Tag Archives: Pharisee

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


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

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

 

 

 

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

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

            

Today in Catholic History:

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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Serenity Prayer

 

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

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

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of: Savings & Weavers

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

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 24 & 25 of 26:

 

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

  

 

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

 

 

 

 

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“Simon, You Didn’t Kiss My Feet, and the Food Sucked Too!” – Luke 7:36-50†


What a week has it been for me.  It started last Saturday with our Secular Franciscan Regional Chapter.  Though the St. Clare Region is the smallest of the SFO Fraternities in the United States, all 11 Fraternities were represented, and a good time was had by all.  The day ended with Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Parish: a dynamic church group where you will see a person in a pin-stripe suit and $500 shoes sitting next to a person with a purple Mohawk and 20 pierces on the head hugging each other during the sign of peace.  The adult male server had a pony-tail down to his waist.  I truly enjoyed the love present at this Mass.

Sunday was my Fraternities (Our Lady of Angels) meeting, and we had a new member come for her first time.  I believe she is going to request admission, along with another from last month.  This is exciting for our fraternity had been stagnating for quite some time.

Friday was the “Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus” and Yesterday (Saturday) was the “Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  I literally take to heart (excuse the pun) these two days of remembering the love, mercy, and forgiveness present in our Savior Jesus, and in His (and ours) loving Mother, Mary.

Yesterday (Saturday) was my weekly meeting of our parish fellowship group.  It always starts with a rosary before the Blessed Sacrament,” Mass, and then the Divine Mercy Chaplet after Mass; again before the Blessed Sacrament.  Afterwards we go to our groups “corporate office” (most others know of it as McDonalds) for a couple hours of small talk, religious and parish discussion; and some cholesterol enhancement.

To some this week up in a sentence or two:  It has been a peaceful, thought-provoking, and spiritual week for me.  God is truly great and magnificent with me; I love Him so!

   

Today in Catholic History:

† 1525 – Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora, against the celibacy doctrine decreed by the Roman Catholic Church on priests and nuns.
† 1798 – Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is founded.
† 2000 – Italy pardons Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill
† Pope John Paul II in 1981.  He has since converted to Catholicism.
† Liturgical feasts: Saint Anthony of Padua, priest, confessor, Doctor of the Church; Saint Agricius, bishop of Sens, confessor; Saint Leo III, pope; Saint Onuphrius, hermit, confessor; Blessed Thomas Woodhouse, martyr

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give it anyway ~ Bl. Mother Teresa
    

Today’s reflection is about the sinful woman washing and kissing Jesus’ feet.
            

Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he [Jesus] was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”  Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.  “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.  Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”  Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.  But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”  He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (NAB Luke 7:36-50)

    

Similar scenes to this Gospel reading can be found in the three other books of the Gospels.  In those versions the anointing takes place in the town of Bethany, near Jerusalem, and just before Passover.  In the other three Gospels, this anointing is related to Jesus being proclaimed “king” by the crowds when he entered Jerusalem; and is related to his being anointed as a preparation for his burial.  In today’s Gospel reading, the anointing takes place in the north, in the town of Galilee, and early in his ministry instead.

In this story of the pardoning of a “sinful” woman responding to God’s gift of forgiveness, we are presented with two different reactions to the “ministry” of Jesus.  A Pharisee named Simon, suspecting Jesus to be a prophet, invites Him to a festive banquet at his house; but the Pharisee’s self-righteousness leads to little forgiveness by God and little love shown towards Jesus.  

The sinful woman, on the other hand, displays a faith in God that led her to search for forgiveness of her sins.  Because so much was forgiven, she now overwhelms Jesus with her display of love.  What a powerful lesson on the relation between forgiveness and love!

The normal posture while eating at a banquet was to recline at the table, on the left side.  The most honored guest was immediately to the right (front) of the host, with his back near or against the host’s chest.  The least honored guest was at the end of the table.  Other oriental banquet customs alluded to in this story include the reception by the host with a kiss (Luke 7:45), washing the feet of the guests (Luke 7:44), and the anointing of the guests’ heads (Luke 7:46).

In learning that Jesus was at the house of the Pharisee Simon, she literally “crashed” the party. Though she was “sinful,” there is no evidence of her being a prostitute but possibly guilty of some other sin.  What can be alluded to, is that she was “unclean” according to first century Palestine societal norms.  In allowing someone deemed unclean by society, Jesus showed that His norms for clean and unclean conflicted with those of the Pharisees.

She brought with her a alabaster flask of ointment.  Ointments were typically very expensive, even for the wealthy of that time. 

She stood behind him, and at his feet.  This position obviously is a position of humility and a sign of submissiveness towards Jesus.  Her weeping was a sign of great love for Him, and of her sorrow for her sins that separated Her from Jesus’ grace.

She began to bathe Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair, kissed His feet, and finally anointed the feet with the ointment she had brought with her.  The feet were the dirtiest part of any person of that day.  Most people walked either bare foot or with a rudimentary type of sandal.  With no sewage system, dirt floors in most homes, and all the animals present, one can imagine what people had to tread through in their everyday lives. 

To wash one’s feet was the job of the lowliest slave.  To fall to her knees and wash Jesus’ feet, and then dry them with her hair, as well as to kiss and anoint them showed an adoration, reverence, and love for Jesus that was beyond reproach.  Her actions towards Jesus was, to say the least, generous.

Simon witnessed this event, and said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”  Simon did not realize that Jesus was greater than a prophet!  Jesus responded by telling him the parable about two people owing money, forgiveness, and love.  As is typical of Jesus’ style, He doesn’t answer Simon’s question Himself, but draws the correct answer out of Simon; allowing him to learn a moral lesson.  Simon is forced to admit that the one who had the bigger debt canceled probably loves the creditor more, when he said, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” 

Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Though Simon followed all societal rules of hospitality towards Jesus, he had not shown any special acts of hospitality either.  In a sense, the generosity of the sinner is contrasted with that of the stingiest of Jesus’ host: Simon.

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.”  Jesus rebuked and challenges Simon for his self-righteousness and inadequate love towards Him.  Jesus then commends the woman for her great and unconditional love and self-sacrifice to Him.

This “sinner” performed such acts of love towards Jesus that her sins were forgiveness.  What is intriguing for me is that I believe she received the gift of forgiveness before her encounter with Jesus at Simon’s home.  The woman’s sins were forgiven by the great love she showed toward Jesus, which had to be immense and strongly evident prior to her physically meeting Jesus.  Her humility was only surpassed by her love for the “Messiah.”

Jesus tells the woman, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Jesus in saying this is doing more than healing physical problems as some of the prophets had done. He is forgiving sins!  We hear these exact, or very similar, words at the end of the “Sacrament of Reconciliation.”  The priest, in “Persona Christi,” forgives our sins in the same way that Christ instituted on this day.  To me, this shows a proof that Jesus loves all, the woman of this first century, and the people of this day, with the same intensity.  When we show our love, reverence, and humility towards God’s creation; we are showing our love, reverence, and humility towards Jesus.  Our “tears,” our “hair,” and our “kissing and anointing” are our actions as a citizen of this earth, and our duties as a Catholic.  Do we love Jesus as much as this “sinful” woman?!

The others at table said to themselves, ’Who is this who even forgives sins?’”  The answer is quite simple: a person greater than a prophet did: Jesus, the “Christ” (meaning anointed one), and the “Messiah” (referring to the leader anointed by God.  A future King of Israel physically descended from Davidic lineage who will rule the people of a united tribes of Israel and herald in the Messianic Age of global peace), and the second person of the “Trinity” (meaning GOD)!!

Prayer of Wisdom from St. Francis & St. Claire of Assisi

“Jesus, following You is not always easy and carefree.  It does require something from me: I must follow your commands. 

Often out of pride or convenience, I seek to follow my own will instead.  Lead me through the narrow gates.  Be merciful and soften my heart when I stubbornly refuse to follow You.

Remind me that life with You is well worth any cost I may incur in following You.”

      

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Anthony of Padua 1195-1231
           

Anthony was born in the year 1195 at Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, where his father was a captain in the royal army. Already at the age of fifteen years the youth had entered the Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, and was devoting himself with great earnestness to study and to the practice of piety in the monastery at Coimbra, when a significant event, which occurred in the year 1220, changed his entire career.

The relics of St. Berard and companions, the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order, were being brought from Africa to Coimbra. At the sight of them, Anthony was seized with an intense desire to suffer martyrdom as a Franciscan missionary in Africa. In response to his repeated and humble petitions, the permission of his superiors to transfer to the Franciscan Order was reluctantly given. At his departure, one of the canons said to him ironically, “Go, then, perhaps you will become a saint in the new order.” Anthony replied, “Brother, when you hear that I have become a saint, you will praise God for it.”

In the quiet little Franciscan convent at Coimbra he received a friendly reception, and in the very same year his earnest wish to be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled. But God had decreed otherwise. Anthony scarcely set foot on African soil when he was seized with a grievous illness. Even after recovering from it, he was so weak that, resigning himself to the will of God, he boarded a boat back to Portugal. But a storm drove the ship to the coast of Sicily, and Anthony went to Assisi, where the general chapter of the order was held in May, 1221.

As he still looked weak and sickly, and gave no evidence of his scholarship, no one paid any attention to the stranger until Father Gratian, provincial of Romagna, had compassion on him and sent him to the quiet little convent near Forli. There Anthony remained nine months occupied in the lowliest duties of the kitchen and convent, and to his heart’s content he practiced interior as well as exterior mortification.

But the hidden jewel was soon to appear in all its brilliance. Anthony was sent to Forli with some other brethren, to attend the ceremony of ordination. At the convent there the superior wanted somebody to give an address for the occasion. Everybody excused himself, saying that he was not prepared, until Anthony was finally asked to give it. When he, too, excused himself most humbly, his superior ordered him by virtue of the vow of obedience to give the sermon. Anthony began to speak in a very reserved manner; but soon holy animation seized him, and he spoke with such eloquence, learning, and unction that everybody was fairly amazed.

When St. Francis was informed of the event, he gave Anthony the mission to preach all over Italy. At the request of the brethren, Anthony was later commissioned also to teach theology, “but in such a manner, St. Francis distinctly wrote, “that the spirit of prayer be not extinguished either in yourself or in the other brethren.”

St. Anthony himself placed greater value on the salvation of souls than on learning. For that reason he never ceased to exercise his office as preacher along with the work of teaching. The concourse of hearers was sometimes so great that no church was large enough to accommodate the audiences and he had to preach in the open air. He wrought veritable miracles of conversion. Deadly enemies were reconciled with each other. Thieves and usurers made restitution of their ill gotten goods. Calumniators and detractors recanted and apologized. He was so energetic in defending the truths of the Catholic Faith that many heretics re-entered the pale of the Church, so that Pope Gregory IX called him “the ark of the covenant.”

Once he was preaching at Rimini on the seacoast. He noticed that a group of heretics turned their backs to him and started to leave. Promptly the preacher turned to the sea and called out to the fishes: “Since the heretics do not wish to listen to me, do you come and listen to me!” And marvelous to say, shoals of fish came swimming and thrust their heads out of the water as if to hear the preacher. At this the heretics fell at Anthony’s feet and begged to be instructed in the truth.

The blessings of St. Anthony’s preaching were not confined to Italy. St. Francis sent him to France, where for about three years (1225-1227) he labored with blessed results in the convents of his order as well as o]in the pulpit. In all his labors he never forgot the admonition of his spiritual Father, that the spirit of prayer must not be extinguished. If he spent the day in teaching, and heard the confessions of sinners till late in the evening, then many hours of the night were spent in intimate union with God.

Once a man, at whose home Anthony was spending the night, came upon the saint and found him holding in his arms a child of unspeakable beauty surrounded with heavenly light. It was the Child Jesus.

In 1227, Anthony was elected minister provincial of upper Italy; and then he resumed the work of preaching. Due to his taxing labors and his austere practice of penance, he soon felt his strength so spent that he prepared himself for death. After receiving the last sacraments he kept looking upward with a smile on his countenance. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered, “I see my Lord.” Then he breathed forth his soul on June 13, 1231, being only 36 years old. Soon the children in the streets of the city of Padua were crying, “The saint is dead. Anthony is dead.”

Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints in the very next year. At Padua a magnificent basilica was built in his honor, his holy relics were entombed there in 1263. From the time of his death up to the present day, countless miracles have occurred through St. Anthony’s intercession, so that he is known as the Wonder-Worker. In 1946 he was also declared a Doctor of the Church.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed.
by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

        

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #13:
   

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

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

“The Supernatural Birth of a 300 Pound, 6 Foot Tall Bald Baby!” – NAB Jn 3:1-8†


It is such a beautiful day in Hazelwood, MO.  God, thanks for the great weather and even greater friends. 
  

Today’s reflection is about being “born again:” the Catholic Way; and how to make a great glass of chocolate milk!

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, not touched . . . but are felt in the heart. — Helen Keller
  

Today’s Meditation:
   

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again?  Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”  Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’  The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  (NAB Jn 3:1-8)
   

Who was Nicodemus?  He must have been a man of means and influence.  By him asking, “How can a man be born when he is old?” he was advanced in years.  Nicodemus being “A ruler of the Jews,” most likely was a member of the Jewish council: the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court of temple leaders.  I wonder if he had a role in the mock trial of Jesus, and of in sighting the crowds to demand Jesus’ death?

Jesus instructs Nicodemus on the necessity of a new birth from “above.”  Jesus wants to make a point that “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  Two places in the gospel reading have, what I call, “YO, Listen to ME Now!” moments.  Each of these moments starts with the declaration, AMEN, AMEN.”

Water” and “Spirit” are the essential elements of gaining access and residence in the kingdom of God.  To obtain the grace of eternal life can only be gained through the graces of the Holy Spirit, that we obtain through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. 

Baptism is fairly easy to understand; but what about this “Holy Spirit” thing?  If we obtain the Holy Spirit in baptism, so what is the purpose of “Confirmation,” when we again receive the Holy Spirit (that we already have)?  Let me compare the Holy Spirit of baptism and confirmation, to making a glass of chocolate milk.

Picture that you are a beautifully clean, tall white glass of cold milk.  The Holy Spirit is the delectable liquid chocolate.  At baptism, the chocolate is squirted into the glass of milk: YOU.  The Chocolate (Holy Spirit) is physically present in the glass, but is still separate from the milk; just sitting there at the bottom.  You have the Holy Spirit (chocolate) in you since baptism; and the Sacrament of Confirmation is the spoon that stirs up the Holy Spirit (chocolate), making a new creation: pure, delicious, sweet, chocolate milk.  Yum!

Jesus, in saying the word “Born,” refers to the Greek adverb “anothen” which means both “from above” and “again.”  In talking to Nicodemus, Jesus meant “from above,” but Nicodemus misunderstands the word as meaning “again.” That is why Nicodemus seemed confused as to how to be vaginally delivered again: a physical impossibility.  This misunderstanding serves as a springboard for the further instructions, and analogy, from Jesus.

I love the reference Jesus makes to the word “Wind,” which refers to the Greek word “pneuma,” and the Hebrew word “ruah,” meaning both “wind” and “spirit.”  I feel so close to God when I sit at a picturesque landscape, feeling the warm gentile wind softly brushing against my skin and clothes.  Wind, to me can be a breath of life in a frequently hectic world.  Jesus’ use of the analogy of wind is not by accident.  In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about why “breathing on” is an important sign of the passing on of the special graces of the Holy Spirit.  Wind is a “breathing on” for the earth, giving all creation the special grace of being a loved by God.

“Jesus, you are my breath of life.  Allow every breath I take be a prayer of gratitude for you, and a prayer of thanksgiving for you have given me.  Allow every breath I take be a prayer of redemption for the souls of purgatory.  Amen.”
   

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Julius
   

Julius whose feast day is April 12th. Julius was the son of a Roman named Rusticus. He was elected Pope to succeed Pope St. Mark on February 6, 337. Julius was soon involved in the Arian controversy when Eusebius of Nicomedia opposed the return of Athanasius to the See of Alexandria in 338. Eusebius and his followers elected George, whereupon the Arians elected Pistus. Julius convened a synod in Rome in 340 or 341 that neither group attended, and in a letter to the Eusebian bishops, Julius declared that Athanasius was the rightful bishop of Alexandria and reinstated him. The matter was not finally settled until the Council of Sardica (Sofia), summoned by emperors Constans and Constantius in 342 or 343, declared Julius’ action correct and that any deposed bishop had the right of appeal to the Pope in Rome. Julius built several basilicas and churches in Rome and died there on April 12. 

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
  

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #12:
  

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

“Two People go Into a Bar… um … I mean temple, and the 1st one says … !” – Lk 18:10-14†


Finishing the 4th week of Lent.  Wife and kids are in Oklahoma, and I home to baby sit the minagerie of animals.  St. Francis was known for his relationship with animals.  I wonder if there is a connection with him and my family.  We’ve had, at one time or another, just about every animal except a snake and monkey.

  

Today’s reflection is about attitudes towards each other, and your faith.

  

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

When praying, don’t give God instructions – just report for duty.

 

Today’s Meditation:

 

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

 

Who really is the unrighteous one here; the sinner or the Jewish religious leader?  People today are put into situations that make them appear as homeless beggars, or even worse.  I know of several friends who have, or will lose their homes, for various reasons.  Unemployment rates haven’t been this bad since the great depression.  Jobs are leaving this country in droves, just for capital gains.

Our government is not listening to the people, and the people have “turned off” the government as communist thieves.  In reality, to some extent, we are all to blame for today’s social and economic problems.  Everyone needs to take a big breath, and start to work together. 

The tax collector beats his breast.  This is not boastful acting on his part, for others to see, or an imitation of “Cheetah” from a Tarzan movie.   The beating of the chest is a common sign of repentance to the Jewish people of Jesus’ time, and even now.  If you watch closely, you may even see it today in both Jewish Temples and Catholic Churches (watch the older Catholics during the Eucharistic Prayer: they may strike their chest three separate times towards the beginning). 

The tax collector is obviously and sincerely sorry for his actions.  The Pharisee, to me, is just going through a mindless act as part of his “duties” as a temple priest.  The former is honest, sincere, and sorrowful; and the latter is not only lying, he is deceiving and hypocritical in his faith.

God has a sense of humor, and loves to show it to us.  The tax collector will be acquitted at God’s court of justice in heaven.  He recognized his need of God’s mercy, and has shown sorrow for his sins.  He loves God above all. 

The Pharisee doesn’t need God’s justification and mercy.  He has his own, and forgives himself with great pride.  He’s doing all the work, and doesn’t need God.  He loves himself above all, including God. 

“Lord, give me a faith of that tax collector.  Please keep my heart from hardening as the Pharisee has hardened.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum

Dan Halley, SFO 

 

*****

 

Catholic Saint of the Day: Bl. Agnello of Pisa 

 

The founder of the English Franciscan province, Blessed Agnello, was admitted into the Order by St. Francis himself on the occasion of his sojourn in Pisa. He was sent to the Friary in Paris, of which he became the guardian, and in 1224, St. Francis appointed him to found an English province; at the time he was only a deacon. Eight others were selected to accompany him. True to the precepts of St. Francis, they had no money, and the monks of Fecamp paid their passage over to Dover. They made Canterbury their first stopping place, while Richard of Ingworth, Richard of Devon and two of the Italians went on to London to see where they could settle. It was the winter of 1224, and they must have suffered great discomfort, especially as their ordinary fare was bread and a little beer, which was so thick that it had to be diluted before they could swallow it. Nothing, however, dampened their spirits, and their simple piety, cheerfulness and enthusiasm soon won them many friends. They were able to produce a commendatory letter from Pope Honorius III, so that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Steven Langton, in announcing their arrival, said, “Some religious have come to me calling themselves penitents of the Order of Assisi, but I called them of the Order of the Apostles.” In the meantime, Richard of Ingworth and his party had been well received in London and hired a dwelling on Cornhill. They were now ready to push on to Oxford, and Agnello came from Canterbury to take charge of the London settlement. Everywhere the Friars were received with enthusiasm, and Matthew Paris himself attests that Blessed Agnello was on familiar terms with King Henry III. Agnello is thought to have died at the age of forty-one, only eleven years after he landed at Dover, but his reputation for sanctity and prudence stood high amongst his fellows. It is stated that his zeal for poverty was so great that “he would never permit any ground to be enlarged or any house to be built except as inevitable necessity required.” He was stern in resisting relaxations in the Rule, but his gentleness and tact led him to be chosen in 1233 to negotiate with the rebellious Earl Marshal. His health is said to have been undermined by his efforts in this cause and by a last painful journey to Italy. Opon his return he was seized with dysentery at Oxford and died there, after crying out for three days, “Come, Sweetest Jesus.” The cult of Blessed Agnello was confirmed in 1892; his feast is observed in the Archdiocese of Birmingham today and by the Friars Minor on the eleventh.  Feast day is March 13

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #13:

 

As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.  A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.