Tag Archives: praising

“If We Emulate Mary, We Shall Never Lack God’s Grace!!” – Luke 2:16-21†


 

The Octave** Day of the Nativity
of the Lord Solemnity of Mary,
the Holy Mother of God

(** An eight day celebration: “Octave” is the eighth day or last day of a particular feast)

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions
for January, 2012:

General Intention: Victims of Natural Disasters.

That the victims of natural disasters may receive the spiritual and material comfort they need to rebuild their lives.“

Missionary Intention: Dedication to Peace.

That the dedication of Christians to peace may bear witness to the name of Christ before all men and women of good will.”

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Today, this first day of a new year, we celebrate an extremely important Feast Day, the Solemnity of Mary, OUR Blessed and Holy Mother of God. 

Early Christians gave Mary the title “Theotokos”, meaning, “God-bearer” (Council of Ephesus 431 AD).  We still celebrate Mary as the Mother of God, and the Mother of ALL mankind, because, in bearing Jesus Christ, she bore the fullness of the “Godhead” within her.  On this day, we are reminded of the role that Our Blessed Virgin Mary played in God the Father’s salvation plan.  Christ’s Birth was made possible by Mary’s personal and fully complete fiat:

Be it done unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 38:1).

Today, this first day of a New Year is a great day to stop and reflect on both the past year and what’s ahead on your person path to salvation.  Have you followed Mary’s example in living your life according to God’s “will”, His intention, and His purposeful plan?

May your new year – – and ALL new years – – be filled with the love, joy, peace, and hope of being fully “one” with our loving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

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Last week’s reflection blog was the most awesome one I believe I have ever written.  The Holy Spirit allowed me to break through to a new level of understanding the “Word”.  I feel truly blessed to have the Holy Spirit inspiring me to see Holy Scripture from a different perspective.  Thank You my dear Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for allowing me to spread your good news.

Please let me know what you think of His grace working in me.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   379 – Death of Basilius the Great, of Caesarea, Saint (Moralia)
†   404 – Death of Saint Telemachus
†   1431 – Birth of Alexander VI [Rodrigo Borgia], Spanish/Italian pope (1492-1503)
†   1502 – Death Gregorius XIII, [Ugo Buoncampagni], Italy, pope (1572-85)
†   1970 – Revised calendar for Western (Roman Catholic) Church goes into effect
†   1982 – Pope John Paul II prays for an end to martial law in Poland
†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of Jesus’ Circumcision (Old calendar); Final Day of Octave of Christmas, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (New calendar); Fulgentius of Ruspe; Odilo of Cluny; Telemachus; Orthodox Christian Churches – Feast Day of the Circumcision of the Lord in the Flesh; also the feast day of St. Basil, Bishop of Caesaria.

(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:

 

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

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Today’s reflection is about the shepherds finding Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

 

(NAB Luke 2:16-21) 16 So they [the shepherds] went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.  17 When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  18 All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.  19 And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.  21 When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading is a continuation from the Gospel proclaimed at last week’s Midnight Christmas Mass.  The “shepherds” acted upon what they had seen and heard.  These lowly men of society took the important message they had received from the angel appearing to them, and “hurriedly” went to find the baby Jesus, still in the manger, in the town of Bethlehem.

In going to see the Holy Family, the shepherds find exactly as the angel had said to them:  

This will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)

Therefore, the shepherds’ visit was a unique and significant moment of fulfillment, manifestation, revealing; and they became the first witnesses to the beginning of salvation, the fulfilling of God’s promises, which we also may receive through Jesus Christ Himself.

The birth of the “Messiah Anointed Savior”, Jesus Christ is the key event in the history of mankind; but God the Father wanted it to take place so quietly that the world went about its business as if nothing had happened.  The only ones told, via an angel messenger, were a few lowly shepherds.  Interestingly, it was also a shepherd, named “Abraham”, to whom God the Father gave His promise to save mankind.

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The shepherds “went in haste” to Bethlehem because they were full of joy at seeing the angel and hearing his message.  They were eager to see the Messiah Savior of their people and nation.  I expect their elated attitude was an appropriate response for the situation they experienced.  After all, wasn’t it Saint Ambrose who said, “No one seeks Christ halfheartedly“!!  

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Luke himself reported that our Blessed Virgin Mary, after the Annunciation, event also “went in haste” to see Elizabeth:

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah” (Luke 1:39).  

Any one, any soul, who allows entry to the Trinitarian God, obviously will rejoice in God Himself visiting his meager and marred soul; and, in doing so, acquire a new energy (Sanctifying Grace) for his life with, in, and through God Himself.  This is how God makes us a “new creation” as sons and daughters of God.

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Besides the shepherds’ interaction with the angel, and then with the infant Jesus Himself, this reading also focuses on Mary as the “Mother of God,” “Theotokos” (God-bearer).  Today’s reading tells us at least three details about Mary as a mother.  First, our Blessed Mother Mary is described as an insightfully reflective woman, keeping the testimony of the shepherds in her heart.  Second, we are reminded of how completely obedient Mary was to God the Father when she named the baby “Jesus” (His name means “God saves” in Hebrew) as the Archangel Gabriel had directed her at the Annunciation event.  Third, this reading shows Mary and Joseph faithfully observing, and faithfully practicing, their Jewish faith and traditions by having Jesus circumcised on the eighth day.

Mary’s absolute and total faithfulness to God the Father is unmistakable and is manifested in all three of these details.  Her reflection upon the events in her life indicates that she was a person of deep prayer, deep faith, and deep love.  Her prayer life, her faith, and her trust made possible her complete and full obedience to God the Father – – and His will and intention, – – even if the outcome was not made clear to her.  Finally, her faithfulness to a community of faith grounded her relationship with God the Father and enabled her to participate in His plan of salvation for her personally, and for ALL mankind as well.

Because of Mary’s absolute and total faithfulness to God the Father, she was able to receive the grace and gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Because of her absolute and total faithfulness, she accepted her role in God’s plan for her and ALL mankind’s salvation.  By doing so, she models for us the true path of Catholic Christian discipleship, and is thus called the “Mother of the Church”.

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From today’s reading about Mary’s role, I believe one of the most important verses is:

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) 

In these few words, this verse tells us a great deal about our Blessed Mother Mary.  In this one simple verse, we can see the peacefulness, tranquility, and contentment with which Mary contemplates and reflects upon the wonderful things known to her, and coming true through her – – and to fulfillment in and with her – – with the birth of her divine Son, Jesus Christ.  She studied, pondered, and “kept” all this knowledge, these observations, and events in the silence of her humble heart.

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” (Luke 2:34-35) 

There is a truly divine purpose for Mary.  Reflect on two words in the above verse: “so that”.  Let me know what you think.

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Mary is a true teacher and perfect model for prayer and personal reflection.  If we emulate our Mother Mary, if we “keep” and “reflect” in our hearts what Jesus says to us and He what does “in” and “through” us, we are well on the way to true holiness.  If we emulate Mary, we shall never lack God’s grace!!  And finally, by reflecting and praying as Mary did on what Jesus has given us, we shall obtain a deeper understanding of the mystery of Jesus Christ Himself.  Vatican II says the following about contemplation, meditation, and reflection on the “Word” of God:

There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on.  This comes about in various ways.  It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience.” (Vatican II, “Dei Verbum“, 8).

 

Today, we take notice of the Blessed Virgin Mary honoring her commitment and promise to God the Father by naming her child “Jesus”.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph is also told (in a dream) to name the child “Jesus” because He will save the Jewish (and ALL) people.  As I wrote earlier, “Jesus” in Hebrew means “God Saves.” – – And, indeed He has, and is, and will continue to do so.  He has – – in us – – ALREADY!!!

Wow, even in His personal name “Jesus”, He Himself announces the mission He came to accomplish.  This reveals that personal names are important to God; so they should be important to us.  So, – – Think about your name, and the names of families and friends.  Reflect on these names; Ponder what each name means? – – And ask: Why was each person given their specific name? 

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Just as John the Baptist was given his name by an angel and had been incorporated into the people of Israel through his circumcision, so too is the infant Jesus.  Jesus, whose name was revealed to His mother and His foster-father by the same angel messenger, was circumcised per Jewish tradition on the eighth day (Octave) of His birth.  On that day, Jesus was incorporated into the “chosen people” of Israel and was to be by a “sign of fulfilling the covenant”.  This circumcision rite was instituted by God the Father as an outward sign to Abraham to single out those who will belong to the “chosen people”.  It was an external sign of the covenant agreement that God the Father made with Abraham and for all Abraham’s future generations:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said: I am God the Almighty.  Walk in my presence and be blameless.  Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.  I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. … God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.  This is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.  Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.  That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including house born slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:1–12).

 

So, for the Jewish people, circumcision and the giving of a name had great importance, and was done at the same time.  When a name was given, it represented what that unique person should be in the future.  A person’s name expressed the reality of his or her “being” at its deepest, most intimate level.  From His circumcision till His death, Jesus would be forever known by the name given Him at His circumcision!!  “Jesus“, means “God Saves”, thus, “Savior”.  His name was given to Him – – not as the result of any human decision – – but in keeping with the “command” of God the Father, which the “messenger” Archangel Gabriel revealed to the Blessed Virgin, Mary, and her betrothed, Joseph:

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” (Luke 1:31);

And,

The angel of the Lord appeared to Him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Ponder this: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten “Son of God”, became “incarnate” (made human) in order to redeem and save not only ALL Israel, but also ALL mankind.  Remember, in our Creed, it says:

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” (Nicene Creed)

So, it is not only appropriate, but also very fitting that He is called “Jesus”, Messiah Anointed Savior.  AND He IS!!

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In the birth and naming of Jesus we see the wondrous design and salvation plan of God the Father in giving us a “Messiah Savior” who would bring us grace (new life), mercy, and freedom from the power of sin and from the fear of eternal death.  He also brought us the freedom for serving others, i.e., for doing unto others as you would like them to do towards us.  The name “Jesus” signifies that the very name of God the Father is present in the person of His Son who became “man” for OUR salvation.  

Saint Peter, the Apostle, cried out:

There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4:12).

In the name of “Jesus”, the “fallen angels”, Satan, and other demons tremble and flee; the maim walk; the blind see; the deaf hear; and the physically and spiritually dead are raised to new life again:  

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Jesus’ name is exalted, praised, and acclaimed far above every other name.

There were (and still are) many who were (and still are) called by the name “Jesus”.  However, isn’t it more appropriate to call our Savior by this name?  Jesus Christ brought light, freedom and salvation, – – not to one only person, – – but to ALL mankind of ALL ages.  To those oppressed, not only by starvation or tyranny, but also by lack of knowledge, Jesus Christ brought light, freedom, and salvation by coming and living with us in the shadow of death and the confinement from the frustrating and restricting “chains” of Satan, sin, and eternal death.

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Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God Himself, in His eternal Son, Jesus Christ, – – made man – – who:

will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21).

The name Jesus is at the center of all Catholic Christian prayer.  It is with, in, and through Jesus Christ that we pray to God the Father, – – with, in, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Many Catholics and other Christians have died with this one single, simple to say, “Word” on their lips, “Jesus”!!!  Do YOU praise, extol, and hail His name – – “Jesus” – – AND pray with confidence in, with, and through HIS NAME?

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To conclude, bear in mind that the name “Jesus” means “God saves.”  Reflect on how Jesus Christ fulfilled the mission that His name still suggests.  Pray that you will fulfill your “personal and unique mission” to be a faithful disciple of Jesus, in whom you (and we ALL) find our salvation – – even NOW, TODAY!!  Pray for our Mother Mary’s help in being faithful to Jesus Christ in all we do, say, and think – – ALWAYS!!

Our personal call to discipleship includes three aspects, just as Mary’s did two thousand (or so) years ago: first, discipleship means faith, prayer, and reflection on the events of our lives; through faith, prayer, and reflection, we come to see God’s true presence, action, and work in our lives; second, discipleship means a complete and total obedience to God and His will; and third, discipleship includes loyalty, commitment, and faithfulness to a community of faith, the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”.  This IS our faith; this IS our path.  Thanks for walking with me!  Pax Christi!  

Have a happy and grace-filled New Year.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Hail Mary

“Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
‘Jesus’.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

Faith and Works, Part 2

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Romans. 2:13). RSV

For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13) KJV

*

 “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgments …” (Hebrews 10:26-27). RSV

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment … ”  (Hebrews 10:26-27). KJV

*

 “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?” (James. 2:14). RSV

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? (James. 2:14). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Blessed Waldo (d. 1320)

Waldo (also known as Vivaldo or Ubaldo) was a disciple of a saintly priest, Bartolo, both of them natives of northern Italy.  When Bartolo contracted leprosy and entered a hospital, Waldo accompanied his friend and nursed him until Bartolo died 20 years later.  In return, Waldo’s religious education was enriched by instruction from the holy priest.  It was at his suggestion that Waldo joined the secular Franciscans.

Following the death of his spiritual father in 1300, Waldo determined to withdraw from the world altogether and to devote himself to conversing with God and focusing on heaven.  Accordingly, he set out for a large forest not far from his birthplace and found a large hollow chestnut tree.  The cavity of the tree offered barely enough room for him to kneel, but it became the hermitage in which he spent the next 20 years in complete solitude.

It is said that one day in May in the year 1320, the bells of the church from the adjacent village began to ring of their own accord.  As local residents ran to the church seeking to unravel the mystery of the bells, a hunter emerged from the forest.  He reported to the assembled crowd that his hounds had circled a hollow chestnut tree nearby and that they began barking excitedly.  When the hunter approached the tree to investigate the matter, he found a recluse in the cavity of the tree, dead on his knees. Just as the hunter finished recounting the story, the bells ceased ringing.

For the inhabitants of the town, it was utterly clear that their humble, solitary neighbor was indeed a holy man.  They processed to his cell, brought his body back to the church and laid it to rest beneath the high altar.  As years passed, many miracles occurred at the tomb of Waldo, while his former cell in the chestnut tree was converted into a chapel in honor of the Blessed Mother.

Comment: Waldo would be considered a strange fellow in our world.  He was a total misfit by modern standards!  Yet his prayers bound him to the rest of the world.  His neighbors realized at his death how much they depended on his prayers; perhaps they even provided him with food and water for those 20 years he spent in his chestnut tree.

However little we understand his chosen lifestyle, he reminds us we also serve when we spend time alone with God.

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:

 

Virtues

 

Meditate on each of these virtues:

  • The Theological Virtues: Love, Hope and Faith
  • The four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice.
  • The Seven Heavenly Virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Temperance, Prudence.

How do you see yourself using them?

As a layperson (and SFO member) how much do you treasure these virtues?

How much effort are you making to embrace these virtues more completely?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule Article #’s 1 & 2 of 26:

01.  The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

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02.  The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this family circle.  It is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered throughout the world and open to every group of the faithful.  In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state.  By their profession they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of Saint Francis by means of this rule approved by the Church.

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“Everyone, Take a Plate of ME, and Some Food Also, Home with You!” – Luke 9:11b-17†


Sunday is the “Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.”

Sunday’s solemnity is also known as the “Solemnity of Corpus Christi,” meaning “Body of Christ” in Latin.  This feast originated in France in the mid 1200’s, and was transferred to the whole Church by Pope Urban IV in the year 1264. This feast is always celebrated on the Thursday following the Trinity Sunday (or in the USA, on the Sunday following.)

We are called to ponder on the Body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and on the Body of Christ in the Church.  The Feast of Corpus Christi is commonly used as an opportunity for public Eucharistic processions, serving as a sign of faith and adoration.  

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

“By habitually thinking of the presence of God, we succeed in praying twenty-four hours a day” ~ St. Paul of the Cross†
   

This reflection is about feeding the masses and it representing the Institution of the Holy Eucharist.  

Jesus received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured.  As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”  He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.”  Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of (about) fifty.”  They did so and made them all sit down.  Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.  They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.   (NAB Luke 9:11b-17)

       

This miracle of feeding the 5000 is the only one of Jesus’ miracles that appears in all four of the Gospels.  It should also remind us of the two feedings found in the Old Testament: the feeding of the Israelites in the desert; and Elisha’s feeding of 100 people with 20 loaves (2 Kings 4:42-44).

Jesus has been out in the open for a while, with His ministry on earth well known in His homeland.  He had become a magnet for people wanting to see, hear and touch Him.  Many of the individuals present this day were there because they were moved by Jesus’ sincerity, hope, love, and faith.  Some were there just out of curiosity; and I am sure some were spying on Him, looking for any “evidence” that could be used against Him to take back to Temple and/or Civic leaders.

Obviously, His enemies were of no concern to Jesus, as He had to “be about His Father’s work (Luke 2:49).”  Jesus healed and cured an unknown amount of believers by, and during, the time of this event.  At minimum, Jesus is already known throughout the region as a prophet, a healer, a teacher; and by a large and growing group, as the “Messiah.”

After a full day of teaching and preaching, Jesus knew the people were tired and hungry (Catholics now have a conniption with one hour masses; picture 10-12 hours).  He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass in groups of 50.  With 5000 men (plus the women and children present with the men that were not counted), there were 100 groups of people of various stages in life sitting all over the nearby countryside.

Taking five simple and small loaves of barley bread and two fish, Jesus looked up holding the food towards heaven, said a blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the Apostles.  They, in turn gave them to the crowds.

The actions of Jesus put into practice that day, recalls the Institution of the Eucharist found in Luke 22:19, when on Holy Thursday, “he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’”

Afterwards, 12 baskets of food were collected.  I wonder if the extra food was thrown away or given to the needy.  Was there a concept of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” back then?

So, what does this all mean?  There is a large amount of symbolism in this gospel reading.  Some of this symbolism is conceptual, historical, social, and even numerological.

Can you picture keeping a crowd of 5000 men, plus women and children interested in what you are saying for a “full day?”  Jesus taught to, healed, and cured the massive crowd in such a way as to keep everyone enthralled.

These crowds were people from all walks of life: prostitutes, farmers, shepherds, merchants, Temple officials, and possibly even Roman soldiers.   This was unheard of at this time and era.  The different classes of people did not mingle with other classes of people.  Shepherds would never socialize with merchants, and no one would be seen in public with a prostitute.  Matter of fact, it was illegal for different social classes to mingle in a lot of cases.  To have these various individuals in such a large number in one place, was such a significant break in societal protocols that it could place Jesus and His disciples in danger of being called renegades to the Roman Empire or the Jewish Temple leadership.

People sat in groups of “50,”comprising “100” groups. In Biblical Numerology (Biblical numerology is the study of numbers in the Bible), fifty is a number possibly meaning “jubilee or deliverance.”  One Hundred is a multiple of 10 (x10).  Ten represents “perfection of a divine order” in biblical numerology.  Put together, these people, to me, are involved in a jubilee or celebration of biblical proportions, resulting in an event that was perfect in divinity!

Barley bread was the most common type of bread made.  It was considered the “ordinary” bread used throughout the year.  Five is a number that could represent divine grace.  The number two, to the Christians of the first century, was a symbol of the second person of the Trinity, the Incarnation of God the Son in the perfection of His humanity and divinity: Jesus Christ.  Presently, “two” also indicates “duality.”

So, “5” loaves of barley bread, and “2” fish could be an indication that through Jesus, the “ordinary,” gains divine grace and can achieve the exceptional: life in eternal happiness, praising and glorifying God in heaven.

Jesus broke the bread.”  What kind of symbolism is involved here?  Perhaps the breaking of the bread represents the end (or breaking) of the “old covenant, and institution of a “new” covenant through Jesus.  Legal contracts during this time in history, and in this area of the world, always involved meals or banquets.  The “breaking of the bread” finalized the agreement reached by the two people. 

“… gave them[the food] to the disciples to set before the crowd”  may be reflective of Jesus’ intention of passing on His duties, on earth, to His disciples.  He freely gave of Himself, and freely passed on His ministry to others so that it could spread and never be without end.  As Jesus passed on the bread (of this new covenant) into the hands of His disciples, His disciples were to continue passing on “Jesus” till He returns again.

The last sentence of this gospel reading is significant to me.  Five loaves of bread, and two fish, through the grace of God, was able to feed 5000+ people to the point of being satiated; and then “they filled twelve wicker baskets” with the leftovers.  From such a small gift to Jesus, a much greater return was made possible.  Twelve, in biblical numerology indicates perfection of government; and is the number of the Church. 

For giving a small amount to the Church and God, we will be rewarded with huge amounts of graces.  Matthew 16:27 states, “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct;” and in Luke 6:23 it is written, “… Behold, your reward will be great in heaven …; and in Luke 6:25, “… love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

In receiving communion, one has Christ within them, united by faith and charity, and thus transforming the receivers of the Eucharist into Christ.  Jesus’ divine and pure life intertwines and intermingles with our impure and sinful human lives through the Eucharist.  Our impurities cannot match the perfection of Jesus: He has the capabilities to overpower all our impurities, making us clean, and thus converting us into Christ. The consecrated Eucharist is capable of making any of us divine, since it fills us with His divinity.

There is a great, easy to read book titled, “The Seven Secrets of the Eucharist” written by Vinny Flynn.  It is available at www.mercysong.com.  I HIGHLY recommend this book for all that receive communion, and especially for those that have stopped going to mass.  In it, you will discover “amazing” truths you perhaps never knew about the Eucharist.  This book is full of surprises, and reveals hidden treasures which will DEFINITELY change your life, bringing you closer to Jesus through Holy Communion.

The reason I bring this book up in this reflection, is because of what it did for me.  It placed a new priority in my heart in regards to the Eucharist.  I have a much deeper reverence and need for it now.  Communion has such a rich meaning; much more than standing in a line during mass, and “slapping” that host onto my tongue.  The one big thing I now know is that at every Eucharistic Celebration we are not receiving only Jesus!  At every Eucharist, the entire celestial court and all of heaven are also present to worship and praise our Lord.  When we receive the Eucharist, we are experiencing a little bit of heaven on earth.  My late mother and father, and every deceased person that I have loved, are potentially there with me as I receive Jesus.  How awesome is that!!

The Catholic Bible, and Mr. Flynn’s book, has so many hidden “prizes”!  Please try reading and meditating on a small part of Scripture each and every day. 

Come, Lord, in the fullness of your risen presence, and make yourself known to your people again through the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup.  Amen.” –  Lord Robert Runcie
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Sts. Marian and James (d. 259)
     

Often, it’s hard to find much detail from the lives of saints of the early Church. What we know about the third-century martyrs we honor today is likewise minimal. But we do know that they lived and died for the faith. Almost 2,000 years later, that is enough reason to honor them.

Born in North Africa, Marian was a lector or reader; James was a deacon. For their devotion to the faith they suffered during the persecution of Valerian.

Prior to their persecution Marian and James were visited by two bishops who encouraged them in the faith not long before they themselves were martyred. A short time later, Marian and James were arrested and interrogated. The two readily confessed their faith and, for that, were tortured. While in prison they are said to have experienced visions, including one of the two bishops who had visited them earlier.

On the last day of their lives, Marian and James joined other Christians facing martyrdom. They were blindfolded and then put to death. Their bodies were thrown into the water. The year was 259.

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 #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.

 

     

“Not MY Job, It’s HIS; Or Is IT?!” – Mark 13:13-17†


The Holy Father’s (The Pope) Prayer Intention’s for June, 2010:

General Intention: That priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God.

Missionary Intention: That the Holy Spirit may bring forth from our communities numerous missionary vocations, willing to fully consecrate themselves to spreading the Kingdom of God.

 

It is the first day of June, and I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday weekend.  Hopefully we all remembered and prayed for all veterans and military personnel, living and dead.

 

Today in Catholic History:

† 1480 – Birth of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (d. 1550)
† 1495 – Friar John Cor records the first known batch of scotch whisky.
† 1571 – Death of John Story, English Catholic
† 1846 – Death of Pope Gregory XVI (b. 1765)
† 1903 – Birth of Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky C.Ss.R Bishop and Martyr (d. 1973)
† Today is Commemoration of Justin Martyr (Eastern Orthodox).

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

Men have never wearied of political justice: they have wearied of waiting for it. – G.K. Chesterton
     

Today’s reflection is about Civic and Religious Duties.
     

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.  (NAB Mark 13:13-17)

  

Who were the “Pharisees and Herodians?”  Of the three major religious societies of Judaism at the time of the New Testament, the Pharisees were often the most vocal and influential.  The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were the most bitter and deadly opponents of Jesus Christ, and His message.

The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God at first, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist to only a small portion of the Jewish Laws that they became blind to the “Messiah” when He was in their very midst.  They saw His miracles and heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy they did all that they could to stop Him; to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the “Son of God.”

The Herodians on the other hand were one of the Jewish parties of Jerusalem and Judea during the human lifetime of Jesus Christ.  Unlike the other Jewish groups, the Herodians were primarily a political group, rather than religious.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod.  While the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed Jesus Christ because they viewed Him as a competitor for religious leadership of the people, the Herodians opposed Jesus because they viewed His growing popularity as a political threat to their Roman masters.

In the conflicts Jesus had with the Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple Scribes, Jesus vanquished his adversaries with simple and honest responses and parables to their questions; reducing them to silence.  In Mark 12:34, it is written, “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.” 

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  What a simple, yet profound, statement!  I firmly believe we have as much difficulty with the concept today, as the Disciples of Christ did two-thousand years ago.  Jesus did not say, “Give to Caesar nothing, and give everything to the Church.”  Nor did He say, “Make sure what you give to Caesar is in no way associated with the Church.”  Jesus made it clear that we had a duty not only to the Church, but also to the people around us, to the civic leaders, and to society as a whole.  To be a good Catholic is to be a good citizen as well.  There is both a “physical” king, and a “spiritual” king to which we answer.  Jesus was not to rule by the force of military might, but by service to all.  He was not to be a political “Messiah.”

What do we owe to the government and others, and what do we owe to Christ and the Church.  Church precepts are easy, because they have been written down, and easily found.  The five duties of ALL Catholics:

1. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and rest from servile labor on these days. 
2. To receive the
Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, if aware of committing a mortal sin, more often.
3. To receive
Holy Communion at least once a year, between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.
4. To observe the
fast days and abstinence days established by the Church.
5. To contribute to the support of the Church

How sad that so many Catholics today do not adhere to ANY of these five simple precepts of our Church.  Some people get upset and disgusted that these “C&E” (Christmas and Easter) Catholics only come to Mass twice a year if that, AND then go to Communion on top of it!  I instead have a strong feeling of sadness and spiritual pain that these misguided (those usually self-guided) individuals don’t know how bad they are hurting themselves, and the Church community as a whole, by putting their own needs and selfishness over following a few simple rules.

There are other practices that a good Catholic should also be involved with.  The Church has broken them down into two categories:  “Corporal” and “Spiritual” Works of Mercy.  Being a good citizen involves, but is not limited, to these various works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s body:

1.  Feeding the hungry
2.  Giving drink to the thirsty
3.  Clothing the naked
4.  Sheltering the homeless
5.  Visiting the sick
6.  Visiting the imprisoned
7.  Burying the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s soul:

1.  Admonishing the sinner
2.  Instructing the ignorant
3.  Counseling the doubtful
4.  Comforting the sorrowful
5.  Bearing wrongs patiently
6.  Forgiving injuries
7.  Praying for the living and the dead

Being a good Catholic is nothing more than doing your best, being your best, and living your best.  We are to love all others because they are creations of God, and we are to be good Stewards of the gifts and resources God has given us.  When Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar … and to God …,” He was, and still is, extolling a need for an organizational flow in order to have a safe and orderly society; with realistic requirements, needs, and almsgiving in this world and in the next.  Jesus recognized the civil authority and its rights, but He warned that greater rights belong to God.

In this world, it involves paying taxes, adhering to the laws of society, and value the Church precepts, including the “works of mercy.”  In the next world, it involves simply honoring and praising our Creator, which will be easy for me as I am getting a head start well before getting there!

Give to Caesar the coins, and to God your heart!
    

A Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.  We beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.  Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.  Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our Country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded; and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.  Amen”
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph the Worker
   

Apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955. But the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers has a much longer history.

In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation. Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating. Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Comment:

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). The Father created all and asked humanity to continue the work of creation. We find our dignity in our work, in raising a family, in participating in the life of the Father’s creation. Joseph the Worker was able to help participate in the deepest mystery of creation. Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work. Thus, if you wish to be close to Christ, we again today repeat, ‘Go to Joseph’” (see Genesis 41:44).

Quote:

In Brothers of Men, René Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: “Now this holiness (of Jesus) became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of word, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God…in relation to this mystery, involves the conviction that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of someone who is poor and obliged to work for his living.”

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 #1:
   

The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

 

 

“Following in Jesus’ Footsteps!“ – Acts 3:1-10†


Happy Easter Wednesday.  I love this Easter Season more than I have any other in the past.  I’m not sure why, but it is probably related to sharing my faith with all of you.  I want to thank you for reading my blogs, and I pray that they have helped you in a little way, to appreciate God a little more.  I love ‘ya.
 

Today’s reflection is about Peter and John continuing miracles through the Holy Spirit.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
  

It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look. ~St. Francis of Assisi
 

Today’s Meditation:
     

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer.  And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple.  When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”  He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.  Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, (rise and) walk.”  Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.  He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.  (NAB Acts 3:1-10)

      

This section starts a series of events for the apostles, and for the “new” church of “Christ.”  The dramatic cure of a lame beggar produces a large audience for a proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ by Peter, in subsequent verses.  The Sadducees, taking exception to the doctrine of resurrection will later have Peter, John, and even the beggar arrested and brought to trial before the same Sanhedrin that persecuted and convicted Jesus in just the recent past.  The issue concerns the authority by which Peter and John publicly teach religious doctrine in the temple.  

With the day beginning at 6 A.M., the ninth hour would be 3 P.M.   This is the same hour that Jesus died, claiming victory over sin.  As Jesus claimed victory, so did these two apostles, and the lame beggar.  The Holy Spirit entered each of these people, and acted in a specific way:  the apostles, through the grace of belief and healing; and through the beggar, by a grace of a new life without defects, and with a belief in the risen Lord.

The miracle proves the saving power of Christ, and leads the beggar to enter the temple, where he hears Peter’s proclamation of salvation through Jesus.  Can you just picture this forty year-old man jumping and yelling, with tears in his eyes out of great joy, exclaiming loudly that “Jesus’ power had cured him!”  I also see Peter and John standing there with a “Jesus told you so” look on their faces; and the temple elders with “Oh no, not again – is this ever going to stop?” looks on their faces.

St. Francis said, “Preach the gospel, and if needed, use words!”  Peter and John, wearing robes with a rope belt, must have been great “Franciscans.”

“Jesus, your magnificence and mercy is beyond our imagination.  Thank you for just being you.  Amen.”
  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. John Baptist de la Salle

  

John Baptist de la Salle was born at Rheims, France on April 30th. He was the eldest of ten children in a noble family. He studied in Paris and was ordained in 1678. He was known for his work with the poor. He died at St. Yon, Rouen, on April 7th. He was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1900. John was very involved in education. He founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (approved in 1725) and established teacher colleges (Rheims in 1687, Paris in 1699, and Saint-Denis in 1709). He was one of the first to emphasize classroom teaching over individual instruction. He also began teaching in the vernacular instead of in Latin. His schools were formed all over Italy. In 1705, he established a reform school for boys at Dijon. John was named patron of teachers by Pope Pius XII in 1950. His feast day is April 7th.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #7:
 

United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.