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“Is ‘Baptism’ By ‘FIRE’ As Painful As it Sounds? For Some, It Just May Be! We Call Them Martyrs” – Luke 3:15-16,21-22†


  the-Baptism-of-Jesus

“The Baptism of the Lord”

 

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Postures and Gestures at Mass: Catholic Calisthenics

So, why all the exercising at Mass: genuflect, kneel, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, bow, kneel, sit, stand, and finally, genuflect?  Wow, I’m tired just writing the sentence!  Well, in the celebration of Mass we are to raise our hearts, thoughts and voices to God.  Being creatures composed of “body” as well as 00000000000000063560“spirit”, our “prayers” are not confined to solely our thoughts, hearts and voices; it is also expressed by our bodies as well.  When our bodies participate in praying – – we truly and fully pray with our “whole person” – – as the embodied spirits God created us to be.  This engagement of our whole being in prayer helps us to pray with greater attention

During Mass we assume different postures: standing, kneeling, sitting, and make a variety of gestures.  These postures and gestures are far from being merely ceremonial in nature.  They truly have profound meaning, and can certainly enhance our personal participation in Mass.  In fact, these actions ARE the way in which we engage our entire self, body and soul, in the prayer that we know as “Mass”.  Each posture underlines and reinforces the meaning of the action in which we are taking part during that specific moment in our worship.  

Standing is a sign of respect and honor, so we stand as the celebrant who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly.  This posture, from the earliest days of the Church, has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above.  When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us.  By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift.  We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord, and the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, the sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible with Christ who, now gloriously risen from the dead, is the cause of our salvation.

The posture of kneeling signified penance in the early Church: the awareness of sin casts us to the ground!  So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter Season when the prevailing spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving.  In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify the homage of a vassal to his lord, and more recently 00000000000000063360this posture has come to signify adoration.  It is for this reason that the bishops of this country have chosen the posture of kneeling for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.  

Sitting is the posture of listening and meditation, so the congregation sits for the pre-Gospel readings and may also sit for the period of meditation following Communion.

Gestures too involve our bodies in prayer.  The most familiar of these is the Sign of the Cross with which we begin Mass and with which, in the form of a blessing, the Mass concludes.  Because it was by his death on the cross that Christ redeemed humankind, we trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips and hearts at the beginning of the Gospel.  But there are other gestures that intensify our prayer at Mass.  During the Confiteor the action of striking our breasts at the words through my own fault can strengthen my awareness that my sin is my fault.  

In the Creed we are invited to bow at the words which commemorate the Incarnation: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.  This gesture signifies our profound respect and gratitude to Christ who, though God, did not hesitate to come among us as a human being, sharing our human condition in order to save us from sin and restore us to friendship with God.  This gratitude is expressed with even greater solemnity on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord and on Christmas when we genuflect at these words.

The Our Father is followed by the Exchange of Peace, the gesture through which we express a prayerful greeting of peace, that we are at peace, not enmity, with others.  This exchange is symbolic.  The persons near me with whom I share the peace signify for me, as I do for them, the broader community of the Church and all humankind.

Finally, with the new General Instruction for the Roman Mass (GIRM), we are asked to make a sign of reverence, to be determined by the bishops of each country or region, before receiving Communion standing.  The bishops of this country have determined that the sign which we will give before Communion is to be a bow, a gesture through which we express our reverence and give honor to Christ who comes to us as our spiritual food.

In addition to serving as a vehicle for the prayer of beings composed of body and spirit, the postures and gestures in which we engage at Mass have another very important function.  The Church sees in these common postures and gestures both a symbol of the unity of those who have come together to worship AND a means of fostering that unity.  We are not free to change these postures to suit our own individual piety, for the Church makes it clear that our unity of posture and gesture is an expression of our participation in the one Body formed by the baptized with Christ, our head.  When we stand, kneel, sit, bow and sign ourselves in common action, we given unambiguous witness that we are indeed the Body of Christ, united in heart, mind and spirit.

http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/resources-bulletins3.shtml

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

 Luke03v15to17&21to22_2010

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is baptized by John.  What is the difference between John’s and Jesus’ Baptisms?

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(NAB Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, l “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.  21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord”.  In today’s the other Gospel accounts of Je040111_ssus’ baptism, we hear “John the Baptist” address, and correct the confusion of the people who thought that he might be the “Messiah”.  In his response, John contrasts the baptism that he performs with that of the Baptism which Jesus inaugurates – – with water AND the Holy Spirit.  The type of Baptism that John performed during his ministry mission was not yet a full Christian Baptism.  Instead, it was the preliminary foundation for the Christian Baptism of, through, and in Jesus Christ – – through which OUR sins are forgiven AND the gift of the Holy Spirit are received.

The baptism of Jesus is reported in each of the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke (but not in John’s).  Noticeably, the three Synoptic Gospels report the same event is quite rare and revelational. 

Both Mark and Luke report the story from Jesus’ perspective, with “the voice from heaven” addressed to Him.  However, Matthew’s Gospel has instead “the voice from heavenspLOI-Voice-of-Godeaking to everyone.  Also, in Luke, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus during His time of “prayer” – – after His “baptism”.  Through His Gospel today, you will notice Luke shows Jesus to be a person of prayer who withdraws regularly from the crowds AND His disciples as well, in order to pray to His heavenly Father privately.  Jesus goes on to teach His follows “HOW” to pray.

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Today’s reading begins with the people at the scene of the event wondering and questions whether JJohn_the_Baptist%20imageohn the Baptist may actually be the promised “Savior-Messiah”:

“Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15). 

And so, John knew their questions, and he responded to their inquiries by saying:

I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is comingI am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandalsHe will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). 

Luke even reiterates John the Baptist’s response in his other book, “The Acts of the Apostles”:

“John heralded his [Jesus’] coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am?  I am not He.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet’” (Acts 13:24-25).

So, what does John mean by saying about Jesus:Through_Water_and_Fire_MAIN

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Well, John is stating that he only gives a “baptism with water” representing repentance.  Jesus, however, will “baptize with the Holy Spirit AND with fire”.  From the point of view of the early [1st Century] Catholic-Christian Community, the “Holy Spirit and fire” was understood as a representation of the “fire” poured out from the Holy Spirit in the desert, in the Temple, and finally, in the upper room at the time of Pentecost (the Jewish remembrance  of the “fire” and brimstone on Mt. Sinai):

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

There are two core symbolisms in these four verses from the above passage from Acts (Acts 2:1-4); I’ll cburning_bushomment on both.  I’ll start with “fire”.  Fire” in biblical times was associated with God and with His action in the world AND , His personal presence in the lives of His people during their exodus, and during His enduring personal presence in the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) of the Temple.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of “fire”, such as in the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (cf., Exodus 3:2). 

The figure of “fire” was also used to represent His holiness (cf., Deuteronomy 4:24), His protective presence (cf., 2 Kings 6:17), God’s glory (cf., Ezekiel 1:4, 13), His wrath against sin (cf., Isaiah 66:15-16), and His righteous judgment (cf., Zechariah 13:9),.  

So, writers of the New Testament books were inspired by the Holy Spirit to use “fire” to represent the actions of the Holy Spirit – – Himself (cf., Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3).  God’s “fire” both purifies and cleanses; and it inspires a reverent fear of God – – and a reverence for His “Word”.  

The second core symbol is the “strong driving wind”.  The sound of the “strong driving wind” heralded a “new action of God” in His history of, and plan for, the salvation of all the human race.  tonguesThe “tongues as of fire” symbolizes the presence of God initiating again – – renewing – – His covenant on Mount Sinai:

Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had come down upon it in fire.  The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently” (Exodus 19:18).

At Pentecost, the “Holy Spirit” acts upon the Apostles, preparing them to “proclaim” the spirit-of-pentecost-the_t_nvNEW covenant, with its unique gift from the Holy Spirit, “to speak in different tongues”.  This gift of “speaking in tongues” is a grace of ecstatic prayer – – in praise of God.  This gift of the Holy Spirit is appreciated (cf., in Acts 2:6, 11) through a speaking in foreign languages, and thus symbolizing the worldwide mission of the Catholic Church.

However, as part of John the Baptist’s preaching, the “Holy Spirit and fire”, he is relating them to their Jewish Scripture references about their “purifying” and “refining” natures:

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

 “But who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand firm when he appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lye.  He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malichi 3:2–3).

So, as a quick summary of the differences and representations between Jbaptism_of_jesusohn the Baptist’s and Jesus Christ’s Baptism’s is that the “water baptism” of John the Baptist will be followed by either an “immersion” of the repentant in the “cleansing power” of the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) – – OR, an “immersion” of the “unrepentant” in the devastating fiery wrath of God at their final judgment.  

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Today’s event in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the heavenly message identifying Jesus as God the Father’s “Son” – – AND, through a reference by “Isaiah”, as being the “Servant of Yahweh”:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; He shall bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1).

Three other passages have also popularly been called “Servant of the Lord” verses (cf., Matthew 49:1–7; 5pbwu-servant0:4–11; 52:13–53:12).  Ultimately however, the description of the “mission” of the “servant” has been applied ONLY to Jesus Christ:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.  And in his name the Gentiles will hope (Matthew 12:18–21).

I can’t help but think of the Passion narratives when thinking of Jesus as the “sent” “Servant”.  Jesus proclaimed the “Word”; He never was contentious or cried out; He was struck many times with reeds; and He brought justice into our world.  WOW!!  With all this (plus many other connecting verses from Holy Scripture), who can deny the divine “Servant-hood” of the man, Jesus Christ!!

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Through the life-giving “baptism with water and the Holy Spirit”, Jesus has been, and is still creating a NEW people of God, both Jew AND Gentile alike.  In doing so, Jesus identifies Himself with the pebranch2ople of Israel by submitting to John’s “baptism of repentanceAND in His bearing, on their behalf, and OURS, the burden of God’s decisive judgment:

“He [John the Baptist] went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sinsAfter all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:3, 21).  

In His humble submission to John’s “baptism”, we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” found in His ge0274ruesomely bloody death upon the Holy Cross of Redemptive Salvation.  Jesus’ “baptism” signifies His acceptance to, and the beginning of, His earthly mission as God’s “suffering Servant”.  Jesus allowed Himself to be numbered among sinners, and to die as one, without being one!!  Jesus submitted Himself entirely to His Father’s will of redeeming His human creatures, Jews and Gentiles alike.  Out of love, Jesus consented to this “baptism” of death – reflections on Christ - crucifixion– “baptism” by “fire” – – for the remission of OUR sins. So, please realize, understand, and know the JOY of trust and submission Jesus had to His heavenly Father, God, even to that of a known death in His name, a Martyrdom of Salvation.   

At the Jordan River, in the desert of Sinai, in the wilderness of Judea, “Israel’s” Sonship with God is to be renewed through JesuthCAW7PLKLs’ “baptism”.  And, the “descent of the “Holy Spirit” on Jesus Christ anoints Him for His public ministry:

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD … Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations … The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners … in their every affliction.  It was not an envoy or a messenger, but his presence that saved them.  Because of his love and pity the LORD redeemed them, Lifting them up and carrying them all the days of old (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; 63:9).

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Luke regularly presents Jesus “at prayer” during important points in His public ministry:

  • ·        Here, in today’s reading, at His baptism; jesus-at-prayer
  • ·        Jesus’ choosing of the Twelve (cf., Luke 6:12);
  • ·        Before asking His disciples “Who do the people say that I am?”, and “Who do you say that I am?”(cf., Luke 9:18);
  • ·        On the Mountain of the Transfiguration (cf., Luke 9:28);
  • ·        When teaching His disciples to pray (cf., Luke 11:1);
  • ·        During the Last Supper (cf., Luke 22:32);
  • ·        In the garden on the Mount of Olives (cf., Luke 22:41); and finally,
  • ·        On the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation (cf., Luke 23:46).

A uniqueness found in Luke’s Gospel, and not in any other Gospel, is Jesus praying immediately following His Baptism:

“After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21). 

Jesus’ actions and prayers are answered in a unique, intimate, very personal – – AND often times PUBLIC – – ways:

Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a doveAnd a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22)

The Father proclaimed His entire delight in His “Son”, speaking audibly for all present to hear.  The HLOI-Voice-of-Godoly Spirit was also present as He “anointed” Jesus for His public ministry beginning on that day – – as He rose from the waters of the Jordan River.   

Jesus’ Greek brethren publically were aware of a previous declaration of God, through David, concerning not only David himself, but also of the future “King of the Jews”, revealed as God’s “Servant Son”, today “begotten” by God the Father:

“I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:7).

God the Father acknowledges Jesus as His divinely unique Son, the object of His love.  His expressing of His delight in, approval of, Jesus Christ is the assurance that He, Jesus, will fulfill His messianic mission of redemption and salvation – – for ALL people – – Jew and Gentile alike!!

Luke goes on to write:Desceding Dove b_w

The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). 

The “dove” is a symbol of the NEW creation in the flood, talked about in Genesis, and well-known in Jesus’ community of “Israel”:

“He [Noah] released a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth” (Genesis 8:8);

“Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like birds, like doves, from the land of Assyria; And I will resettle them in their homes, oracle of the LORD” (Hosea 11:11).

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T. summarize titlehe “baptism” of Jesus is considered a “manifestation” of God in Jesus HIMSELF – – another “epiphany.”  Today, on this last day of the Christmas Season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ true relationship to God the Father.  The “son” (little “s”) of Mary and Joseph is also God’s OWN “Son” (big “S”)!!  

Jesus came to give us the “fire” of His Spirit so that we may radiate the JOY and truth of His Gospel to a world desperately needing God’s lightpenti and truth.  His “Word” has power to change and transform our lives, making us “flaming lights” pointing others to Jesus Christ.  We are called to follow Jesus in His public ministry of teaching, healing, and loving.  We are also called to oppose unjust and violent powers in the world today.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ in all of our endeavors.  Let Jesus Christ’s power, grace, and love burn brightly in your life!  Ask Him to “fill” – – “fulfill” – – you with His Holy Spirit.  As we follow Jesus into the Catholic Church’s Season of “Ordinary Time”, identify what needs to be “filled” – – “fulfilled” – – in your life, and in others.  Amen; Amen!!  (“Selahi”, which means “Take breath, relax, rejoice, and saver what you just read – – the truth.)

In today’s Gospel, notice that all three “persons” of the Holy Trinity are manifested:  God the Father in the voice, th1983254601_3cd17489a9_oe Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and Jesus the Son in the one being “Baptized” and “Anointed” for His unique public ministry.  

Luke is communicating to us the crucial information about the true identity of Jesus Christ.  In verses following today’s reading, Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to thbrazzers-adam-evee first person of creation, Adam, who is also identified as the “son of God” (cf., Luke 3:23-38).  We – – the children of Adam and Eve – – are again made children of God – – made NEW – – through Jesus’ Baptism.

Examine Jesus’ humility in today’s Gospel reading.  Ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude of humility in your own heart.  As you do so, “heaven will open” for you as well.  The Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to renew and refashion each of us th2012-LT-Theme-Wallpaper-1600x900rough His Holy Spirit, AND also to anoint us for OUR special and unique mission – – as His ambassadors.  The Lord wants His love and truth to shine through us so that others may see the goodness and truth of God’s message of Redemptive Salvation.  Ask Jesus Christ to “fill” you with His Holy Spirit, allowing YOU to radiate the JOY of His Gospel to ALL those around you.

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Every. conclusion person has a unique identity which is defined by their behaviors, attitudes, and expectations governing their daily lives and existence.  Each aspect of our identity is influenced by our personal history; eaidentity_52205ch expression is unique within him/her self.  In today’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus’ behavior, attitudes, and expectations were governed by His identity as God’s beloved Son.  In our personal “Baptism”, we were made from above, were made true, and are made children of this very same heavenly Father.  So, your individual identity – – as a living member of the “family of God”, and as a “brother or sister” of Jesus – – also shapes your own daily life and existence.  Think about this!  Selahi!!

Identify some of the expectations and behaviors that govern your life by answering the following question: “What are some of the things that make your life unique?”  Once you know the answer, once it is revealed to you, celebrate these things about your life.  How does this identity as a member of the family of God govern and shape your life?  Conclude today’s reflection with a prayer that we ALL will remain faithful to our baptismal identity as children of God and as brothers or sisters of Jesus Christ.  Amen!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Our Father

 

Our Father,
Who art in Heaven, pray-lord-teach-us-to-pray-e1347301783151
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.

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“If They Sought Advice from Herod, Were the ‘Magi” Truly Wise? I believe the Answer Is ‘Uncertainly Maybe Possible!’” – Matthew 2:1-12†


  epiphany_4420c

“Epiphany of the Lord”

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

Because of the supportive and positive feedback I received concerning my success of explaining the Advent and Christmas symbols used in the Catholic Church, I decided to address occasionally other symbols used throughout the Church year.  Today I will discuss the Liturgical colors of vestments.

ChurchYearCircle3

The Church’s liturgical norms do prescribe specific vestment colors for various celebrations.  The purpose of utilizing different colors for vestments is twofold: first, the colors highlight the particular liturgical season and the faithfull’s journey through these seasons.  Second, the colors punctuate the liturgical season by highlighting a particular event or particular mystery of faith.  The following explanation is based on the norms of “The General Instruction on the Roman Missal”.

White or gold, a color symbolizing rejoicing and purity of soul, is worn during the liturgical seasons of Christmas and Easter.  White vestments are also used for certain other feasts throughout the year.  White may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial and Masses for the Dead to signify the Resurrection of our Lord, when He triumphed over sin and death, sorrow and darkness.

Red has a dual imagery: symbolizing the shedding of blood and is therefore used on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, any other commemoration of the Lord’s passion, the votive Mass of the Precious Blood, the days marking the martyrdom of the apostles (except St. John), and the feasts of other martyrs who offered their lives for the faith.

On the other hand, red also signifies the burning fire of God’s love.  Red vestments are won on Pentecost; for the Sacrament of Confirmation; and for the votive Masses of the Holy Spirit.

Green is used during the liturgical season called Ordinary Time.  We focus on the life Jesus shared with mankind during His time on this earth, the life we share now with Him in the community of the Church and through His sacraments, looking forward to sharing an everlasting life with Him perfectly in Heaven.  Green symbolizes this hope and life, just as the hint of green on trees in early spring arouses the hope of new life.

Violet or purple is used during Advent and Lent as a sign of penance, sacrifice and preparation.  At the midpoint of both of these seasons—Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent—rose vestments are traditionally worn as a sign of joy: we rejoice at the midpoint because we are half-way through the preparation and anticipate the coming joy of Christmas or Easter.  Purple vestments may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial or Masses for the Dead.

Although not seen very frequently in the United States today, black vestments may be worn for Masses of Christian Burial as a sign of death and mourning.  Black may also be used on the Feast of All Souls or for any Mass of the Dead, such as on the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

In all, the colors of the vestments awaken us to the sense of sacred time. They are another visible way to make present the sacred mysteries we celebrate.

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/LITCOLOR.HTM

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Kings may be judges of the earth, but wise men are the judges of kings.” ~  Solomon Ibn Gabirol

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Today’s reflection: The “Magi” seek out Jesus and do him homage.  When have YOU last sought out Jesus, giving Him homage as these “Wise Men”?

epiphany_4420c

(NAB Matthew 2:1-12)  1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the Catholic Church’s Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Mejesus-and-maryssiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to ‘let His face shine upon’ us through the face of the Mother of God.  We ‘serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.’” (G.K. Chesterton)

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  Historically several moments in Jesus Christ’s early life and earthly ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” as “manifestations” of the divine of this newborn, beginning with His birth in Bethlehem, in the visit of the Magi, in His baptism by His cousin, John – the Baptist, and in His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.

There are some fascinating implications about Jesus in the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s “infancy narrative”: Christmas2012

(1)In Luke’s Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit, includes the Census required for Jesus to be “registered” in their father’s hometown (will say more about this later).

(2) Matthew’s Gospel today focuses on the strange event of “learned” non-Jews, the “Magi”, seeking to visit the prophesied “new king” to be born of Jews, “Israel”.

In retrospect, this text and its story anticipates the future of this “king” on one hand, AND, His acceptance by the non-Jewish “Gentiles” on the other.  We have here a veiled image of the future Church composed of non-Jewish believers, and Jewish believers – – a new “Israel” of faith and worship.

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So, let’s take a deep breath and relax – – and consider this: If Jesus is truly “who” He claims to be – – “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, the prophesied “Anointed One” (Messiah), and the ‘Savior’ of the world’” – – then why was He not recognized by everyone who heard His “Word” and saw His works?  Well, John the Evangelist states in his Gospel that when Jesus came into the world:

The world knew Him not and His own people received Him not” (John 1:10-11).

Hmm, my faith has grown to realize that there is NO neutral stance when it comes to Jesus Christ, during His lifetime, and still today.  Once people hear and see who Jesus claims to be, and what the implications of His coming are for them, they either accept or reject Him outright.  

Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only a few lowly Jewish shepherds were graced to recognize this Jewish infant boy (Jesus) –wisemen3 – as “King” – – at His birth in a lowly place and fashion; however, some “Magi” also found their way, over a short period of time, to Bethlehem, in order to pay “homage” to the newborn “King of Israel”.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in the many “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the true “great” Messianic King when He appeared as prophesied and promised. 

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly order.  However, over a period of time, the word became used more so for anyone regarded as having a “more than human knowledge”. mcconnellwisemen For this reason, the term frequently used for them is: “Wise Men”.  We also get our word “magic” from this specific word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (probably around the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were most likely astronomers and/or astrologers, as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others quite apparently and easily overlooked when viewing the VERY SAME stars and constellations.

We know little about the “Magi”.  We know they came “from the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, via “Jerusalem”, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the “star”) which, in itself, was of some type ofth “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them across the vast desert, by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening”, to the little town of Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  (Can you hear the song “Oh, little town of Bethlehem” in your head.)  The “Magi’s” journey had to be a difficult one indeed. Roads were poor, no road signs in the desert, Inns (CamolTels) were not the best – – even for the camels.  And let’s not forget the thieves and the lack of police intervention.  All they had was a “star”- – but the best “star” in the heavens.

In their diligent search, these “three” Kings were led to the source of true knowledge – – to Jesus Christ Himself, the “Light and Wisdom” of God the Father.  When they found the newborn child Jesus, they humbly worshiped Him, and gave Him “gifts” fitting for a “true King”, even for a “divine king”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this specific – – and uniquely special – – “Messianic King”?  I would like to think it was a confident and assured faith in the promise God gave to the Jews, to them and their people – – and to us.  The prophetic promise was to send a Redeemer – – a “King” – – who would establish God’s reign of peace and righteousness for all peoples: 556238_10151178055187903_1249455228_n

Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for David; as king He shall reign and govern wisely, He shall do what is just and right in the land.  In His days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.  This is the name to be given Him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

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My question to you: “Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of ‘strange lands’ to represent the Gentiles’ search for a M11 ADVENTtable_html_m309f20f1essianic Savior?”  I believe so.  In essence, the “Magi” could easily and correctly represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  As such, they are truly representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives and journeys today.

Also, there are a couple of Old Testament verses inferring that the “Magi” were truly “kings” themselves:

May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts.  Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day” (Psalm 72:10, 15).

And,

“Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD” (Isaiah 60:6).

Tarshish and the islands”, in the above verse from Psalm 72, refer to the far western part of the “known world”, and Arabia and Seba [Sheba] in the fProject1ar southern portion.  These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”. 

What did Matthew mean by saying “saw HIS star”?  Well, it was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any significant  ruler’s birth: be it a secular king or religious ruler.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of an Old Testament story in which “Balaam” prophesied:

I see him, though not now; I observe him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, That will crush the brows of Moab, and the skull of all the Sethites” (Numbers 24:17).

The “star” in this case means the physical Messiah King, Jesus Christ Himself; not the astronomical phenomenon in the Middle East the “Mafollow-the-star_t_nvgi” are following all the way to Bethlehem.  In a “Christian” messianic interpretation, the “star”, as also the “scepter” from Israel, would refer to Jesus Christ as “King”:

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

In reality, how many “Magi” do you suppose came to give “homage” to the child Jesus?  Where, in Holy Scripture, does it say that “three” Wise Men travelled to Bethlehem?  The answer is NOWHERE!  We actually base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the three “gifts”- – “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” – – but the actual number of “Magi” that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us. 

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the prophesied “Word” being “written” in the heavenly stars.  (They did not connect the twinkling dots in the sky.)  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. until 4 A.D. when he died.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius (a favorite of mine) as:

 “A madman, who murdered his own family, and a great many rabbis.” 

However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects throughout Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the “Second Temple” in Jerusalem (also referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what!” moment upon listening to the “Magi” about what the “heavenly skies” prophesied.  He was confused and also concerned about his lack of knowledge AND for getting NO preemptive warninthCAB77DFPg about this “NEW” king in “his” territory from his own priests, astronomers, and astrologers.  Herod was also worried about his personal future welfare, prestige, and physical life, with a “Messiah” king in “his” territory.  So, Herod immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to an immediate presence before him. (Hmm, first century pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the Temple leaders (the chief priests and Scribes), astrologers, and astronomers of his realm had a very strong similarity to the following “Jewish non-biblical legend” (per a NAB-RE* footnote).  This footnoted story is about a child, later learned to be Moses, in which the “sacred scribes” warn the Pharaoh about an imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt.  In this story, the Pharaoh King makes plans to destroy him.  (WOW!!!!  Moses and Jesus have nearly identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is often called the “New Moses.”) *(NAB-RE is “New American Bible – Roman [Catholic] Edition”)

Herod’s “chief priests and scribes” also reminded Herod of the prophecy found in the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) Book of Micah:

You, Bethlehem-Ephrathaha least among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:1).

The Book of Micah shared with Isaiah the expectation that God the Father will deliver “Israel” through a “king in the line of David”.  “Bethleimage002hem-Ephrathah” is the birthplace of David, and therefore, of his whole “Davidic line”.  Today, it is known to us as simply, “Bethlehem”. 

Herod, and his “chief priests and scribes”, in a somewhat defensive maneuver to what is written in the prophecies found in Jewish Scriptures, asked these “Magi”, these first Gentile believers to be an [unlikely] envoy for King Herod.  So, after meeting with Herod, the “three kings” – – the three “Magi” – – travel to Bethlehem, and away from King Herod’s presence (as his “envoy”):

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:8).

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Continuing to follow the “star”, the “Wise Envoy’s” eventually find the Holy Family still in Bethlehem:  holiness-title-slide

 “On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his motherThey prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

Upon finding Christ, the “Magi prostrate themselves”, an action given ONLY to God.  Thus, Jesus is confirmed to be the true Son of God through their action.  These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home and homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for discovering, and further knowing, this “heavenly” announced “God-King”.  They followed THE “star” in pursuit of a personal quest for finding the desire of their hearts, and their pursuit for a personal relationship with this “new divine king” whose name they learn was – – Jesus Christ.   – – (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it on a Hollywood street corner or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their pilgrimage these “Magi” can serve well as a model for “contemplative listening” today.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, what I mean is that their “actions” flowed directly from their personal – – their focused – – learning and true discernment through divine guidance.  They had set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in a unique “star” announcing:

the newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

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Can you see the three gifts of the “Magi”, given to the Holy Family, as a foreshadowing (prophecy) of Jesus’ role in salvation hichristmasbitters5story?  I believe the meanings of their gifts are “Christological” in nature (representing the spirit, the person, and the actions of Jesus Christ).  “Gold” represents Jesus’ kingship.  “Frankincense” is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And “Myrrh” was used to prepare the dead for burial, and thus, was offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.  Jesus Christ “was”, “is”, and forever “will be”!!

So, “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” are understood to be symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death (for OUR salvation).  In giving these special gifts, the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, to Jesus gold_2Christ Himself (and to us through His nature), the “Magi” – – those unknown “Gentile” men from foreign lands and cultures – – were the first to acknowledge the “who” Jesus was – – FROM BIRTH – – as the Savior KING – – as OUR Savior King!

The journey we take to God is a long one, lasting our entire lives; only ending with our earthly deaths.  Mary, Joseph, and ALL the saints experienced the same long and difficult journey we need to experience. 

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know the Trinitarian Godhead personally.  In today’s story of the “Magi’s” finding and encountering the child Jesus, we see God the Father’s personal plan for salvation to, and for, ALL nations, ALL peoples.  God’s divine plan included giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for ALL mankind (even those from far-away lands).  God gave us His true and full – – both human and divine – – personhood (in the singular), – – not solely for just the Jewish faithful, – – but for ALL people everywhere!! 

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, these three men made a “gift” of their individual, unique, and personal “liveGifts-with-a-Meaning-behind-Them_001-608x456s” with each step taken in the search for the prophesied “Messiah-Savior-King”.  Matthew, by his account of today’s event, eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” searching quest:

They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Matthew2:10).

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires in meeting this “singular” “King of Kings”.

After giving Him “homage” and bestowing “gifts” to the newborn child “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod.  So, they returned to their country by another route:

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way (Matthew 2:12).

Nothing is written or otherwise known about what happened to the “MagiAFTER they left the child-Jesus.  They found Jesus – – so their journey seems to have ended for them.  BUT, their journey actually did NOT end, and neither has ours; it was just a “turning point” for them as it is for us.  Our journeys never end when we finally “find” Christ in our lives; it just puts us on the “proper path” to Him and to everlasting life with Him in paradise..wise01

By their faith, they followed the “star.”  By their faith, they found the true Messiah King of ALL peoples.  And, by their faith, they returned to their “far off” country via a different route.

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F. summarize titleaith is an entirely free gift which God the Father offers to us, and imparts to each of us personally.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – moving in our individual hearts, and opening our individual souls and being – – that we are able to understand, accept, and believe the real divine “truth” which the Trinitarian Godhead reveals to us in personal and unique ways.  With trust, love, and faith, OUR human “will” and “intellect” cooperates with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace” (Thomas Aquinas).

No matter where I am in my personal search of discovery in God’s faith, Christ is present with me – – and within me – – ALWAYS.  I always have the same “star” the “Magi” followed, lighting my way, never leaving me in the dark, distancing me from MY Messiah-Savior-King!!

The visit of the “Magi”, which we celebrate as an “Epiphany”, or manifestation of God’s glory, reveals that the child Jesus whom the “Magi” hailed as the “newborn King of the Jews” (cf., Matthew 2:2), AND who will be crucified under the same title, “King of the Jews” – – is also King of ALL peoples

I sell myself short in my faith-life often.  I don’t always appreciate the power of my faith within me!  I don’t realize my capabilities in knowing God.  Sometimes, I believe my faith is weak, that myencountersThumbnail level of sanctity is low – – in my eyes – – not in His.  To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Trinitarian Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  Jesus Christ came so that both Jew and Gentile might find a true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND with each other. 

We usually do – – and definitely should – – think about God’s goodness to human beings.  Today’s story of the “Magi” has turned such thinking the in the opposite direction, around the goodness of human beings TO God instead.  Three human beings, the Wise Men, the Magi, brought and gave “gifts” to the “Son of God”.  Even though we try to imitate this action in our individual lives, the Son of God is a hard one to shop for.  How does one give gifts to the Son of God, who certainly has everything He needs or wants?  Well, Jesus Christ helped us with this specific inquiry.  He more or less revealed His answer, making it easier for us when He said:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

How can we become a people and nation which defers to God?  We can begin with ourselves. The mysteries of this season invite us to imitate the “Magi”:

They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts” (Luke 2:11).

Let us prostrate ourselves before Christ the true and promised Messiah-Savior-King, worshiping and adoring Him.  Let us offer ALL we have, and listen to His “Word”.  Then we shall be ready to serve Him and His Kingdom in heaven and on earth, here and now!! 

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To. conclusion some people, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed to have been established in remembrance of the gift giving of the “Magi” in today’s Gospel reading.  For this reason, in many cultures even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on “Christmas Day”.  This makes me think: giftofpresence-ckwe should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES” – – our true “Present Self”!!  Our “three” “special” gift offerings should be “praise”, “adoration”, and “thanksgiving” for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do – – in our lives!  Our individual spiritual gifts are much more valuable to Him, and to each other, than the monetary value of ALL the “gold, frankincense, and myrrhin the entire world!!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  How can we offer our very “selves”, our “lives”, more fully to God the Father’s personal and collective love and personal plan He has for each of us?  Hmm, let me know what your thoughts are on HOW YOU can do this task.

Let me please finally pass on a couple of reflection questions to each of you.  “Do you truly bring Jesus Christ to others in your psales-questionsersonal path of life?  Do you actively ‘LOOK’ for Jesus Christ in others you encounter along your path of life; especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?”  God loves it so much when we speak “Words” of love, and perform “acts” of blessing, hope, and encouragement as the norm – – instead of the exception.  He rejoices when our “Words” and “actions” help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes and trees of immense size.  (So, become the “spice” of life; enhance the flavor of God’s working in, with, and through you for and to OTHERS!!)

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift-giving”.  (Yes, I know it just passed a few days aGiftGiving_12-04go for most of us.  But, please, reflect on gift-giving again.)  What was the best gift you have ever received (?), and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special (?), was it the thought that went into it (?), or was it the person who gave it to you which made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress out on the correct answer.)  Do you bring the twinkling “light of Jesus Christ” to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?  Has this specific reflection today been a gift to you?  It has been a gift writing my thoughts on this Gospel reading. gift-keep-giving-13

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impartto others throughout your personal and public route in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of our personal journeys through life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” Wise One’s – – “Camel Jockey’s” – – in OUR search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  So, head towards to the light – – of the “new shining ‘star’”!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

Father,Epiphany 6
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven
by the light of faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen

From:
The Liturgy of the Hours

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“Are You The Wheat, Or Are You the Chaff? Got Me, I Grew Up In The City!” – Luke 3:10-18†


hear 

3rd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

The history of the Christmas tree has many stories of origin, and has had quite of few adaptations to its usage throughout history.  In my research of the Catholic aspect to Christmas tree history and origin, I left no [xmas] “leaf” unturned.  I hope you enjoy.

 

The Christmas Tree

 

Despite many historians’ attempts to link the Christmas tree to an ancient pagan practice, it is actually “Christian” in origin.  Whoa, how is that fact for a baited hook to get you to read on?!

Although it is highly unlikely that the Christmas tree – – as we know it today – – was first used in the 8th Century, some people believe the idea for the tree was invented by St. Boniface at that time.   Legend holds that St. Boniface 14was the first to co-opt the “tree” tradition for Christianity in the 8th century.  He was attempting to convert the Druids who worshipped oak trees as the symbol of their idol.  He instead offered the balsam fir tree, using its triangular shape to describe the Trinity and the fact that the evergreen branches pointed to heaven, as a symbol of God.  These new “converts” then began worshiping the Balsam fir tree as a Christian symbol. 

There are also claims that the first proper Christmas tree was erected in Riga, Latvia (one of the Baltic States) in 1510.  Today, there is a plaque in the Town Hall Square, in Riga, that is engraved with the text “The First New Year’s Tree in Riga in 1510“.  It is believed that this tree was possibly decorated with paper flowers, and then burned during the New Year’s celebration. 

Another legend has Martin Luther as being credited with bringing the popularity of the Christmas tree to Germany.  2011-11-13_10-48-16_573_288x287Out on a winter evening one night, while composing a sermon, he was awed by the beauty of the stars.  When he returned home, he attempted to recreate the beauty for his family by putting candles on an evergreen tree in his home.

We do know with certainty that the Christmas tree goes back to medieval German mystery plays.  One of the most popular “mysteries” was the “Paradise play”, representing the creation of man, the sin of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from Paradise.  It usually closed with Christmas-Fir-Branches-2457977the consoling promise of the coming of the Savior, and referencing to His Incarnation.  These plays were performed in the open, on the large town squares in front of churches, or, sometimes even inside the house of God.  The Garden of Eden was indicated by a fir tree with apples hung on the branches.  It represented both the “Tree of Life” and the “Tree of KNowledge of Good and Evil”, which stood in the center of Paradise:

“Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

When the pageant was performed in church, the “Paradeisbaum” (German for “Tree of Paradise”) was surrounded by lighted candles.  Inside a ring of lights surrounding the tree, the play was performed. 

In the 15th century, after the suppression of the “mystery plays” in the German churches, the symbolic object of the play, the tree itself, found its way into the homes of the faithful, and the Christmas tree then became a symbol of christmas_tree_albert2-747156the “Tree of the Savior”.  During this same time, the custom of a “tree” in the home developed into decorating the “Paradise Tree”, already bearing apples, with small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist.  These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of pastry cut in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells.  Finally, other cookies were introduced to this tradition, bearing the shapes of men, birds, roosters and other animals.

The first known documented use of the fir tree as a Christmas tree is found in a description written by a German traveler visiting the city of Strasbourg (in the Alsace region of France, but formerly part of Germany) in 1605.  In this description, he tells of trees being planted in rooms, and that they were ornamented with “roses of colored paper, apples, tinsel, sugar cubes, and cookies”.

Until the 17th century the “Christbaum” (as the tree is called in German, meaning “Christ tree”) had no lights.  The Christmas candles, generally used in medieval times, were placed on a Christmas “pyramid”, made of graduated wooden shelves.  As time went on, the tree replaced the pyramid in its function of representing Christ as the “Light of the World”.  The candles and glittering decorations were eventually transferred from the pyramid to the tree.  

In the 1700’s the Christmas tree custom had spread throughout northern Germany.  People began decorating the tree with candles that were lit on Christmas Eve, a practice still done today in many homes across Europe.  As the 108n-grChristmas tree custom spread through Germany, the Roman Catholic Church eventually recognized the tradition in the early 1800’s.  It was introduced to Vienna in 1816, quickly spreading across Austria, and in 1840 to France by the duchesse d’Orleans.

German immigrants were most likely to have set up the first few Christmas trees in America, as early as 1710.   During the Revolutionary War, Hessian (German) soldiers were responsible for rapidly disseminating the practice throughout the entire US Eastern seaboard.  However, the Christmas tree did not become the principal symbol of Christmas in America, and was not used generally throughout American homes until late in the 19th century. 

treeIn 1846, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who was actually German) were pictured in the London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree.  As a result of this picture, the popularity of Christmas trees soared both in England and America.  By 1920, the custom of having a Christmas tree was almost universal.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, pioneer families who settled in areas where evergreen trees were scarce made Christmas trees out of bare branches, painting them green, or wrapping the branches with green paper or cloth.  Sometimes a “tree” would be made by drilling holes in a broomstick and inserting branches of cedar or juniper into it.  Often the only Christmas tree in the community would be in the Church or school.  In the absence of a Christmas tree, presents were often hung by ribbons from a decorated clothesline strung across the corner of a room.

While many Christmas trees are set up in the home around the first of December (or earlier!), and are in the dumpster by January 2, many Catholic families often delay decorating the tree until Christmas Eve, still today.  It is thCAGLANJNappropriate, and a popular custom, to delay lighting the tree and to put gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve when we celebrate the coming into the world of the infant Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

On Christmas Eve, parents might adorn the tree after small children are asleep, so that the first sight of Christmas morning is the gloriously adorned tree.  Families with older children could even make the decorating of the tree a family affair.  Many families bless their Christmas trees.  A Blessing for the Christmas tree could be said on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Through the use of the Christmas tree, we are reminded that our first parents (Adam & Eve) were not allowed to eat from one tree, and that Christ paid the great price for our redemption – – by hanging on a tree.  Being reminded that Christ is the “Light of the World” and that His light is everlasting, bringing joy and light into our dark world – – a christmas_angel_tree1-150x150blessing truly appropriate for this great Christian symbol of faith.  Here is a simple blessing for your Christmas tree:

“Holy Lord, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of your Son, who rescued us from the darkness of sin by making the cross a tree of life and light.  May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, which we may always rejoice in the new life which shines in our hearts.  Lord God, may the presence of this tree remind us of your gift of everlasting life.  May its light keep us mindful of the light You brought into the world.  May the joy and peace of Christmas fill all our hearts.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Information obtained from the following sites:
http://www.wf-f.org/04-4-Traditions.html
http://www.christmastreehistory.net/christian
http://catholicexchange.com/the-history-of-the-christmas-tree/

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Let us submit ourselves to His guidance and sovereign direction; let us come to Him that He may forgive us, cleanse us, change us, guide us, and save us.  This is the true life of saints.” ~ Blessed John Henry Newman, “Life’s Purpose”, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist teaches the path of repentance and announces Christ.  Did you hear what I heard?

hear 

(NAB Luke 3:10-18) 10 And the crowds asked him [John the Baptist], “What then should we do?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.”  12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  13 He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”  14 Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?”  He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  18 Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

This Sunday’s Gospel continues last week’s focus on John the Baptist and his role in preparing “the way” for Christ.  Recall last week’s reading describing John’s appearance in the desert and establishing his connection with the prophetic tradition of Israel.  If we were to read Luke’s Gospel continuously, we would learn about John the Baptist challenging the crowds who came to him, and John’s calling upon them to show evidence of their repentance.  

With this in mind, I am starting with a few verses prior to this week’s reading (and also situated between last Sunday’s Gospel and 1211-gospel-lthis Sunday’s, Luke 3:7-9).  In this way, I would like to describe to you the three types of preaching by John the Baptist: (1) eschatological, (2) ethical, and (3) messianic.  An eschatological preaching (1) concerns the human soul (the person) in its relation to His death, judgment, and destinies – – either heaven or hell.  John the Baptist urges the crowds present around him – – getting their feet wet in the faith (and maybe their entire bodies as well) – – to reform their lives in view of the coming “wrath” expected with the appearance and coming of the Lord:

“He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7,9).

John tells his listeners that they cannot rely on their lineage as Israelites.  Why (?): because true, authentic “children of Abraham can be raised up from stones” (Luke 3:8).  Rather, repentance must be observable in one’s actions.  So, the crowds, probably now questionfrightened by his words, ask John the Baptist:

What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10)

Hmm, I wonder how often I ask this same question: What am I to do Lord?  I know the answer, and sadly, I don’t like my answer.  Forgive me Lord, please!!  I will try to do better in the future with your help.  Amen.

John answers the crowds by drawing attention to, and preaching on, concrete ethical standards (2) (principles of correct moral conduct) for reforming their social behavior:

He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food shoul03advientoC3d do likewise.’  Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’  He answered them, ‘Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.’  Soldiers also asked him, ‘And what is it that we should do?’  He told them, ‘Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages’” (Luke 3:11–14).

Interestingly, Luke mentions in particular two groups of people who came to John the Baptist for spiritual advice: tax collectors and Roman (some even Jewish) soldiers.  Both groups were regarded as “dangerous” by the Jewish authorities – – and society as whole.  They were treated as outcasts among both the Jews and the Romans.

John, in his instructions, is saying we must do six seemingly simple, but rather complex, things in order to have a true conversion of heart, body, and soul:

  • ·        SHARE what we have with others: wealth and food;
  • ·        STOP  doing wrong: don’t cheat, extort, or make false accusations;
  • ·        BE SATISFIED with what you have; 
  • ·        BE CHARITABLE;
  • ·        BE JUST; and,
  • ·        BE HONEST.

John does NOT tell them to adopt his desert way of life. He does NOT tell them to make sacrificial offerings or wear sackcloth and ashes.  John the Baptist doesn’t try to purposely upset the existing social order.  However, John DOES call for a real concern for a person’s “neighbor”.LetsBeHonest

The concern for justice is a hallmark of Luke’s Gospel and for John the Baptist.  John tells the soldiers to make no false arrests, to be content with their pay, not to take bribes, and not to bully anyone.  When talking to the tax collector, he knew that they were outcasts among the Jewish people, though Jewish themselves.  John knew they were detested as “traitors” by the Jewish people and as nothing more than “robbers” approved by the Roman Government.  As for as the Roman government was concerned, if the tax collectors wanted to collect a little bit more than the government required, that was fine with them.  They could keep the extra money for themselves; all the Roman government was concerned about was getting their tax money!!  

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John obviously knew how to get his message across to these groups of people.  Through his divinely-inspired words – – and witness – – to God the Father and to others around him:

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15).

The people recognized John as an extraordinary man of God and a prophet for their times.  John broke the prophetic silence of the pJohn_the_Baptist%20imagerevious centuries when he began to speak the “Word” of God.  His message was similar to the message from the earlier Jewish prophets who scolded the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who cried out BOLDLY to awaken true repentance within them.  

John proclaims his water baptism of his followers to be clearly in immediate preparation for the coming of the actual, true Messiah.  John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s plan of salvation.  He announces to the crowds his messianic preaching (3) (relating to the Messiah instituting of the promised golden age of peace, truth, and happiness), the coming of the “ONE” mightier than he:e0274

John answered them all, saying, ‘I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fireHis winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’  Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:16–18).

When John the Baptist talks about someone coming who is “mightier and more powerful than he”, John is ultimately speaking NOT of the “earthly” Jesus (though he may not have realized this fact), but the Risen Christ, third_advent_cgrwho baptizes us with the Holy Spirit in a very personal and intimate way.  When John says “He [the Messiah] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16), he is contrasting his prophetic baptism – – just with water – – to Jesus’ additional messianic baptizing with both the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit’s “refining fire”.   When this Gospel was written decades after the Pentecost event, the early Christian community’s point of view understood,  “the Holy Spirit and fire” to be seen in light of the “fire symbolism” found in the “pouring out of the Holy Spirit” at Pentecost:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

Jesus’ “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire” fulfilled John’s “water baptism” mission on earth.  Jesus’ baptism will also be accomplished by an “immersion”, an immersion of the repentant in water, and in the cleansing power of the Spirit of God.  There will also be an immersion the unrepentant in the destroying power of God’s wrath and judgment of them!! 

John’s preaching of the “Holy Spirit and fire” is revealed in, and related to, the purifying and refining characteristics found in Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament):  First, from Ezekiel – –

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of fleshI will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

Now, from Malachi – – refiners-fire-c

“Who can endure the day of His coming?  Who can stand firm when He appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lyeHe will sit refining and purifying silver, and He will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2–3).

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John the Baptist goes on to describe the actions of the coming Messiah Savior in terms this “well entrenched urban city” boy just cannot understand:

“His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).

Iwinnowing_fork_2 am pretty certain I know what wheat is, but a “winnowing fan” (?), “threshing floor” (?), and “chaff” (?) – – what the heck are these??!!  I definitely had to  research these items, and the why and how they are related to the actions of the coming Messiah Savior.

A “winnowing fan” was a forklike shovel with which the “threshed” (separated) wheat was thrown into the air.  The wheat kernels fell to the ground – – to the “threshing floor” to be picked up later – – while the light “chaff” (the dry covering bracts [modified leafs] of grains being separated by the process of threshing) were “blown off” by the wind, gathered later, and then burned in a nearby fire.

Fire” in Old Testament times was associated with God and with His purifying action in the world, His cleansing actions in the lives of His people.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of fire, such as in the example in the story of the “burning bush” burning_bushwhich was not consumed when God spoke to Moses:

“The angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush.  When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed (Exodus 3:2). 

John, in describing the procedure by which a farmer separates wheat and chaff, is using the image as a comparison for what will happen to the “good” and the “bad” in this world by God when He returns with His judgmental and saving actions in the person of the RISEN CHRIST!

In the New Testament, the image of fire is also used with regard to the Holy Spirit, who comes to cleanse us from sin and to make utongues-of-fires holy:

 “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them” (Acts 2:3).

God’s fire purifies and refines.  This refining purification, through baptism, confirmation, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also increases our desire for holiness and for the joy of meeting the Lord when He comes again.  Our baptism in Jesus Christ by water and the Holy Spirit results in a “new birth” and entry into God’s kingdom as His beloved sons and daughters:

Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). 

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John the Baptist ends his preaching in today’s Gospel with a message of hope:

Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:18)

For me, God’s “Word” ALWAYS offers hope, even in the most dismal of circumstances characters in the bible seem to get into.  After all, they enter those bad circumstances, usually, not because of God Himself, but because of them turning their backs on BIBLEHim!!  God was (and is) always with them, even in the BAD times; they just did not believe in his “word”, nor could they realize His presence!  So, read the Bible, re-read the Bible with YOU as the character in these stories, and then re-re-read the Bible so that you realize that the 73 books which make up this great “Bible” (in the Catholic edition) are truly “instructions” on how to live as a Catholic Christian and an honorable son or daughter of God in the world!!

The third Sunday of Advent is also called “Gaudete Sunday”.  “Gaudete”, a Latin word – – meaning “rejoicthCA2A51IGe”, with its form being a “command” – – is another way of exhorting hope.  This command to rejoice is taken from the entrance antiphon for Sunday’s Mass, which is also echoed in today’s second reading from the Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:4-6).

The Catholic Church obeys this command by lighting a pink candle instead of another purple one already on the Advent wreath.  In doing so, it is a reminder that the Advent season is a “Season of JOY” and “Re-Joy-Sing” [rejoicing] because our salvation is truly already at hand.

John the Baptist’s message of “good news” inspired many to believe God was about to do extraordinary things in their midst.  John the Baptist’s task – – his mission – – was simply to awaken the interest of his people to God’s “Word”, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough “good will” to recognize and receive the Messiah when He appearance on the scene.

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. summarize titleToday, Luke is continuing to set up two important themes of his Gospel message: (1) the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and (2) the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.

John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  John’s teaching to the crowd suggests that each person has a role to play in God’s salvation.  He is encouraging them to follow his model of faith and hope in their own personal Horizontal_Logo9life’s positions and status.  It is our personal, human cooperation in His divine plans that is THE great mystery of God’s initiative to empower and to encourage each of us to participate – – through our believing and rejoicing – – in His plan.

John the Baptist basically called the people to turn back to God and to walk in His way of love and righteousness.  Whenever the Gospel is proclaimed it has the power to awaken the faith in people, thepathofsinandrighteousnessand to change their lives for good.  John’s baptism was for repentance; a turning away from sin and taking on a new way of life according to God’s “Word”.  

Hmm, my life has its own temptations, and its own opportunities to take advantage of others, using them for my own personal gain.  Does yours?  As I prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas, I will consider my own life situation, my own temperament, and my own personality in heeding John the Baptist’s words from today’s reading.  I believe I may need to make some adjustments.  How ‘bout you?

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. conclusionThe theme of the season for Advent is sometimes described as “a period of waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ”.  However, today’s Gospel reading suggests something much different.  John the Baptist did not tell the crowds to wait for the Messiah.  Instead, he told them to prepare for the Messiah through acts of repentance.  If RepentBelieveTheGoodNewsBwAdvent is a time of waiting, it is not the “sitting in waiting room or office lobby” kind of waiting.  It is a busy time of preparation, more like the waiting we might do when “preparing for dinner guests”.  Our challenge as Catholic Christians is NOT to make this season a frantic, disordered, and/or apathetic time, but rather a time of “joyful anticipation”, making ready for God who comes to dwell among (and in) us, changing our lives with His gift (grace) of redemptive salvation.

Think about the preparations you are making during this season of Advent period.  Reflect on these activitiechanges, not only on what you are doing but WHY you are “choosing” to do these things.  Remember, Advent is a time for making ourselves ready to receive Jesus Christ – – anew and more – – in our personal lives.  Could you make some changes in your Advent activities so that you are MORE prepared to celebrate the gift of salvation at Christmas?  Hmm, I think I can for sure.  Pray that you, and your family and friends, will be able to live the “spirit” of Advent as it should be, and not as a secular time of the year.  Heck, why not sing an Advent song, such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” as you light the third candle on your Advent wreath this evening at dinner.  I will, and I’ll possibly report on the interesting looks I receive from my family members who ALL say I have a voice made for paper!!

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

An Advent Prayer

 

“Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Chuprayerrch: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to His return at the end of time.  Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which His presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever.  Amen.”

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“It’s a Bird; It’s a Plane; No, It’s Christ! Oh, Oh, I’m NOT Ready Yet!!” – Luke 21:25-28,34-36†


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First Sunday of Advent

 

 . table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For December, 2012

 

General Intention: that all migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity andPope Benedict illustration authentic love, especially by Christian communities.

Missionary Intention: that Christ may reveal Himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of His Church.

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Today, and next Wednesday, I am going to share information on two holiday objects used by all people in a secular way, the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and the “Candy Cane”.  However, these items started out as ways to catechize Catholics during times of suppression from governments of the day.  I hope you enjoy the history and meaning behind these items.

 

The Real Meaning of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

by Father Edward T. Dowling, S. J | Source: Catholic.net

 

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written by the English Jesuits during the 16th century, though its precise author is unknown.  The carol used obscure symbols to hide its true meaning from the enemy in time of persecution, Henry VIII.  When Henry VIII was rebuffed by Rome in his request to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, he declared himself head of the Church in England.  With replacing the Pope, the King demanded all to swear an oath of allegiance to him as head of the Church.  St. Thomas More, the “Chancellor of the Realm”, (the equivalent of the Prime Minister today), refused the oath, and Henry VIII had him publicly beheaded.  During this time, Catholic convents and monasteries were closed and looted.  

The situation was made worse under his son, Edward VI, and better during the short reign of Catherine’s daughter, Mary Tudor. However, she was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I, an ardent Protestant and the daughter of Anne Boleyn.  The practice of the Catholic faith was banned.  Priests were exiled and forbidden under pain of Twelve Days of Christmasdeath from returning or performing the sacraments.  It was a desperate, dreadful time.

With this as a background we can see the need for secrecy and deception.  “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written to educate the faithful in the doctrines of the faith and, at the same time, not be obvious to persecutors in the area.  The numbers are simply a mnemonic to help Catholics remember some basic facts. Recall the words of the song: 

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: twelve lords a leaping, eleven pipers piping, ten ladies dancing, nine drummers drumming, Twelve_days_Wordleeight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

The song celebrates the liturgical Christmas season, starting on Christmas Day and ending twelve days later on the “Feast of the Epiphany”.  

·        My true love” refers to God, and “me” is the individual Catholic.

·        The “twelve lords a leaping” are the twelve basic beliefs of the Catholic Church as outlined in the Apostles Creed. 

·        The “eleven pipers piping” are the eleven Apostles who remained faithful after the treachery of Judas. 

·        The “ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments. 

·        The “nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels which in those days of class distinction were thought important. 

·        The “eight maids a milking” are the Eight Beatitudes. 

·        The “seven swans a swimming” are the Seven Sacraments. 

·        The “six geese a laying” are for both the Six Commandments of the Church and the six days of creation. 

·        The “five golden rings” are the first five books of the Old Testament called the Torah which are generally considered the most sacred and important of all the Old Testament. 

·        The “four calling birds” are the Four Gospels. 

·        The “three French hens” are the Three Persons in God and the three gifts of the Wise Men. 

·        The “two turtle doves” represent the two natures in Jesus: human and divine and the two Testaments, Old and New. 

·        The “partridge” is the piece de resistance, Jesus himself,

And,

·        The “pear tree” is the Holy Cross.

http://catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=3465

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bag_of_moneyBy the way, all the items mentioned in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” would cost $107, 300 (US) in today’s costs.  This is a 6.1% increase from last year.

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

Luke21v25to36_2003

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches His disciples to be vigilant and ready for when the “Son of Man” comes in glory.  Are you “vigilantly ready”?

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(NAB Luke 21:25-28,34-36)  25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.   27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”  34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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. Reflection Gospel Reflection:

 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, also called the first Sunday of a new liturgical year.  The Advent sAdvent1eason includes the four Sundays proceeding Christmas Day and is a time of preparation for the “coming of the Lord”.  During the Advent season, we recall two essential and foundational elements of our faith:

  • ·        The final coming of the Lord “in glory”;

And,

  • ·        the “incarnation” of the Lord – – through the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

The key themes of the Advent season are watchful waiting, spiritual preparation, and realizing God’s loving justice.

In this new liturgical year, the Gospel of Luke will be the primary Gospel proclaimed (for you techno-missal-geeks, we will be using Lectionary Cycle C).  Today’s Gospel is taken from the chapter just luke-gospel-bannerbefore Luke’s “passion narrative” in which Jesus teaches in the Holy Temple.  Jesus knows what is going to happen to Him soon!  He is preparing, and giving hope and good counsel, and fair warning, to His disciples.  Today’s reading has Jesus speaking to His disciples about the need for “vigilance and prayer” as they wait for the coming of the “Son of Man in glory”.  

Jesus has already predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, warned about the persecution and tribulations to follow, and is now identifying the “signs” signaling the “coming of the Son of Man in glory” to come.

From a historical viewpoint, the community – – the audience and readers – – for whom Luke wrote his GosStLukepel may have believed that they were already experiencing some of the events Jesus described – – and they would be RIGHT!  Luke, a Syrian from Antioch, wrote his Gospel and the Book of the “Acts of the Apostles” as a two-volume work in the late 90’s.  At that time of Luke’s Gospel, many Catholic Christians interpreted the Temple’s destruction as an indication that Jesus’ “second coming” was very close at hand.

Luke, through his writings, shifts the early Christian emphasis away from an expectation of an imminent, about to happen – – NOW – – “Parousia” event, to that of a day-to-day concern of the Catholic Christian community – – in “waiting” – – individually, and as a Church.  Luke is more concerned with presenting the “Words” and deeds of Jesus as instructions for the conduct of His Christian disciples during the intervening period between His Ascension and the His Second Coming, the Parousia – – whenever it is to happen.  He also presents Jesus Christ Himself, as the model for a proper Catholic Christian life of goodness, faithfulness, and holiness. 

Jesus’ eschatological discourse concerns doctrines (truths) about the human soul in its relation to death, personal judgment, heaven, and hell.  Jesus is urging His disciples – – and at the same time, the eschatology-kidsCatholic Church as a whole – – inspiring them to be to be faithful and obedient through the trials and tribulations which WILL confront them – – and ALL OF US! (Sounds just like what is happening today!  Please re-read my “Five stages of Persecution” in last Sunday’s blog for more on this subject.)  

Jesus, through Luke, is urging a necessity to be constantly “vigilant” (literally meaning “watchful”) and not to have a misguided “Messianic hope” of deliverance from our trials and tribulations.  We need to remember that no one but the Father knows the precise time of the Parousia:

Of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).

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Jesus’ “Second Coming” WILL be preceded by signs.  Could Jesus’ “sign” be the presence of the bleak outrages and scandals coming from the Roman power profaning the Temple then(?) and the direct attacks on the Catholic Church from without and within today(?) – – NOW(?) – -!  It certainly seems reasonable to me, so I’m definitely preparing!

So, what are these signs to be?  Luke, being very astute at researching issues, looked for answers throTraffic-signs-theme-vector-material2ughout Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) and John’s prophetic book, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ”:

From a sling, wrathful hailstones shall be hurled.  The waters of the sea will be enraged and flooding rivers will overwhelm them” (Wisdom 5:22);

The stars of the heavens and their constellations will send forth no light; The sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:10);

“When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken all its starsThe sun I will cover with clouds; the moon will not give light (Ezekiel 32:7);

Before them the earth trembles; the heavens shake; Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness … I will set signs in the heavens and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke; The sun will darken, the moon turn blood-red, Before the day of the LORD arrives, that great and terrible day … Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness (Joel 2:10; 3:3–4; 4:15);

“Then I watched while he broke open the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; the sun turned as black as dark sackcloth and the whole moon became like blood.  The stars in the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs shaken loose from the tree in a strong wind.  Then the sky was divided like a torn scroll curling up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place” (Revelation 6:12–14).

Luke relates that the “powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:26).  Is this a reference to the “cosmic angelic armies” – – Satan’s armies – – manifesting themselves?  Or, is it a reference to the physical celestial properties we know in our sphere of earthly human knowledge?  I believe it is “Both/And”.  That our physical environment is under the authority of God and the responsibility and authority which God delegated to the angels before they “fell from grace”.

The Lord continually forewarned His “chosen” family that there will be a periodic “shaking” and other “signs” we should pay attention to.  In the Old Testament, Haggai warns Zerubbabel:

“For thus says the LORD of hosts: In just a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land … Speak to Zerubbabel*, the governor of Judah: I will shake the heavens and the earth(Haggai 2:6, 21).

*(Zerubbabel was a descendant of King David and was a governor of the Persian Province of Judah (cf., Haggai 1:1).  He led the first group of Jews who returned from the Babylonian Captivity around 538 BC.  Zerubbabel also laid the foundation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem soon after their return.  Per Haggai, Zerubbabel will also have a “servant” role in God’s future Israelite kingdom – – to be established – – when God intervenes to overthrow the nations.  )

Now, in the New Testament era, God counsels the Judeo-Christian family in the Letter to the Hebrews:

See that you do not reject the one who speaks.  For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much more in our case if we turn away from the one who warns from heaven.  His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, ‘I will once more shake not only earth but heaven.’  That phrase, ‘once more,’ points to [the] removal of shaken, created things, so that what is unshaken may remain.  Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe.  For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:25-29).

Since this is the case when the Parousia happens, I can see why many will be so frightened.  Hoz202092960wever, though I will always have apprehension and some “fear” of this incomprehensible event.  God’s revelation and promise in Jesus helped to be prepared and constantly vigilant.  In my spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, I am eagerly awaiting His return daily, – – or whenever it shall occur.  We do this at every Mass when the Priest right after the “Our Father” prayer, when the Priest prays:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

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Another “sign” prophesied in today’s reading is:

“They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). 

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied He would return again at the “end of time” (the Parousia) to finCross_Globeish the work He came to accomplish through His death and resurrection.  Jesus’ image of the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” is taken from a foretelling vision of the prophet Daniel:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man. When He reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, His kingship, one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

Remember, Jesus always referred to Himself as “the Son of Man” and never as “the Son of God”!  Why do you think Jesus chose this specific title?  Hmm, He had a great reason, as you will soon find out.

Daniel’s vision [above] is a foretelling of a royal appointment of a “human” king before God’s throne.  This “human” king, whose authority comes directly from God the Father, is given world-wide and everlasting kingship, authority, and power.  

The faithful Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression.  Jesus, however, tells His disciples that when He returns, He will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for ALL – – not just the Jewish “chosen” people.

Jesus goes on to reveal that He will be:

The ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory”:

In saying this, Jesus is citing specific Scriptural words.  He is referencing Jewish Scripture from the book of Deuteronomy:SecondComingOfChrist

“There is none like the God of Jeshurun*, who rides the heavens in his power, who rides the clouds in his majesty;” (Deuteronomy 33:26).

* (“Jeshuran” is a poetic name for “the people of Israel”, used as a token of affection by the author. It translates to, “the dear upright people“. This word is used four times in Holy Scripture: (cf., Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 33:26; and Isaiah 44:2.  It is a term that can be applied to the Catholic Church.)

The word “clouds”, in Jewish Holy Scripture, indicates the presence of divinity. The image of the ATT00001cloud” being “the presence of divinity” is found extensively throughout the story of Moses interaction with “the Lord” during the Jewish exodus in the desert:

The LORD came down in a cloud and stood with him [Moses] there and proclaimed the name, ‘LORD’” (Exodus 34:5);

“[The Lord] said to him [Moses]: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the inner sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the cover on the ark, lest he die, for I reveal myself in a cloud above the ark’s cover (Leviticus 16:2);

and,

The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied but did not continue” (Numbers 11:25).

Thus, in His nature as the “Son of Man”, Jesus is truly a “divine person” (as well as being the “human” king) who will come “in power and glory”.

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The last half of today’s reading is a collection of “sayings” relating to Luke’s understanding of the “end time” and the return of Jesus – – the Parousia event. Luke emphasizes – – for his readers – – the importance of being faithful to the instructions of Jesus in the period before the Parousia event Bible%2520-%2520Instruction%2520Manualoccurs.  This book was written long after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  The early Catholic Christian expectations of an “imminent” second return of Jesus had to obviously undergo some modification.  So, Luke cautions his readers against counting on this delay and acting irresponsibly.  A similar warning can be found earlier in Luke’s Gospel:

“But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful (Luke 12:45–46);

These verses are a warning for Jesus’ disciples to be ALWAYS (i.e., daily) ready for the Lord’s return, during the Parousia – – the promised Second Coming of Christ.  It is also an implied acknowledgement of the “Final Judgment”, the ultimate acknowledgement of God the Father’s love and active participation in the course of this awesome event, the fullest revelation of God sharing His eternal love for each of us.

As Catholic Christians, we need to start living as if the Parousia is here now – – as if you see Jesus Christ descending on a “cloud” NOW!!  Live holy lives; rejoice in hope; be alert to the various Eschatology_False-Prophets_620deceptions that Satan will launch against the Church in those days:

Many false prophets will arise and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11).

 Make use of a radical simplicity in life.  All our material possessions will no longer benefit, nor be of benefit, to us after the Parousia event: they will burn in the purifying fire on that day:header

Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.  For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.  Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.  But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1 John 2:15-17);

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.  Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought [you] to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire.  But according to His promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

BBePreparede in a state of constant awareness and perpetual readiness and anticipation.  Also, be in constant personal spiritual growth – – the best way to prepare.  Luke is warning us to NOT have the attitude, “I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back”.  This is truly a foolish attitude to cultivate.  Live the scouting life: “Be Prepared!!”

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. summarize titleThough Jesus predicts a time of destruction and fear, He indicates that others will be frightened; Jesus’ disciples are instead not to fear, but to stand tall.  However, Jesus goes on to say that He does NOT promise deliverance from anxiety or tribulations in our earthly lives.  Jesus encourages His disciples to pray for strength OFTEN!!  The ealift-up-praiserly Catholic Christian communities did not find consolation in the promise of an ideal and perfect place where ALL live in peace and harmony – – and neither should we today.  Instead, we recognize – – in our Catholic Christian faith – – the instrument and ways by which we can witness to God’s unfailing love for us in ALL circumstances, even the rough times.  These instruments are the Holy Sacraments: all contained in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Jesus’ predictions about the end times may sound dire. However, in the very next verses in Luke’s Gospel, just after today’s reading ends, he tells us that people woke early to listen to Jesus’ teaching in the Temple area:

During the day, Jesus was teaching in the temple area, but at night he would leave and stay at the place called the Mount of Olives.  And all the people would get up early each morning to listen to him in the Temple area” (Luke 21:37-38).

In His personhood and in His personal message to those who listen, strength and consolation will be found.  Like the first Catholic Christians, we will certainly encounter and experience events and cirthCAM75JLMcumstances leading us to periods of despair in our lives.  (After all, we are ONLY human – – but saved by His grace.)  Therefore, through prayer, we find strength and consolation in Jesus’ “Words” and in His continuing presence with us – – through all our trials – – bearing and undergoing, and sometimes suffering together, witnessing to the loving action of God in our world.

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. conclusionSince the early first centuries, many Churches in the east and west have marked “special seasons” to celebrate the central, essential, and foundational “truths” of the Catholic Christian faith.  The Advent season reminds us that we are a “pilgrim people”, exiles from Christ’s eternal heaven, who long for our “true” home with God in His heavenly kingdom.  We are awaiting – – with joyful hope – – the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the age – – the Parousia.  

No one but God the Father knows the day of Jesus’ “return in glory”.  But, it is certain that we are living in the end times, the culmination of this present age in God’s plan – – NOW!  The end times MARK_13_32_by_traylor1234began with the “first coming” of Jesus Christ – – through His “Incarnation” and birth – – which we celebrate at Christmas and the Epiphany.  The end times culminates in His return on the “Final Day of Judgment”.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns His disciples against the apathy and lack of vigilance which can surface if one’s spirit becomes depleted by the anxieties of daily life.  Many of us are all too familiar with this kind of fatigue which Jesus is referring to in today’s reading.  It comes with being concerned about ours or another’s health, job security, education, financial problems, and any number of other reasons.  

Yes, ALL these aspects of life are important matters indeed.  Jesus does not promise to end our daily Keep Your Eyes On Jesusworries and fears.  However, He DOES teach His disciples (and us) that they will have the “strength” to withstand these anxieties and trials IF and WHEN we stay focused on Him in our everyday lives.  His disciples need to remain “vigilant” for His second return – – IT WILL HAPPEN – – someday!  His disciples need to be consistent in praying for “strength” to endure all “tribulations”.  Through prayer, God helps us stay focused on what (actually, “WHO”) is most important in our lives – – Jesus Christ!!

Recall your previous traditions of making New Year’s resolutions in preparation for a new calendar year.  Today IS the first Sunday of Advent, which is the beginning of the new Church year.  During the resolutions1season of Advent, our Gospel readings ask us to consider what (and “WHO”) is most important to us as we prepare for Jesus’ coming, at His birth AND at the “end of time”.

Jesus describes “signs” which surely will disturb and scare many people.  However, Jesus says that these “signs” should not be disturbing to His disciples.  Remember, Jesus in today’s in reading, says that these “signs” indicate “redemption” is near.  He even goes so far as to tell us how to behave:

When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke21:28).

 With this new Church year, what Advent “resolutions” might you make to help you stay focused on Christ; to help you be prepared to receive the salvation which we celebrate at Jesus’ birth, and anticipate at Jesus’ “second coming”.  Pray for God’s help in following through on these “New Year” resolutions you just made.

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Reflection Prayer: 

Psalm 25

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul, my God, in you I trust; do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. No one is disgraced who waits for you, but only those who are treacherous without cause. Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. Guide me by your fidelity and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long. Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD, for they are ages old. Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me psalm25_4_5according to your mercy, because of your goodness, LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way, He guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble his way.  All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth toward those who honor his covenant and decrees. For the sake of your name, LORD, pardon my guilt, though it is great. Who is the one who fears the LORD?  God shows him the way he should choose. He will abide in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The counsel of the LORD belongs to those who fear him; and his covenant instructs them. My eyes are ever upon the LORD, who frees my feet from the snare.

Look upon me, have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart; bring me out of my distress. Look upon my affliction and suffering; take away all my sins. See how many are my enemies, see how fiercely they hate me. Preserve my soul and rescue me; do not let me be disgraced, for in you I seek refuge. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; I wait for you, O LORD. Redeem Israel, O God, from all its distress!  Amen.

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“Love Doesn’t Calculate; It Spends Lavishly Instead – – And Boy, Does My Wife ‘LOVE’ Spending!” – Mark 12:38-44†


32ndSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Now that the elections are over, it is our duty as Catholic Christians to help bring all people – – all our brothers and sisters in Christ together in peace and HARMONY.  Let us all pray for our country’s leaders, for our country itself, and for each of US. 

A friend gave me the following intentions for prayer during the election period; however, I tweaked it to be used as a way of praying daily.  Please let me know what you think about the following set of various bible verses:

SCRIPTURE VERSES TO PRAY FOR OUR NATION

It is critical that Christians pray for our nation.  There is amazing power in united prayer.  Pray with others whenever possible.  The power of prayer can overcome any obstacle or ungodly influence and, indeed, do great things!

II Chronicles 7:14– If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, will heal their land.
Acts 17:30 – Pray for repentance for yourself and for our nation.

Psalm 32:6-7
– Pray that Christians will be motivated to pray faithfully for our nation and that the Lord would deliver us from the wrong leaders.
Proverbs 16:13
– Pray that our nation will listen to the truth and not be led astray.
Psalm 125
– Pray that those who trust in the Lord will not be shaken.
Psalm 86:14-17
– Pray that the Lord would defeat those who have no regard for Him in this election.
II Kings 13:16
– Pray that the Lord would put His hands on the president (and his team) and guide them.
Daniel 2:20-22
– the Bible tells us that God sets up kings and God deposes kings. God is in control.
Luke 12:54-57
– Pray that our nation will do what is right.
Psalm 16:7-8
– Pray that the Lord would give wise counsel and guidance to the president.
Proverbs 1:5-6
– Pray that the President will listen with discernment, add to his knowledge, and receive wise counsel.
John 16:33 – Pray that the President would be given wisdom and ability from the Lord to overcome any obstacle or difficulty.
Philippians 4:13
– Pray that the President will have special strength and unusual ability from God.
Psalm 18:32-36
– Pray that the Lord would arm the President with strength; would guide him in battle; and would sustain him and give him victory.
2 Corinthians 12:9
– Pray that the Lord would empower and enable the President in any area of weakness.
Habakkuk 1:5 and 3:2
– Pray that the Lord would do something that would utterly amaze us and grant the country true freedom.

 Please print out this prayer guide and pray daily.  Please forward this to every Christian you know!

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 Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus notices a poor widow’s offering and commends her great sacrifice.  What’s your commitment to “tithing”?

(NAB Mark 12:38-44)  38 In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums.  42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The context for today’s Gospel continues to be one of mounting tensions between Jesus and the Jewish authorities.  In today’s reading, Mark tells of Jesus’ teaching specifically in the Temple area where He could observe His Jewish brethren putting in their offering to the Temple treasury.  

Today’s Gospel reading is what my children call a “twofer”: the denunciation of the Scribes, and the poor widow’s contribution, combined into one teaching.

In the first part, we hear Jesus warn the crowds to not follow the example of the Scribes in seeking honor and coveting attention from others by their actions and religious behavior.  It is important for us to recall that Jesus taught these things while in the vicinity of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Scribes “home court” territory.  Mark, in this first part of his Gospel today, is setting the stage for Jesus’ arrest, passion, and crucifixion.  While the tradition of a deep hostility between the Pharisees and Jesus is well founded, this reading reflects a growing animosity which goes beyond that of Jesus’ personal ministry to that of the bitter conflict between Jesus, His followers, and the Temple leaders, in their religious practices.  

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Jesus’ first teaching is about the Scribes (and, I am sure, the Pharisees and Sadducees as well), and their very public and overt attention which they purposely bring onto themselves.  The Scribes’ narrow, legalistic, and external practices of piety in matters of public worship, and observance of the commandments, with their own interpretations, places them in opposition to Jesus’ teaching of the TRUE moral intent of God the Father’s divine law.   

Per Jesus and divine law, the following practices and tradition of the Temple leaders are dubious, questionable, and untrustworthy:

    •  going around in long robes
    • accept greetings in the marketplaces,
    • having seats of honor in synagogues, and
    • holding places of honor at banquets”.  

So, Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes for their lack of humility.  In their misguided zeal, the Scribes desired and sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”.  They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and religious “rulers”.  They unfortunately made the practice of their faith one of a place of honor rather than “humbly serving” the “chosen people” of God.

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues (humility and piety) actually leads one to increased greed and further separation from God the Father.  Mark actually warns of the consequences of greed and arrogance in today’s reading:

In the course of his teaching he [Jesus] said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation’” (Mark 12:38-40).

The Scribes are “acting” in order to impress others and earn praise.  Their actions were solely for the purpose of making their “piety” more noticeable.  The hypocrisy of the Scribes (and the Pharisees and Sadducees) is in their “long prayers” and public actions – – in their purposeful, very public demonstrations of “piety” – – having no other purpose than to enhance their ego’s and reputations as the paramount and BEST religious persons in the area (and beyond).

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The Scribes “place of honor and worship” was the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was the center of Jewish worship from the time Solomon built it in 957 BC – – and rebuilt after its first TOTAL destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC – – until shortly after the time of Jesus when it was destroyed completely by the Romans in 70 A.D. and never rebuilt.  Jesus observed how Jewish “pilgrims” were making their required contributions to the Temple treasury.  It was expected that observant Jews would make pilgrimages to the Temple to offer prayer and sacrifices.  These visiting pilgrims also were expected to make a financial contribution to the Temple treasury.  (See, Catholics aren’t the only ones who are expected to contribute financially to their “parish”!)

As we would expect, Jesus observed that those who were rich contributed large sums to the treasury, while those with less funds made smaller contributions.  A similar situation exists in most of our parishes as well today, especially in our financially depressing times which we are currently experiencing now.  

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Jesus, in His second teaching from today’s reading, calls attention to a “poor widow” who makes the smallest of contributions – – a paltry sum of money, just two coins of very little value.  Jesus give His approval to the poor widow’s offering, commending her because her small offering was an act of profound love and generosity.  She was giving from “her livelihood” rather than from her surplus.  WOW!!  Do you trust God enough to do such an act?  I admit, I have difficulties in doing this quite often.  (This is something to truly work on for me.)

Jesus says of her that she is “blessed”, not only for her actions, but especially for her attitude, intentions, and because she gave “from her poverty”.  This “poor widow” had “contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”.  This “widow” is an example of the poor ones – – such as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis of Assisi – – who detached from material possessions, showed her dependence on God; which led to her (and their) blessedness (and the wonder & admiration from Jesus Himself):

Calling His disciples to Himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury” (Mark 12:43).

Her simple offering provided a striking contrast to the pride and pretentiousness of the Scribes who were “censured” by Jesus in the preceding verses (Mark 12:38-40).

Jesus is extolling the fortunate condition of this poor woman who is, at the same time, favored with the blessings of God the Father because of her true, deep faith.  She was a REAL disciple of Christ who appreciated the real values of God’s kingdom.  The present condition of this “poor widow” will ultimately be reversed in God’s kingdom.  She will inherit the riches of eternal life – – in the everlasting presence of God – – at the bountiful and eternal banquet in heaven.

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In Jesus’ denunciation of the Scribes, He warns against three things: 

  • the desire for prominence rather than selfless service;
  • the desire for admiration and recognition (seeking esteem from others) rather than seeking to promote the good of others through humble service and love;

and thirdly,

  • attempting to use one’s position (even a religious position) for self-gain and self-advancement.

True faith means relating to God – – and to one’s “neighbor” – – with love, honor, and reverence.  God places the Holy Spirit within each of us, filling us with the joy of His presence, the joy of true worship, and the joy of selfless giving and love for, and to, others.  This true love, honor, and reverence for God frees our heart to give freely, generously, and abundantly both to God AND to neighbor.

To give from our livelihood is not only an act of love and generosity, it is also an act of trust in God’s mercy, love, and providence.  We can only give from our need if we trust in God providing for us.  Jesus Himself demonstrated the ultimate act of loving generosity and trust in God when He gave His life – – for US – – on the Holy Cross.

Jesus, through His Passion and death, taught His disciples a dramatic lesson in giving with love.  Love doesn’t calculate; it spends lavishly instead!  (And boy, does my wife “LOVE” spending!!)  Jesus drove this point of “love giving more than it takes in” home to His disciples while sitting in the Temple, observing and commenting on the people offering their contributions to the Temple treasury.  

Jesus’ teaching seems to be very simple: this “poor widow” trusted with all she had, believing God would provide for her.  Jesus reveals to her that love for God is more precious than any amount of money!  Jesus taught that real giving must come from the heart.  A “gift” which is given – – for show or with conditions – – loses most of its value.  However, Jesus reveals that He is impressed by a gift given out of love, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice, is truly invaluable – – priceless – – in God’s eye and His kingdom.  

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The amount or size of the gift doesn’t matter as much as the cost to the giver.  The “poor widow” could have kept one of her coins, but instead she gave away ALL SHE HAD!!  Jesus praised this person who gave the Temple barely anything of monetary value, solely because it was everything she had in life, “her whole living”.  

What we have in life to offer to God and neighbor may look very small and not worth much in our eyes, and even in others’ eyes; but if we put ALL we have towards God’s will and plan, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you and others, God will certainly do with it – – and with us – – what is beyond our feeble consideration and understanding.  

Today’s Gospel leads us to think about our family’s financial contributions to our personal parish communities, the diocese we live in, other Church-sponsored organizations, and even other charitable groups.  Good stewardship (the way in which someone organizes and takes care of something) invites us to share our time, talents, and treasures.  

Sometimes, our decisions about charitable giving are made without the knowledge of others in our family.  However, we need to remember that we can teach a valuable lesson when we make family members aware of HOW we are contributing to our Church and to other charitable organizations.  We can pass on our knowledge of God’s gifts for others imparted to us in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.

Think about your family’s financial contributions to your parish and to other Church functions and activities, as well as other charitable organizations.  Think about why it is important for you to share your resources with these organizations.  Finally, reflect on what Jesus observed in the generosity of the “poor widow”.  In what ways might you make a sacrificial gift to support your parish or other charitable organization through a donation of time, talents, or treasures (it does NOT have to be money!).  Then, participate in the action you choose to take for the organization you chose to support.  Finish your reflection on the generosity of the “poor widow” with a prayer, asking for God’s help to be “generous” like the generous “poor widow” in today’s Gospel.  Thank you.

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 Reflection Prayer:  

STEWARDSHIP PRAYER

Generous God, I give thanks to you for the gifts you have given me: my life, my family, my friends; my time, talents, and material possessions.  All that I have comes from you. Help me to remember this and rejoice in your goodness.

Walk with me, my God. Help me on my spiritual journey, so that I may constantly renew my relationship with you and all the good people in our parish and throughout the world.

Renew in me your Spirit.  Give me the strength and courage to become a better follower of Jesus, to be a disciple.  Help me hear the call to “Come, Follow Me.”

I give glory to you, my God, as I make stewardship a way of life.  Amen.”

http://www.stewardshipli.org/main/prayer.html

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“Jesus, Heal Me, Touch Me, Cure Me! – The Actions Of Jesus ARE The Origins Of Our Sacraments”


 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Please do not forget that this Tuesday, September 11th is “Patriot Day”.  In the United States, Patriot Day occurs on this date each year, in memory of the 2,977 killed during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Initially, this day of remembrance was called the “Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001”.  President George W. Bush signed the resolution into law on December 18, 2001 (as Public Law 107-89[1]).  It is however, a “discretionary” day of remembrance.

On this day, the President requests that the American flag be flown at half-staff at individual American homes, at the White House, and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments, home and abroad.  The President also asks Americans to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time), the time the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

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This past weekend, my family and I witnessed my oldest son’s “PIR” (Passing-In-Review), his graduation from the Naval Recruit Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois.  We were privileged to see his group receive an “Honor Flag”, plus, the rarely given “Hall of Fame” flag.  Dan (my son) was lucky enough to be able to spend Friday afternoon and all day Saturday with us on his first liberty.  We toured the Chicago area, and he was also able to spend quite a bit of time either texting, sleeping, or on Facebook – – something missing from his life for the past eight weeks.

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We said that faith heals our intellect and hope heals our memory.  Similarly, we can say that love heals our will by ordering our interests and actions toward giving ourselves to God and others, for their own sake.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One

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Today’s reflection: Jesus restores a man’s hearing and speech.  What do you need “restored” by Christ?

(NAB Mark 7:31-37) 31 Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.  32 And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  33 He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; 34 then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)  35 And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.  36 He ordered them not to tell anyone.  But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.  37 They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.” 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Whatever Jesus did, he ALWAYS did well. (I wonder if he was the Star Quarterback on His high school football team, and class valedictorian as well.)  In essence – – AND in action – – Jesus always demonstrated a true love, a true beauty, and a true mercy of Father God in His actions. 

In today’s reading, Jesus heals a deaf man who had a “speech impediment”.  This is one of many stories about Jesus’ healing power.  In today’s story, we find clues about our understanding of our “sacraments” (rites established by Jesus Christ Himself to bring grace to those participating in and receiving the benefit of the rite or sacrament).  I am personally awed by the physical means – – to show the spiritual effect – – used by Jesus to heal the “deaf man”: the use of spittle and touch.  Jewish people of Jesus’ time would never had touched another’s ears or tongue, thus becoming “unclean” and not able to go into the synagogue or Temple to pray until purified.

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In this specific Gospel reading, we can see an image in the proclaiming of the good news, the Gospel, of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.  The geographic references in this reading tells us that Jesus is purposely journeying through Gentile territory.  Remember, Jesus had already previously visited this region, healing a person possessed by a demon at an earlier time in His public ministry.  (Is today’s event an encore appearance?)  After all, Jesus was already famous there, already a first century “idol” of sorts (posters on the kids’ walls and so on).  In knowing of His earlier presence in this specific area, Jesus’ previous “healing” certainly explains why the deaf man was brought to Him for a cure.

To begin, let me give a little geography lesson on the area in today’s Gospel.  I believe knowing the area, and its inhabitants, helps understand their motives – – and Jesus actions.  The cities of Tyre and Sidon were famous areas in the ancient Near East.  Both are now located in present day Lebanon, with Tyre 20 miles south of Sidon and 12 miles north of today’s present Israel-Lebanon border.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, each of these cities today is just a shadow of their former selves.

Sidon, called “Saida” today (an Arabic word for “fishing”), was named after the firstborn son of Canaan (cf., Genesis 10:15) and was probably settled by his descendants as a port city from its very beginning.  Sidon was built on a peninsula, with a nearby island sheltering its natural harbor from Mediterranean storms.

Twenty miles south of Sidon, in the middle of a coastal plain, Tyre (now called by the Arabic name, “Sour”), was constructed on a rock island just a few hundred yards out into the Mediterranean Sea.  In fact, Tyre took its name from the physical makeup of this island.  The word “Tyre” comes from the Semitic language, meaning “rock”.  The rich, well-watered plain of Tyre became the fortified island’s primary source or food, water, wood, and other essentials needed for existence.  Apparently this specific island was fortified first and called Tyre, while the coastal city directly opposite was settled later and also used this name as well. 

The Decapolis (two Greek words meaning “ten” and “city”) was a group of ten cities in present-day Jordan, Syria, and Palestine.  Decapolis was, at one time, on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire.  The ten cities making up the area called “Decapolis”, were not an official grouping, or even an organized community.  They were grouped together solely because of their similarities in language, culture, location, and politics.  The Decapolis was a center of Greek and Roman culture in a region which was otherwise Semitic (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Maltese, and Amharic).  Interestingly however, each of these cities had a certain degree of autonomy and self-rule under the Roman Government.

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The story in Mark’s Gospel preceding today’s reading sets the stage for today’s “healing” encounter (cf., Mark 7:25-30).  In the preceding story, Jesus comes upon a Gentile, a Syrophoenician woman, who asks Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter.  In this preceding story, Jesus engages the woman in a discourse about not feeding to dogs the food intended for children.  In other words, why should He [Jesus] help her, a non-Jew?  (Jesus believed His primary audience was His own people.)  However, Jesus, impressed and moved by the woman’s great faith shown in her reply to Him: “even dogs eat the food that falls from the table”, Immediately heals her daughter!!  The great, undaunted faith of this Roman-Greek “non-Jewish” woman actually compelled Jesus to respond to her plea for help.  WOW!  The power of faith and persistence!!

In today’s story, He shows His sincere compassion, kindness, and generosity for this man’s predicament, and heals him a dramatic manner!!  Jesus takes the deaf man aside privately, no doubt to remove him from the embarrassment of being exposed to a noisy crowd of staring people.

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Jesus then puts His fingers into the man’s ears (WHAT??); and He touches the man’s tongue with His own “spittle” (Double WHAT??).  He carried out these actions in order to physically identify with this man’s infirmity, and to awaken the man’s faith already within him.  With a simple command, “Ephphatha”, the afflicted man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he could now speak plainly, perhaps for the very first time in his life. 

So, from a spiritual viewpoint, what is the significance of Jesus putting His fingers in the man’s ears?  Saint Pope Gregory I, 540-604 AD (Gregory the Great), wrote on this very question:

“The Spirit is called the finger of God.  When the Lord puts His fingers into the ears of the deaf mute, he was opening the soul of man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Unknown source to this author)

Luke, in his Gospel, also mentions this same “finger of God”:

“It is by the finger of God that [Jesus] drive out demons” (Luke 11:20).

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There is an irony in the story of the healing Mark tells in today’s reading.  Jesus gives the man the gift of speech, but then tells him not to use it.  Jesus instructs the “cured” man not to spread the good news of his cure at the hands of His healing power, a strong evidence of His identity and verification as the true Savior Messiah.  Jesus’ instruction of silence is a recurring theme in Mark’s Gospel; some bible scholars today have called this Counsel of Jesus (“Don’t publicize this!”) as the “messianic secret”.

Interestingly though, Mark even goes so far as to say that when the “cured” man and others witnessing his cure were told to stop talking about the man’s cure, “the more they proclaimed it”.  The same verb used by Mark for “proclaim” “eipwsin” (to speak or to say), in relation to the miracles of Jesus, is used in his Gospel three other times:

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14);

But the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:10);

And,

Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

Wow!!  For me, what was subjectively implied in the actions of the crowd of today’s reading is their recognition of the divine power of effecting miraculous cures (prophesized by Isaiah – in todayy’s first reading), and revealing the saving mission of Jesus Christ

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In Summary, Mark shows that Jesus’ own mission pronounced and verified the early Church’s mission to both the Jewish and the Gentile nations – – a “universal” (Catholic) mission.  This mission to the Gentiles was a significant and unique issue for the early Christian community.  However, they came to realize, through such teachings and writings as in today’s Gospel, that the good news of Jesus truly did take root, and quickly spread, among the Gentiles as well as the Jews. 

Jesus uses His “actions” to show the spiritual aspect of His healings.  His actions ARE our present day “Sacraments”.  (STOP – – Just dwell on this last sentence for a short time.  It is a powerfully revealing point of fact.)  Still today, the Catholic Church continues to participate in, and celebrate, these “actions” as our “Sacraments” using physical means.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, water and oil are used to show the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are anointed with holy oil on the forehead and the hands.  In the Holy Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ (by transubstantiation).  Catholics are truly a “sacramental” people, believing God’s graces are imparted to us through these “actions” as physical signs and rites.

In today’s Gospel reading, the people’s response to this “healing” miracle truly testified to Jesus’ great and loving care for ALL others – Jewish and Gentile alike.  Jesus “did all things well”, and will continue to do ALL things well through His family and their special “actions”- – FOREVER!!  There is NO problem or burden too much for Jesus’ careful consideration.  He treats each of us with kindness and compassion, and calls each of us – – individually and personally – – to treat one another as He Himself does for us:

I [Jesus] give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

The Holy Spirit dwelling within us enables us, giving us the ability to love, AS Jesus loves.  So, love others, treating them with love and civility – – especially those hard to love – – as Jesus did Himself, and as He shows us how to do through His loving actions.

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In Conclusion, today’s Gospel invites us to consider how we witness to the healing presence of Jesus Christ in OUR care for, and ministry to, those who are sick.  In today’s reading, we notice that the deaf man is brought to Jesus for healing by his friends.  They beg Jesus to “lay his hands” on this deaf man, healing him.  Jesus’ healing power is shown in His opening of the man’s ears and the restoring of his speech. 

When family members care for one who is sick, they also bring Christ’s healing presence with and through them.  When we pray for those who are ill, we are asking God to show His healing power though are words and actions.  And, when health is restored, we share that “good news” with others.

So, recall a time when a family member or close friend was ill, and recall the steps taken to help restore this person to good health.  Think about how it feels to care for a person who is ill, and also about how it feels to BE the sick person receiving care.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment; now notice how the “cured man” and his friends could not honor Jesus’ request to keep quiet about His power to heal.  They had so much praise and thanks, they COULD NOT keep quiet.  We also should not keep quiet, but continue to celebrate Jesus’ healing presence in our lives by giving praise and thanks to Him for His gift of healing and health to us and others.  On a daily basis, let us all publically and privately thank Jesus for our gifts of health and healing – – even when our health may be not so great:

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 18) . 

So, pray for those who are sick and bed-ridden, ending each prayer with “Jesus, heal us” – – and, “Thank You”.

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Reflection Prayer:   

 

A PRAYER FOR HEALING

 

“Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to you.  Allow Your healing Hand to heal me.  Touch my soul with Your compassion for others; touch my heart with Your courage and infinite Love for all; touch my mind with Your Wisdom, and may my mouth always proclaim Your praise.  Teach me to reach out to You in all my needs, and help me to lead others to You by my example.  

Most loving Heart of Jesus, bring me health in body and spirit that I may serve You with all my strength.  Touch gently this life which you have created, now and forever.  Amen.”

 

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1325

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“Hey, Let’s Go On Vacation; I Know A Little Quiet Spot For Some R&R. There’s Great Bread And Fish There As Well!” – Mark 6:30-34†


Sixteenth Sunday of 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
  • ·        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:

 

Today is the tenth day of my yearly consecration to Jesus through Mary; a special devotion I absolutely look forward to every year, and have purposely scheduled (in my calendar) for the past 6 years.  It is a great devotion of prayer and reflection, created by St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716), which takes 33 days of preparatory devotions.  The “Total Consecration” made on the 34th day.  The day of Total Consecration should always be on a Marian feast day.  (My consecration day is the “Feast of Mary’s Assumption to Heaven”: August 15th.)  Schedules for the preparation and Total Consecration are included in resource materials – – provided at NO cost – – through this website: www.MyConsecation.org.  There are more than twenty start days throughout the calendar year (ending on a Marion Feast Day) for those wishing to make the Total Consecration, so give it a try.

Let me give you a little history about the author of this devotion, St. Louis de Montfort.  He was a French Roman Catholic Priest, Author, and Confessor.  He was known to be a preacher in his time: Pope Clement XI made him a “missionary apostolic”, giving him authority to emphasize the importance of the Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to encourage the practice of frequent praying of the Rosary.  Father de Montfort is particularly known for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and for the practice of consistently praying the Rosary (Reminds me that both St. Padre Pio and Venerable Pope John Paul II daily prayed the Rosary).  Father de Montfort’s most notable work regarding Marian devotions is contained in a two-part book entitled “The Glories of Mary” along with “The Secrets of the Rosary and the True Devotion to Mary”.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   0260 – St Dionysius begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1099 – First Crusade: Godfrey of Bouillon elected first Defender of the Holy Sepulchre of The Kingdom of Jerusalem.
†   1619 – Death of Lawrence of Brindisi, Italian monk (b. 1559)
†   1647 – Birth of Margaretha M Alacoque, French mystic/saint
†   1649 – Birth of Clement XI, [Giovanni F Albani], Italy, Pope (1700-21)
†   1676 – Death of Clement X, [Emilio Altieri], Italian Pope (1670-76), dies at 86
†   1722 – Birth of Jean-Noel/Joannes Natalis Paquot, Belgian priest/historian
†   1902 – Death of Mieczysław Halka Ledóchowski, Polish Catholic Cardinal (b. 1822)

(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 invites His disciples to rest after their ministry, and is moved with pity for the crowds who pursue them.

 

(NAB Mark 6:30-34) 30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.  31 He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.  32 So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.  33 People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.  They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.  34 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, in Mark’s Gospel, we read of the return of the “Twelve”, who had been sent by Jesus, in pairs, to preach repentance, to heal the sick, and to drive out demons.  When they returned, Jesus invited them to “come away” from the crowds to get some rest with Him.  However, the crowds followed, not giving them any peace.  It seems that, as the Twelve Apostles now shared in Jesus’ ministry, they also now appear to share in Jesus’ popularity as well.

In an effort to get away from the crowds, Jesus and His disciples get into a boat with the hope of finding the “deserted place” familiar to Jesus.  The crowds notice their “escape”, and so follow along the shore line, also arriving at the same “deserted place”.  The crowds find them and continued to draw near Jesus and the Apostles, making contact, and presenting their individual requests.  Mark reports that these Apostles’s, the closest and most intimate disciple’s of Jesus, don’t even have time to eat their food due to the swarm of people surrounding them.  The crowds are so persistent that Jesus and His disciples cannot even find a place to be alone.  (Sounds like me, a parent of four teenagers in a one-bathroom house.)  Remarkably, even with this chaos and pressure,  Jesus “is moved with pity [for the crowds] and begins to teach” them.

Today’s Gospel stops with Jesus’ having “pity” for them and “teaching”.  Mark’s report of the unyielding demands of the crowd continues in the following verses (next week’s Gospel reading).  The work of Jesus, and the work of His disciples (even still today), appears to be a “round-the-clock” job.  (My kids did not know the term, “round-the-clock”.  They have told me to write “24/7” as an alternative.)  OK; so they were busy 24/7.

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For the second week in a row at Mass, Mark uses the term, “Apostle”.  He also used this term earlier, in his Gospel’s third chapter:

“He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14).

Jesus instituted these twelve me as “apostles” in order to extend His messianic mission through them (cf., Mark 6:7–13). Mark correctly and appropriately calls the “Twelve” men, “Apostles”, meaning His emissaries, empowered them to preach, to expel demons, and to cure the sick (“Apostles”: a Greek word meaning, “one who is sent with the delegated authority of the sender”!):

They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6:13).

The earliest use of the special term, “the twelve”, as Jesus’ delegated “apostles” is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

“He [Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:5).

The number (12) is meant to recall the twelve “tribes” of Israel, thus implying Jesus’ authority to call and gather ALL Israel into God the Father’s kingdom.  Mark distinguished between the “Twelve Apostles” and a much larger group called disciples:

“When He [Jesus] was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned Him about the parables.  Without parables He did not speak to them, but to His own disciples He explained everything in private (Mark 4:10, 34).

The “Twelve” also share in Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom:

As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 10:7). 

In the Pauline letters (the New Testament epistles written by Paul) “apostle” has come to mean primarily one who had seen the “risen” Lord, AND had been commissioned to proclaim Jesus’ Resurrection to ALL the peoples of the planet.  Only after the Pentecost event is the title “apostles” used in the technical or precise term for the twelve specific men who became the first bishops of the Catholic (Universal) Church.  (However, don’t forget about Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, made so by divine appointment and Jesus’ appearing, creating the Lord’s baker’s dozen of 13.  – – Don’t forget the Lord’s choice of the first twelve’s replacement “Matthias”, (cf., ACTS 15:17)

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So, these twelve men, sent out in pairs on a divine mission from Jesus Christ, return back to Him at the conclusion of this inaugural mission – – and still in progress without interruption two millennia later.   Mark relates that the small group yearned for a well-deserved rest in a “deserted place” (Mark 6:31).  However, Luke is a little more specific as to where this “deserted place” actually is located:

When the apostles returned, they explained to him what they had done. He took them and withdrew in private to a town called Bethsaida” (Luke 9:10).

Bethsaida translates to “house of fishing”, and is a small village on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, just east of the Jordan River.  The ground in this particular area has ALWAYS been uncultivated, used solely for grazing animals, and as a “fishing village”.  Note that the village of Bethsaida is where the feeding of the 5000 took place (in next week’s Gospel). 

Being mostly worldly fishermen, and ALL being the Kingdom of God’s “fishers of men”, these twelve men, plus Jesus, set off for Bethsaida by their favorite mode of transport:

 “They went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” (Mark 6:32).  

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Just imagine the scene wherein Jesus and the Twelve Apostles are attempting to escape from the huge throngs of excited, spirit-filled, captivated, and strongly affected  people who wanted – – nay, demanded – – MORE!!  Jesus and His small group made good on an egress from the multitudes, placing water between them and the hordes of believers and non-believers desiring to be near them.

Picture this scene from both angles: from the crowds viewpoint on land and Jesus’ Apostles within the boat as it approached the beach?  I am certain the men in the boat felt some great relief, able to take a deep breath, and no longer wondering about their personal safety.  The other group was excited and awe-filled, wanting to see, hear, and experience MORE!!  The withdrawal of Jesus, with His disciples, to a “deserted place”, attracted a great swarm – – a humungous pack of people – – following the group traveling by boat.   This mob followed – – by foot – – along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The sea and shore is fairly flat, thus making it easy to see a great distance across the water, keeping an eye on the boat, even if it is miles out to sea.  In desperation for the unique teaching, preaching, and healing ability of this small group of divinely inspired and full-filled men, the “crowd” wanted to hear and experience more of what was presented to them physically, mentally, and spiritually by Jesus and His Apostles.

I would think Jesus and His most intimate of friends would be used to crowds interrupting their rest and meals by now, since it wasn’t the first time.  Mark mentions at least one other time when crowds gathered around them, interrupting their “down time”:

Again [the] crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat.” (Mark 3:20).

Jesus is moved with “pity” toward these people experiencing such awe, joy, and desire as to pursue them.  Jesus satisfies their spiritual hunger by teaching them many things in Bethesda, before and during the feeding of the 5000 @ Bethsaida (next week’s Gospel at Mass).  In His preaching, teaching, and healing (plus feeding the multitudes), Jesus shows Himself as the true, promised, and faithful “shepherd” of the NEW Israel and of a NEW Exodus, as prophesized by Moses and Ezekiel:

“Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all humanity, set over the community someone who will be their leader in battle and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the LORD’s community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.’” (Numbers 27:15-17);

And,

I [the Lord] myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest—[says] the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 34:15).

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Verse 34 of today’s reading had an interesting and very prophetic statement somewhat openly hidden:

“When He disembarked and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).

What does the image of a shepherd tell us about God’s care for us?  Well, shepherding was one of the oldest of occupations (a true calling) in Israel, even before farming.  Why(?); because the “Chosen People” had to travel from place to place, living in tents, their constant movement required someone to herd and protect the flocks from one pastureland to another “round-the-clock” (“24/7”).  

Taking care of sheep was no easy calling; it required great skill and courage.  Flocks were often quite large, exceeding thousands or even ten thousands of sheep.  The flocks spent a good part of the year in the open country.  So, watching over the animals required a great deal of attention and care.  Sheep who strayed from the flock had to be sought out and brought back, solely, by the shepherd, at his own peril.  

Since hyenas, jackals, wolves, lions, and even bear were common in the biblical lands – – and tried to feed on the animals of the various flocks – – the shepherds often had to be ready to do battle with these wild and extremely dangerous beasts.  A shepherd literally had to put his life on the line in defending his sheep (Remember, the shepherd King David’s encounter with Goliath).  Shepherds took turns watching the sheep, grouped together at night, to ward off any attackers, so that each could get a little rest.  

The sheep and their shepherds continually lived together.  Their life was intimately bound together with the individual sheep, goats, and cattle in their charge, even when their animals mixed with other flocks.  These animals quickly grew to learn and recognize the voice of their own shepherd, coming to him immediately when called by name.  (My dog doesn’t even do this unless I have a treat in hand for her.)

The Old Testament often spoke of God as shepherd of His “chosen people”, Israel:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1);

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!” (Psalm 80:1);

And:

We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3).

The prophesized Savior Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God’s people:

He will feed His flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms(Isaiah 40:11).

Jesus told His disciples that He was the “Good Shepherd” who was willing to lay down His life for His sheep:

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” (Matthew 18:12);

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4);

And:

“I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 15).

When Jesus saw the huge number of people in need of His protection and care, He was moved, responding with a compassionate concern.  His love was a personal and intimate love for each and every person who came to Him in need – – and still comes to Him today!!  In the person of Jesus Christ, we see the unceasing vigilance and patience of God’s love for us as well as for ALL His creatures.  In our battle against sin and evil, Jesus is ever-ready to give us help, strength, and refuge.  Please trust Jesus and in His grace and help at all times!  (I try to!!)

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In summary, by reading between the lines, we can see from today’s Gospel reading the intensity of Jesus’ public ministry and the intensity of the Apostles involvement.  Such was His dedication to those in His care – – those individual and unique souls – – that Mark mentions TWICE in his Gospel that Jesus and His close groups of disciples did not having time to eat.  In doing so, Mark offered to us a precedent, an example to follow.  A true Christian should be ever-ready to give up time, rest, and even meals in the service to others, to the Lord, and to His “Word”.  In doing so, this attitude to openness, availability, and charity, will guide us to change our plans whenever, and wherever, the good of others souls requires our kindness and helping hand: our involvement. 

Jesus gave us another precedent, EQUALLY important to follow as well: He teaches us to have “common sense” – – not to go to such extremes that you lessen your ability to cope without your own pressures, physically, mentally, or spiritually.  Saint Bede (b.672/673 – d.735), an English monk, once wrote the following:

The Lord makes His disciples rest, to show those in charge that people who work or preach cannot do so without breaks” (St Bede, “In Marci Evangelium exposition, in loc.)

St. Josemaria Escriva also wrote about rest, but in a rather unique way:

He who pledges Himself to work for Christ should never have a free moment, because to rest is to not to do nothing; it is to relax in activities which demand less effort” (St. Josemaria Escriva, “The Way”, 357)

I believe what St. Josemaria Escriva meant by this above statement is that, even at rest, the rest “itself” should be in Christ’s work (i.e., prayer, meditation) and even play – – a great source of active relaxation and joy.

Jesus chose twelve men from among His disciples.  He sent them out to share in His ministry of preaching and healing.  We who are Jesus’ disciples TODAY have also been sent out to share His Gospel with others.  Perhaps, at times, our commitment to follow Jesus – – as His disciple – – leaves us feeling tired and overwhelmed.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus establish, encourage, and assert the importance of times of rest and renewal.  Jesus wanted His disciples to “come away” and spend time alone – – with HIM!!  This is what WE seek and find in our life of prayer, in our celebration of the Eucharist, and hopefully, in times of our personal retreats.  When was the last time you “came away”, solely to spend time – – alone with Jesus Christ?  When was the last time you made a retreat for even part of a day, much less a weekend or a week-long period of rejuvenation with, and in, Christ Himself??!!   A great retreat experience is a joy to behold, a time of renewal beyond most other experiences short of the Eucharist itself (which is the SUMMIT of ALL experiences).  Try it some time, “you’ll like it”!!

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In conclusion, family and work life, and its demands on us , can make us feel similar to how Jesus and the Twelve Apostles felt in today’s Gospel: tired, and in need of rest.  We often wish for times of relaxation and renewal, EXCEPT there are projects to complete, errands to do, household chores to keep up with, and commitments to keep.  These all may be great things in themselves, but we are often left feeling drained and tired in trying to keep up, and keep on schedule.   

Perhaps, if possible, take the opportunity this week to give yourself permission to find the rest and relaxation Jesus attempted to seek for His disciples in today’s Gospel.  A gift we ALL can give to another is to assist them in finding some time and space to renew themselves; even, and especially, by saying a simple prayer of intercession.

Review your work and family calendar, spending some time reflecting on your unique and individual activities.  Find ways to get an appropriate amount of time for rest and relaxation this week and in the weeks ahead.  All of us need to keep in mind how Jesus tried to find time and space for His disciples to rest and relax after they returned from their mission, their work life; so should YOU!  Ask God to help find time to renew yourself so that you might be better disciples of Jesus.  (OK guys, when your wife asks you to take out the trash, don’t say, “I can’t do that.  I’m under orders from Jesus to get rest.”)

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Renewal Prayer

 

“Lord, we are Your people, the sheep of Your flock.  Heal the sheep who are wounded, touch the sheep who are in pain, clean the sheep who are soiled, warm the lambs who are cold.  Help us to know the Father’s love through Jesus the Shepherd and through His Spirit.  Help us to lift up that love, and show it all over this land.  Help us to build love on justice and justice on love.  Help us to believe mightily, hope joyfully, love divinely.  Renew us that we may renew the face of the earth.  Amen”

http://www.catholic.org/prayers

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) RSV.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” “(John 1:1) KJV.

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“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) RSV.

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Mary Magdalene

 

Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene.  Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.

Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women.  Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Luke 8:2)—an indication, at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or, possibly, severe illness.

Father W.J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.”  Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not…the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”

Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.”  She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother.  And, of all the “official” witnesses that might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given.  She is known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

Comment:

Mary Magdalene has been a victim of mistaken identity for almost 20 centuries.  Yet she would no doubt insist that it makes no difference.  We are all sinners in need of the saving power of God, whether our sins have been lurid or not.  More importantly, we are all, with her, “unofficial” witnesses of the Resurrection.

She is the Patron Saint of: Penitents, Perfumers.

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 22 & 23 of 26:


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

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23.  Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule.  The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living.  The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue.  Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

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