Tag Archives: Pharisees

“I’m the Best Darn Humble Person Around, I Do Believe!” – Matthew 23:1-12†


 

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

All Saints Day and All Souls Day are Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, this week.  All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation.  I hope to see you all in Church.  This year, this past Wednesday, marks the 45th Anniversary of my father’s death.  I miss him, but know he (and my Mom) is (are) with me every single Eucharistic celebration.  In preparation for All Saints Day, let’s pray for greater courage in fighting abortion.

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Tomorrow night is Halloween.  Please be safe in all your Ghoulishly Christian endeavors.  If you have children that go “trick or treat”, please use the usual safety rules:

  1. 1.     Reflective material or flashing light or cyalume stick visible on all side placed on costume,
  2. 2.     Parent accompany the children on the haunt and haunting activities,
  3. 3.     Only go to homes where you know the occupants, and
  4. 4.     Inspect any treats prior to allowing children to have and/or consume.

Better yet, go to a party at yours or neighboring church (yet still follow the rules).

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Finally, The St. Louis Carinals are the Baseball World Champions.   There 11th World Champions in 2011 (“11 in 11”).  Besides the team, the fansare also the best.  The city is celebrating, people are hugging perfect strangers and NO rioting, breaking windows, or any other BAD behavior!  We have to be the greatest and classiest fans, not only in baseball, but in sports period!  Way to go Cardinals Nation, and way to go St.Louis Area for once again showing the world the proper and GREAT way to celebrate – –  with CLASS!  (thanks Jeff)

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   701 – John VI of Greece begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   942 – Alberic nominates Pope Marinus II (Martinus III)
†   1270 – The Eighth Crusade and siege of Tunis end by an agreement between Charles I of Sicily (brother to King Louis IX of France, who had died months earlier) and the sultan of Tunis.
†   1389 – French king Charles VI visits pope Clemens VII
†   1534 – English Parliament passes Act of Supremacy, making King Henry VIII head of the English church – a role formerly held by the Pope
†   1950 – Pope Pius XII witnesses “The Miracle of the Sun” while at the Vatican.
†   Feasts/Memorials: St. Artemas; St. Herbert; St. Marcellus the Centurion; St. Saturninus; St. Serapion

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

 

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  Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning against following of the Scribes and the Pharisees example; and teaches that those who would be great must be servants as well.

 

(NAB Matthew 23:1-12) 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice.  4 They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  5All their works are performed to be seen.  They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  6 They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’  8 As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.  9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.  10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.  11The greatest among you must be your servant.  12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

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 Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel continues to expand on the tension between Jesus and the Temple leaders.  Having finished a string of dialogues with the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus is now directing His words to the crowds following Him, warning them not to follow the example of the Scribes and Pharisees in “saying” – – but not “doing”.

Today, Matthew’s begin a narrative in which Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes and the Pharisees for their lack of humility. Matthew, in his writings, saw these Temple leaders as true enemies of Jesus (cf., Matthew 16:1, 6, 11, 12; and Mark 8:11–13, 15).

Who were these men of “faith” that could be enemies of Jesus?  The Scribes and Pharisees were teachers of Mosaic Law.  They were entrusted with the laws interpretation, and thus were influential in determining everyday Jewish practices.  

In order to appreciate the conflict that is evident in this passage, we must understand that Jesus was basing His teachings on the exact same laws and traditions offered to the Temple leaders, as found in the Old Testament, especially the Torah.  Both Jesus and the Temple leaders were interpreting the Law of Moses in order to adapt it to contemporary Jewish life of the time.  The differences between Jesus’ and the Temple leader’s teachings therefore, are often highlighted and amplified in Matthew’s Gospel.

While there is a well-seated and lengthy tradition of deep opposition existing between Jesus and the Temple leaders, today’s discourse by Jesus, exposes an opposition that goes far beyond that of Jesus’ ministry period on earth.  This opposition has to be viewed as expressing the long-held and very bitter conflict between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s later first-century Jewish-Catholic Church, when this Gospel was composed.  Matthew’s Church is believed to have included many who did not believe a break with the Temple was necessary to be a follower of Jesus Christ (My question: Was it?).  So, Matthew reports of Jesus stating that it is correct to “do” and “observe” what the Scribes and Pharisees teach; it is only their “example” that is to be avoided. Namely, Jesus is talking of the Temple leaders love for being honored and exalted (I call it the “look at me, I did much good” syndrome).  Therefore, today’s Gospel reflects the tension of an active internal debate that is occurring within the later first century Church and the Pharisaic Jewish church.

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The Temple leaders are sitting on their “laurels” – – their own personal glory – – and not sitting with God in mind and present among them.  So, is this what Jesus meant when He said:

The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.” (Matthew 23:2)?  

It is not clear whether Jesus meant this is a metaphor for Mosaic teaching authority, or, actually referring to a physical chair on which the “priest or Rabbi” sat as he taught and governed.  After all, there were found to be known seats such as this, in synagogues of later periods.  Did Jesus foretell future events in Jewish religion, was it just a coincidence, or was there another meaning?  

 

Jesus doesn’t stop at just this one observation, but continues to a greater phase in His comments that the Temple leaders do not walk the talk:

 “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” (Matthew 23:3)

Jesus is not doing away with Mosaic Law, but is instead expounding upon – – amplifying and fulfilling – – Mosaic Law:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophetsI have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

Remember, during the “Beatitudes” narrative, Jesus declared the “was said … but I say …” statements (cf., Matthew 5:31-42).  He is now also DIRECTLY warning His disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees, by their examples, as He did when talking of John the Baptist as a “true” servant of God (cf., 14:1-12).

The Scribes and Pharisees indults and actions in observing Mosaic Law in all things cannot be taken as the PROPER way to conduct oneself, then, and now in Jesus’ Catholic Church on earth today.  Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by conformity to salvation history and Mosaic Law.  At the same time, He is also points – – and leads – – to a new “church” that would exist after His death and resurrection on Easter Sunday.  During Jesus’ ministry, the beginning of God the Father’s kingdom on earth, His mission remained within the framework of Mosaic Law, though with a significant anticipation of the age to come.  Keeping this fact in mind, the crowds following Jesus Christ and His disciples were encouraged not to follow the example of the Jewish leaders whose deeds did not conform to their teachings.

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Carrying a heavy load is certainly not any fun or joy for ANYONE.  In verse 4 of today’s reading is the phrase, “They tie up heavy burdens”.  This particular phrase reminds me of Ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom while submitting to the Church’s “yoke”.

Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instructionTake her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching.  For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.” (Sirach 51:23, 26)

Jesus is reminding His follows that though burdened by the “law” as expanded on by the Scribes and Pharisees, that there is a undeniable hope in a faith and love to God the Father.  Those “burdened” can find rest in the “true” Word of God:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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To the indictment of the Temple leaders of preaching – – yet not practicing – – the “true” faith (verse 3), Jesus adds the indictment of “acting in order to earn praise”.  The disciples have already been warned against this same fault when Jesus taught about alms-giving, prayer, and fasting much earlier in His ministry (cf., Matthew 6:1-18).

Jesus is alluding to two specific aspects of Jewish spiritual life prescribed by the Law of Moses, for which many Catholics are not aware.  These two aspects, and two words associated with these aspects, are used in verse 5 of the Gospel.  Let me explain the items: “phylacteries” and “tassels”, and their proper use.

Phylacteries” are an item of clothing required by Mosaic Law during periods of prayer.  They are simple, small, and usually black boxes containing parchments on which verses of scripture are written.  They are worn on the left forearm and on the forehead by black straps (cf., Exodus 13:9, 16; and Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18).  If you watch people at the remains of the Temple wall (the Western Wall in Jerusalem), you will notice these small black boxes on their foreheads, and strapped (with long pieces of leather) around their left forearm, as they pray facing the wall.  These are the same phylacteries in use today, as in Jesus’ time.

The “Tassels” (officially called “Tzitzit”) are the “fringe” Mosaic Law prescribes to be worn on the corners of one’s garment (such as the prayer shawl) as a reminder to keep the commandments.  The widening of phylacteries (bigger boxes) and the lengthening of tassels (longer fringe and tassels) were solely for the purpose of making these “proofs of piety” more noticeable and pronounced.  (Humility in its finest; isn’t it!)

In their misguided zeal, the Temple leaders 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 rulers.  They, unfortunately, made the practice of their faith – – a burden – – rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to “humbly serve”.

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It is obvious Jesus loved His Father and His faith.  Jesus Christ was not afraid to express His concerns about the way the Temple leaders were abusing their positions for personal gain.  Jesus did not “bow out” or “quit” out of frustration.  Instead, Jesus Christ brought His Catholic (universal) Church into union with God His Father, and gave all that believed (and still believes) in Him the possibility of eternity salvation in paradise.  

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues actually leads to increased greed and separation from God the Father.  Another Evangelist, Mark, in his Gospel, even warns of greed and arrogance:

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)

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We now get to the second portion of Jesus’ discourse today: the warning against using various titles.  This section however, is addressed to the disciples alone, and not to the followers coming along for the ride, or the Temple leaders.  

Everybody loves a title.  I once had a title: “Director of Quality Assurance”, which meant I was reportedly in charge of a very important aspect of my company.  In reality, my jobs consisted mainly of filing papers, and counting various variables, in an office BY MYSELF (and with no staff).  (Not as glamorous as the job sounded on my business card.)

Temple leaders loved the name, “Rabbi”, meaning “my great one, or, teacher”.  It was (and still is) a title of respect for teachers and leaders.  Jesus was called “Rabbi” many times in Holy Scripture.  At age fifteen, He was even found teaching in the Temple (the 5th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary).  A large part of His earthly ministry involved being in or around the Temple frequently.  He was easily recognized as the leader of a group of people associated with the Jewish religion.

So, was Jesus against calling anyone “rabbi” or “father”?  Or, was He just directing this sharp rebuke solely to the Scribes and Pharisees? Well, I believe He was warning both His disciples and the Temple leaders about the temptation to seek titles and honors in order to increase one’s personal reputation and admiration by others.  Holy Scripture gives more than enough warning about the danger of self-seeking “pride”.  Examples can be found in the books of Proverbs and James:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) 

And,

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6),

While only the title ‘Rabbi’ is used in addressing the Scribes and Pharisees, I believe the inference is that “Father” and “Master” was also used.  The prohibition of these titles – – to Jesus’ disciples – – highly suggests that the use of these titles was present in Matthew’s first-century Jewish-Catholic Church.  Per Matthew, Is Jesus forbidding the “title” or the spirit of superiority and pride shown by their acceptance (or both)?

Saint Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD), and the bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin language, comments on Matthew’s Gospel reading:

Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity.  For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives.  One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher.  I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption.  Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father.” [Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew]

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Humility is the key to piety and love of the Trinitarian God.  The Evangelist, Luke, says of humility:

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Our Blessed Virgin Mary is the supreme example of how to live a humble life.  The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order states:

The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call.  She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family.  The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently (#9),

And,

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

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power (11).

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 In Summary, the warning Jesus gives against seeking places of honor in the community was directed as much toward the future Catholic communities as well as the Jewish leaders of His day.  Indeed, it is a warning that resonates with us LOUDLY today (Yet, cannot, or will not, be heard by many).  Catholic Christian leadership is a call to “service” for the glory of God!!  Like Jesus Christ, and His Virginal Mother, those who would be leaders among us must be “servants of ALL”.

St. Paul described “servant leadership” in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He recalled their “sharing”, their humility in serving the Church, and their “toil and drudgery”:

We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.  With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.  You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-9)

Although the challenging words of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel was directly addressed to religious leaders of His time, many voices today should still question those in positions of political and economic power.  In their own words, participants in the “Occupy Together” movement have accused individuals, groups, and businesses of greed, arrogance and corruption.  Yet, they don’t (are won’t) see the greed, arrogance, and lawlessness on their own part.  For me, most in both groups: the US Government and in the group of “wildly greedy individuals” are equal partners in greed, arrogance, and corruption.  Their actions of removing themselves from laws (by law and action) prove their lack of caring for the people they are suppose to “serve”.  Arrogance thrives in our halls of government, and in parks around the world (with the “Occupy” groups) today.

 

There is hope however.  Respect for God and His ways will dispose us to humility and simplicity of heart.  The word “disciple” means “one who listens in order to learn”.  Jesus shows us the way to God the Father, the sure and true way of peace, joy, righteousness, holiness, and true happiness.  He showed us “the way” by lowering Himself as a servant for our sake:

He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8).

What is true Christ-like humility?  It is when humility is “lived” with a true self-knowledge; seeing Jesus’ Christ in each and every person we meet.  The humbled do not rely on themselves, but trust in God and the power of His love and saving grace.  True humility is a “servant-like” quality, enabling us to place our life in the service of God and neighbor. Do you have a joy for Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?  Are you following Jesus’ example of service to others – with Humility?

Our response to economic and political concerns, should be to “model” humble servant leadership, and seek the same from those in positions of extraordinary power.  Remember, November 8th (Election Day) is right around the corner.  So, practice what you peach!”  What does this mean to you?  Can you list some examples of people you know who “practice what they preach”?  In these people, what do you observe in them, and what do you admire about them?

“Do as I say, not as I do.”  How many of us have been tempted to say (or actually have said) this phrase to our children and co-workers (Yep, I have)?  Today’s Gospel resounds with Jesus’ reply, “Practice what you preach.”  People, who know us best, can identify the [many] inconsistencies between what we want to teach and the example that we actually give – – so ask, if you aren’t afraid.  

Maybe the challenge for all of us, especially for those of us who are parents, is to model with consistency a love, faith, and hope in the Catholic Christian “way of life” we wish to teach our loved ones.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus Christ talk about the importance of acting in ways that are consistent with our faith.  How might you better practice the Catholic faith you professed at your Baptism and Confirmation (and at every Mass).  TODAY, choose an “action” to take which shows your faith – – in action.  Pray together that your faith will be shown consistently in your actions AND words.  Remember, God opens doors and gives you what you need to “act” on His behalf, so use the gifts and talents God has given you.

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 131

We find peace in the Lord.

 

 

“LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty.  I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.  Rather, I have stilled my soul, like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul.  Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever.  Amen.”  Psalm 131:1-3

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

The one that is most familiar to us (“Christ has died, Christ is risen …”) has disappeared completely.  The three remaining ones are similar to those in the current missal, but the wording is different in each case.

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

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (c. 1533-1617)

Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.

Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23.  Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor.  Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life.  He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home.  There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.

Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits.  He was not helped by his poor education.  He applied twice before being admitted.  For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca.  When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.

His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian.  Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.

Alphonsus died in 1617.  He is the patron saint of Majorca.

Comment:

We like to think that God rewards the good even in this life.  But Alphonsus knew business losses, painful bereavement and periods when God seemed very distant.  None of his suffering made him withdraw into a shell of self-pity or bitterness.  Rather, he reached out to others who lived with pain, including enslaved blacks.  Among the many notables at his funeral were the sick and poor people whose lives he had touched.  May they find such a friend in us!

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

Have you ever thought of Christ as your brother?

Why does Francis call us “Brothers and Sisters in Penance”?

Are we to really “hate” our bodies? (cf., Galations:5:13-21)

How much of Francis’ life was spent in penance and conversion?

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

 

Chapter 1

 

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Great, Another Question About the Greater Greatness!” – Matthew 22:34-40 †


 

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Let’s put overpopulation in perspective.  There will be a total of 7 billion people in the world by the end of this month.  “Progressives” are concerned that this amount of people is too much, and the world is getting over-crowded.

Well, if each of the 7 billion people stood on a square three foot by three foot, the overall size would be 47.5 square miles, about the size of a couple typical counties in ONE state.

An acre of land is 208.7 feet per side.  For us “city dwellers”, an American football field is 360 feet by 160 feet, about 1.3 acres.  The United States land mass is 3,536,294 sq mi of land (No water is included in the figures).  SO, each of the 7 billion people on the earth can live within the US borders, and have about a 1/2 acre of property, EACH!  (That’s more than I have now.)

The Earth’s land mass is 57,500,000 sq mi (16.3 times larger than U.S. land mass).  With this in mind, each of the 7 billion people living RIGHT NOW can have about 8 acres of possible land, on average.  Eight acres is a plot of land 1670 feet on each side, or about a 1/3 mile, on each side.  That is about 50 football fields for EACH person on earth!!

THE WORLD IS NOT OVERPOPULATED.  From an ecological point of view, there are plenty of resources available for our NEEDS.  We just don’t want to share and/or pay for acquiring them!!  Overpopulation IS NOT the problem.  The real problem is two-fold: personal greed and materialism is!!

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I know a “good book” to read.  It is 2000 years old, and has 73 “chapters” [actually, books themselves] (some are missing 7, removed only a few hundred years ago).  It is filled with suspense, murder, love, war, sex, and mystery.  The interesting part is that everyone already knows the ending: the main character (and His followers) finally wins (actually won on day one*), but is still hard to put down.  This book comes in EVERY language spoken (including Braille), and is the most read book EVER (sorry Mark Twain).  (* What do you think about this “fact”?  Tell me what “day one” is for you?)

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   502 – The Synodus Palmaris, called by Gothic king Theodoric the Great, discharges Pope Symmachus of all charges, thus ending the schism of Antipope Laurentius.
†   1450 – Death of Johannes van Capestrano, Italian saint, at age 70
†   1456 – Death of Giovanni da Capistrano, Italian saint (b. 1386)
†   1550 – Death of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (b. 1480)
†   1870 – Birth of Francis Kelley, Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma (d. 1948)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Giovanni da Capistrano; Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius; Saint Anthony Mary Claret; Saint Ignatius of Constantinople

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

 

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 Quote of the Day:

 

 

“Love without faith is as bad as faith without love.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Pharisees continuing to test Jesus with a different question: about the greatest commandment.

 

(NAB Matthew 22:34-40) 34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking,36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him,“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

This week’s Gospel follows closely behind, and is actually attached to last Sunday’s Gospel reading.  Today’s reading has the last of three questions put to Jesus by Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. 

The Herodians and the Pharisees asked the first question (in the Gospel two Sundays ago), about paying taxes to Caesar.  The Sadducees asked the second question (last Sunday), about the Resurrection (cf., Matthew 22:22-33).  The third question, today’s Gospel, is asked by a “Scholar” (probably by a Scribe and definitely a Pharisee), who asks Jesus which one of the ten is the “greatest” of the commandments.

Now, why do you think these groups are all questioning or testing Jesus Christ? Because these “pious” men are trying – – with all their power and knowledge – – to trick Jesus into saying something that could get Him arrested.  The background and context for today’s reading is one of mounting tension, hostility, and divisiveness between Jesus, the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and the Jewish faithful.

Isn’t it interesting that all three religious factions (the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes), plus a separate Jewish political group (the Herodians), all considered Jesus a threat to their livelihoods and lifestyles.  They all tried to trap Him, and none succeeded.

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Both the professional Scribes and the group of Pharisees prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements.  Both made it a life-time practice to study the 616 “precepts” of the Old Testament, along with the many numerous Rabbinic “commentaries” (called the “Mitzvot”, Hebrew for “good deeds and acts of kindness”).  So, they tested Jesus to see whether He correctly understood the law as they did – – (not as they should).  

With this fact in mind, what is meant by Matthew reporting that Jesus was “tested”?  This verb is used often throughout the Gospels when attempts to embarrass Jesus’ occur.  These “tests” can be put into two differing challenges: to DO or to SAY something they believed impossible!   Attempts to challenge Jesus to DO something they believe impossible can be found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels:

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

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.” (Mark 8:11),

And,

Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.”  (Luke 11:16).

The second challenge, having Jesus SAY something that can be used against Him, can also be found in two of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Mark):

Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, ‘Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?’” (Matthew 22:17-18); 

One of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’” (Matthew 22:35-36); 

“The Pharisees approached and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’  They were testing him.” (Mark 10:2), 

and,

“They came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.  You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or should we not pay?’” (Mark 12:14). 

It is obvious that these “pious” men wanted to trap Jesus in a “catch-22” situation.  He would be “damned” either way – – or so they thought!!

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For the devoutly pious Jew, ALL the commandments were to be kept with equal care.   In their questioning of Jesus, there is evidence of an obsession within the Jewish community about which “law” is the greatest:

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36).

Why would any Jewish person even care what “law” is the greatest when they should believe ALL the laws are indeed equal in status?  (Hmm?!)

Today’s question required Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses (the Scribes’ job in the Temple).  Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and over six hundred additional rules, mostly originating in the Torah.  Adherence to the Mosaic Law, for a devoutly pious Jew, is an expression of faithfulness to God’s covenant with “Israel” and there response bu obedience to these rules.  The ranking of the Commandments seemed to have been regularly debated among the teachers of the Law, even though ALL the Commandments were equal in importance, and today’s reading is a good proof of this.

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Interestingly, Jesus startled them with His profound simplicity and mastery of the “law of God”, and its true purpose.  In verse 37 of today’s reading, Jesus’ answer is simple and directly from the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, written by Moses through the Holy Spirit.  His answer can be found in the book of Deuteronomy:

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Matthew omitted the first part of the “fuller” quotation, found both in Deuteronomy and Mark’s Gospel:

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

Jesus replied, ‘The first is this: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”’” (Mark 12:29-30).

Matthew may have omitted this first part of the quotation to focus on the fulfillment of the promises of the Holy One of Israel, for his first century Jewish-Catholic Church, rather than emphasizing the monotheistic (ONE God belief) of the Jewish faith.  Jesus Christ is the reality of, and fulfillment of that faith.  For me, what Jesus was declaring with His new, yet old, answer, is the top priority of the love for God to occupy the total person (heart, mind, and soul – – of both the Jew AND the Gentile)!!

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Jesus, in His unique quality of expanding the issue, goes beyond the extent of the question put to Him.  He joins to His “greatest and the first commandment” a second, “love of neighbor”, also found in the Torah:

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

Here’s a revelation for us – NOW, as well as the Jewish people listening to Jesus – THEN.  This combination of the two commandments, “love your God and Love your neighbor”, was already a part of Judaism.  In reality, Jesus DID NOT pronounce anything new to the Jewish people; He only emphasized what should have been recognized and lived by them ALREADY!!

This “double commandment” in today’s reading is the divine source from which the whole (Mosaic) law, and what the “Prophets” stated and affirmed in the Old Testament, originate.  “The Old lives in the New – – and the New fulfills the Old”!!  Only God has the capabilities, with a true authority, to divinely pronounce the “source” thousands of years after the Mosaic Laws had been well established.  After all, “He was, He is, and He will always BE!!”

Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question with a two-fold summary of faith.  He says that all of the commandments can be summarized in two [supplementary and complementary] commandments: “love God and love your neighbor”. Both of these directives were essential elements of the religious tradition Jesus learned as a youth, from His Jewish community.  Indeed, these two “old and new” commandments, together, still continue to be essential and important aspects of contemporary Jewish religious understanding today.  Jesus’ response to His “questioners” anticipates a vital relationship between these two aspects of the Jewish Law.  “Love of God” finds its expression in our “love for our neighbor”!!

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In Summary, we learn about “love” from real, “hard and true” examples witnessed in family life and outside the home by friends and neighbors.  We can “love God and love our neighbors” by showing everyday acts of charity, generosity, and kindness.  (Remember “Mitzvot”?)In doing so, we show (and do) our own expressions of “love for God”.  These acts, small and large, simple and extreme, are the expressions of what Jesus identified as the two greatest commandments: “love God and love neighbor”.

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What does God require of us Catholic Christians?  It is simply that we love as He loves! (Note the present tense!)  God IS love, and everything He does flows from His love for us.  God loved us first, and our love for Him is a response to His exceeding grace and kindness towards us.  The “love of God” comes first with the “love of neighbor” firmly anchored in the “love of God”.  They cannot be separated.  The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what he loves and reject what is immoral, hateful, and contrary to His kindness and love.  

What makes our love for God and His commands grow in, through, and out of each of us?  It is our Faith in God and hope in His promises that strengthens us in actual “loving of God.”  Faith, love, and hope are absolutely essential for a proper relationship with the Trinitarian God.  Faith, love, and hope are the links uniting us with Him.  The more we know of God, the more we love Him.  The more we love Him, the greater we believe and hope in His promises.  

The Lord, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new freedom to love as He loves.  Is there anything keeping you from the love of God? – – and the joy of serving others with a generous heart?  – – Let us remember what Saint Paul says of hope and love:

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

Do you know the love which conquers all?  I do!!  I hope you do too!!

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Love

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

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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 New Translation of the Mass

 

 

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

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

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

 

There is only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we presently say:

“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest”,

with the new liturgical text we will say:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.

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

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

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Hilarion (c. 291-371)

 

Despite his best efforts to live in prayer and solitude, today’s saint found it difficult to achieve his deepest desire.  People were naturally drawn to Hilarion as a source of spiritual wisdom and peace.  He had reached such fame by the time of his death that his body had to be secretly removed so that a shrine would not be built in his honor.  Instead, he was buried in his home village.

St. Hilarion the Great, as he is sometimes called, was born in Palestine.  After his conversion to Christianity he spent some time with St. Anthony of Egypt, another holy man drawn to solitude.  Hilarion lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert, where he also experienced spiritual dryness that included temptations to despair.  At the same time, miracles were attributed to him.

As his fame grew, a small group of disciples wanted to follow Hilarion.  He began a series of journeys to find a place where he could live away from the world.  He finally settled on Cyprus, where he died in 371 at about age 80.

Hilarion is celebrated as the founder of monasticism in Palestine.  Much of his fame flows from the biography of him written by St. Jerome.

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

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

 

What is the meaning of “penance”?

What is the meaning of “worthy fruits of penance”?

What can God’s parental love mean in your life?

What is the greatest quality of a loving parent?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 23 & 24 of 26:

 

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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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.

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


     

 

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

 

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.  Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:41, 43)

No wonder they were trying to “trap” Him!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

ТТТ

 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 96

Sing praise to the Lord.

 

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

ТТТ

 

New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

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

 “It is right and just.”

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

It is truly right and just.

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and the Spirituality

 

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

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

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

 

ТТТ

 

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

 

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

Т

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

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

“You Thought You Had It Hard Before, Check Out These Laws!” – Matthew 5:17–37†


 

“Vigils for Victims” of underage sex trafficking are being organized outside Planned Parenthood offices coast-to-coast on Monday, February 14, from Noon to 1 PM in each U.S. Time Zone …

… and YOU can make a profound impact in one hour!

We must act swiftly and take a public stand against Planned Parenthood’s harmful agenda — raising awareness in the communities where we live, and calling upon Congress to IMMEDIATELY strip the abortion chain of all tax funding.

This Monday, February 14, all people of faith and conscience are being called upon to hold one-hour “Vigils for Victims” of human trafficking during the Noon hour in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood offices nationwide.

 This requires rapid action, but will show Planned Parenthood — and the media — the power of pro-life America to bring about change!

For more information, go to http://www.40daysforlife.com and follow the links.

Please join me at the following location:

Central West End Planned Parenthood facility
4251 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO  63108

 

 

 

            

Today in Catholic History:


   
†   1130 – Death of Honorius II, [Lamberto], Pope (1124-30)
†   1130 – Gregorio de’ Papareschi elected as Pope Innocent II
†   1480 – Birth of Girolamo Aleandro, Italian Catholic cardinal (d. 1542)
†   1585 – Death of Alfonso Salmeron, Spanish Jesuit biblical scholar (b. 1515)
†   1599 – Birth of Alexander VII, [Fabio Chigi], Siena Italy, pope (1655-67)
†   1888 – Death of Jean Baptiste Lamy, 1st Archbishop of Santa Fe (b. 1814)
†   1913 – Birth of Guiseppe Dossetti, Italian politician/priest
†   2005 – Death of Lúcia Santos, Carmelite nun and Fatima visionary (b. 1907)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Beatrice; Saint Ermenildis; Saint Fulcran; Saint Polyeuctus

(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:

 

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning.  The wife said, “You should do it because you get up first, and then we don’t have to wait as long to get our coffee.”  The husband said, “You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee.”  His wife replies, “No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee.”  The husband retorts, “I can’t believe that, show me.” 

So she fetched the Bible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says – – “HEBREWS”!

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 13 of 13 Parts

Let us not forget, dearest brothers and sisters, that there are nearly 450,000 of us professed Secular Franciscans, in every corner of the globe.  We are a great potential force for good and grace in the service of the Church.  We make up 75% of all the Franciscans in the world!

Can you imagine what we could accomplish in the service of the Kingdom and the Gospel if only we were all true, authentic, good Secular Franciscans?

Come on, then, brothers and sisters, let us answer the call of the Church: let us “put out into the deep”, Duc in Altum, with courage, and not keep the Church waiting any longer as She urges us to retake our place fully in the Church and in the world.

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

 

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ coming to NOT abolish the Mosaic Law, and Old Testament prophecies – – but to fulfill them.

 

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  20 I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  21 You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’  22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.  23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.  Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.  27 ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.  30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.   31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’  32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  33 “Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’  34 But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  36 Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.  37 Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’  Anything more is from the evil one.  (NAB Matthew 5:17–37)

 

Today’s reading is the first part of three readings concerning Jesus’ teachings on the true way of life for entrance into God’s kingdom.  Part one concerns the Mosaic Law.  The second reading will deal with worship, religious practices, and prayer (Jesus’ model for His disciples).  Part three focuses on trusting God and giving proper acts of loving service to our “neighbors”.

Here in part one, we have a statement of Jesus’ position concerning the Jewish Mosaic Law.  It is composed of traditional material, plus Matthew’s own editorial touches (after all, he wrote the book).  Jesus did not come to change, tweak, amend, or even abolish Mosaic Laws.  Nor did Jesus want to distort the words and prophecies of the many biblical prophets who preceded Him.  Jesus came out of a need to literally fulfill all the laws, prophecies, and promises concerning the “Messiah” and the new kingdom to come!  I know about sixty prophecies (more or less) from the Hebrew Scriptures, written 1500 to 400 years before the birth of Jesus, our Savior.  To fulfill ALL, and not just some, prophesies would be a statistical improbability (And for me, impossible!  Only God could make that happen.)  And, He promised He would, He did, and in the Person of the “Messiah”.

In a somewhat bizarre but realistic twist, the new kingdom – – the new covenant – – is a direct offshoot of the old.  In my opinion, Catholics are a second generation or first cousin of the Jewish faith.  Jesus, a Jew, proclaims this when He asserted that the smallest tidbit of the law will stay intact for eternity. 

Jesus requires us to follow the moral laws, “the Commandments”, not the desert code for worship during the exodus, which Moses received from God on Mount Sinai.  Since God cannot create anything naturally imperfect, the moral laws He gave us then are indeed perfect in nature; and thus, of no need to be amended, changed, or deleted – ever!

Those who do not obey any of the Ten Commandments, even in the smallest of ways, or who teach others to not follow the Ten Commandments, are guilty of serious moral evil (sin).  Sin affects not only the entire body of Christ, but also the human Church (us).  The slightest “sin” of any type affects the entire Church and separates the sinful one from a permissive and loving God and weakens the bens of love among the brethren (the human Church).

Whoever obeys and teaches the commandments are truly walking in the path of Christ.  They have become Christian”, an Imitator of Christ!  The greatest gift one, as a Christian, is their best “self”!

 Jesus said,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind, and love your neighbor as yourself(Luke 10:25-28):

Then He said

“And do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law” (Matthew 7:12).:

Peace, love, and humility are graces God bestows upon and within us.  We are to share His graces and gifts with all people we encounter – at all times and in all places.  After all, a talent or gift not shared with others is, sadly, a talent or gift wasted!  Don’t be afraid to embrace your calling, your mission on earth.  It really is possible to live the life God desires of you.  In fact, all humankind is so dearly in need of your witness to God, which only you can give.

The commandments identified in verse 19 denote those of the Mosaic Law.  However, I think Jesus was (and is) talking about more than the Jewish civil and religious regulations.  He is teaching a universal and perpetual system of moral standards and principles “until heaven and earth pass away.”

Jesus wants us to look further the Mosaic Laws and into the “heart” (the intention) of the Law-giver: God!  God wants a sincere, unconditional, and total submission, compliance, and reverence to the intentions underlying His laws.  Ok, yes the standards are immense and challenging!  However, so too are His graces and rewards! 

 

From verse 21, and extending to verse 48, Jesus gives six examples of conduct expected of His disciples wishing to follow Him and His teachings.  {We are only covering the first four examples in today’s Gospel reflection).  Each situation deals with a commandment of Mosaic Law.   Each one is presented in the second person format.  (Isn’t Jesus the “second” person in the Trinity? – Hmm.)  The first example introduces “your ancestors did something” formula.  Jesus responds by introducing a different, higher, more important standard of behavior.  He emphasizes the difference by using the very strong words: “But I say to you ….”  By doing this He is declaring an authoritative clarification of what He (and God the Father’s) expects of His sons and daughters.

In today’s reading, two of the directives accept the “old” Mosaic Law fully, while extending or deepening the directive (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-28).  The two other directives in today’s reading are partially rejected as a standard of conduct for Jesus’ followers (Matthew 31-32; 33-37).  I say “partially” because His improvement is more of a “clarification of God’s intent” rather than complete rejection. [Again, Matthew 5:38-39 and 5:43-44 are not covered in this reflection]

 

The first directive, found in verse 21, in today’s reading is about killing someone.  The Mosaic Law can be found in two specific places in the Old Testament:

You shall not kill.”  (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17)
(The Hebrew word is “murder”.)

However, the second part of the verse, “whoever kills will be liable to judgment” is not an exact quotation from the Old Testament directive found in the book of Exodus:

Whoever strikes a man a mortal blow must be put to death.”  (Exodus 21:12)

Jesus counters the current interpretation when He says, “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment ….”  Jesus goes deeper and broader by declaring a new standard of doing harm by using just words.  Jesus’ intention is to (1) avoid harming your brother verbally, and (2) seek reconciliation with your adversary.   This standard of behavior is found in Luke’s Gospel:

“If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison.  I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”  (Luke 12:58-59).

The severity of the “judge” in either (Matthew’s or Luke’s) parable is a strong warning to all people (not just Jesus’ disciples, or even the Jewish people as a whole) concerning the fate for unrepentant sinners in the coming judgment by Jesus – – the Parousia.

Anger is probably the greatest motive leading murder.  Insulting someone, using improper nicknames, and/or strong descriptive labels, are simple steps leading to anger and murder. “Raqa” (verse 22) is an Aramaic word meaning “fool”, “imbecile” or “blockhead”; using it is clearly improper and disparaging terms of abuse towards others.  These “words”, as well as the aforementioned act of murder, are forbidden in God’s kingdom. 

The Jewish people understood that not all offenses are equal.  Some are minor, others are major.  The Jews had an increasing order of punishment for issues involving anger.  There was (1) judgment, (2) being called before the Sanhedrin Court, and (3) Condemnation (death)!  This reveals the various levels and degrees of seriousness in each of the offenses (name calling, anger, and murder).  Judgment would probably first take place by the local council or congregation.  Next in order, would be a trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Temple court in Jerusalem.  The Sanhedrin was the highest judicial body of the Jewish religion, a Supreme Court of sorts.  Finally, for the most serious of charges, condemnation to “Gehenna” was the ultimate penalty – – death and burial outside the city. 

Gehenna, the “Valley of Hinnom,” or “Valley of the son of Hinnom,” was (and still is) an area geographically southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  At one time, it was the center of an idolatrous (pagan) cult in which children were offered in fire sacrifices:  

“The king [Josiah of Judah – descendant of David] also defiled Topheth in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be an immolation of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech. (2 Kings 23:10)  

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they have built the high place of Topheth to immolate in fire their sons and their daughters, such a thing as I never commanded or had in mind.” (Jeremiah 7:31)

(A Side Reflection:  A common method of abortion is to inject a super high concentration of salt into the amniotic (babies) fluid in which the fetus lives.  This barbaric act literally, and brutally, BURNS the fetus to death in its own – – once life giving – – fluid.  Can you just imagine the pain of physically and slowly burning to death?  Our society is no better than the pagan cult that once lived in Gehenna!)

The concept of punishment for sinners by fire after death or the final judgment can be found in Jewish apocalyptic literature such as Enoch 90:26:

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

In verse 29-30 of Matthew, Jesus is telling us that any sacrifice of self, for others out of love, is never too little for inclusion into God’s kingdom.  In reality, sacrifice of self, for others out of love, may keep one from inclusion to the horrors of total destruction in Gehenna.

 

Next are the laws regarding “adultery” and “divorce”.  The Mosaic Law is very direct when it comes to adultery:

You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)

Notice the period behind the verse!  It is there for a reason!!  Adultery is a misleading name for me.  A true “Adult” would never violate that “intimate” (meaning “shared privacy”) covenant made not only with a spouse, but also made with God Himself!

The Old Testament Mosaic Law was quite interesting when it came to divorce.  Read Deuteronomy 24:1-5:

When a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and therefore he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house: if on leaving his house she goes and becomes the wife of another man, and the second husband, too, comes to dislike her and dismisses her from his house by handing her a written bill of divorce; or if this second man who has married her, dies; then her former husband, who dismissed her, may not again take her as his wife after she has become defiled. That would be an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring such guilt upon the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you as a heritage.  “When a man is newly-wed, he need not go out on a military expedition, nor shall any public duty be imposed on him. He shall be exempt for one year for the sake of his family, to bring joy to the wife he has married.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-5)

The Old Testament commandment that a “bill of divorce” be given to the woman (she usually sends the bill NOW) assumes that the divorce itself is for legitimate reasons.  Jesus is denying that most divorces are, in fact, legitimate in any way. I believe this is proven in the fact that He says, “Unless the marriage is unlawful”.  This “exceptive clause,” can be found elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel as well:

I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

BUT, there are other sayings from Jesus about divorce which clearly prohibit it absolutely.

“He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”  (Mark 10:11-12)

Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  (Luke 16:18)

To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband and a husband should not divorce his wife.”    (1 Cor 7:10, 11b)

Most bible scholars agree that these verses represent the true attitude and stance of Jesus Christ (and thus, GOD).  Matthew’s “exceptive clauses” (“unless”) are believed by some scholars to be a modification of the absolute prohibition to divorce.  It seems, however, that the “unlawfulness” that Matthew gives as a reason why a marriage can be broken refers to situations unique to his own first century early Catholic community.   These situations stem from violations of Mosaic Law that forbid marriage between persons of certain blood affinities and/or legal relationships:

None of you shall approach a close relative to have sexual intercourse with her. I am the LORD.  You shall not disgrace your father by having intercourse with your mother. Besides, since she is your own mother, you shall not have intercourse with her.  You shall not have intercourse with your father’s wife, for that would be a disgrace to your father.  You shall not have intercourse with your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in your own household or born elsewhere.  You shall not have intercourse with your son’s daughter or with your daughter’s daughter, for that would be a disgrace to your own family.  You shall not have intercourse with the daughter whom your father’s wife bore to him, since she, too, is your sister.  You shall not have intercourse with your father’s sister, since she is your father’s relative.  You shall not have intercourse with your mother’s sister, since she is your mother’s relative.  You shall not disgrace your father’s brother by being intimate with his wife, since she, too, is your aunt.  You shall not have intercourse with your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, and therefore you shall not disgrace her.  You shall not have intercourse with your brother’s wife, for that would be a disgrace to your brother.  You shall not have intercourse with a woman and also with her daughter, nor shall you marry and have intercourse with her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; this would be shameful, because they are related to her.  While your wife is still living you shall not marry her sister as her rival; for thus you would disgrace your first wife.” (Lev 18:6-18)

Marriages of this sort was (and still are in most parts of the country) regarded as incestuous (“porneia” in Greek, from which we get the word “porn”).  However, some first century rabbis allowed Gentile converts to Judaism, who had married in such a way, to remain in their incestuous marriages.  Matthew’s “exceptive clause” is against such permissiveness for Gentile converts to Christianity, and can be seen in a similar prohibition of incestuous marriages found in Acts:

 “Tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.   Namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.  If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right.” (Acts 15:20, 29)

In the interpretations, there is no exception to the prohibition of divorce, when the marriage is lawful.

 

Verse 33 (false oaths) is not a “precise” quotation from any Old Testament text. It can be deduced from several verses in the Pentateuch:

You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11)

You shall not swear falsely by my name, thus profaning the name of your God. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:12)

The true purpose of any oath is to guarantee truthfulness – – by calling on God as your witness.  Remember the Old Perry Mason TV episodes wherein the person testifying in court put their hand on a bible and said, “I swear to tell the truth …”?  Also, every President of the United States, and all elected federal officials place their hand on the religious book of their faith, (usually a bible in this country), when taking the oath of their office.  One’s oath is a form of a covenant with God – – and you don’t want to purposely break a covenant with God!

Recently, in the prevalent secularization of America, and in removing God from anything and everything [a personal opinion], the use of “God-based” oath formulas, and acts such as placing your hand on a bible (never done in a courtroom anymore) are attempts, simply, to avoid God’s divine name in public. 

However, one is still in fact swearing by His name regardless.  All the things sworn to or by, – – are related to God

I had a “dah” moment in reading Verse 37.  What did Jesus really mean by saying”:

“Let your `Yes’ mean `Yes,’ and your `No’ mean `No’”? 

Was Jesus literally meaning, “Let your words be “Yes, yes,” or “No, no” without any misrepresentation, misinterpretation, or misdirection in what you say to anyone at anytime?  Some scholars believe that this statement is in fact, a milder form of an oath, permitted by Jesus.  If you look at verse 34 again, it says, “Do not swear at all“.  If taken as “biblical”, it is highly unlikely that any human could uphold this regulation.   I believe Jesus clearly explains His statement with the second half of the verse, “Anything more is from the evil one”.  Any “oath-taking”, in reality presumes our sinful weakness; namely, our sinful predisposition to lie.  Otherwise, why would an oath ever be needed?  Jesus is simply insisting that His disciples be truthful at all times, thus making any oath essentially unnecessary.  (How about that, for a much higher standard!)

 

Initially, to fulfill the Mosaic Law meant for me to literally follow each of the laws exactly to the slightest detail, forever (yeah, right!).  After a period of reflection, I have come to believe this “passing away” of heaven and earth is not necessarily the end of the world as most would think.  Instead, this “passing away” may refer to the termination in our “human” understanding and knowledge of our existing universe, for a more divinely inspired and mysterious understanding.  I believe we may be living in the early stage of the new and final age now, as prophesied by Isaiah as the time of “new heavens and a new earth.”  Isaiah declares:

“Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind; As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make Shall endure before me, says the LORD, so shall your race and your name endure.” (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22) 

Jesus’ ministry on earth points to the “new kingdom”.  His mission never deviated from Old Testament prophecies.  In fact, I believe His ministry actually remained within the framework of Mosaic Law!  However, Jesus brought about a significant anticipation and hope of a new age and a new covenant – – His kingdom on earth.  In this new kingdom, He calls ALL of us to witness and teach.  Are you?!

There is a responsibility for all of us to help each other, in an individual and communal way.  We are to gain knowledge to understand our faith, and God’s love and trust He has for each individual one of us – – personally!  We also must help shape the hearts and souls of others, in addition to our own.  You don’t have to be perfect (trust me, that would be impossible); you just have to give your best.  Surrender to the Holy Spirit; allow Him to work with, in, and through you.  The Holy Trinity will certainly do the rest of the work, again – – with, in, and through YOU!  YOU really can change the world, one person at a time.

Jesus does not overturn the Law of Moses, nor does he set His disciples free from the Law. He instead requires his followers to go beyond Mosaic Law by doing more than it requires. 

I sense that most people remember more through their eyes than they ever will through what they read or hear.  We need to “show” All others (not just people with whom we are comfortable) how to live a proper Catholic lifestyle.  This is done by demonstrating a proper Catholic standard of living and routine at all times.  St. Francis was definitely right when he said:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

We all live by rules.  Without rules, life would be chaos.  Think of the rules that you are all called to follow in order for you all to get along with others in your life.  In reality, following rules is a way of showing love and respect for one another.

“This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:21)

 

In Summary, the Law condemned murder. Jesus condemns anger. The Law condemned adultery. Jesus condemns even lustful looks.  As Jewish Christians who had always been faithful to the Law, Matthew’s community needed a way to understand the difference Jesus, and the kingdom He brings, have made.  They believed that God had always been at work in history through “the Law and the prophets.”  The written scriptures and their interpretation in tradition are surpassed by Jesus, whose life, His birth, teachings, death, resurrection, and glorification – – are THE definitive revelation of the will of God, our Father.

 

The Prayer for Controlling Anger

 

“O Lord, must I fear Your wrath?
Retribution is Yours by right!
May I never dishonor Your Divinity,
My
soul seeking to maintain Your love.
Shape my being into earnest kindness,
A reflection of Your perfection.
Grant me the
grace of self-control,
That I may not display any anger.
Should I have such an outburst,
Instantly remind me to seek redress,
For such is offensive to You.
Anger is Yours alone to avenge!  Amen.”

http://www.catholic.org/prayers

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph (1729-1812)

 

In the same year that a power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into Russia, Giles Mary of St. Joseph ended a life of humble service to his Franciscan community and to the citizens of Naples.

Francesco was born in Taranto to very poor parents. His father’s death left the 18-year-old Francesco to care for the family. Having secured their future, he entered the Friars Minor at Galatone in 1754. For 53 years he served at St. Paschal’s Hospice in Naples in various roles, such as cook, porter or most often as official beggar for that community.

“Love God, love God” was his characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor—all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone to repent. The charity which he reflected on the streets of Naples was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the friars. The people whom Giles met on his begging rounds nicknamed him the “Consoler of Naples.” He was canonized in 1996.

Comment:

People often become arrogant and power hungry when they try to live a lie, for example, when they forget their own sinfulness and ignore the gifts God has given to other people. Giles had a healthy sense of his own sinfulness—not paralyzing but not superficial either. He invited men and women to recognize their own gifts and to live out their dignity as people made in God’s divine image. Knowing someone like Giles can help us on our own spiritual journey.

Quote:

In his homily at the canonization of Giles, Pope John Paul II said that the spiritual journey of Giles reflected “the humility of the Incarnation and the gratuitousness of the Eucharist” (L’Osservatore Romano 1996, volume 23, number 1).

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

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 13 & 14 of 26:

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

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

 

 

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

“Where Is the ‘LOVE’ In All the Trickery? The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!” – Mark 3:1-6†


 

Many Christian churches have designated January 18th – 23rd of every year as a “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”.   How can pray for a deeper unity among believers?  What unites us is much greater than what separates us!  Let us anticipate the day when we all will be completely and truly united in and with Jesus Christ, our common “Lord and Savior”!! 

The theme for prayer this year is from Acts (2:42):

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

“Teaching of the Apostles” can be achieved by learning what our church’s teach.  When was the last time you actually read, even a portion, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church?  Do you own, or heard of such a book?  It is, in essence, our faith’s “book of rules and practices”.

“Communal life” can be gained by seeking opportunities to support one another in Jesus Christ.  All we need is “LOVE.”  (Hint: this is covered in today’s reflection)

“Breaking of the bread and prayers” is possible through working together for a common cause.  How do you support the poor and maligned?  Do you work to protect the unborn is some way?  Praying with other Christians (both Catholic, and of other faiths) is a powerful way to break new ground, and possibly even change the way we view each other’s faith and traditions.

 

 

 

 

This January 22nd is the 38th Anniversary (1973) of the controversial, immoral, and death sentencing decision from the US Supreme Court legalizing abortion in the case titled “Roe vs. Wade”.

Norma McCorvey, the real name of the person called Jane Roe in the infamous lawsuit, has since converted to Christianity (in 1995).  She has dedicated her life to stopping Abortion.  An active “Pro-lifer” now, she has a ministry called “Roe No More.” (http://www.roenomore.org/)

In describing how McCorvey views the “Pro-abortion” (Pro-Murder) community, she says, “Plain and simple, I was used. I was a nobody to them.  They only needed a pregnant woman to use for their case, and that is it.  They cared, not about me, but only about legalizing abortion.  Even after the case, I was never respected — probably because I was not an ivy-league educated, liberal feminist like they were.”

The prayer today (at the end of my reflection) is a “Novena Prayer of Reparation”.  Please pray this prayer frequently for the end of the horrendous assault against creation, nature, and God!

 

Today in Catholic History:
 

†   973 – Pope Benedictus VI elected
†  1607 – San Agustin Church in Manila is officially completed; it is currently the oldest church in the Philippines
†  Feast/Memorials: St. Mark of Ephesus
†  Eastern and Oriental Catholic Orthodoxy — Julian Calendar Theophany (Epiphany).
 

(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:

 

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”  – John Bunyan

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 06 of 13 Parts

 

The key points are the following:

  •  AWARENESS OF BEING PRESENT ALL OVER THE WORLD, EVEN WHERE THE CHURCH IS PRESECUTED

Perhaps you will not be asked to shed your blood in martyrdom, but you are indeed asked to give consistent, strong witness in the fulfillment of the promises made at Baptism and Confirmation and renewed and confirmed at your Profession in the Franciscan Secular Order. (John Paul II)

  • INVOLVEMENT WITH AND SUPPORT OF FRANCISCAN YOUTH

The letter, then, contains a strong, earnest exhortation to be an effective “sign of contradiction” in the world, with frankness and courage, and never to be content to go on guiltily accepting the evil of this world and the plight of the poor and excluded.

 (Continued on next published blog)

  

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

 

 

  

  

Today’s reflection is about Jesus curing a man with a “withered” hand.

 

1 Again he entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand.  2 They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him.  3 He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.”  4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”  But they remained silent.  5 Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out and his hand was restored.  6 The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.  (NAB Mark 3:1-6)

 

This is only the start of the third (3rd) chapter of Mark’s Gospel, and the Temple, religious, a government officials are already are upset and outright hostile toward Jesus.  Is He really a threat?  Well, you decide.  It seems the crowds love Him, and want to hear Him wherever He goes.  Not only does He obviously speak well, He speaks with an “authority” that others cannot match.  Jesus speaks the truth and is not afraid to debate His “elders” in the synagogues or Temple.  In today’s reading, He actually refers to these “pious” men as having a “hardness of heart!”  Their closed-mindedness actually angers Jesus!  And finally, Jesus talks and teaches about something “new” coming — the Kingdom of God!!

In today’s reading, Jesus is depicted in yet another controversy and disagreement with his rivals and opponents over the question of His performing work on the Sabbath, thus violating the Mosaic Law in regard to the Sabbath-day observance.  His rivals and opponents (mostly the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) were already cold, distant, and unkind toward Him because they believed Jesus was a persistent violator of the Sabbath regulations.  These people held a very strict belief of the Sabbath observance, based on “God’s resting” on the seventh day:

Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.”  (Genesis 2:2-3)  

Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.”  (Exodus 20:8)

In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”  (Exodus 20:11)

“Take care to keep holy the Sabbath day as the LORD, your God, commanded you.”  (Deut. 5:12)

 

The Scribes, Pharisees, and Herodians wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath observance so that they could (and most certainly would) publicly accuse Him of breaking “God’s divine law!” 

Sadly, these “leaders” (May I say, “Fools”?) put their own thoughts, actions, and needs as a much higher priority than the wishes of God.  Where was the LOVE?  They were wrapped up in their own stringent interpretations and micro-managing “by the book and to hell with anything else” type of legalistic worship, simply because they forgot, did not understand, or did not care to see the true and loving purpose of God in theirs, and others lives.  Though these men “of prayer” were sincere in their devotion and worship, their role became ones of guardian and interpreter of the Law, instead of ones for “love” of God’s law.  Instead of using common sense, they attached themselves to the interpretation of God’s word.  This position led them to an unsound attitude.

Jesus also loved the “Law”!  He lived to uphold the Law and the word of God in its true way and meaning: with love as the key element, and not the “rules”.  But,  He also wasn’t keen on rules that put unnecessary burdens on people, or misrepresented the intent of God’s word.    In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus shows them (and others present at this time) their falsehoods by pointing to God’s true intention for the Sabbath: “to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it“.  In asking His question, Jesus foreshadowed His own rising up on that Sunday morning we now call “Easter”, – – a resurrection that He shares with us all.

Jesus’ question to His opponents places the matter at hand in a broader theological context that seemed to be well outside the reasoning and questions of the Pharisees and Scribes.  As the Second Person of the “Trinitarian Godhead”, Jesus has the same authority as God, His (and ours) heavenly Father.  In the question that Jesus articulates to these men in the synagogue, He declared that the Mosaic Law does not supersede His divine authority: power over life, death, and judgment.

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.  Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself.”  (John 5:21, 24-26)

“Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son.  And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”  (John 5:22, 27)

Jesus’ answer to their question seemed to truly “stir the pot”; and was blunt, apparent, and obvious in showing His power and divinity (I just love this guy – and God!)!  He healed the man “with the withered handin the sight of all (especially those opposed to His mission), and reduced His opponents to silence.

In the clashes Jesus had with the Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple Scribes during His three years of earthly ministry and teaching, He seemed to always overcome His opponents with simple and honest responses and parables to their questions; and always seemed to “reduce” them to silence. 

And when Jesus saw that (He) answered with understanding, He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.”  (Mark 12:34)

 

Well, so what happens?  These Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and even some other Jews in Galilee, did not like being put “in their place” by this “commoner.”  They thought of Jesus as a rogue organizer and zealot that had to be taken care of in the most severe of ways: with His life.  These so-called “religious” people were scared of losing control, and also of Jesus’ message and teachings to others in their synagogues and Temple.

“But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.’  For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.” (John 5:17-18)

Mark reports the plan and actions of the Pharisees and Herodians to “put Jesus to death” after they witnessed His display of divine power.  Jesus’ words and actions were perceived as arrogance toward the synagogue and Temple leaders by His rivals and opponents.  Mark used this “perception” and “plan” as a pattern for later conflicts, disagreements, and debates throughout his Gospel.

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

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

 

Herodians” were tireless supporters of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch (ruler) of Galilee and Perea.  The Temple leaders needed their help to take action against Jesus, especially actions ending with His death.  (Were they the “biblical” mafia of the time?)  Along with the Temple leaders, the Herodians exhibited a serious and extreme focus on fulfilling an immoral mission: the impending passion and death of Jesus Christ. 

Their immorally based mission was, at the same time, a necessary and important component in God’s salvation plan.  Hmm, makes you think; doesn’t it?  There are always two sides to a coin!  If you see the bad in life, flip the situation over and look for the good.

 

How do you handle adversity in your life?  Do you “trust” God totally and completely?  Or, do you panic, fret, and become fearful?  You need to remember that fear is a natural reaction, and even has a medical term associated with the nervous system response to impending danger or harsh conditions.  It is called, “sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ reaction”.  However, also remember Jesus wants much more from His followers than just this normal, self-preservation, bodily reaction.  Jesus wants “perfect love!”

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

 

 

Catholics (and I am sure other Christians) celebrate Sunday as “the Lord’s Day” in some way.  Sadly though, it usually does not include remembering, observing, and/or honoring God – – and His bringing about redemption in and through Jesus Christ.  For most Catholics (my perception anyway), Sundays do not include the “new creation” God brought about through Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.  How SAD!!

As disciples, followers of Jesus Christ, our “Sabbath” should express a true and total honor to God for all that he has done for us.  Unnecessary work and activities should be curtailed.  We should spend time with our family and friends in a special way, thus honoring God’s creation.  The Third Commandment says, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day”:

“Take care to keep holy the Sabbath day as the LORD, your God, commanded you.  Six days you may labor and do all your work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD, your God.  No work may be done then, whether by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or ass or any of your beasts, or the alien who lives with you.  Your male and female slave should rest as you do.  For remember that you too were once slaves in Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you from there with his strong hand and outstretched arm.  That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”  (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

And from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“God’s action is the model for human action. If God ‘rested and was refreshed’ on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, ‘be refreshed.’  The Sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite.  It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.”  (CCC p.2172)

“The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath law.  But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day.  He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’  With compassion, Christ declares the Sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing.  The Sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God.  ‘The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.’”  (CCC p.2173)

“The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship ‘as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.’  Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.”  (CCC p.2176)

“’Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’ (Deut 5:12).  ‘The seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest; holy to the Lord’ (Ex 31:15).  The Sabbath, which represented the completion of the first creation, has been replaced by Sunday which recalls the new creation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ.” (CCC p.2189-2190)

However, such “rest“, as prescribed in Holy Scripture, the Catholic Faith and its teachings, or even by “tradition”, does not excuse or release us from loving others.  It can take a little extra effort to observe a day of “rest”.  In fact, wouldn’t the Sabbath be the best days for helping someone enter into “rest” with the Lord, Jesus Christ?  In truly loving the Lord, – – above all, – – then the love of, and for, God must, and will, naturally and automatically pour out as a love for others as well.  Helping others is a beautiful and spiritual way of honoring our God, and keeping the Sabbath “holy”!

Here is some food for thought: Picture Jesus standing before you and inviting you to come up to be with Him, like that man in today’s reading.  Well, each one of us IS that man in the synagogue.  Each one of us is personally and individually invited to “to come up” and to enter into Jesus Christ.  Will you accept His invitation immediately, or do you want to “wait and see” what is best and/or more lucrative for you?  Do you honor the Lord in the way you spend your Sunday with family, friends, and neighbors?  The “Lord’s Day” is called such for a real and true reason. 

As we “Keep CHRIST in Christmas”, we must also “Keep Son (of God) in SUNday!”  RUN TO JESUS TODAY AND EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE!!

 

Novena Prayer of Reparation

 

God and Father of Life,
You have created every human person,
And have opened the way for each to have eternal life.

We live in the shadow of death.
Tens of millions of your children have been killed
because of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Father, have mercy on us.
Heal our land
And accept our offering of prayer and penance.

In your love for us,
Turn back the scourge of abortion.
May each of us exult in hearts full of hope
And hands full of mercy
And work together to build a culture of life.
We pray through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Fabian (c. 250)

 

Fabian was a Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day as clergy and people were preparing to elect a new pope.  Eusebius, a Church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabian.  This sign united the votes of clergy and laity and he was chosen unanimously.

He led the Church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in A.D. 250.  St. Cyprian wrote to his successor that Fabian was an “incomparable” man whose glory in death matched the holiness and purity of his life.

In the catacombs of St. Callistus, the stone that covered Fabian’s grave may still be seen, broken into four pieces, bearing the Greek words, “Fabian, bishop, martyr.”

Comment:

We can go confidently into the future and accept the change that growth demands only if we have firm roots in the past, in a living tradition.  A few pieces of stone in Rome are a reminder to us that we are bearers of more than 20 centuries of a living tradition of faith and courage in living the life of Christ and showing it to the world.  We have brothers and sisters who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith,” as the First Eucharistic Prayer puts it, to light the way for us.

Quote:

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian).

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 19 & 20 of 26: 

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

 

 

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

 



“With Water, You CAN Catch On Fire!” – Matthew 3:1-12†


 

 

The Second Sunday of Advent

Twenty days till the Birth of Jesus Christ.
Let us all remember the “Reason for the Season.”
Please, Please, keep “CHRIST” in CHRIST-mas!!

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday, the “Dr. Oz Show” will be about Genetically Modified Foods (GMO’s)

 

Jeffrey Smith will be on the show to discuss the health dangers of genetically modified foods.  Also on the show will be Dr. Michael Hansen, a scientist from Consumers Union who has been an avid critic of GMOs for two decades, and Dr. Pamela Ronald, a pro-GMO scientist who has been proposing that organic foods include GMOs. This is a rare national coverage on this extremely important topic – that truly influences everyone.  GMOs will be discussed during the first 15 minute segment.

Show times for Missouri are below.  Please refer to your local directory for other areas:

Missouri: 

ST. LOUIS:  NBC 5 KSDK  11:00 AM
SPRINGFIELD: ABC 33 KSPR @ 3:00 PM
JOPLIN  FOX: 14 KFJX @ 5:00 PM
ST. JOSEPH: NBC 41 KSHB @ 3:00 PM
KC AREA: NBC 41 KSHB @ 3:00 PM; & IND 38 KMCI
COLUMBIA, MO  NBC 8 KOMU @ 1:00 PM and 12:00 PM

Thanks go to Gale Thackrey, who is the “Justice Ministry Coordinator” for the Franciscan Sisters of Mary in st. Louis Missouri. (www.fsmonline.org)

 

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

        
†   663 – Fourth Council of Toledo takes place.
†   749 – Death Saint John of Damascus, theologian
†   1301 – Pope Boniface VIII’s degree Ausculta fili (only nominee)
†   1443 – Birth of Pope Julius II (d. 1513)
†   1484 – Pope Innocent VIII issues the Summis desiderantes, a papal bull that deputizes Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger as inquisitors to root out alleged witchcraft in Germany and leads to one of the severest witch hunts in European history.
†   1492 – Christopher Columbus, a Secular Franciscan, becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola.
†   1590 – Niccolo Sfondrati chosen Pope Gregory XIV
†   2008 – Death of Patriarch Alexy II of Russia, head of the Russian Orthodox Church (b. 1929)
†   Feast Day: Saint Abercius

(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:

 

Franciscans emphasize the dignity of the human person, especially in its social nature.

 

Although all creation is the “footprint of God,” the Franciscan tradition understands that human beings are also created in the very image and likeness of God. Humans represent in a special way God who is Trinity, and therefore we achieve our personal fulfillment in relationship to God and in community rather than in the isolation of individualism. 

“Her life was an instruction and a lesson to others: in this book of life some learned the rule of living, in this mirror of life others learned to behold the paths of life.”  Papal Decree of the Canonization of St. Clare

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

 

 

Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist, the last prophet before Jesus Christ’s appearing in Judea; and his preaching of a message for repentance.

 

1 In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea 2 (and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  3 It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'”  4 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  5 At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him 6 and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.  9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  10 Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  11 I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  12 His winnowing fan is in his hand.  He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  (NAB Matthew 3:1-12)

 

This week’s Gospel (and next’s) bids all of us to think about John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus.  Today, Matthew describes the work and preaching of this “forerunner” to the Messiah, called “John the Baptist.”  Unlike Luke in his Gospel, Matthew does not impart on us any details of John the Baptist’s origins, and does not declare John as a relative of Jesus.  Matthew brings forward the sequence of Jesus’ ministry found in the Gospel of Mark with the preliminary preaching, teachings, and actions of “John the Baptist”.

John’s life was fueled by an intense, burning, and all-consuming passion — to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of His kingdom.  John was led by the Holy Spirit into an austere life in the “wilderness” well before to his “ministry.”  The “desert of Judea” was (and still is) a barren area west of the Dead Sea extending up and into the Jordan valley.  As Jesus (John’s cousin) will be tested in the desert, John was also tested by Satan.  John matured in the “Law”, the “Word”, and the “Presence” of God in his life, and he completed the cycle of holy prophets begun by Elijah.   

John makes absolutely obvious and plainly clear that his relationship to the “Messiah yet to come” (Jesus) was one of service and submissiveness. This was made evident in his declaring that “the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals”.   

Holy Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41).  When Mary visited Elizabeth, John leapt in her womb, filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).  The fire of the “Holy Spirit” lived and “burned brightly, intensely, and fully” in John the Baptist, and made him the prophesized “forerunner” of the coming Messiah as described in Isaiah 40:3:

“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”

I have a problem with the translation of the above verse, which is not uncommon in using the “NAB” Catholic Bible for me recently.  In this instance, I have chosen to go back to the origin Greek.  The Interlinear Greek Bible actually translates Isaiah 40:3 directly as:

utoV  gar  FOR THIS estin IS o HE WHO rhqeiV WAS SPOKEN upo BY hsaiou ISAIAH tou THE profhtou PROPHET legontoV SAYING fwnh THE VOICE bowntoV OF ONE CRYING en IN th THE erhmw WILDERNESS etoimasate PREPARE thn THE odon WAY kuriou OF THE LORD euqeiaV STRAIGHT poieite  taV MAKE tribouV  autou HIS PATHS taV MAKE tribouV WITH PATHS tou THE qeou OF GOD hmwn US.” 

(The bold is not Greek.  Apparently, it does not convert from word to WordPress.)

(Pretty cool and poetic though, isn’t it!!  The original Greek gives me a whole new meaning.  I love learning new “old” thinks.)

John the Baptist’s preaching is not meant to be a type of “finger-pointing” ultimatum, in an attempt to “scare” the “unholy hell” out of us.  He is simply calling for a change of heart and behavior through repentance.  John preaches of a turning from a life of rebellion to one of absolute and complete obedience to God.  He characterizes the conversion of those – – who sought him out in that enormous barren desert of Judea, – – with a “baptism” of repentance.  John’s baptism should be understood by us as a belief, hope, and anticipation of baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In today’s Gospel, John himself even alludes to the difference between his baptism and the “one yet to come” in saying:

I am baptizing you with water, for repentance . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who scolded the Jewish people for their lack of faith.  Living among a “proud” people who seemed to be unconcerned with the “things of God” (secularization), it was John’s mission to awaken them, unsettle them, and arouse in them enough willingness to recognize and receive the “Messiah” when He arrived!   

John declares that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  For John, this word “heaven,” was a proxy for the name of “God”, a name always avoided (still even today) by devout Jews out of reverence and respect.  Interestingly, the expression “the kingdom of heaven” occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew, and points to the actual and authentic power and reign of God over His people.  

In its fullness and completeness, the “kingdom of heaven” not only includes one’s obedience to God’s word but the joy and victory of God over earthly, human, and physical evils – – particularly over death of the body and soul.  John shared the Jewish belief that the “kingdom” was to be ushered in by a judgment from God, in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  Catholics have modified this belief somewhat, wherein the “kingdom” is seen as being established in a form or type of stages, ending with the Parousia (Second Coming) of Jesus.

John the Baptist was one of, and the last of, the great holy prophets of Israel.  He preached “repentance” of sins to the people of Israel.  The description of John’s being, spirituality, and presence found in this reading is reminiscent of the description of the great prophet, Elijah.  The “hairy” garment of John was considered by the Jewish people as a sign of an ascetical (somebody who is self-denying and lives with minimal material comforts) and prophetic calling, similar to Elijah’s demeanor, physical being, and calling.  It recalls the austere garment of Elijah, as found in 2 Kings 1:8:

’Wearing a hairy garment,’ they replied, ‘with a leather girdle about his loins.’ ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite!’ he exclaimed.”

The belief, hope, and anticipation of the return of “Elijah” from heaven in order to prepare the Jewish people for the final manifestation of God’s “kingdom” was prevalent and well-known among John’s audience,the first century Jewish people.  According to Matthew, this expectation was fulfilled in John the Baptist’s ministry.  In Matthew 11:14, it is written:

And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.” 

Also, in Matthew 17:11-13, it goes on to say:

He said in reply, ‘Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.  So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.’  Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”

“Ritual washing” was practiced by various groups in Palestine for at least 400 years (around 150 B.C. to 250 A.D.).  John’s acts of baptism very well may have been related to the purifying washings of the ascetic Jewish community called the “Essenes” who lived in an area called “Qumran” (about a mile from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea).

The “Pharisees and Sadducees” that John the Baptist saw and talked to were Jewish temple leaders, who also had responsibilities outside the religious aspects of their jobs, giving them responsibilities very similar to our present day political leaders in their society.  The Pharisees were intensely devoted to the “Mosaic Law”, both written and oral.  Most scholars believe that another group called the “Scribes”, who were considered the experts in the Mosaic Law, also belonged predominantly to this “party” of Temple leaders.  

The Sadducees were a priestly “aristocratic” party, well entrenched in Jerusalem.  This group or party only accepted as “Scripture” the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah or Pentateuch).  The Sadducees followed the “letter of the law”, and rejected any oral traditions (the main way of teaching the Jewish and historical faith).  Most interesting for me is that they were defiantly opposed to any teachings NOT found in the Torah such as “resurrection of the dead.”  For me, no hope in a resurrection definitely would make one “Sad-You-See!”

Matthew links all three of these religious/political groups together as “enemies” of Jesus.  The threatening words of John in verses 7 through 12 are addressed to these Temple Leaders who were present, rather than to “the crowds” as is found and reported in Luke 3:7.  “The coming wrath,” that John is declaring in verse 7, is the “final judgment” that will bring about the eternal destruction for non-repentant and non-remorseful sinners. 

So, go to confession, and go often.  It’s an awesome experience!  Every time we turn to God in reconciliation, He RUNS to us, and allows us to see a small glimpse of heaven – His kingdom – thus filling us completely with hope and joy.

Fire in the Bible, is regularly connected with God, with His acts in the world, and in the lives of His people.  God manifested His actual presence with the use of fire, such as with the non-consuming “burning bush” when God spoke to Moses, as written in Exodus 3:2.  The image of fire is also used to symbolize God’s glory in Ezekiel 1:4 and 1:13, His protective presence in 2 Kings 6:17, His holiness in Deuteronomy 4:24, His righteous judgment in Zechariah 13:9, and even His wrath against sin as in Isaiah 66:15-16. 

The baptism via water from John was be followed by a washing away of the persons sins via a cleansing power of the Holy Spirit of God.  Some believers of that period saw the Holy Spirit and fire as synonymous.  Jesus was said to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.   The first Catholic communities believed the “Holy Spirit and fire” was to be understood, in actuality, in the context of what happened at Pentecost, as described in Acts 2:1-4:

“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

In John the Baptist’s preaching though, the “Spirit and fire” was in regards to their purifying and refining characteristics as found in Old Testament books of Ezekiel 36:25-27 and  Malachi 3:2-3.

“I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.  I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.”

and

“But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears?  For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

Our baptism in Jesus Christ, “by water and Spirit”, results in a new birth and entry into God’s kingdom as his beloved sons and daughters (see John 3:5).  Do you want to experience that feeling of being on fire for God?   Do you want to be on fire for God and for the return of the Lord Jesus when he comes in His magnificence and glory?  Hell Yes!! (Wait; actually it should be “Hell NO!! – I think.  Hey, you know what I mean.)

The judgment between the “good” and “bad” is compared to a procedure in which a farmer separates wheat and chaff.  The “winnowing fan” was a farming tool, a forklike shovel with which the threshed wheat was thrown into the air. The kernels fell to the ground; the light chaff, which was blown clear by the wind, was then gathered and burned up.  My sons do the same activity every fall with our brightly colored and browned fallen leaves, but only after I have meticulously created neat and tidy piles in preparation of picking them up.

Today’s Gospel will be followed next Sunday by Jesus’ baptism celebrated and witnessed by this Holy prophet, John; an event that is attested to in ALL of the Gospels, and acknowledged by all as the start of Jesus’ “public ministry.”  

God wants to do much more than pardoning our sins.  He wants to open up heaven and give us His unrelenting love, healing, and peace.  John’s preaching of the “coming of the Lord” is an essential theme for the Advent season.  John’s message prepared the way for Jesus in the early first century.  Today, we are also “called” to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming.  We must respond in repenting our iniquities, and in re-forming our lives into the mold of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We are also called “to be prophets of Christ”, loudly and publically announcing the coming of the Lord.

It seems that “Messianic” prophesies are never vague in nature.  They always point to a hope that can be fulfilled in the human heart and soul.  Wars, terrorism, poverty, and useless death through the pitiful actions of abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty smothers hope.  As Catholics, our hope is for peace, healing, and generosity in ourselves, and in others.  In essence, – what we pray for, we must also work for!  For me, this is exactly how we must approach preparing for the “advent” of our personal and intimate relationship with God in His “kingdom”!

We do an enormous amount of chores in order to get ourselves ready for the “secular” Christmas.  We purchase gifts, prepare Christmas cards, decorate our homes, and so on.  John the Baptist’s call for repentance in preparation for Jesus’ Parousia, should remind us that “our repentance” is another essential way to prepare for the “Lord’s coming” and our celebration of the Actual and True Christmas experience.  

Are you eager to hear God’s word and to be changed by it through the power of the Holy Spirit?  Do you point others to Christ in the way you live, work, and speak?

Parish communities usually offer a “communal” celebration of the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” during the Advent season.  Participate in this communal celebration – – it is such a beautiful Sacrament.  If you cannot attend a communal celebration, please seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation on an individual basis.

 

 

Act of Contrition

 

“My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.  I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.  Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.  In his name, my God, have mercy.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Sabas (b. 439)

 

Born in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), Sabas is one of the most highly regarded patriarchs among the monks of Palestine and is considered one of the founders of Eastern monasticism.

After an unhappy childhood in which he was abused and ran away several times, Sabas finally sought refuge in a monastery. While family members tried to persuade him to return home, the young boy felt drawn to monastic life. Although the youngest monk in the house, he excelled in virtue.

At age 18 he traveled to Jerusalem, seeking to learn more about living in solitude. Soon he asked to be accepted as a disciple of a well-known local solitary, though initially he was regarded as too young to live completely as a hermit. Initially, Sabas lived in a monastery, where he worked during the day and spent much of the night in prayer. At the age of 30 he was given permission to spend five days each week in a nearby remote cave, engaging in prayer and manual labor in the form of weaving baskets. Following the death of his mentor, St. Euthymius, Sabas moved farther into the desert near Jericho. There he lived for several years in a cave near the brook Cedron. A rope was his means of access. Wild herbs among the rocks were his food. Occasionally men brought him other food and items, while he had to go a distance for his water.

Some of these men came to him desiring to join him in his solitude. At first he refused. But not long after relenting, his followers swelled to more than 150, all of them living in individual huts grouped around a church, called a laura.

The bishop persuaded a reluctant Sabas, then in his early 50s, to prepare for the priesthood so that he could better serve his monastic community in leadership. While functioning as abbot among a large community of monks, he felt ever called to live the life of a hermit. Throughout each year —consistently in Lent—he left his monks for long periods of time, often to their distress. A group of 60 men left the monastery, settling at a nearby ruined facility. When Sabas learned of the difficulties they were facing, he generously gave them supplies and assisted in the repair of their church.

Over the years Sabas traveled throughout Palestine, preaching the true faith and successfully bringing back many to the Church. At the age of 91, in response to a plea from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sabas undertook a journey to Constantinople in conjunction with the Samaritan revolt and its violent repression. He fell ill and, soon after his return, died at the monastery at Mar Saba. Today the monastery is still inhabited by monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and St. Sabas is regarded as one of the most noteworthy figures of early monasticism.

Comment:

Few of us share Sabas’s yearning for a cave in the desert, but most of us sometimes resent the demands others place on our time. Sabas understands that. When at last he gained the solitude for which he yearned, a community immediately began to gather around him and he was forced into a leadership role. He stands as a model of patient generosity for anyone whose time and energy are required by others—that is, for all of us.

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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


 

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

 
The Top 10 Predictions for 2011:

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

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

     

Today in Catholic History:

 

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

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 13 & 14 of 26:

   

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

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

  

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