true meaning of what Jesus knows, and ties to express to His original audience, and to us.  Only after this existence on earth, when our permanent address changes for the last time (how’s that for allegory), will we truly, completely, and fully know what He knows, and wants to impart to us.  I can sum up my eagerness and desire for the true meaning of Jesus’ “Words” as a present sitting under a tree, anticipating the day it can be opened and revealed to me.  All I can do is have faith, have hope, and have trust!  (And, I do!  I believe in the Gospel of Jesus and in the Jesus of the Gospel!)  

There is truly so much hidden – – in the words of today’s reading.  John loves to use what I call “word gems” to get across a meaning so rich, and having so many layers.  Thus, I truly believe he satiates every bible scholars, and every casual reader’s, interest in delving into the Holy Scriptures.  For this purpose, I will be looking at each sentence individually and sometimes even words individually, in order to peel away as many layers as possible for this short Gospel reflection.  So, hang-on – – for it’s going to be a fun ride perusing both Old and New Testaments, and pursuing the meaning and understanding of both Old and New COVENANTS of our magnificent Lord, Creator, and “Good Shepherd”.

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In the very first verse of today’s reading, Jesus says:

I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11).

Jesus, through John, is referring to two “word gems” in the Old Testament book of Isaiah; and at what John would write, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the last book of the Holy Bible, The Revelation of Jesus Christ:

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, Carrying them in his bosom, leading the ewes with care.” (Isaiah 40:11);

And,

For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17).

Jesus Christ is OUR true and loving shepherd, always watching over and caring for us, His flock.  He “laid down His life for us”, and gathers His flock, STILL TODAY, leading ALL to His heavenly pasture.  (The Holy Eucharist Worship??)

The actions of the “good shepherd” are based upon the relationship between the shepherd and each of His sheep.  This IS the core difference between the “good shepherd” and the “hired shepherd”.  The “good shepherd” knows (and cares for) every sheep, every lamb, personally, uniquely, and intimately; therefore he acts out of love.  For Him, this is never simply “part of a job” – – it is “love-in-action”.  This “love-in-action” is truly at the heart of His identity.  Just as the sheep are known by the “Good Shepherd”, so too God the Father knows Jesus, AND, Jesus knows God the Father.  There is an essential unity between the Father and the Son made clearer in John’s understanding of who, and what, Jesus truly was then, and still is today.  The freedom with which Jesus acts when He lays down His life is rooted in the loving unity He shares with His Father.  (That “loving unity” has a title: the Holy Spirit!)

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The first “word gem” verse (John 10:11) reveals the qualities of the “good shepherd”.  Verse 12 reveals the character of a hireling: someone just “doing the job”, without loving or caring for his “flock”.  It also relates to what happens when we trust anyone other than the “good shepherd”: Jesus, the Messiah.  This “bad shepherd” allegory refers to the “Oracle of the Worthless Shepherd” narratives found in the earlier book of Zechariah:

Ah! my worthless shepherd who forsakes the flock!  May the sword fall upon his arm and upon his right eye; His arm will surely wither, and his right eye surely go blind!” (Zechariah 11:17).

Zechariah goes into great detail about the three shepherds and the destruction of Jerusalem.  Please read the entire parable (cf., Zechariah 11:4-17) to learn more.

In our reading today, Jesus is truly the “good shepherd”!  We can be good shepherds as well, by simply following His model of humility and dedication to The “Word”.  Jesus gave us the commandment:

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13);

John reiterates this command in His first epistle:

The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16).

Jesus promised a happy life without end.  Death would not be the end; but instead, the beginning.  We would know the glory of His everlasting life.  Jesus, as the “good shepherd”, promised a life which was secure.  Nothing will snatch us out of His hand, not even sorrow and death, since He is everlasting life itself.  Our lives are forever truly safe in His hands.  (That’s even better than Allstate.)

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So what does Jesus mean by saying the following in today’s reading:

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”? (John 10:16)

I believe His reference to “other sheep” is a reference to both the “Gentiles” and to “God’s dispersed children” of John 11:

He [Caiaphas, the high priest] prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God” (John 11:51-52).

These “dispersed children” were (and still are) destined to be gathered into “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” Church.  These four adjectives are understood to be the four “pillars” of the Catholic (Universal) Church.  It seems these “dispersed children” were at odds with the first century community of the beloved disciple, John – – and may still be, TODAY, at odds with the “eternal” and true “universal” Church – – the Catholic Church.

Jesus is the shepherd gathering all that have strayed back into one flock.  Remember, from a historical view of first-century Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel had split and separated into two distinct “tribes” related to the main “places” of the “Promised Land”.  Jesus came to gather ALL the “tribes”, composed of ten tribes of the north called Israel, and two major tribes of the south called Judah, along with all other Gentiles, thus making a new and glorious “flock”.  This thought of Jesus Christ gathering everyone is foretold by several Old Testament prophets:

Others will I gather to them besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8);

I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.” (Jeremiah 23:3);

I will appoint one shepherd over them to pasture them, my servant David; he shall pasture them and be their shepherd.” (Ezekiel 34:23);

David my servant shall be king over them; they shall all have one shepherd.  They shall walk in my ordinances, observe my statutes, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 37:24);

And,

“I will gather you, Jacob, each and every one, I will assemble all the remnant of Israel; I will group them like a flock in the fold, like a herd in its pasture; the noise of the people will resound.” (Micah 2:12).

In this context of being the “Good Shepherd”, Jesus also refers to others with whom He desires to share a personal, unique, and intimate relationship.  John truly understood the eventual inclusion of the Gentiles into the Christian community.  Our modern ears may hear relate part of today’s Gospel as a reference to Christian unity in today’s world.  The work of ecumenism (a movement promoting unity between different Christian churches and groups) is to restore unity among all Christians so that we form “one flock” under “one shepherd”, as God the Father desires.

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Jesus came to gather His “flock” knowing that, as a “good shepherd”, He would have to put His own human life in harm’s way to gather and to protect each and every one of His charge’s, ALL of God’s creations.  Jesus, however, came not only to give His life for others, but also to show that our life can be sanctified, made Holy – – “taken up again” – – through the “love” of God the “Father”:

By this ‘will,’ we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10).

John , in today’s reading, reports Jesus as saying:

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my ownI have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.” (John 10:18)

Within a short period of time, Jesus again will be saying a similar phrase to Pilate, at His trial on false (but true?) charges:

Jesus answered [Pilate], “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)

In verse 18, the “power to take it up again”, is a statement which contrasts the role of God the Father as THE capable and competent source and cause of Jesus’ (and ours – eventual) resurrection from the dead to a whole NEW form of eternal life.   This power is testified to by Peter, as Luke reports, in Acts:

God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.”  (Acts) 2:24;

And again:

“All of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10).

And, as Paul proclaims to the Roman Christian community that Jesus was:

“…established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:4);

Concerning the power of Jesus’ “free choice” to lay down His life as an act of personal love and obedience, John felt compelled to add Jesus saying:

This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18)

Jesus was truly doing the “will” of His Father.  Hmm, I wonder whether I can follow His “will” to such an end – – and NEW beginning!!

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To conclude, the words Jesus spoke then upset many of the Jewish leaders.  Some asked, “How could He speak with the same authority which God spoke and claim to be equal with God?” The Pharisees probably thought He must either be insane or divine.    We too are faced with the same choice today.  Either Jesus IS who He claims to be – – the divine Son of God and Savior of the world – – or the world’s greatest persuader of untruths!  

We cannot be indifferent to His claim of authority.  For those who accept Him as Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ offers the peace and security of unending, peaceful, life and joy with His (and ours) God the Father.  Do you have and know the peace and security of a life fully submitted to Jesus?  Do you listen attentively to the voice and “Word” of the “Good Shepherd”?  Let’s “gather” and get the “flock” out of here!

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Reflection Prayer:

Prayer for Generosity

St. Ignatius of Loyola

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

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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.

Praying to the Saints

“‘And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not God of the dead, but of the living …’” (Mark 12:26-27) RSV.

“And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living …” (Mark 12:26-27) KJV.

**

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely . . .” (Hebrews 12:1) RSV.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us …” (Hebrews 12:1) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ.  What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time.

She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful and intensely religious person.  Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband.  Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation.

She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer and austerity.  Gradually a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious.  An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life.  Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs.  Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ.  She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374.

Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope.  She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope

In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides.  Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Urban VI and the unity of the Church.  She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony.  She died surrounded by her “children.”

Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church.  In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy.  Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970.  Her spiritual testament is found in The Dialogue.

Comment:

Though she lived her life in a faith experience and spirituality far different from that of our own time, Catherine of Siena stands as a companion with us on the Christian journey in her undivided effort to invite the Lord to take flesh in her own life.  Events which might make us wince or chuckle or even yawn fill her biographies: a mystical experience at six, childhood betrothal to Christ, stories of harsh asceticism, her frequent ecstatic visions.  Still, Catherine lived in an age which did not know the rapid change of 21st-century mobile America.  The value of her life for us today lies in her recognition of holiness as a goal to be sought over the course of a lifetime.

Quote:

Catherine’s book Dialogue contains four treatises—her testament of faith to the spiritual world.  She wrote, “No one should judge that he has greater perfection because he performs great penances and gives himself in excess to the staying of the body than he who does less, inasmuch as neither virtue nor merit consists therein; for otherwise he would be an evil case, who for some legitimate reason was unable to do actual penance.  Merit consists in the virtue of love alone, flavored with the light of true discretion without which the soul is worth nothing.”

Patron Saint of Europe & Italy

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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Prologue to the
Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule:


 
Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Is It Tax Time In God’s Kingdom?!” – Matthew 22:15-21†


     

 

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Psalm
  • 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:

 

On this day, in 1940, the Nazi’s established the “Warsaw Ghetto”.  Ironically, six years later (1946) – on this date – ten Nazi war criminals of the Second World War, were condemned to death in the “War Trials” (Nuremberg), and are immediately hung.

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Seventy days left till most of us celebrate CHRISTinMASS.  I personally try to celebrate CHRISTinMASS as often as possible.  How ‘bout you?!

 

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1333 – Death of Nicolaas V, [Pietro Rainalducci], Italian anti-Pope (1328-30)
†   1591 – Death of Gregory XIV, [Niccolo Sfondrati], Italian Pope, at age 56
†   1594 – Death of William Cardinal Allen, English Catholic cardinal (b. 1532)
†   1690 – Death of Margaretha M Alacoque, French mystic/saint, at age 43
†   1755 – Death of Saint Gerard Majella, Catholic saint (b. 1725
†   1855 – Birth of Camille Looten, Belgian priest/literature historian
†   1890 – Birth of Maria Goretti, Italian saint (d. 1902)
†   1978 – Pope John Paul II is elected in Rome.
†   Pope John Paul II Day in Poland

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

 

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Pharisees sending their disciples to test Jesus with a question about paying census taxes to the Emperor: Herod.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 22:15-21) 15 The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech.  16 They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.  17 Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”  18 Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  19 Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin.  20 He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  21 They replied, “Caesar’s.”  At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

 

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Payment of taxes is not likely to be a disputed issue in your life.  After all, Mark Twain’s famous saying is that the two “absolutes” in life are, “to pay taxes and dying”.  Yet, we can still learn something from today’s Gospel reading.  The Jewish authorities sought to trap Jesus in the religion versus State issue.  Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees and Herodians redirected their question to focus on the issue of greater importance: loving and honoring God.  Taking this perspective in our daily lives can help us make good judgments in dealing with conflicting issues of importance.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem (especially the Pharisee’s) continue their anxious, nervous, and stressed exchange of questions and challenges toward Jesus and His teachings.  They are afraid of Him, they know He is powerful, and they had to silence Him.  The point of today’s reading, the followers of the Temple Pharisees, along with the Herodians (the followers of Herod) consciously and maliciously try to entrap Jesus by their question with regard to the payment of census taxes.  This is not the first “clash” however.  The first encounter Jesus had with the Temple officials is described in Matthew 21, let’s look at it first:

When he had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things?  And who gave you this authority?’  Jesus said to them in reply, ‘I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.  Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?’  They discussed this among themselves and said, ‘If we say “Of heavenly origin,” he will say to us, “Then why did you not believe him?”  But if we say, “Of human origin,” we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.’  So they said to Jesus in reply, ‘We do not know.’ He himself said to them, ‘Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.’” (Matthew 21:23–27).

In today’s reading, and in relating future disputes with the Temple leaders, Matthew follows Mark’s Gospel with few variations.

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Matthew, in this reading, puts together an unusual and uniquely strange partnership between the Pharisees and the Herodians.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod Antipas, a Jewish political leader who collaborated with the Romans.  His collaboration would have required a compromised observance of the Mosaic Law.  Along with his concessions, the Herodians and the Pharisees also made financial concessions.  The Herodians were willing to bend their interests, placing political over religious beliefs.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, taught a scrupulous and painstaking observance of Mosaic Law, and strongly opposed Roman occupation.  Herodians favored the payment of taxes; the Pharisees opposed it.  In this reading, there are two severely opposing beliefs coming together for a common purpose: to destroy!!

Though Matthew maintains a joining together of the Pharisees and Herodians in this account, he clearly wished to emphasize the Pharisees’ part in the plot to discredit Jesus and His movement.  The Pharisees are solely mentioned in the first verse of today’s reading (Matthew 22:15).  The Herodians (followers of Herod) are joined with them only in the prepositional phrase of Mt 22:16:

They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” (Matthew 22:16)

The Pharisees wanted to “entrap Him [Jesus] in speech”.  With a covert intent, they posed a question, trying to force Jesus to take either a position contrary to that held by the majority of the people or one that would bring Him into conflict with the Roman authorities in Jerusalem.

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The help of the “Herodians”, supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, seemed to be needed in the deception of Jesus.  The Herodians were a political (and not religious) faction, who favored payment of the Roman imposed census taxes. The Pharisees, on the other hand, did not favor the imposed taxes.  The Pharisees and Herodians were not friendly toward each other, and possibly even hostile toward each other, under “normal” circumstances.

So, why did they come together to trap Jesus in some sort of perceived “slanderous” statement?  The answer is quite easy: Jesus Christ was a common enemy to both of them.  To the Pharisees, He questioned their authority and teaching.  To the Herodians, He was a potential threat to their societal structure: He was revealing that both groups have gone astray from following the “Torah” of God the Father.  So, Jesus was perceived as “stirring the pot”, creating dissention within the Temple and Societal leadership itself. 

These men were as familiar with regard to Herod the Great was, 32 years prior (at Jesus’ birth), in regards to Old Testament prophecies of the “coming Savior Messiah”.  Both the Pharisees and the Herodians liked their lifestyles, and feared any change.

Per the Old Testament prophecies, the “Messiah” would:

1) come from David’s family and be heir to David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Psalms 89:3-4, Psalms 110:1, Psalms 132:11, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 11:1-5, and Jeremiah 23:5);

2) have “Kings” bow down to Him (Psalms 72:10-11);

3) would bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and announce the release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1);

4) would enter the Temple “with authority” (Haggai 2:7-9, Malachi 3:1 );

And,

5) would be the cornerstone of God’s Messianic Community (Isaiah 28:16, Psalms 118:22-23 ).  

Both, the Herodians and the Pharisees saw the people believing that Jesus of Nazareth was living out the Old Testament requirements of God’s Messiah.

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The Jewish people resented their foreign rulers and despised paying any taxes to Caesar.  So, the Pharisees posed an “impossible (tricky) question” to test Jesus to see whether He was loyal to them and to their (misguided) understanding of religion, or not.  (Nothing is impossible with God; nor is anything too tricky for Him!)  

The Herodians and the Pharisees approached Jesus, asking that He take a side in their dispute. They appear to be asking Him for His Rabbinic wisdom, yet (in reality) only wishing to trap Him in a “catch-22” situation.  If Jesus answered that it was lawful to pay taxes to a pagan ruler, then he would lose credibility with the Jewish nation who would regard him as a coward and a friend of Caesar.  If he said it was not lawful, then the Pharisees would have grounds to report him to the Roman authorities as a political trouble-maker and have him arrested.  

So, why the BIG deal over a few coins?  Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power.  Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them.  In a certain sense, the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler.  Where the coin was valid, and used, the political “ruler” held political control over the people of the region.  Since the Jews used the Roman currency, it was the property of the Roman leader, Caesar.

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The Pharisees asked Jesus if it is lawful to pay census taxes according to “the law of God”.  Both groups thought that Jesus would be “trapped” either way He answered.  If he said “Yes”, the Pharisees would say he was paying alms to the Romans and not the church.  If He said “No”, they would call Him a “revolutionary” and report Him to Herod.

Jesus, in a classic Jewish rabbinical way, answers the question by asking a question:

Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” (Matthew 22:18)

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Jesus’ response to this attempt to trap Him publically exposed the astuteness and cleverness of His inquisitors.  From His first words in response to their questions, Jesus showed that He is very much aware of what they were trying to do: to entrap Him.

’Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”  Then they handed him the Roman coin.” (Matthew 22:19) 

Jesus asks for a “Roman coinand it is readily and immediately provided to Him.  It probably came from the hand of a Herodian in attendance (which for me is the only reason they are mentioned in this Gospel reading), yet, the Pharisees showed themselves to be quite willing to freely accept a compromise made with the Herodians and the Roman government.  Remember, Jesus had already exposed the Pharisees as hypocrites in an earlier reading (Matthew 21:23–27, mentioned earlier).

They [the inquisitors] were ready to produce money for Jesus to hold.  Picture the image of Jesus holding money, and stating either, “No, don’t pay these taxes” or “Yes, you must pay Herod”!  Either would be devastating from a public perception viewpoint.  Their readiness to supply a visual image to their question – – money – – implies another proof of acceptance by the Pharisees, of the financial “advantages”, of the Roman administration in Jerusalem and Palestine as a whole.

Jesus then takes His response one step further.  He asks the Pharisees and Herodians:

 “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  (Matthew 22:20)

His inquisitors examine the coin and agree it is Caesar’s image on the coin.  This “Caesar” was the emperor “Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus” (A.D. 14–37).  

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Jesus’ answer cunningly avoids taking any sides in the question of the “lawfulness of the tax” by saying:

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:21)

With simple logic, Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians the coin belongs to Caesar, avoiding the question of lawfulness altogether. Going further, then, Jesus tells them that their obligation is also to pay to God that which belongs to God!

In saying to “repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, Jesus raises the Pharisee’s debate to a new (and super-natural) level (ha, ha).   The Pharisees and Herodians hypocritically asked about taxing in respect to its relationship to the “law of God”; but instead, should have rather been concerned with repaying God the Father with the “good works” which are due to Him. 

If they don’t pay attention to this requirement, hear what Jesus had said earlier, in another parable, He recently told:

He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.  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 21:41, 43)

No wonder they were trying to “trap” Him!

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Holy Scripture tells us to give to everyone whatever is their due, and to owe no one anything, except to love one another:

“Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.  Love fulfills the Law.  Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  (Romans 13:7-8)

Jesus’ response to the Herodians and Pharisees in today’s story, suggests the proper ethics, a principle or belief directing one’s behavior, that Catholic Christians should adopt in their lives.  Jesus’ “Words” of “paying to God which belongs to God” should remind ALL of us the importance of keeping things of this earth in their proper perspective!!  How many of us are attached to worldly (materialistic) things at the expense of the love and honor which we owe to God?

Make a list of the activities which you spend time doing, such as household tasks, jobs, academics, and recreational activities, and so on.  What is the true importance of each of these activities?  What would happen if there were an imbalance in your attention to these activities, spending too much time on one activity at the expense of another?

Today, we are reminded of the necessity of giving things their proper importance.  The Herodians and Pharisees were giving too much importance to the issue of the payment of taxes.  Jesus Christ reminds the Pharisees and Herodians (and us) that loving and honoring God is of greater importance than ANY thing on earth.  We do many important things; but we need to remember that God is of the greatest importance in our lives!!  Pray that you will learn – – and continue – – to keep things in a proper perspective while remembering to keep God first in your lives.

 

For me, today’s Gospel reading has another deeper meaning as well.  We, too, have been stamped with God’s image since we are created in His own likeness:

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.  God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female* he created them.” (Genesis 1:26,27).

We rightfully belong – – not to ourselves, – – but to God (just as Caesar’s coins belonged to him):

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price.  Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

 

Let me finish today with what Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1). 

Do you acknowledge that your life – – and everything you possess – – belongs to God the Father, and not to yourself?  Do you give to God what rightfully belongs to Him?  I try every single day (and some days, I succeed!!)!!

 

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 96

Sing praise to the Lord.

 

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.  Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his marvelous deeds.  For great is the LORD and highly to be praised, to be feared above all gods.  For the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.  Splendor and power go before him; power and grandeur are in his holy place.  Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and might; give to the LORD the glory due his name!  Bring gifts and enter his courts; bow down to the LORD, splendid in holiness.  Tremble before him, all the earth; declare among the nations: The LORD is king.  The world will surely stand fast, never to be shaken.  He rules the peoples with fairness.  Amen.” (Psalm 96:1,3-10)

 

 

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.

 

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

to the first line of the opening dialogue.  The last line of that dialogue also changes.  We presently say, “It is right to give him thanks and praise,” but with the new text, we will say:

 “It is right and just.”

This will lead more clearly into the opening of the prefaces, which will commonly begin with the words:

It is truly right and just.

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

 

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297)

 

Margaret was born of farming parents in Laviano, Tuscany.  Her mother died when Margaret was seven; life with her stepmother was so difficult that Margaret moved out.  For nine years she lived with Arsenio, though they were not married, and she bore him a son.  In those years, she had doubts about her situation.  Somewhat like St. Augustine she prayed for purity—but not just yet.

One day she was waiting for Arsenio and was instead met by his dog.  The animal led Margaret into the forest where she found Arsenio murdered.  This crime shocked Margaret into a life of penance.  She and her son returned to Laviano, where she was not well received by her stepmother.  They then went to Cortona, where her son eventually became a friar.

In 1277, three years after her conversion, Margaret became a Franciscan tertiary.  Under the direction of her confessor, who sometimes had to order her to moderate her self-denial, she pursued a life of prayer and penance at Cortona.  There she established a hospital and founded a congregation of tertiary sisters.  The poor and humble Margaret was, like Francis, devoted to the Eucharist and to the passion of Jesus.  These devotions fueled her great charity and drew sinners to her for advice and inspiration. She was canonized in 1728.

Comment:

Seeking forgiveness is sometimes difficult work.  It is made easier by meeting people who, without trivializing our sins, assure us that God rejoices over our repentance.  Being forgiven lifts a weight and prompts us to acts of charity.

Quote:

“Let us raise ourselves from our fall and not give up hope as long as we free ourselves from sin. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners.  ‘O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!’ (Psalm 95:6).  The Word calls us to repentance, crying out: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).  There is, then, a way to salvation if we are willing to follow it” (Letter of Saint Basil the Great).

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:

 

Saint Francis and the Spirituality

 

What is Saint Francis’ description of “true obedience”?

Why did Saint Francis say that moving to a “hermitage” would be an “escape”?

Does his reason resonate with us in some of our frustrations?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 16 & 17 of 26:

 

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

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

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

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


   

 

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I feel sorry for you guys!” 

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

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

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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Joke of the Day:

 

 

  

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

 

 

 

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

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 

Prayer for Vocations

 

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

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

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

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

  

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

  

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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.

 

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

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

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

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

 

 

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

 

Joseph is most famous for levitating at prayer.

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of: Air travelers, Astronauts, Pilots

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis

 

How does Francis identify himself?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

“Mercy Me, Please, Mercy Me!” – Matthew 18:21-35†


 

 

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • 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:

 

Today is Patriot’s Day.  Please keep all individuals involved (directly or indirectly) with the evil of terrorism in your prayers today, and every day.  2,977 souls lost to 19 hijackers on four planes.  In addition, 6,294 people were reported to have been treated in area hospitals for injuries related to the 9/11 attacks in New York City.  Individuals from more than 90 countries were directly affected on this ill-fated day.  Please Lord, let us not forget these brave souls, and their sacrifice at the hands of pure evil.

(Information obtained from Wikipedia.)

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Wednesday September 14 is the Feast of the Cross.  According to legends that spread widely throughout Western Europe, the true Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem.  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine.

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September 14th It is also a very important day for Franciscans.  It was on this feast that St. Francis of Assisi received the “stigmata”.  During the Lent of 1224, two years before his death, his mind and heart turned frequently to meditate upon the suffering of Christ and His obedience to the Father.  Retreating with Friar Leo into the wilderness, Francis agonized over the great pain that Jesus experienced and thanked our Lord for the supreme sacrifice that He had endured.

On 14 September 1224, in the solitude of prayer on Mount Alverna, while praising God and pouring out his love for Him, Francis beheld the crucified Christ borne aloft by six wings.  In this moment of seraphic ecstasy, he who had sought to imitate Christ in all things, received the marks of his Lord’s crucifixion—the stigmata—on his hands, feet, and side, two years before Sister Death came to him.

And so, when the world was growing cold, Christ renewed the marks of His passion in the flesh of Saint Francis to rekindle our love for God.  By bearing the marks of the crucifixion in his body, Francis experienced an even deeper union with Jesus.  Thus, the God whom Francis had cherished, both as the child of Bethlehem and as the victim at Calvary, brought the Saint into more perfect conformity with His Son.

“Heavenly Father, you gave your servant Francis the grace of intimate union with your crucified Son.  Help us with the cross we bear that, united with you, we too may know the peace and joy that Francis received.  We ask this in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.”

(from the website: http://www.shrinesf.org/francis08.htm)

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   506 – The bishops of Visigothic Gaul meet in the Council of Agde.
†   1226 – The Roman Catholic practice of public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass spreads from monasteries to parishes.
†   1279 – Death of Robert Kilwardby, Archbishop of Canterbury (b. c. 1215)
†   1557 – Catholic & Lutheran theology debated in Worm
†   1838 – Birth of John Ireland, American Catholic archbishop (d. 1918)
†   1914 – Birth of Patriarch Pavle, Patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church
†   1987 – Shoot out at Jean-Bertrand Aristides’ (former Catholic Priest) church in Haiti, 12 die
†   2001 – Coordinated attacks resulting in the collapse or severe damage of several skyscrapers at the World Trade Center in New York City, destruction of the western portion of The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and an intentional passenger airliner crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Two thirds of rescuers (FD, PD, EMS) in New York were Roman Catholics.
†   2004 – All passengers are killed when a helicopter crashes in the Aegean Sea. Passengers include Patriarch Peter VII of Alexandria and 16 others (including journalists and bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria).
†   Feasts/Memorials: Beheading of John the Baptist in the Eastern Orthodox tradition (Julian Calendar); Feast of Neyrouz, the New Year’s Day in the Coptic calendar

(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:

 

 

“He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would reach heaven: for everyone has need to be forgiven.” ~ Thomas Fuller

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that we must forgive one another AS God has forgiven us.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 18:21-35) 21Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  22Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  23That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  24When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  25Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.  26At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’  27Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  28When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.  He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  29Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  30But he refused.  Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.  31Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  32His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  33Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’  34Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.  35So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

Today’s Gospel reading is known as:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.”

This is the final section (of three) of Jesus’ “Discourse on the Church”, and deals with forgiveness which His disciples are to give to fellow disciples who sin against them.

Today’s Gospel reading directly follows last week’s Gospel in which Jesus taught the disciples how to handle disputes and conflict within the first-century Jewish (predominately) Catholic (Universal) Christian community.  In today’s reading, Peter asks Jesus how many times one should give forgiveness to another.

Jesus also gives a lesson on how mercy and justice go together.  In the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, the prophet “Amos” speaks of God forgiving transgression three times, but warns of God punishing for the fourth:

For three crimes of …, and now four— I will not take it back.”(see Amos 1:3-13; 2:1-6). 

Peter proposes a reasonable number of times, i.e., perhaps “seven”.  Jesus Christ replies by expanding Peter’s proposal by an “enormous” amount; not just seven times should one forgive, but 77 times (perfectly complete AND completely prefect and complete [will explain a little later]).  Through the parable, we come to understand the depths of God’s mercy toward us and the results of our acceptance of God’s forgiveness.

 

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To the question Peter asks about how often forgiveness is to be granted (verse 21), Jesus answers that it is to be given without limit (verse 22).  He further illustrates His answer with a parable about the unmerciful and unforgiving servant (verses 23–34).  Through this parable, Jesus is warning ALL OF US that His heavenly Father will give those who do not forgive the same treatment as that given to the unmerciful servant (verse 35). 

Matthew 18:21–22 corresponds to Luke 17:4:

“If he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” (Luke 17:4).

However, today’s parable and Jesus’ final warning are distinctive to Matthew’s Gospel.  It is suggested by some biblical scholars that today’s parable did not originally belong to this situation.  This reason is that it really does not deal with repeated forgiveness, which is the point of Peter’s question and Jesus’ reply.

 

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Why does Peter ask Jesus (in verse 21) if he must forgive someone “as many as seven times”?  For part of the answer, let’s look at the meaning of the number seven in Holy Scripture. (Information obtained from http://www.BibleStudy.org.)

Seven, in Hebrew, is “shevah”.  It is from the root, “savah”, meaning to be full or satisfied.  Hence the meaning of the word “seven” is dominated by this root meaning of fullness and complete satisfaction.  On the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation.  His creation was full and complete, and good and perfect.  Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it.  Hence the word, “Shavath”, means to cease, desist, rest, and “Shabbath”, “Sabbath”, is the “day of rest”.  

It is seven, therefore, that impresses (and means) perfection and completeness in connection with which it is used.  It marks off the week of seven days, which, arbitrary as it may seem to be, is universal and immemorial in its observance among all nations, and in all times.  A “Seven Day Week” passes on an eternal “Sabbath-keeping”, which “keeps on” for the people of God in all its everlasting perfection.

 

In the creative works of God, “seven” completes the colors of the spectrum and rainbow; it satisfies in music the notes of the scale. In both, the eighth is only a repetition of the first.

Another meaning of the root, “Savah”, is to swear, or make an oath.  This oath is clear from its first occurrence in Genesis:

“This is why the place is called Beer-sheba; the two of them took an oath there.” (Genesis 21:31),  

in which this oath was based upon the “seven ewe lambs“:

“Abraham also set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock, and Abimelech asked him, ‘What is the purpose of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?’  Abraham answered, ‘The seven ewe lambs you shall accept from me that you may be my witness that I dug this well.’ (Genesis 21:28-30),

points to the idea of satisfaction or fullness in an oath.  

 

The Greek translation of “Seventy-seven times” (verse 22) corresponds exactly to a verse in Genesis:

“If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” (Genesis 4:24).

There is a probable reference, though by difference, to limitless vengeance implied in the verse relating to “Lamech” in the Genesis text.  However, Jesus’ answer demands “limitless forgiveness” – – Perfectly AND Completely – – on the part of His disciples!!

 

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The “Master” in today’s parable decides to settle accounts with his servants.  We are told that one particular servant owed him an “enormous” sum of money.  Although the servant promises to repay everything, it is unlikely that he would ever be able to repay the debt that he owes.  However, the Master listens to his servant and is moved by the humility of his pleading, and mercifully forgives the entire debt.  

God will settle our account which we have with Him, in the SAME way we settle our accounts with others.  Let us all remember the “Golden Rule”:

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)

So, how much did this servant owe.  You will be amazed at what I found out about this debt.  A huge amount, per biblical scholars, literally meant, “ten thousand talents” (per NAB footnotes).  The “talent” (A Hebrew coin) was a unit of coinage of high, yet varying value, depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin.  It is mentioned in the New Testament only in today’s reading, and in the “Parable of the Talents” (cf., Matthew 25:14–30).

To emphasize the worth of a “talent”, it took 8883 denaii (=/-)* to make ONE talent.  One denarius (a Roman coin) was the usual payment for an entire days work.  Thus, ten thousand talents was equivalent to payment for slightly over 204,203 YEARS of work (I assume pre-taxed).  In Jesus’ time, this amount would have been greater than the total revenue of an entire province!  (This “Master” must have been the “Bill Gates” of his day.)  [* per “Talents (Biblical Hebrew) to Denarius (Biblical Roman) Conversion Calculator”]

 

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In those days, justice was swift.  Justice will also be swift at the “Final Judgment” (the Parousia) as well.  At the Parousia, it will be TOO LATE to justify your account; it needs to be taken care of NOW!!

The servant says to his master, “I will pay you back in full” (verse 26).  This is a grossly empty promise, given the size of his “enormous” debt.  As I said a moment ago, there was no probable way he could ever repay such a large amount.

There is no offence which can be done to us that would compare with OUR debt to God the Father!  We have been forgiven a debt way beyond all paying, just like the servant in this reading.  In order to ransom our debt of sin, God the Father gave up His only begotten Son.  And God the Son (Jesus Christ) paid our debt (my debt and your debt!)!  If God forgave each of us our debt to Him, which was (and still is) very great, “enormous” in fact, then we too must forgive others the debt they owe us, completely and perfectly!!

The servant asked for forgiveness, and his “Master” granted his request.  All we have to do is two things.  First, acknowledge our sins and call it by name.  And second, to ask sincerely for forgiveness.  God, our Father, our Master, will certainly grant our personal request as well.  Do not hesitate: go to confession NOW!! – – (PLEASE!)

 

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Rather than displaying gratitude for this forgiveness, the servant confronted a fellow servant who owed him a small debt, a pittance when compared with the amount owed to his Master.  The unmerciful servant refused the pleas of his fellow servant, sending him to prison.

Did this servant show the same kindness and mercy toward another that was shown to him? … NO!!  He “sought out” another who owed him a debt of just a few hundred denarii: “a much smaller amount” (verse 28).  Remember, a denarius was the normal daily wage of a laborer, and the difference between these two debts is enormous.  This comparison (or actually, a lack of comparison due to the enormous difference in amount) signals a lesson in the absurdity and travesty of the conduct from a Catholic Christian who has received a great grace (a beautiful gift) of forgiveness from God the Father, then refuses to forgive the relatively minor offenses done to him by others.

“I wouldn’t do that!” may be your response.  Well, remember this reflection the next time someone does something nice for you, and you repay by ridiculing, slandering, or defaming another only a short time later.  Have you ever received Christ in the Eucharist, and then thought poorly of another in the communion line; or, said (even yelled) a swear word to another while driving home from THAT mass?  Hmm!!

 

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Jesus teaches that one must forgive in order to be forgiven.  If we do not forgive our fellow man we cannot expect God to forgive us.  If we want mercy shown to us, we must be ready to forgive others as God the Father has already forgiven us (Because of Jesus Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, His investment in us.).

Remember, your actions have repercussions.  If you treated others of God creation with disrespect, why would you expect “respect” from God the Creator?  If you disregard others, God will most certainly disregard you as well.  Hmm, think of these words: “disrespect” and “disregard”.  If you “dis-” others, God the Father will “dis-” you as well. 

 

Then, a few other servants tell the merciful Master about the unforgiving actions of his servant.  Then the Master calls his servant to an account; and punishes the “unforgiving servant” because he refused to show the same kind of mercy given to him previously from his Master.  Jesus, in today’s parable, concludes by declaring emphatically that this is how it will be with God the Father toward those who refuse to forgive another.

Just like Santa Claus, God the Father knows who has been “Naughty and Nice”.  He doesn’t need a checklist or a group of “elves” to keep track of our sins and iniquities since they are written on our souls.  Only the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) can wipe the soul totally clean.

 

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The servant’s Master in today’s reading was “dissed” with the servant’s actions towards another as well.  He summoned him, he judged him; and he sentenced him.  It was too late for repaying any debt, any amount.  Since this “sinners’ debt was so great as to be realistically un-payable (verse 34), his punishment would be endless.

Interestingly, in this thought, I find some relative comfort and hope.  If our sins are too great, our reward will obviously be eternal damnation and separation, the ultimate “dis-” appointment.  However, knowing I am not an angelic being (my mother and wife call me a “fallen” angel anyway), I know that a small amount of sin will not permanently separate me from my Lord.  There is hope in knowing that a small amount of sin and iniquities can be purified in “purgatory” prior to ascending to the highest heaven.  There are many references in both the Old and New Testaments to a place we know as “Purgatory”.  Here is just two:

Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:26)”,

And,

Nothing unclean will enter it, nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies.  Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelations 21:27).

(Regarding “purgatory”, please review the following: Matthew 5:48, 12:32, 12:36; Hebrew 12:14; James 1:14-15, 3:2; 1 John 5:16-17;  2 Samuel 12:13-14; 2 Maccabees 12:44-46; 1 Corinthians 3:15, 15:29-30; 1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6; and 2 Timothy 1:16-18.  (If you know of others, please let me know.)

 

Т

 

To summarize, God the Father’s forgiveness has already been given to us through Jesus’ Sacrificial investment in me and all of us, through our baptism, and continuing through the special graces of all the Sacraments which perfectly complete and mature us as members of the Catholic Church, God’s family on earth.  Jesus made it very clear that God the Father will also withdraw His mercy and forgiveness at the “Final Judgment” for those who have not imitated His forgiveness by their own actions during their earthly life:

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

 There is an ever-present temptation to quantify forgiveness as Peter tried to do.  But, Jesus’ point is one of forgiveness – – NOT in quantity, (the number of times we extend forgiveness to another) – – but in the quality of attitude, i.e., in perfect and complete mercy (forgiveness) to ALL, even unto our enemies.   

 

In today’s parable, the Master’s forgiveness is analogous to God’s forgiveness toward us.  His forgiveness and mercy should be used to transform us, (inside – outside), helping us to be as forgiving as God the Father is toward us.  The lesson, the moral of the story, is exceptionally clear: If we hoard God’s mercy while showing no mercy to others, we, in fact, forfeit the effects of God’s mercy in our lives.

The Evangelist James says that judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy:

“Judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (James 2:13). 

Mercy is a true gift – – a grace – – offered in a way in which “justice” is not disregarded.  Mercy “seasons” justice as “salt” seasons meat and vegetables, giving them flavor.  Mercy follows justice, and “perfects” it.  Mercy, with justice, is a delightful meal to consume, and is exactly what we obtain with each Eucharistic celebration. 

 

Т

 

To conclude, we learned (and continue to learn) to trust God’s mercy and forgiveness through experiencing forgiveness from those closest to us, our family and friends.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that forgiveness is measured by its quality more than its quantity.

Consider times recently when you or another sought the forgiveness of another.  Were any statements made, putting “conditions” on forgiveness, such as “I will do this if you do that” or “I will accept your apology if or when ….”  

Do you sometimes “keep count” or “put conditions” on your forgiveness of another?  Do you find yourself sounding like Peter, concerned with quantity of forgiveness rather than offering forgiveness abundantly and unconditionally? – – rather than offering forgiveness perfectly and completely?  This is something you may be doing without even realizing, so please reflect on your attitude, as well as your behavior when offering forgiveness. 

What does the servant do to make his Master so angry, so “dissed”?  Well, the answer is simple: he refuses to forgive his fellow man’s debt.  Because we have all received God’s forgiveness, God the Father expects that we will also be forgiving toward others.  Do you hold any grudge or resentment towards anyone?  Please, please, PLEASE release these vices, these hindrances, and these malice’s toward others, before it is TOO LATE!!

Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question of how many times to forgive another, at the end of today’s parable, is found in the attitude and intention to forgive, as described in the following words:

“… forgives his brother from his heart(Matthew 18:35).

Therefore, the number of times we forgive another is, in reality, less important than the depth of our forgiveness.  So, we must forgive one another from the heart, and with unconditional love – – perfectly and completely! – – Because God has forgiven us from His heart, with unconditional love, perfectly and completely – – FIRST!!

 

 

 

ТТТ

 

 

Reflection Prayer:

 

Our Father

 

Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And, forgive us our trespasses,
– – AS – – we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

ТТТ

 

 

New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

A second option for the “penitential rite” (the “Confiteor” being the first option) has been revised.  This second form had been little used in recent years.  The second option is presently:

Lord, we have sinned against you:|
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your mercy and love.
And grant us your salvation.

May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.

It will now read as follows:

The priest says, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.”
The people respond, “For we have sinned against you.
Then the priest says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,”
and the people respond, “And grant us your salvation.”

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

 

 

ТТТ

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840)

 

A sermon he heard at age 15 inspired today’s saint to become a missionary in China.  There he met a brutal death on a cross for refusing to renounce his faith.

Born in France in 1802, Jean-Gabriel became a Vincentian priest.  He displayed so many gifts and had such fine personal and spiritual qualities that, for a time, his religious order kept him busy closer to home.

He finally received permission to begin his missionary endeavors in 1835.  After a 1,000-mile trip by boat and foot across three provinces, he arrived in central China.  In one early letter written to his community in Paris he described himself as a curious sight: “my head shaved, a long pig-tail, stammering my new languages, eating with chopsticks.”

He soon joined the Vincentians in helping to rescue abandoned Chinese children and in educating them in the Catholic faith.  He was arrested in 1839 under an edict that banned Christianity.  He was tortured and interrogated for months.  Almost one year later he was executed by strangling while hanging on a cross.

St. Jean-Gabriel was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1996.  Chinese government officials denied permission for any public Mass commemorating the new saint.

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

ТТТ

 

 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Peace

 

What does the liturgy at Mass mean when it uses the word “Peace” several times before Communion?

Is the “sign of peace” at Mass – only a gesture? … Or, is it a prayer? 

What meanings do I give the “sign of peace” at Mass?

Do we (do I) let Christ “guide our feet into the way of peace”?

How do examples and principles of prominent people (and neighbors) in our lifetime fulfill your call to peace? 

Can you give examples?

 

 

ТТТ

 

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’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.

 

Т

 

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.

 

 

“I’m Just a Humble Politician; Yah, Right!!” (Luke 18:9-14)†


Today, I am standing watch and praying for the young ladies and poor souls in their wombs at the local Planned Parenthood death mill.  It is a shame that these girls (most barely ladies) feel so desperate as to kill a human life. 

The forecast is for rain and thunderstorms.  If my misery in advocating against this barbaric act of abortion may save a soul, I gladly accept this distress.

 

 

 

Today is United Nations Day (chartered in 1945).  Please pray for the relief of suffering in the world as a whole. 

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   1710 – Birth of Alban Butler, English Catholic priest and writer (d. 1773)
†   1911 – Birth of Paul Grégoire, French Canadian archbishop of Montreal (d. 1993)
†   2004 – Death of James Cardinal Hickey, American Catholic archbishop (b. 1920)

(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:

 

“The value of consistent prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will hear Him.” – William McGill

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable of the proud Pharisee who prayed from his self-importance, contrasted with the tax collector who prayed with humility and faith.

 

9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.  10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity–greedy, dishonest, adulterous–or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’  13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’  14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.  (NAB Luke 18:9-14)

 

Jesus offers a striking story of two men at prayer and is a continuation of last Sunday’s reading.  This is the second of two parables about prayer.  The first is found in Luke 18:1-8 and is about the diligence and perseverance we should display in our prayer life.  This second parable condemns the haughty and judgmental attitudes of the Pharisees.  The story teaches us why we must have a proper attitude in prayer; that the essential need of any follower of Jesus Christ is in recognizing one’s own sinfulness and a further need in acknowledging a total dependence and faith in God’s graciousness.  Jesus teaches us about the character of prayer in regards to our relationship with God by drawing a distinction between these two exceptionally different approaches towards prayer.  Notice that the Pharisee prayed to himself (not God).  The tax-collector believed he needed God’s mercy because he DID believe in God.

This parable gives us a warning about the danger of slighting others around us.  Disrespecting others is more than an action of being mean-spirited.  Conceit and disrespect of others erupts from a self-conceived notion of one’s own goodness and righteousness.  So, that one conceited person feels “competent” to sit in the “judges’ seat” that determines who is a good and just person. 

I bet Jesus’ story offended those present who regarded “tax-collectors” as being “unworthy” of God’s blessing and love.  How could Jesus slight a Pharisee, a temple leader, and praise a known “sinner”?  This parable reminds me of the story of the “pardoning of the sinful woman” found in Luke 7:36-50: – “… Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment …,” – wherein a similar distinction is presented between the judgmental view of the Pharisee “Simon,” and the love and faith shown by the woman now a pardoned [by Jesus] sinner.  

Luke unquestionably loves stories.  He should have had some “Irish” blood in him!  To set the stage for today’s story, Jewish tax-collectors were a quasi-partner with the Roman officials in a practice that allowed the tax-collector to pad their own purses (or coin-bags) by charging much more than the straightforward taxes.  Because of this relationship with the Romans and their “less-than-honest” business practices, the tax-collector was more than aware of his “unworthiness” per Jewish societal norms.  He was well aware how others perceived him; he also knew that he wasn’t even welcomed in the temple for worshipping.  The tax-collector though, never lost his faith and hope IN God.  He was looking for forgiveness FROM God.  And he sought after an internal and spiritual peace THROUGH God.

Remember from last week’s reflection that Pharisees were high-ranking members of the Jewish religion during Jesus’ time.  They taught an oral interpretation of the Law of Moses (the Torah) as a foundation for Jewish devoutness and practices.  If anyone would be an example for prayer, one would think a Pharisee would normally be an expected model to the Jewish community.  

This Pharisee, unlike the “sinful” tax-collector, was very much pleased with himself; he further expected God to also be extremely pleased with him as well.  His prayer was not from his heart (nor from his faith) like the tax-collectors.  The Pharisee represents those who take pride and smugness in their personal religious practices; praising himself at the expense of others.  Engrossed with [self-] approval, pleasure, and opulence, he mainly prayed with himself and not to God!  His prayer consisted of congratulatory declarations of what he did, and of scorn for those he loathed.  In reality, his prayer was just a listing of his political and social achievements.  I can’t believe he actually had the audacity to thank God for his “high” position in society!  This Pharisee believed he justified himself through his prayer.  In reality, only God can justify His creations! – – by Grace!!

The tax-collector in today’s Gospel represents the lowly, despised and desperate of society.  He humbled himself before God and begged God for His mercy.  God was pleased with the humble attitude of faith and reliance of this tax-collector, a self-professed sinner.  This “sinner’s” prayer was truly heard by God, for this person had a true remorse for his sins against God AND his fellow brethren.  This man sought God with a humble heart rather than with a prideful spirit.  The tax-collector, and not the Pharisee, went home “justified”- – vindicated by God. 

I believe this parable shows the tax-collector as THE example of faith and prayer.  Jesus loves the marginalized, the humble “tax-collectors” of society.  He even went so far as to eat with, and touch the lowly “sinners and unclean” of His time.  In Luke 5:30-32, Jesus said that He came, “NOT for the healthy, but for the sick!”  Thank God we, as sinful humans, are “spiritually sick” and thus in need of Jesus daily in our daily lives!  We simply need to recognize this fact and to ask God for His grace and magnificent mercy. – – Daily!

The proud among us, like today’s Pharisee, do not believe they need any help.  They believe they hold their own destiny in their hands.  They don’t realize the danger they are placing themselves in, in not seeing the need for God’s compassion, generosity, and mercy, in their lives. 

Today, we are presented with both an opportunity for betterment and a stern warning.  Pride (a deadly sin) leads one to false assumptions, false impressions, and false honesty.  Humility, the flipside virtue of the coin, helps us to see ourselves as we really are.  A humble approach to prayer disposes oneself to knowledge of God’s love, grace, and mercy.  

In Isaiah 57:15 (NRSV), it is written “For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  God does not hear us in prayer if we are not humble in heart, or if we hate and despise any other of God’s creation!

Do you truly trust in the divine mercy and generosity of our Trinitarian God?  Do you ask for help from Him on a daily basis?  Do you realize how weak in spirit and flesh you may be at this time, and how much you need God’s continual compassion?  In 2 Cor 12:10 it is written,”when I am weak, then I am strong.”  How can we emulate the prayer of this “weak” tax-collector? 

We sometimes see and experience a high level of competition between ourselves and others around us.  This behavior happens for many reasons; but usually it is for the purpose of gaining attention or for acknowledgement of one’s skills and talents.  Some even seem to believe that any attention given to one person has to significantly lessen the attention available to be given to another.  In believing this way, people can act like the Pharisee in today’s parable. 

Have you ever compared yourself to another or another to you?  Is it helpful to compare yourself to another? In what ways can comparing yourself to another be a positive experience from a spiritual viewpoint?  In what circumstances might this comparison be unhelpful or dangerous spiritually?

Do you seek God’s love and mercy with a humble or prideful heart?  Do you show love and mercy to others around you? – – especially those you find difficult to love and to forgive, as St. Theresa of Lisieux found happening within her?

If we are pompous and self-important, then there may be far too little room for God to work in and through us!  So, as you pray, please believe in, and remember, to thank God for His unconditional love for you NOW.  Today’s parable tells us that when we pray, we must bear in mind our need for God in our lives. 

 

The Serenity Prayer

 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.   

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.  Amen.”

–Reinhold Niebuhr
(A Lutheran Minister from
the St. Louis, MO area)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Anthony Claret (1807-1870)

 

The “spiritual father of Cuba” was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee.  He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council.

In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: the future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers.

He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand.  At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians.

He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba.  He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for stamping out concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves.  A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist.  Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term.  His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market.  This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar.  Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: Reflections on Agriculture and Country Delights.

He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen.  He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions.  In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony.

All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press.  He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets.

At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops.  Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, “There goes a true saint.”  At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.

Comment:

Jesus foretold that those who are truly his representatives would suffer the same persecution as he did.  Besides 14 attempts on his life, Anthony had to undergo such a barrage of the ugliest slander that the very name Claret became a byword for humiliation and misfortune.  The powers of evil do not easily give up their prey.  No one needs to go looking for persecution.  All we need to do is be sure we suffer because of our genuine faith in Christ, not for our own whims and imprudence’s.

Quote:

Queen Isabella II once said to Anthony, “No one tells me things as clearly and frankly as you do.”  Later she told her chaplain, “Everybody is always asking me for favors, but you never do. Isn’t there something you would like for yourself?”  He replied, “Yes, that you let me resign.” The queen made no more offers.

Patron Saint of: Savings & Weavers

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 24 & 25 of 26:

 

 
24.     To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

  

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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


 

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

 

 

The Rescue of the Miners in Chile:

        

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia

            

Today in Catholic History:

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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

 

  

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Watch, O Lord”

 

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

(St. Augustine)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

Ignatius bravely met the lions in the Circus Maximus.

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

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

    

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“Walk the Talk; That Is All I Ask Of You!”–Luke 11:42-46†


 

ENCOURAGING PREDICTIONS FOR 2011: With all the problems the World is facing, it can be unsettling!

 
The Top 10 Predictions for 2011:

 1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
 2. Prayer will still be the most powerful thing on Earth.
 3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
 4. God will still honor the praises of His people.
 5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
 6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
 7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
 8. There will still be room at the Cross.
 9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.

 
Isn’t It Great To Remember Who Is Really In Control, and that; “the Word of the Lord endures forever.”  ( 1 Peter 1:25 )
 
I hope you found this encouraging!   I did!  Sometimes we need a reminder of just “WHO” is really in control.

     

Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1492 – Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) and his crew land in the Bahamas
†   1582 – Because of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar this day does not exist in this year in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
†   1878 – Birth of Patrick Joseph Hartigan, Australian Roman Catholic priest, educator, author and poet. (d. 1952)
†   1917 – The “Miracle of the Sun” is witnessed by an estimated 70,000 people in the Cova da Iria in Fátima, Portugal.
†   1958 – Burial of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII on the 41st anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun”.
†   In the Roman Catholic Church – translation (1163) of Saint Edward the Confessor; memorial of Saint Gerald of Aurillac; optional feast of Our Lady of Fatima

(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:

 

Sweep first before your own door, before you sweep the doorsteps of your neighbors. — Swedish Proverb

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus confronting the Pharisees and Scribes for their hypocrisy.

 

42 Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.  These you should have done, without overlooking the others.  43 Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.  44 Woe to you!  You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”  45 Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.”  46 And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.  (NAB Luke 11:42-46)

 

Do you think Jesus is angry?  This is the first of three woes against the Pharisees found in Luke’s Gospel.  But, it is actually as much an expression of sorrow and pity as much as it is anger towards the temple officials.  Jesus was angry with the Pharisees because they failed to “hear” God’s word, and they failed to lead the people in the “true” ways of God’s personal love and relationship with each of His people.

(Trivia time: Do you know the origin of the expression “Oh woe is me?”  It is straight from the Holy Bible.  You can find it Job 10:15, “If I am wicked, woe to me!”–NRSV.)

What was meant by Jesus calling the Pharisees “unseen graves?”  Well, any contact with the dead or with human bones and/or graves brought upon that person a ritual impurity, separating him/her from worshiping in the temple.  Spelled out in Numbers 19:16: “everyone who in the open country touches a dead person, whether he was slain by the sword or died naturally, or who touches a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean for seven days.”  This Biblical book called “Numbers” is one of the five books of the “Pentateuch.”    The Pentateuch (Greek for “having five books”) is itself, the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – and enjoys a particular prestige among the Jewish people as the “Law,” or “Torah.” It is considered the concrete expression of God’s will in regard to Judaic faith.

Jesus portrays the Pharisees as ones who have slowly and subtly led the Jewish people astray through their misconceived perception and attention to the “law.”  To me, Jesus is calling out the Pharisees as hypocrites who profess one doctrine, and live another of selfishness and elitism.

The “Scholars of the law” were experts in the Mosaic Law, the Torah, and were probably a member of the group identified in Luke 5:21 as the Scribes.  The Scribes devoted their lives and “vocations” to the study and interpretation of the “Torah:” the Law of Moses.  The Scribes took the Ten Commandments and expanded their interpretations, creating over fifty large books of instructions containing thousands of specific rules, regulations, and practices.  So exacting were their interpretations of these instructions and directions, that in attempting to “live them out,” it left very little time for anything else, including worship and prayer!  In the Pharisees and Scribes foolish fervor, they required superfluous and taxing rules and practices which obscured the more important matters of religious life: love of God and neighbor.  

In response to the remark from this Jewish legal expert, the probable Scribe, about Jesus daring to insult them and the Pharisees, Jesus illustrates the superiority of God in recognizing the Pharisees and Scribes movement away from the personal relationship with God through Jesus, and towards only “following rules” without regard to a deeper meaning and reason for the laws.  Jesus is literally “calling out” the Pharisees as ones that He considered “ritually impure” through their own misconceived actions and attitudes.

Jesus wants people to “walk the talk.”  He wants people to lead by example; to love – unconditionally – both Him and all others of His Creations.  Unfortunately, the Pharisees and Scribes in today’s Gospel have forgotten this very basic tenet of their faith.  There are still many of these types of “pseudo-Pharisees and pseudo-Scribes in our midst even today.  Could any of us reading this reflection today possibly be considered “ritually impure” by Jesus?  Hmm – food for thought!!

 

For the Lord’s Cleansing, Defense, and Governance of the Church 

 

“May your continual pity, O Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church; and, because without you she cannot endure in safety, may she ever be governed by Your bounty.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690)

 

Margaret Mary was chosen by Christ to arouse the Church to a realization of the love of God symbolized by the heart of Jesus.

Her early years were marked by sickness and a painful home situation. “The heaviest of my crosses was that I could do nothing to lighten the cross my mother was suffering.” After considering marriage for some time, Margaret entered the Order of Visitation nuns at the age of 24.

A Visitation nun was “not to be extraordinary except by being ordinary,” but the young nun was not to enjoy this anonymity. A fellow novice (shrewdest of critics) termed Margaret humble, simple and frank, but above all kind and patient under sharp criticism and correction. She could not meditate in the formal way expected, though she tried her best to give up her “prayer of simplicity.” Slow, quiet and clumsy, she was assigned to help an infirmarian who was a bundle of energy.

On December 21, 1674, three years a nun, she received the first of her revelations. She felt “invested” with the presence of God, though always afraid of deceiving herself in such matters. The request of Christ was that his love for humankind be made evident through her. During the next 13 months he appeared to her at intervals. His human heart was to be the symbol of his divine-human love. By her own love she was to make up for the coldness and ingratitude of the world—by frequent and loving Holy Communion, especially on the first Friday of each month, and by an hour’s vigil of prayer every Thursday night in memory of his agony and isolation in Gethsemane. He also asked that a feast of reparation be instituted.

Like all saints, Margaret had to pay for her gift of holiness. Some of her own sisters were hostile. Theologians who were called in declared her visions delusions and suggested that she eat more heartily. Later, parents of children she taught called her an impostor, an unorthodox innovator. A new confessor, Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit, recognized her genuineness and supported her. Against her great resistance, Christ called her to be a sacrificial victim for the shortcomings of her own sisters, and to make this known.

After serving as novice mistress and assistant superior, she died at the age of 43 while being anointed. “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”

Comment:

Our scientific-materialistic age cannot “prove” private revelations. Theologians, if pressed, admit that we do not have to believe in them. But it is impossible to deny the message Margaret Mary heralded: that God loves us with a passionate love. Her insistence on reparation and prayer and the reminder of final judgment should be sufficient to ward off superstition and superficiality in devotion to the Sacred Heart while preserving its deep Christian meaning.

Quote:

Christ speaks to St. Margaret Mary: “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this sacrament of love…. I come into the heart I have given you in order that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament” (Third apparition).

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 13 & 14 of 26:

   

13.     As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

  

14.     Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.