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“Bible History: 103! How Well Do You Know Your Bible Rulers and Prophets?!” – Luke 3:1-6†


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2nd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

 

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D. pencilan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

 

The Real and TRUE Santa Claus

 

Santa Claus is also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and simply “Santa”.  Santa Claus is also known as “de Kerstman” in Dutch (“the Christmas man”), and “Père Noël” (“Father Christmas”) in French. 64680_535815893112792_1263747424_n He is a figure with legendary, mythical, historical, and folkloric origins.  In many western cultures, he brings gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24. 

As you see in the picture of “Santa”, he is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man – – sometimes with spectacles – – wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and.  This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” along with caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast’s depiction.  This image has been maintained and reinforced in contemporary society through song, radio, television, children’s books, and films.

However, that is not the TRUE “Santa Claus”!! 

The modern “Santa” was derived from the Dutch figure of “Sinterklaas”, which, in turn, is partly based on hagiographical (reverent or saintly) tales concerning the historical figure of a Christian Bishop and gift giver: “Saint Nicholas”.  Greek Orthodox and Byzantine Christian folklore has a nearly identical story, attributed to Saint Basil of Caesarea.  Basil’s feast day, on January 1, is considered the time of exchanging gifts in Greece.

Saint Nicholas of Myra” is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of “Sinterklaas”.  He was a 4th cSaint_Nicholasentury Greek Christian Bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia (now in Turkey).  Bishop Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, and, in particular, presenting three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. 

Nicholas was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity.  In the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Germany, he is still usually portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes.  “Saint” Nicholas is the patron saint of many diverse groups including archers, sailors, children, and pawnbrokers.   He is also the patron saint for two major metropolitan cities, Amsterdam and Moscow.

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Saint Nicholas (“Sinterklaas“, often called “De Goede Sint” – – “The Good Saint”) is depicted as an elderly, stately, and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard.  He wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop’s alb and sometimes red sinterklaasstole, dons a red miter, and holds a gold-colored crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top.  He traditionally rides a white horse.  His feast, on December 6th, came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts, and is still called “St. Nicholas Day”.  Saint Nicholas is believed to ride his white horse over the rooftops at night, delivering gifts through the chimney to the well-behaved children, while the naughty children risk being caught by Saint Nicholas’s aides who carry jute bags and willow canes for that specific purpose.

Later, in another location, older images of the “gift-giver” from both church history and folklore – – notably “St Nicholas” and “Sinterklaas” – – merged with the British character “Father Christmas”.  This merger produced a character known to Britons and Americans as “Santa Claus”.  As an example, in Washington Irving’s “History of New York” (1809), “Sinterklaas” was Americanized into “Santa Claus” (a name first used in the American press in 1773); however, this image portrays Santa Claus without  his bishop’s apparel (Can you guess why?!).  So, in Great Briton and the United States, Santa Claus was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat.  Washington Irving’s book was a satire of the Dutch culture of New York of his era; and much of this satirical portrait is his joking invention.

With all this information in mind, let’s not forget the REAL HERO of the CHRISTinMASS Season:

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(Information from Wikipedia)

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Quote of the Day:

 

“John the Baptist was supposed to point the way to the Christ.  He was just the voice, not the Messiah.  So everybody’s ‘calling’ has dignity to it – – and God seems to know better than we do what is in us that needs to be called forth.” ~  James Green 

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist preaches repentance, baptizing in the region of the Jordan.  Ready to get wet?

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(NAB Luke 3:1-6)  1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.  3 He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

This Sunday and next, our Gospel readings invite us to consider John the Baptist’s relationship to Jesus.  John the Baptist is part of the tradition of the great prophets, preaching repentance* and reform* to the people of Israel.  To affirm this, Luke purposely quotes – – at length – – from the prophet Isaiah.

**       (The process or “repentance”, and the beginning of “reform”, is a four stage, step-by-step, process:

1)    Acknowledging faults and endeavors to give a lesser good, or something harmful – – IS SIN!
2)    Confessing what you did (or DO), and what you are not happy about.
3)    Believing in God’s IMMEDIATE mercy and forgiveness.
4)     Receiving – – through faith – – the confidence’s in God’s faithfulness to forgive.)

The Synoptic Gospels – – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – – attest to the importance of the baptism of Jesus by John in Jesus’ pJohn_the_Baptist%20imagereparation for His earthly mission.  However, only in the Gospel of Luke, do we see the connection between these two men, Jesus and John, related to their births. The first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel contain the “Infancy Narrative”, relating each of their births.  

In today’s Gospel reading, John the Baptist is presented as THE preeminent prophetic figure who bridges the time before Christ the Messiah Savior, to the first prophet who prepares the pencil-pusher-564x272way for the expected Jewish Messiah, who John the Baptist knew to be Jesus Christ in His saving and redemptive ministry of salvation, not only to the Jews, but also to the whole world.

Just as Luke’s Gospel began with a long sentence (cf., Luke 1:1–4), so too does this opening verse of this section:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1–2).   

Here, Luke reveals the “calling” of John the Baptist in the form of an Old Testament prophetic calling:

“…the Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert(Luke 3:2)’

This calling of John extends and amplifies similar verses, from the same “prophet” of Old, when Luke reports:

A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his pathsEvery valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made lowThe winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’” (Luke 3:4-6).

250px-Isaiah_(Bible_Card)This prophet, which John the Baptist is amplifying, is Isaiah:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; the rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5).

In doing so, Luke presents his theme of the “universality of salvation”, which he announced in an earlier chapter – – in the words of Simeon:

My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:30–32). 

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Luke relates the story of “salvation history” to events in contemporary world history of Jesus’ time.  He is connecting his “salvation’ narrative with the current events happening right in front of their eyes, portraying Jesus in the light of tsistinehese prophetic events.  There is a cornucopia of historic information given solely in the first sentence of today’s reading:

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1-2). 

This one sentence, two bible verses, has seven items of historical and prophetical significance for discussion.  They are underlined above and I will discuss each one individually.

(1) “Tiberius Caesar” (born Tiberius Claudius Nero in 42 B.C.) succeeded Augustus as emperor of ALL Roman territories in 1steve11/people25/134 A.D., and reigned until his death in 37 A.D.   Therefore, his “fifteenth year of reign”, depending on the method of calculating his first regal year, would have fallen somewhere between 27 A.D. and 29 A.D.  Tiberius was one of Rome’s greatest generals.  However, he is remembered as a dark, reclusive, and somber ruler.  A renowned Roman person of influence, “Pliny the Elder”, describes Tiberius as a “tristissimus hominum”, “the gloomiest of men” (Pliny the Elder, “Natural Histories” XXVIII.5.23).   Eventually, Tiberius exiled himself from Rome and left his governments administration largely in the hands of his unscrupulous “Praetorian Prefects”.  Caligula, Tiberius’ grand-nephew and adopted grandson, succeeded the emperor upon his death in 37 A.D.

(2) “Pontius Pilate” , mentioned next, was the “prefect” of Judea from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D.  The Jewish historian “Josephus” describes Pontius Pilate as a “greedy and ruthless prefect” who had little regard for the local Jewish PilatePicpopulation and their religious practices.  Luke describes Pontius Pilate’s sacrileges behavior:

At that time some people who were present there told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices” (see Luke 13:1).

The slaughter of the Galileans by Pilate is reported much later in Luke’ Gospel.  However, Josephus reports that such a slaughter would be in keeping with the “character and personality” of Pontius Pilate.  Pilate even disrupted a religious gathering of Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, slaughtering the participants (Antiquities 18, 4, 1 #86–87).  On another occasion, Pilate killed many Jews who had opposed him when he appropriated money from the Temple treasury in order to build an aqueduct in Jerusalem (Jewish War 2, 9, 4 #175–77; Antiquities 18, 3, 2 #60–62).

(3) Next in descending order of royal importance is “Herod Antipas”, the son of Herod the Great.  Antipas ruled over Galiherodantipaslee and Perea from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D.  His official title, “Tetrarch”, literally means, “Ruler of a quarter”.  It came to designate any subordinate prince of the Roman Empire.  

We are now half-way through the first sentence from today’s Gospel.   A huge sum of political/societal/historical information has been given; and there is still more to come.  We need to remember that, when reading Holy Scripture, we should do so while keeping the following four principles in mind:

  • The social and historical circumstances;
  • The relationship between allegorical truths (Parables and other stories) and literal truths;
  • The past and present theological beliefs, their influence on faith’s perspective; and,
  • Application, how this reading applies to me and you NOW, today, – – and in the future.

So, let’s mosey on to the fourth person mentioned in this first verse of today’s Gospel:

(4) “Philip” was a son of “Herod the Great”, as was Herod Antipas.  His birth name was Philip “ben” (son of) Herod.  The Herod family line was partially Jewish.  As a “Tetrarch” over a large portion of territory – – to the north and east of the 552758Sea of Galilee – – from 4 B.C. to 34 A.D., Philip had a bad reputation.   

He married “Salome”, who was a member of the Herodian dynasty, as he was.  Thus, Salome was his niece.  She will become more well-known in connection with the execution of John the Baptist (cf., Matthew 14:3-11).

It is known that Philip the Tetrarch rebuilt the city of Caesarea Philippi, calling it by his own name to distinguish it from the Caesarea on the sea-coast, which was the seat of the Roman government.  He died in the year 34 A.D. (only one year after Jesus’ Crucifixion and death).

(5) “Lysanias” is an aloof character in history and in the Bible.  Nothing is truly known about him other than He is believed to have been Tetrarch of “Abilene”, a territory somewhere northwest of Damascus.

After situating the call of John the Baptist in the time of the “civil rulers” of Jesus’ era, Luke now goes on to mention the “religious leadership” of this same time period.

(6) “Annas and Caiaphas” were the “high priests” at the time of Jesus’ public ministry.  “Annas” had been high priest frhigh priestsom 6 A.D. to 15 A.D.  After being deposed by the Romans in the year 15 A.D., Annas was succeeded by various members of his family and eventually by his son-in-law, “Caiaphas”, who was the Jewish high priest from 18 A.D. – 36 A.D.  Luke refers to “Annas” as “high priest” at Jesus’ time of public ministry, possibly because of the continuing influence of Annas or because the title continued to be used for the past-high priest’s.  According to John’s Gospel:

The band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas firstHe was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.  It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people” (John 18:12-14). 

We finally get to the seventh – – and main character – – of this first verse, “John the Baptist”.  He is the true predecessor and herald of Jesus Christ. This is the one about whom scripture says: john-baptist-001

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you” (Luke 7:27).

John the Baptist was God’s chosen transitional figure, inaugurating the period of “the fulfillment of prophecy and promise”:

“The child [John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80).

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The last aspect I wish to discuss in regard to this lengthy first verse is about “the Word” coming to John:

The Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:2).

Luke, among the other New Testament writers, is alone in linking the preaching of John the Baptist as a true “calling” from God the Father.  Therefore, Luke is thereby identifying John with the prophets of Jewish Holy Scripture – – our Old Testament – – whose own individual ministries also began with very similar calls.  Luke amplifies John the Baptists calling however.  In later verses from Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist will be described, by Jesus Himself, as “more than a prophet”:

“Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I [Jesus] tell you, and more than a prophet (Luke 7:26).

Wow!! Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, his brother Tetrarch Philip, Tetrarch Lysanias, High Priests Annas agods-redemptive-plan1nd Caiaphas, along with John the Baptist are all truly historically correct people.  All had important roles in the salvation mission of Jesus Christ among His Jewish Brethren AND His Roman neighbors.  Some roles were more pronounced and more important than others.  Some roles were to be truly cruel and callous in fact, but they ALL hold a place in the historically REAL redemptive mystery of Christ dying in order to save us from Adam’s and Eve’s sins.

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Let’s go on with the rest on today’s story (which will not be as long as the first part).  John travelled throughout ALL of Jordan, acting out and living out his special mission:02advientoC2

He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3).

John knew his role in Christ’s plan; he knew he would be the predecessor to herald – – to proclaim – – the messiah’s coming, with an enthusiasm and excitement only he could harbor and exhibit.  Also, he knew his mission of baptizing and preaching forgiveness made him a strong focus and religious figure in his 1st century society.  John probably also knew the religious authorities would recognize the prophets meaning of his beginning at the “Upper Jordan River”.  This is the exact location where Joshua led the Jews out of the desert, across the Jordan River, into the Promised Land, thus initiating a new phase of prophecy and promise “fulfilled” (cf., Joshua, Chapters 3 and 4)!  Moreover, with pious humility, John the Baptist still knew God’s royal role was NOT for him, but for the one coming AFTER him:

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

What did John the Baptist mean by his preaching of repentance and forgiveness?  Well, I believe he was (and still is) calling for a change of heart and conduct in one’s life – – a “true” conversion.  He is insisting that everyone continuously turn from a life of rebellion to that of obedience towards God the Father – – on a daily, even hourly basis!! 

John, being a strongly pious Jew, was very familiar the expectations found in Jewish apocalyptic writings: God’s kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  This was also THE expectation shared by John the Baptist.  

JohPrepareTheWayn the Baptist (and Luke) were well-versed in Prophetic literature, especially those of Isaiah:

As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths”’” (Luke 3:4).

This verse from Luke, in today’s reading, is nearly identical to a verse found in the Book of Isaiah:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORDMake straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3–5).

Isaiah is actually describing the return, to Jerusalem, of the Jewish exiles from Babylonian captivity.  The language used by the prophet Isaiah is figurative, describing the route the ex-exiles will take home.  In this allegorical description,captivity “the Lord” leads them, so their route lies straight across the wilderness rather than along the well-watered routes usually followed from Mesopotamia to Israel.  Luke, in his Gospel, parallels this allegory, symbolizing his verses to represent the witness of John the Baptizer and his mission to that of Jesus’ redemptive mission of salvation for ALL.  John is leading the Jewish faithful across the dangerous wilderness, both physically and spiritually, to that of the true Savior Messiah of Israel, Jesus Christ.

John’s Gospel, unlike Luke, even goes so far as to not only imply this mission, but also to say it desertwww_washington_edunewsroomdirectly:

“He [John the Baptist] said: ‘I am “the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’”’” (John 1:23).

The last two verses continue this allegorical, symbolic, description which Luke is borrowing from Isaiah:

Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:5-6).

Again, Luke’s words are nearly identical to Isaiah’s:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3–5).

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I. summarize titlen today’s Gospel we note Luke’s attention to political and historical details.  Luke shows that “salvation” is for all people and is situated in world events.  Therefore, Luke lists the political and religious leaders at the time of John the Baptist’s appearance in the desert.  “Salvation”, for Luke (and me), is understood as God’s encroaching into this political and social history, and working Salvation2intimately from within this historical background.

John the Baptist stood at a pivotal juncture in the history of God’s dealing with His “chosen” people.  He was responsible for bridging the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets whose mission was to point the way to the Messiah Savior.  He is also the first of the New Testament “witnesses” AND “martyrs”.  John was a “prophet” – – a “called spokesman” – – for God Himself, and was the preeminent “Servant of the Word”, Jesus Christ – – the true “Word” of God who became flesh for our sake and for our salvation (cf., John 1:1).  

John the Baptist’s preaching of the coming of the Lord is a key theme of our present Advent season.  As John’s message prepreparepared the way for Jesus, we too are called to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming.  We respond to John’s message by repentance and reform in our daily lives (hopefully).  We, as John the Baptist was, are also “called” to be “prophets” of Christ, announcing and witnessing by our personal and public lives the coming of the Lord, just as John did in his life.

We know that during the Advent season, we celebrate the promise of fulfillment in the coming of Emmanuel (“God-with-us”) manifested in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ AND in His return in glory at His second coming (the Parousia).  We see so much around us – – and within us – – contradicting the “selfless love” of the infant Jesus Christ.  We see so much in this world contradicting the authority of the Universal “Christ the King”.  At the same time, we also want so very much to experience the “fullness of this fulfillment” – – Christ Himself – – and to see the salvation of God the Father as well.

Let’s joyfully remember the Apostle Paul’s faith, and how it can encourage us: t_1cb51300-5993-11e1-bb75-053d1da00004

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Although we cannot achieve this completion on our own, we can join in Paul’s prayer:

That your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (Philipians1:9-11)

May our EVERY thought, word, and deed “witness” to Jesus Christ as we prepare for Christmas and for ALL times.  Let’s keep Christ in Christmas – – CHRISTinMASS!!

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Durin. conclusiong the season of Advent, we choose to add many activities to our schedules in order to prepare for our Christmas celebration.  John the Baptist reminds us that our “repentance” is another way in which we can and SHOULD prepare for the Lord’s coming – – as significant and substantially a vital part of our celebration for each and every Christmas Season.  Parish communities often offer a communal celebration of the prioritiesSacrament of Reconciliation during the Advent season.  You can choose to participate in the communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or you can seek out this Sacrament on an individual basis.  Whichever you choose – – DO IT – – please!!!

Reflect on how John the Baptist called upon the people to prepare the way of the Lord through repentance.  On a nightly (or daily) basis, in a peaceful and prayerful area (perhaps near the Advent wreath), pray silently, asking God to forgive your sins.  Then, finish by praying your own version of the “Act of Contrition”.  (If you do not know one, you can use to old “tried and true” version below. 

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Act of Contrition

 

“My God377983_10150459373288643_96426468642_8348446_1692711191_n, 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.”

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“Jesus Defines the Word ‘IS’ AT His Last ‘Feast’!” – Mark 14:12-16, 22-26†


The Solemnity of the Most Holy
Body and Blood of Christ

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
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the OFS Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

There will not be a Reflection Blog next week as I will be on an “ACTS Retreat” Weekend with Christ and my fellow Bothers in Christ from my home parish in Hazelwood, Missouri; along with a few great men from Chicago, Illinois who are trying to bring the ACTS Retreat format to their area.  Please keep all of us in your prayers as I will be keeping you in my prayers.

I personally make two three-day retreats a year: one an ACTS format retreat and the other a Franciscan Regional Retreat.  On top of this, I make several one-day personal or small group retreats throughout the year.  I truly love spending time separated from this “materialistic” world, totally and completely tuned-in to God’s world instead.  For me, it’s a little bit of heaven.

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Today, the second Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate a second week of solemnities as well.  We have now returned to “Ordinary Time” in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church.  Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  At one time, this day was called Corpus Christi, the Latin words for “the Body of Christ.”  In the most recent revision of our liturgical rites, the name for this day has been expanded to be a more complete reflection of our Eucharistic theology.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1190 – Third Crusade: Frederick I Barbarossa drowns in the Sally River while leading an army to Jerusalem.
†   1538 – Catholic German monarchy signs League of Neurenberg
†   1539 – Council of Trent: Paul III sends out letters to his bishops, delaying the Council due to war  and the difficulty bishops had had traveling to Venice.
†   1632 –Birth of Esprit Fléchier, French writer and bishop (d. 1710)
†   1637 – Birth of Jacques Marquette, French Jesuit missionary and explorer (d. 1675)
†   1688 – Birth of James III Edward, Old Pretender, recognized as King of Britain by Pope
†   2001 – Pope John Paul II canonizes Lebanon’s first female saint Saint Rafqa
†   2010 – Death of Metropolitan Basil Schott, Archbishop of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh (b. 1939)

(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:

“I do not know how we can live a spiritual life that bears great fruit (including having our prayers answered) unless we are feeding on the life that God intended us to feed on.  The Eucharist is essential for our life.  It is food for the soul; it is food for life eternal.” ~ Sr. Ann Shields, “Pray and Never Lose Heart“, Servant Books

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Today’s reflection: Jesus shares His Last Supper with His disciples.

 

(NAB Mark 14:12-16, 22-26) 12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  13 He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.  Follow him.  14 Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’  15 Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.  Make the preparations for us there.”  16 The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.  22 While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.”  23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.  25 Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”  26 Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

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Gospel Reflection:

Our reading today is the account of the “Last Supper” as found in Mark’s Gospel.  It begins with the instructions Jesus gave to His disciples in order to prepare the Passover celebration approaching rapidly.  Mark then goes on to give a brief, yet accurate, account of the “Last Supper”.  However, our reading today omits the middle verses about Jesus’ predicting His betrayal by one of His disciples, we soon learn to be Judas Iscariot.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us the specific time period of the event:

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb …” (Mark 14:12).

The connection between these two events – – the festival of “Passover” and the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” – – are reflected in several books of the Old Testament (cf., Exodus 12:3–20, 34:18; Leviticus 23:4–8; Numbers 9:2–14, 28:16–17; and, Deuteronomy 16:1–8).

Mark’s Gospel describes Jesus’ “Last Supper”, celebrated with His disciples, as occurring during the Jewish feast of Passover.  The Passover meal, still today, includes many ritually important elements, such as unleavened bread, lamb, and bitter herbs.  Each food item recalls an aspect related to the Israelite Exodus event, with the instructions for the preparation of the meal carefully prescribed in Mosaic Law.  It is a significant, central, and crucial obligation of the Jewish faithful to celebrate the Passover meal, even still today, giving thanks to God for His deliverance and protection.

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The “Passover” festival commemorated the Israelite’s redemption from slavery and their departure from Egypt by night while led by Moses.  This festival began at sundown, after the Passover lamb was sacrificed in the temple in the afternoon of the “fourteenth day of the month of Nisan” **.  FYI, Passover, as all Jewish religious holidays, begins at Sundown. 

The Passover supper is on the same evening, and thus is associated with the eating of “unleavened bread”.  The “Feast of the Unleavened Bread”, itself was continued through “Nisan 21” **.  This particular Jewish “Feast” is a reminder of the hardships and haste placed upon the Israelites surrounding their “Exodus” departure.  

Through both the dual “festival” and “feast”, praise and thanks to God for His magnificent goodness in the past are combined with a hope of their future salvation through His grace.

Bible Scholars have placed the exact date of Jesus’ “Last Supper” as “Nisan 14” **, a date on the Hebrew Calendar (still in use today).

** Nisan (or Nissan) is the first month of the ecclesiastical year and the seventh month (eighth, in leap year) of the civil year, on the Hebrew calendar.  The name of the month is Babylonian.  In the Torah it is called the month of the Aviv, referring to the month in which barley was ripe.  Being a spring month of 30 days, Nisan usually falls on the Gregorian calendar between March and April.  

The first verse of today’s reading, besides giving us a definitive date of Jesus’ Passover meals, opens with Jesus’ disciples asking for directions from Him:

His [Jesus’] disciples said to Him, ‘Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” (Mark 14:12) 

I am certain Jesus’ response bewildered His much loved disciples and friends:

Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.   Follow him.” (Mark 14:13)

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A “man carrying a jar of water” is a strange sort of oddity for the Jewish society of the first century.   Only women carried jars at this time of history in Israel.  Perhaps His words were a prearranged signal from Jesus to follows of His in the City of Jerusalem itself; a signal to get prepared for His arrival.  So, in order to understand this point better, I went back to the original Greek version of the Bible to see the actual words used, with their word-to-word translations:

kai {AND} apostellei {HE SENDS FORTH} duotwn {TWO} maqhtwn  autou {OF HIS DISCIPLES,} kai {AND} legei  {SAYS} autoiV {TO THEM,} upagete  {GO} eiV {INTO} thn  {THE} polin  {CITY,} kai {AND} apanthsei {WILL MEET} umin {YOU} anqrwpoV {MAN – meaning a human being, NOT GENDER} keramion {A PITCHER} udatoV {OF WATER} bastazwn {CARRYING;} akolouqhsate  {FOLLOW} autw {MAN – meaning a human being, NOT GENDER }

The Greek word actually used here, “anqrwpoV, implies simply a person and not necessarily a male.  I believe this verse, along with the next, gives a strong credence to a signal for a pre-arraigned meeting place needing to be readied:

“Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’” (Mark 14:13). 

(My dear Watson, this sounds like a “James Bond 007” thriller starting to act out!  Wait, I’m mixing spy stories up, aren’t I!)

They did as they were told, and found exactly what Jesus said they would find.  This unknown “water-carrying man” showed Jesus’ emissaries a “large upper room” (verse 15), already furnished and ready for use.  So, they prepared for the Passover celebration feast:

“The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.” (Mark 14:16)

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Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what He had announced earlier at Capernaum – – giving His disciples “the LIVING bread”, His body and His blood:

 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give IS my flesh for the life of the world.”  The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’  Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks MY blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For MY flesh IS true food, and MY blood IS true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks MY blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.’” (John 6:51-58).

Jesus’ passing over to His Father by His death and resurrection – – the “new” Passover – – is anticipated in the “Last Supper” and celebrated in the Eucharist or “Lord’s Supper”, fulfilling the “Jewish Passover” and anticipating the “final Passover” of the church in the glory of God’s kingdom.  (Say this sentence three times fast.)  The “oldLIVES in the “new, and the “new” FULFILLS the “old.

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Mark seems to have purposely omitted many elements found in the Jewish Passover meal.  Instead he describes only those elements he believed to be most essential to revealing the true essence of the Christian Eucharist: Jesus taking the bread, blessing the bread, breaking the bread, and sharing the bread with His disciples.  This bread He now shares IS transubstantiated*** into Jesus’ own body.  Comparable words and actions follow as Jesus shares the chalice (cup) with His disciples.  Those who drink from the chalice are invited to share in a “NEW” covenant, sealed by Jesus’ own blood.  Mark, through the Eucharist, looks forward to the Kingdom of God which Jesus inaugurates at the “Last Supper” celebration.

*** “Transubstantiate” is an intransitive verb in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrine meaning  to undergo a change in substance from bread and wine to the body and blood of Jesus Christ during Communion

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We now skip forward to the actual Passover Celebration – – the “Last Supper”.  This Gospel reading shows the clear-cut and specific time Jesus instituted the “Sacrament of the Eucharist”:

“He [Jesus] took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this IS my body.’  Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  He said to them, ‘This is MY blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many’” (Mark 14: 22-24). 

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, shows that Jesus’ words continued to live on in the celebration of the ”Mass”, and still continues to this day:

 “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This IS my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup IS the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” (1 Corinthians 11:23–25).

The actions and words of Jesus expressed within the framework of the Passover meal conveys God’s “chosen” people towards a “NEW” covenant through Jesus’ selfless sacrifice of Himself.  How?; through the offering of His body and blood in anticipation of His passion and death just a few short hours later.  His “blood of the covenant” alludes to the Old Covenant story of the Exodus:

“Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and, rising early in the morning, he built at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve sacred stones for the twelve tribes of Israel.  Then, having sent young men of the Israelites to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls as communion offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar.  Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, ‘All that the LORD has said, we will hear and do.’  Then he took the blood and splashed it on the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.’” (Exodus 24:4–8).

Jesus, through His actions and words is signifying the NEW community that His sacrifice will bring into being on earth and in heaven.  His “blood” is the “seat of life”, and when placed on the altar (transubstantiated), “makes atonement”:

“Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is the blood, as the seat of life, that makes atonement.” (Leviticus 17:11).

Jesus’ blood “will be shed for many” (verse 24) is a participle denoting an event “future” to the “Last Supper”.  Jesus knew His Father’s will and plan, and He was willing to surrender Himself for the salvation and redemption of His flock.

The word “many” (verse 24) in today’s reading does not mean some are excluded.  Instead, the word “many” in this case is a “Semitism” (a custom, tradition, and characteristic of Semitic people – primarily Jewish and Arab peoples) designating the combined group who will share and benefit from the service of the “ONE”!!  Thus, “many” in this particular instance is equivalent to “ALL”.  Wait, how can “many” mean “all”?!  The meaning, significance, and substance of both words can be vicarious to interpret into present day English; in Hellenistic Greek, it is difficult to distinguish between the two words.  Many words in the Greek Bible do not translate well into our present day English easily.

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Jesus begins verse 25 with a word never before used as the opening word of a sentence – – until Jesus did (and did many times) – – “AMEN”:

Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). 

You see, any time the word “Amen” started a sentence in Holy Scripture, it was ALWAYS said by Jesus Himself.  These initial or beginning “Amen’s” are truly unparalleled, otherwise unknown, in Hebrew literature.  “Amen” at the beginning of a sentence does not refer to the words of a previous speaker.  Instead, Jesus deliberately used this particular word in introducing a new thought, a new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom.  He is deliberately indicating that whatever He says next is true, and will occur.  AWESOMELY WOW!!

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Today’s reading from Mark concludes with Jesus and His disciples “singing a hymn” before leaving for the “Mount of Olives”:

Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26)

My understanding is that it was a custom to sing a “hymn of thanksgiving” at the conclusion of the Passover meal.   Bible footnotes point to five specific “hymns” or “Psalms”: Psalms 114–118.  Psalm 114 is a hymn celebrating Israel’s escape from Egypt, journey through the wilderness, and entry into the promised land; and the miracles of nature that bore witness to God’s presence in their midst.  Psalm 115 is a hymn to the glory of Israel’s God.  Psalm 116 is a thanksgiving hymn responding to the Jewish people’s divine rescue from mortal danger and near despair.  Psalm 117, being the shortest hymn, calls on the nations to acknowledge God’s supremacy.  Finally, Psalm 118 is a thanksgiving hymn usually used in a procession into the Temple boundaries.

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In summary, the Gospel for today reminds us to the awesome fact that the Eucharist is a memorial of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Holy Cross – – for US!!  We, as pious and faithful Catholics, truly and fully believe that Jesus Christ IS truly and fully present in the elements (aka, “accidents”) of bread and wine, transubstantiated into His glorified and perfect body and blood.  Each time we celebrate this precious Sacrament of the Catholic Church, we are preparing for God’s Kingdom. The Second Vatican Council has taught us that this celebration IS THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT of the Catholic Christian’s life. 

The supernatural food of the Holy Eucharist is healing for both body and soul, and gives strength for our personal journey towards heaven.  The Holy Eucharist offers healing, pardon, comfort, and rest for your soul.  The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist IS an intimate union with Christ Himself.  I firmly believe, when consuming His precious body and blood, we are perfected (oh, so temporarily), and experience a true heaven on earth, united with Christ completely and fully!!  Now that is truly AWESOME indeed!!

When the Lord Jesus commands His disciples (including us) to eat His flesh and drink His blood, He invites us to take His life into the very center of our being:

 “Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you (John 6:53).

The life which Jesus offers is the very life of God Himself.  Jesus’ death on the cross, His gift to us of His body and blood – – in the Eucharist, and His promise to eat and drink again with His disciples when the kingdom of God comes – – in all its fullness – – are inseparably connected.  

Jesus instructed His disciples to “do this in remembrance of me”.  These words establish every “Lord’s Supper” or Eucharist as a “remembrance” of Jesus’ atoning death, His resurrection, and His promise to return again:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Within hours of Jesus’ “Last Supper” and the institution of the “Sacrament of the Eucharist”, He is put to death.  Yet, what a joyful result came from such a gruesome death as Jesus experience!  We gained an inheritance; an inheritance of “union” with a truly loving and living God.  And, there seems to be a further secret in all of this as well (my dear Watson).  The secret is that God’s inheritance for us is more immediate and present than we could ever dream.  Yet, we often forsake God’s gift to us – – Himself – – as only a “consolation prize” of solace and comfort for when we die, not while we are living.

Guess what?!  We can experience our inheritance, our communion with God – – and ALL His creation – – again and again during this life.  We experience our inheritance in a central way through, with, and in, the Eucharist.  The Blessed Sacrament is a celebration and thanksgiving of Christ’s self-offering and the covenant between the human and the divine life.  A “Sacrament” effects what it signifies: the Eucharist, at the same time, effects and signifies a communion (a co-union).  It effects and signifies our participation in Jesus Christ’s death-conquering activity to bring about an everlastingly and joyful life.  WOW!!!  The Eucharist itself moves us to becoming a “sacrament” (little “s”) as well – – showing Christ’s presence and power in the world.  Watson, that’s a TRIPLE WOW for us to celebrate!!

Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper joyfully anticipates the final day when the Lord Jesus will feast anew with His disciples in His promised heavenly feast.  

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In conclusion, Think about some of the things that are required to prepare for a family/friend holiday meal: choosing the menu, preparing the shopping list, and assigning duties for cooking, setting the table, preparing decorations, leading the prayers, and cleaning up during and afterwards.  (Wow!! A lot to do for sure.)

Did you notice how Jesus instructed His disciples to prepare for their Passover meal in this reading? (Answer: by having a trust in Him.)  As ALL meals require some kind of planning and preparation, so too does our Sunday (and weekday) Eucharistic celebrations requires planning.  So, what might you do to better prepare for our celebration of the Eucharist? Examples should include prayer, reading the scriptures of the mass PRIOR to mass, being attentive, and participating in mass.  Choose one or more ideas and begin to implement them in your life.  Pray for God’s help in making your celebration of the Eucharist the highlight of your week – – AS IT SHOULD BE ALWAYS!!

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Reflection Prayer:

Behold the Lamb of God

“the Agnus Dei”

“Behold the Lamb of God,
behold Him who takes
away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called
to the supper of the Lamb.  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

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.

**

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17)RSV.

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret of Scotland

St. Margaret was Queen of Scotland’s father, Edward Atheling, was the Saxon heir to the throne of England, and her mother was a German princess, the descendant of Emperors.  Like the strong woman of the Gospel, the practice of Catholic virtues made her still more illustrious.  After the Norman Conquest, many members of the English nobility, including Margaret, found refuge in the court of Malcolm III of Scotland.  In 1070 Malcolm married Margaret and made her Queen of Scotland.

Margaret impressed the Scottish court both with her knowledge of continental customs and also with her piety.  For the love of God she imposed upon herself severe mortifications, leaving aside the superfluous and often even the necessary.  She influenced her husband and son to govern better and introduced Catholic customs, manners and ceremony to the Scottish court.  She raised her sons in great piety and one, David, was later canonized.  Above all she excelled in her zealous charity for her neighbor.  She was called “the mother of orphans” and “the bursar for the poor of Jesus Christ.”

In 1093, after six months of great physical suffering, she delivered her soul to God in Edinburgh.  The sanctity of her life and the numerous miracles she worked both in her life and after her death made her famous worldwide.

In 1673 Pope Clement X named her the patroness of Scotland, over which she had reigned for almost a quarter century.

http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j077sdMargaret4-10.htm

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 10 & 11 of 26:

10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life.  Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

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

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

 

 

 

♫”Oh, Johnny Boy, the Holy Spirit Is Calling You!”♫ – Mark 1:1-8†


    

 

Second Week of Advent

 

 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
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule 

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 Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations: 

Do not forget that “St. Nick’s day” is this week (Tuesday, December 6th).  In many places of the world, it is St. Nicholas (and not Santa) who is the main gift giver.  Put out your children’s shoes and they find treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special Nicholas candies and cookies. Remember though, St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself.

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My wife’s surgery (foot surgery) went well, and she is cooperating.  Hopefully, she will be back at work within a few weeks.  Thank you for all the prayers.

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 Today in Catholic History:

†   1075 – Death of Archbishop Anno II of Cologne
†   1110 – First Crusade: The Crusaders conquer Sidon.
†   1259 – Kings Louis IX of France (A Third Order Fransican and Patron Saint of the SFO Order) and Henry III of England agree to the Treaty of Paris, in which Henry renounces his claims to French-controlled territory on continental Europe (including Normandy) in exchange for Louis withdrawing his support for English rebels.
†   1334 – Death of Pope John XXII (b. 1249)
†   1443 – Birth of Pope Julius II, (1503-13), patron of Michelangelo, Bramante, and Raphael
†   1563 – The final session of the Council of Trent is held (it opened on December 13, 1545).
†   1674 – Father Jacques Marquette founds a mission on the shores of Lake Michigan to minister to the Illiniwek (the mission would later grow into the city of Chicago, Illinois).
†   1786 – Birth of John LA Luyten, Catholic Member of Dutch 2nd parliament [or 12/14]
†   1963 – Pope Paul VI closes 2nd session of 2nd Vatican Council †   1997 – Death of David Abell Wood, priest, at age 72 Memorials Feasts: Saint John of Damascus; the Great Martyr Saint Barbara, St. Ada (feast day)

(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:

 

“’Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ is an action of the risen Savior.  The Holy Spirit reveals to the spirit of the believer the true reality, majesty and saving power of the Son of God.  We are enabled to surrender our lives in a deeper way to God’s saving work.  We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to die to sin and live to God.” ~ Fr. Francis Martin, “The Life Changer”, St. Bede’s Publications

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Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist preaching repentance and baptizing people, in preparation for the “One” who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

 

(NAB Mark 1:1-8) 1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].  2a As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.  3 A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’”  4 John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  5 People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  6 John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey.  7 And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  8 I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last Sunday’s Gospel was taken from the end of Mark.  Today’s Gospel is taken from the beginning of Mark.  Unlike Luke and Matthew, Mark does not include any details of Jesus’ birth.  Instead, he begins with Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry, and with the appearance of John the Baptist in the desert wilderness.  We are invited today to reflect upon the role of this last great prophet, John the Baptist, who ‘prepared the way’ for Jesus and for the Salvation that Jesus Christ would bring to us then, now, and in the future.

Many scholars believe that the Gospels reflect the personal and group tensions that likely existed between the followers of John the Baptist and the disciples of Jesus Christ.  Each of the four Evangelists report on John’s preaching and baptizing, and each also emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ baptism by John.  The four Gospels go on explain that John the Baptist was sent to preach in preparation for another.  

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Holy Scripture tells us that John (the Baptist) was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb:

He [John the Baptist] will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”  (Luke 1:15).

When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, the son in her womb, John, leapt in her womb as they were both “filled” with the Holy Spirit:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:41).

The passion and fervor of the Holy Spirit dwelt in John, and made him the forerunner of the coming Messiah and Savior.  John was divinely led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness – – prior to his “prophetic” ministry, – – where he himself was tested and grew in the “Word” of God.  

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Although Mark attributes Jesus’ prophecy to Isaiah, the text is a combination of several passages from several books of Holy Scripture:

See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20);

 “A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3);

 “Now I am sending my messengerhe will prepare the way before me; and the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire — see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1);

“This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’” (Matthew 11:10);

And,

“This is the one about whom scripture says: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.’” (Luke 7:27).  

John the Baptist’s ministry is seen, and presented in this reading as God’s prelude to the saving mission of God the Fathers “Son”.  John the Baptist’s life was fueled by one burning passion — to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of His kingdom.

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John broke the prophetic silence of several centuries when he began to speak the “Word” of God to the people of Israel.  His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who also reproached the “chosen people” of God for their unfaithfulness and who also tried to awaken true repentance in them.  

Among the Jewish people – – who became unconcerned with the things of God, – – it was John’s work and mission to awaken their interest, to unsettle them from their complacency, and to arouse in them enough “good will” to recognize and receive Christ when He came.  

Why did Jesus say John the Baptist was more than a prophet as reported in Luke’s Gospel:

Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” (Luke 7:26)?

He was more than a prophet; he was the “voice” making straight the “way of the Lord”.  John the Baptist became “the voice” who is coming:

 “He [John the Baptist] said: ‘I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (John 1:23).

 And what exactly did the prophet Isaiah say about this “voice” of the “one crying out in the desert”:

“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.  Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service has ended, that her guilt is expiated, that she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.  A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:1-3).

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Can you picture a man “clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist” (verse 6).  Was he thought of as a “wild” man, with “crazy” ideas, OR, was he looked at as the prophesized “prophet”?  Remember, he did have a large following, and was watched, with “some concern”, from religious and political figures of the area.  They all knew the Old Testament prophesies of Isaiah.  John the Baptist’s clothes and dietary habits recalled that of the prophet “Elijah” from the Old Testament:

They replied, ‘He wore a hairy garment with a leather belt around his waist.’  ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite!’ he exclaimed.” (2 Kings 1:8).

Jesus Christ Himself even speaks of John the Baptist as the “Elijah” who has already come:

 “Then the disciples asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’  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.’” (Matthew 17:1012);

Then they [Peter, James, and John] asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’  He told them, ‘Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?  But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.’” (Mark 9:1113);

And,

He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17).

 

John the Baptist truly completed the cycle of great prophets begun by Elijah:

“All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.” (Matt. 11:13-14).

John’s baptismal ministry was for repentance, for turning away from sin, and for taking on a “new way” of life according to God’s “Word”.  Our baptism in, with, and through Jesus Christ – – by flowing water and the Holy Spirit – – results in a “new birth” and a glorious entry into God’s kingdom, as His beloved children:

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

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Jesus will create a “new” people of God through the life-giving baptism with the Holy Spirit:

I [John the Baptist] have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1-8).

However, first Jesus will identify Himself with the “chosen people of Israel” in submitting to John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance:

John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4),

AND, in bearing on their (and our) behalf the burden of God the Father’s decisive judgment, was baptized for the “chosen people of Israel”:

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.” (Mark 1:9).

As in the desert of Sinai at the Exodus, so here, in the wilderness of Judea (at the Jordan River also associated with Elijah and Elisha), Israel’s Son-ship with God the Father is to be “renewed” through the living waters AND Holy Spirit of Jesus’ baptism.

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In conclusion, Mark’s description of John the Baptist’s appearance highlights John’s connection and permanence with Jewish prophetic tradition.  Mark, in today’s reading, combines quotations from the Old Testament books of Exodus, Isaiah, and Malachi.  Mark’s description of John the Baptist as an “ascetic”, living in the desert and “clothed in camel hair”, eating “locusts and wild honey”, is reminiscent of the description of the prophet “Elijah” found in the book, “Second Kings”.  The people of Judea and Jerusalem flocked to John the Baptist, longing for and listening to his message of repentance and forgiveness.  Many came to John to be baptized in the Jordan.  Mark’s Gospel is direct and clear; John the Baptist’s role is onlyto prepare the way” for another to come, “one who is greater” than John the Baptist.

In today’s Gospel we hear John the Baptist contrast his baptism of repentance with the baptism that Jesus will inaugurate.  John says that he has baptized with water, but that the “one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit” as well.  John the Baptist’s baptism was not yet a Catholic Christian baptism.  It was a “preparation” for the Sacrament of Baptism through which sins are forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit is received.

John the Baptist is presented to us as a model for preparation during Advent.  We, too, in this day and time – – some two millennia later, – – are still called upon to “prepare a way for the Lord”.  Like John the Baptist, we ARE messengers in service to the “One” who is greater than any on earth.  Our Baptism commissions us to call others to life as disciples of Jesus.

Think about ways in which the example of others around you have “called” you to be a follower of Jesus Christ; who have been examples to you of Christian discipleship.  What are the characteristics they posses that you have tried to (or can) emulate?

Jesus is ready to give us the “fire” of His Holy Spirit so that we may “glow with” the light, joy, and truth of His Gospel to a materialistic and secular world, so desperately in need of God’s light, joy, and truth.  Jesus Christ’s “Word” has power to change and transform our lives so that we may be lights pointing others to Him.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light, the truth, and the way of Jesus Christ.  The question is: “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 communicate? 

As John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ, the Sacrament of Baptism “commissions” us to also prepare the way of the Lord.  The grace of the Holy Spirit leads us to continually renew our lives so that we might lead others to Jesus.  Can you identify at least one action that you will take this week to try to be a more faithful follower, a more faithful disciple, of Jesus?  Pray that God will receive this action you have just identified, and use it to lead others to his Son.

The season of Advent invites us to renew our lives in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.  Some of the first-century people who heard the message of John the Baptist repented for their sins and were then baptized.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, our sins are truly forgiven, and we also receive the grace (the gift) of the Holy Spirit who helps us in our life of discipleship.  Led by the Holy Spirit, we should use this Advent season time to renew our lives in “preparing the way” for Jesus.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.” 

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

The Roman Catholic Church bases her teaching upon one source: The “WORD” of God.  This revelation is communicated to us in two divine ways: Holy Scripture and apostolic “Tradition”.  Many people (including most Protestants) believe in only the writings found in the bible are the word of God.  However, Oral transmission of the faith is also the word of God as Peter reported:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (cf., 1 Thessalonians. 2:13) RSV

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (cf., 1 Thessalonians. 2:13) KJV

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

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.

 

Tradition Found in Holy Scripture, Part 1

 

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you (1 Corinthians. 11:2).  RSV

“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. (1 Corinthians. 11:2).  KJV

 

“Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us(2 Timothy. 1:13-14).  RSV

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” (2 Timothy. 1:13-14).  KJV

 

“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians. 2:15)  RSV

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians. 2:15)  KJV

Information from
“Catholic Answers” Website
www.catholic.com

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Vices

Where can you find the virtues in the SFO Rule?

How would you paraphrase what Saint Francis thought about each of the virtues? (Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

How have you been living the virtues?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 4 & 5 of 26:

04.  The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

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05.  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.

“The Longest Sentence In The World Is, ‘I DO’! But What A Feast It Is!!” – Matthew 22:1-14†


 

 

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quotes 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:

 

 

It is 49 days till the Advent season begins, and the start of the “New Mass”.  Have you looked at the changes?  I have been posting most of them for over 6 months, one at a time.  Look for the section title, “New Translation of the Mass” towards the end of my blog.  Become informed, so you don’t become “lost”.

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Did you know today is “Clergy Appreciation Day”?  It is always the second Sunday of October.  Please say “thank you” to your Priests and Deacons today.

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1047 – Death of Clemens II, [Suitger], Pope (1046-47), (b. 1005
†   1776 – Father Francisco Palou founds Mission San Francisco de Asis in what is now San Francisco, California.
†   1793 – Jean Joseph Marie Amiot, French Jesuit missionary to China (b. 1718)
†   1845 – The eminent and controversial Anglican, John Henry Newman, is received into the Roman Catholic Church.
†   1927 – Birth of Ivan Metropolitan Ioann Snychev, Russian Orthodox Priest
†   1958 – Death of Pius XII, [Eugenio Pacelli], Pope (1939-58), (b. 1876)

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

 

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 Quotes of the Day: (You get three today):

 

 

“Don’t get up from the feast of life without paying for your share of it.” ~ Dean Inge. 

“Faith is the ticket to the feast, not the feast.” ~ Edwin Louis Cole 

“Marriage is a feast where the grace is sometimes better than the dinner.”  ~ Charles Caleb Colton

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus comparing the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 22:1-14) 1 Jesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying,  2“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  3 He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.  4 A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’  5 Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.  6 The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.  7 The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.  8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come.  9 Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’  10 The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.  11 But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.  12 He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence.  13 Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  14 Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

 

Today’s parable about a “wedding feast” is also in Luke’s Gospel (See Luke 14:15–24).   As in last Sunday’s parable about the “wicked tenants”, Matthew has inserted many symbolic traits inherent to his later first-century Jewish-Catholic Church.  The growing tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders of Jerusalem is relevant in today’s parable.  With this in mind, today’s parable brings into focus a similar growing tension between Matthew’s Church in Jerusalem with the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman political officials in Jerusalem.  The symbolic traits include the burning of the city of those quests who refused the invitation (Matthew 22:7), which corresponds to the destruction of Temple and Jerusalem itself, by the Romans in A.D. 70.

Today’s reading also has similarities with last week’s parable of the “wicked tenants” as well, in the sending of two groups of servants (Matthew 22:3, 4), the murder of the servants sent (Matthew 22:6), the punishment of the murderers of the servants (Matthew 22:7), and the introduction of a “another” group into the “privileged” situation, for which the previous group had shown themselves dishonorable, unworthy, and undeserving (Matthew 22:8–10).  

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The parable Jesus tells today is straightforward in the telling.  A king dispatches his servants to invite the guests to the wedding feast that he is planning for his son.  The listeners of this parable would have been surprised to learn that the first guests refused the invitation.  Who would refuse such a request?  Who would refuse a “king’s” invitation – – FREE FOOD & FUN?  A second dispatch of servants follows to the invitees.  Again, and with great surprise, some guests ignore the invitation for a second time.  Matters of fact, some of the invited guests go even so far as to beat and kill the king’s servants.  The king retaliates against these murderous “invitee’s” by destroying them and burning their city.  (Now, that’s what I call “scorching” retribution!)

Today’s parable ends with an element found only in Matthew’s Gospel; an element easily capable of being its own distinct [and separate] parable.  Matthew presents the “kingdom of God” in its true double characteristics, just like a coin has two sides.  BOTH sides are already present and enterable here and now (Matthew 22:1–10), AND, is something that will only be obtained and achieved by those who stand the scrutiny of His “final judgment”, the “Parousia” (Matthew 22:11–14).  (What a mystery of faith.)  Today’s parable is not only a statement of God the Father’s judgment on “Israel” and it people itself, it is also a stern and prophetic warning to Matthew’s church, and to us here, now, and into the future.

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Today’s first reading (cf., Isaiah 25:6-10a), and again in today’s psalm (cf., 23:1-6), Jesus’ magnificent and unending righteousness and loving goodness is unmistakable in the image of a feast of “good food and wine”. (Yummy!!)

Why does Jesus Christ portray the kingdom of heaven as a “wedding feast”?  Interestingly, wedding feasts of this time period are nothing like today’s wedding receptions.  A first-century wedding feast could normally last for an entire week or more, and not just for a few hours, but for the entire 24/7 period of time – – day and night.  The bride had many dresses for the feast, basically one or more for each day.  There would be large amounts of various foods and drinks available (and not a cash bar either).  Think of a cleaner version of “Woodstock”, and you get the idea.

Listeners of this story would have been familiar with the image of a wedding feast as a symbol for God’s salvation.  After all, they would consider themselves to be the only invited guests.  Keeping this in mind may help us to understand the relationship Jesus makes with this particular parable.  

Jesus’ version of a wedding feast is comparable to the Old Testament’s representation of “final salvation” under the image of a banquet, as found in Isaiah:

“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” (Isaiah 25:6).

The symbolic image of a wedding feast is also reported earlier in Matthew, and inferred in Luke’s Gospel:

“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11),

And,

“The Lord said to him in reply, ‘Hypocrites!  Does not each one of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering?” (Luke 13:15).

Т

The sending of “servants”, twice, makes me wonder about Matthew’s church and its mission.  Could he have been referring to Catholic Christian missionaries in both instances of his reported “sending servants” in these “justice parables”?  My reasoning comes in the very next chapter of Matthew book:

 “Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town” (Matthew 23:34).

Matthew’s “prophets and wise men and scribes”, I believe, are Catholic Christian disciples, sent out alone:

Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.” (Matthew 10:41)

Let’s not get confused over the word “prophet”.  A “prophet” is simply one who speaks in the name of God; those who proclaim the “good word”, His Gospel.   As with the prophets, righteousness was (and is still) demanded of ALL His disciples.  It might be difficult for us to take the “righteous man” of this verse (Matthew 10:41) as indicating different groups within the followers of Jesus.  All designations, – – disciples, prophets, wise men, and scribes – – are used here for Catholic Christian missionaries.  However, Matthew tends to identify Jesus’ disciples, and the Twelve Apostles, in a unique way.  “Scribes”, per Matthew, is not everyone who accepts the message of Jesus Christ.  While the Twelve Apostles, in certain regards, are in many ways, representative of all who believe in Jesus, they are also differentiated from everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.  Matthew’s early Jewish-Catholic Church had leaders, among who were a group designated as “scribes”.

These men (and women) would most certainly have been beaten and killed at times, during their mission trips.  Many, such as Paul, would be scourged in synagogues throughout the many places they were sent.

The persecutions brought against the first-century disciples (the followers) of Jesus Christ during this “post-resurrection” time of local and worldly missions are related here in Matthew’s Gospel as a message to his audience. 

Thus, today’s reading also brings into dialogue, verses which deal with events preceding the Parousia:

“Beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues.  When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.  Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:17, 23) 

Т

Ok, I have to wonder, “Why would guests beat and kill the king’s servants who sent to invite them to a royal wedding feast?”  Is it possible that the king was a ruthless tyrant, as evidenced by the destruction of the city of those who refused his generous invitation?  I don’t believe so, because, if we follow this path or notion of ruthless and tyrannical behavior, then the symbolism has to be about something other than the kingdom of heaven, where nothing is ruthless or tyrannical.  The symbolism of the “destruction of the city” is simply a powerful image which corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70; an important, and disturbing, event for Matthew’s Jerusalem-based Jewish-Catholic audience.

With the invited guests now deemed “unworthy” to attend the king’s wedding feast, the king sends out his servants to invite “whomever they can find”.  These “new” invitee’s (found on the streets) arrive at the banquet not realizing that it in accepting the king’s invitation, it brings certain obligations with the invite.  The guest who failed to dress in the appropriate wedding attire is cast out of the banquet feast.  How is this image pertinent to me and you – – TODAY?

Well, while many are invited to the kingdom of heaven, not all are able to meet its requirements.  God invites ALL of us to His feast, giving us His salvation.  Yet He also asks us to repent for our sins.

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Matthew has Jesus (in verse 10) gathering the “bad and good alike”.  My question is, “Why would you want the ‘bad’ to come to a joyous occasion?”  Maybe the answer can be found in an earlier verse from Matthew:

The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.” (Matthew 13:47).

Only God will judge and sort His people, separating the good harvest from the bad weeds.  It is not our job and above our “pay-scale”!  Instead, we should try with all our resources, power, and being to bring ALL people to His kingdom.  As the famous (or infamous) Marine Corps saying goes:

“It’s God’s job to forgive. It’s only our job to arrange the meeting”!!

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The “wedding garment” described in verse 11 of todays reading is representative of repentance and conversion: a true change of heart, mind and soul.  This is the absolute condition required for entrance into God’s kingdom – – on earth and in heaven – – from each of us “sinners”:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2 & 4:17).

This daily repentance and conversion needs to be continued, and demonstrated,  in a life of unconditional love, prayer, and good works:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?  Did we not drive out demons in your name?  Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’  Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.  Depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:21–23).

 Т

The image of “wailing and grinding of teeth”, as found in verse 13 of today’s reading, does not sound like a fun activity whatsoever (unless one happens to be a sadistic oral surgeon)!  In this verse, Jesus is referring to the Catholic disciple who lacks being clothed in the “wedding garmentof good works, those who will suffer the identical fate as the Jewish “chosen people” (the people of Israel) who have rejected Jesus Christ in His mission and message.  Matthew gives a similar account earlier in his Gospel:

I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11–12)

Matthew inserted into today’s parable an element regarding the entrance of Gentiles into God’s kingdom AND the exclusion – – the separation from God – – of those Israelites descended from the patriarchs and members of the chosen nation, who refused to believe in Jesus Christ.  The phrase, “wailing and grinding of teeth”, is used frequently throughout Matthew’s Gospel to describe a “final condemnation” (cf., Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; and 25:30).   It is found in only one other place in the New Testament outside Matthew’s Gospel, that being Luke’s Gospel:

“There will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.“ (Luke 13:28).

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To summarize, Jesus’ message in today’s parable cautions against exclusive beliefs about the kingdom of heaven: the Protestant, “I know I am saved and going to heaven” type of belief.  This parable also teaches about humility.  Those who assume that they are the invited guests may find that they have actually “refused” the invitation, with others invited to the banquet in their place.  To accept the invitation is also to accept its obligations and responsibilities.  God wants our full conversion – – daily, – – and in complete acceptance of His mercy.

Why does Jesus’ parable seem to focus on an angry king who ends up punishing those who refused his invitation and who mistreated his servants?  We need to realize that Jesus’ parable, in reality, contains two stories.  The first has to do with the original guests invited to the feast.  The king sent out invitations, well in advance, to his subjects.  They had plenty of time to prepare for attending this great feast.  How insulting was it for the invited guests to then refuse to come when the time for celebrating arrived?!  In refusing, they not only insulted the King, but his son as well.  The king’s anger and hurt is rightly justified; they openly refused to give the king the honor he was due!!

Jesus directed this warning – – somewhat found “between the lines” in today’s reading, – – to the Jews of His day.  It both communicated how much God wanted them to share in the joy of His kingdom, AND also to give a warning about the consequences of refusing His Son, their (and our) Messiah and Savior – – Jesus Christ.

The second part of the story focuses on those who had no claim on the king; those who would never have considered getting such an invitation.  The “good and the bad“, found along the highways, refers to Gentiles and sinners – – the weeds among the grain.  How great was this invitation of grace!  What an undeserved, unmerited, favor, and kindness was this invitation for these outcasts of society! 

However, let’s look at the other side of the “grace” coin (there is always two sides to everything).  The flip-side contains a warning for those who choose to refuse His gift, His grace, OR, who approaches the heavenly banquet feast “unworthily”.  Grace is a free gift, but with it comes an awesome responsibility. 

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In conclusion, we are all, in fact and faith, invited to the MOST important banquet of all banquets ever possible, anywhere and at any time!!  The last book in the Holy Bible: “Revelations”, ends with a beautiful invitation to God the Father’s wedding feast for the Lamb (Jesus Christ) and His Bride, the Catholic (Universal) Church:

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’  Let the hearer say, ‘Come.’  Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.” (Revelations 22:17)

 

So, how do we respond to His invitation?  God the Father has granted us “free will” to accept or reject His salvation.  The parable of the wedding feast reminds us that God desires our wholehearted and total acceptance of His invitation.

What do you consider appropriate attire for various occasions?  For example, if you were invited to a barbecue, what would you wear?  If you were planning to attend the symphony, how would you dress?  If invited to an evening wedding, what might you put on?  Doesn’t our preparation for an event, our choice of attire, indicate the importance and value we place on the particular occasion?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses this metaphor to talk about the kingdom of heaven. What does Jesus Himself expect from those who accept His invitation of salvation?

God invites each of us to His banquet; a feast we may share in, with, and through His joy – – for eternity.  Are you ready to feast at the Lord’s banquet table?

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

 

The Serenity Prayer

 

 

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

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

–Reinhold Niebuhr

 

 

 

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.

 

During the Preparation of the Gifts, the prayers of the priest have several changes, but the only change for the assembly is the addition of the word Holy” to the response just before the Prayer over the Offerings.  Where we now say, “for our good and the good of all his Church,” the new text says, “for our good and the good of all His Holy Church.

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

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. John Leonardi (1541?-1609)

 

 

“I am only one person!  Why should I do anything?  What good would it do?”  Today, as in any age, people seem plagued with the dilemma of getting involved.  In his own way, John Leonardi answered these questions.  He chose to become a priest.

After his ordination, he became very active in the works of the ministry, especially in hospitals and prisons.  The example and dedication of his work attracted several young laymen who began to assist him.  They later became priests themselves.

John lived after the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent.  He and his followers projected a new congregation of diocesan priests.  For some reason, the plan, which was ultimately approved, provoked great political opposition.  John was exiled from his home town of Lucca, Italy, for almost the entire remainder of his life.  He received encouragement and help from St. Philip Neri [whose feast is May 26], who gave him his lodgings—along with the care of his cat!

In 1579, John formed the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and published a compendium of Christian doctrine that remained in use until the 19th century.

Father Leonardi and his priests became a great power for good in Italy, and their congregation was confirmed by Pope Clement in 1595.  He died at the age of 68 from a disease caught when tending those stricken by the plague.

By the deliberate policy of the founder, the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God have never had more than 15 churches and today form only a very small congregation.

Comment:

What can one person do?  If you ever glanced through a Christopher Notes pamphlet you know—plenty!  In the life of each saint one thing stands clear: God and one person are a majority!  What one individual, following God’s will and plan for his or her life, can do is more than our mind could ever hope for or imagine.  Each of us, like John Leonardi, has a mission to fulfill in God’s plan for the world.  Each one of us is unique and has been given talent to use for the service of our brothers and sisters for the building up of God’s kingdom.

Quote:

“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your belongings and give alms.  Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy” (Luke 12:32-33).

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

 

How does Saint Francis show his awareness of his “duty” as a superior (aka, “minister”)?

What expectations did Saint Francis expect from other superiors (Ministers)?

How did Saint Francis advise about compassion, for friars who sin publicly?

What does Saint Francis mean when saying, “everything that makes it difficult to love God” is a “special favor”?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 9 & 10 of 26:

 

9.  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.

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10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

  

“Which Way Is OZ; Um, I Mean GOD!” – John 14:1-12 †


 

Fifth Week of Easter

 

 

Today’s Content:

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

 

I guess if you are reading this on Sunday the 22nd (or later), Jesus Christ either:

  • Did not come yesterday to take all His “chosen” people to heaven as predicted by an engineer that calculated the date from Bible passages,

  OR,

  •  You’re not one of the “chosen” people.

(PS – It is only 578 days till the end of the Mayan Calendar)

Let us please remember what Holy Scripture says of the end of time (the Parousia):

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

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1377 – Pope Gregory XI issues five papal bulls to denounce the doctrines of English theologian John Wycliffe.
†   1381 – Birth of Saint Rita of Cascia, Italian Saint (d. 1457)
†   1457 – Death of Saint Rita of Cascia, Italian saint (b. 1381)1526 – Pope Clemens VII, France, Genoa, Venice, Florence & Milan form Anti-French League of Cognac
†   1667 – Death of Pope Alexander VII, [Fabio Chigi], Italian Pope (1655-67), at age 68
†   1715 – François-Joachim de Pierre de Bernis, French cardinal and statesman (d. 1794)

(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:

 

“We don’t pray to change God’s mind.  We pray that our minds are changed instead.  If we received everything we requested, then we would BE God.  There would no longer be a need for faith and trust in others!  There would no longer be opportunities for other doors to open in our lives.  And, there would be no need to see Jesus Christ in others that we come into contact with in our daily lives.  I believe that without faith and trust, there would no longer be such gifts as anticipation, wisdom, miracles, sharing, trust, or even the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  How sad would be the world without faith, trust, and PRAYER!” ~ Dan Halley, SFO

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:1-12)

 

(NAB John 14:1-12) 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  4 Where (I) am going you know the way.”  5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”  9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?  The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.  The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.  12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.  

 

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The readings for the last few Sundays have been about Jesus’ Resurrection.  Today’s Gospel takes us back in time, to an event in Jesus’ life, a day before His Passion and death.  The scene in today’s Gospel takes place at Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His trusted disciples.  Within 24 hours, Jesus will be dead.

In the Gospel chapter (John 13) just previous to this reading, Jesus washed His follower’s feet, foretold of the betrayal by one of His group of friends, and gave His “new commandment” (“Love one another as I have loved you”).  Now, in today’s reading (john 14), Jesus is revealing the nature of His true “Father” to His, “chosen” “Twelve”.  In this reading, Jesus introduces the foretelling of His departure from this world, and of His return. 

As much as we try to plan for and avoid trials and tribulations in our lives, we inevitably encounter difficulties and ordeals.  And, sometimes these trials and tribulations seem to be more than we think we can handle!  Perhaps, this is why John has Jesus saying, in the very first verse:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)

It is also evident in these verses (John 14:2-3) that Jesus is concerned about the problems His departure will cause for His followers “left behind”.  Jesus knew that His disciples would have to face adversities and trials, especially after He left them on earth, ascending to His Father in heaven.  Jesus assured them that His departure is for their (and our) benefit.  It was to prepare a place for them (and us) in God’s house – a place of refuge, a place of peace, a place of rest, and a place of everlasting joy and happiness in and with God the Father Himself. 

Jesus always “speaks”, then and now, in very personal promises, words, and actions meant for us personally.  In this way, He truly and fully shares His love for each and every one of His followers: those of us who believe in Him.  So, when I am troubled, distressed, and/or “tired”, I know for certain that there is always room in His heart for me and for you as well!

 

Apparently, the prediction of Peter’s denial (Deny me three times, and then the cock crows story) troubled and saddened all His disciples (John 13).  On top of this, Jesus is soon “leaving on a jet cloud”. 

So, I am sure that He realized they needed to be encouraged and reassured.  Hence, Jesus took on the role of a cheerleader (of sorts) by telling them that He is going away to prepare for them a place in heaven.  I was not in that Jerusalem room, listening to Him with the other “Twelve”.  However, with a proper attachment to the Holy Spirit I am still quite joyous in knowing that there IS a place being reserved in heaven, just for me – – and for you too.  (So Awesome)!

Recall that Jesus talked about “my Father’s house” before:

“They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.  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 11:15-18).

Now, through John, Jesus is saying that HE is the new Temple; and there is room in His heart for everyone.  In His Father’s house, there are many dwelling places; and He is preparing a dwelling place for ALL His disciples.

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It is intriguing that Jesus Christ says, “You have faith” in God.  Then, He says, “Have faith” in me?  Notice the difference between these two phrases, “You [truly do] have faith”, and “[please] Have faith”.  The former is a matter of fact and the latter a request or plea for them to believe, i.e., have faith and confidence in Jesus Christ as the true “Promised One” to David.

Then, when Jesus declares, He is “Coming back again”, He is introducing a whole new idea about His coming again, a second time, to fulfill the end of time vision of the prophet Daniel (Daniel 10).  Another notable reference to the “Parousia” by John can be found in the first of his three “epistles”, 1 John 2:28:

Now, children, remain in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not be put to shame by Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28).

Other references to the second coming known as the “Parousia” are Corinthians 4:5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

“Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5);

And,

For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

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Jesus Christ, though His very own personal works of salvation and redemption, has prepared our personal heavenly abodes.  In so doing, His words should be attended to, not only by the “Twelve” reclining and dining with Him at His “last meal”, but also to everyone who believed then, believes now, and will believe in Him into the centuries to come.  The Lord Jesus Christ will bring with Him – – into His glory – – all those who believe, and have truly stayed faithful to Him.

 

If the Father’s home in heaven is our destination, how can we find our way without a map or a travel guide?  How do we get to the proverbial “X” that marks the spot on the treasure map?

Holy Scripture speaks of “the way that leads to joy, peace, and “oneness” with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit:

“LORD, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies.” (Psalm 27:11;

And,

“Be careful, therefore, to do as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, not turning aside to the right or to the left, but following exactly the way prescribed for you by the LORD, your God, that you may live and prosper, and may have long life in the land which you are to occupy (Deuteronomy 5:32-33).

 

Holy Scripture (John 14:15) reveals that Thomas wants to know the way.  “The Way” is used three times in this Gospel reading, and seven further times throughout the Acts of the Apostles (cf., Acts 9:2; 18:25; 18:26; 19:9; 19:23; 24:14; and 24:22).

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The way” in verse 4 is not a mythical “yellow brick road” to heaven.  “The way” is not a physical item or trail which one treads on in order to get from one place to another.  “The way” is Jesus Christ – Himself!!  In addition, “the way”, besides being a “destination”, was also an early first-century designation or “name” for the group of believers in Jesus as the “Messiah” God.

 

When Jesus proclaims: “I am the Way”, He is not simply giving guidance and leadership in saying those profound words; He is declaring that He personally ISthe way”.  We cannot get lost if we follow Him on our individual paths to His kingdom.  He leads and guides us personally every day of our lives, if we allow.

 

Jewish temple leaders and Roman officials called followers of Jesus Christ “the way”, a name for a religious faction or sect.  Proof of such fact is found throughout the book of Acts:

“[Saul] asked him [the Temple high priest] for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.” (Acts 9:2).

At another time:

But when some in their obstinacy and disbelief disparaged the Way before the assembly, he withdrew and took his disciples with him and began to hold daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  About that time a serious disturbance broke out concerning the Way.” (Acts 19:9, 23).

And again Paul declares:

I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.” (Acts 22:4);

And finally,

“This I do admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors and I believe everything that is in accordance with the law and written in the prophets.  Then Felix, who was accurately informed about the Way, postponed the trial, saying, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I shall decide your case.’” (Acts 24:14, 22).

 

So, we now know “the way” is both Jesus Christ Himself and the people themselves who made up the early community of believers.  This concept of the same word (“the way”) recognizing a movement and group has not changed since the first–century, and will never change or came to an end.  The present word, “Church” represents both a movement of the Catholic faith and the people who make up the universal (Catholic) congregation now known as the “Catholic faith”. 

Anyone who was going to be a member of the early Catholic Community, known as “The Way”, had to do two things:

  • They had to know “The Way” so they could help other people live the faith.
  • They had to truly live “The Way”.

Do “You” truly know “The Way”, and are “You” living the faith of “The Way”?

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We have affirmed Jesus is “the Way”.  Now Jesus Christ, our Lord, also declares He is “the Truth”.  Many can say, “I have taught you the truth”; but only Jesus can say, “I am the Truth”.  Realize that moral truths cannot be conveyed in words alone.  Moral truths have to be communicated by example, as Jesus demonstrated in “ALL” His earthly ministry.

With God’s truth dwelling in our hearts, minds, and soul, we will speak what we “hear” from God:

When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.  He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.” (John 16:13)

 

The truth” in today’s reading is the divinely discovered, revealed, and exposed reality of God the Father truly manifested in the fully human and fully divine person of Jesus Christ, and in the fully human and fully divine works of Jesus. The possession of His “truth” bestows knowledge of, strength over, and liberation from, sin for us.  Much earlier, John says the truth will release you from Satan’s power:

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32).

 

It looks as if neither the Pharisees, nor the Apostles truly grasped who Jesus truly was, and what He truly was – – and it sounds as if Jesus was truly disappointed and frustrated that both groups did not fully grasp or understand – – although Jesus believed they could have, and even should have recognized Him.

It seems to me that Jesus Christ may have been, for the statement found in John 8, to be rebuking them for their unbelief:

So they said to him, ‘Where is your father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my FatherIf you knew me, you would know my Father also.’” (John 8:19)

I believe the “Twelve” disciples (soon to be called Apostles’) did not really understand what Jesus was telling them; hence, Phillip’s and Thomas’ reactions.  St. Augustine wrote of this part of Jesus’ discourse above (John 8:19):

 “It was necessary for Him to say, ‘I am the Way’ to show them that they really knew what they thought they were ignorant of, because they knew Him (St. Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 66, 2)

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Then Jesus continues, saying I am “the Life”! – – the true life of “the way” to God, and the true life of the “truth” about God – – and about Himself.  He not only shows us the path of life, but also gives the kind of special life only God can give: eternal and abundant life:

You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” (Psalm 16:11);

Are there any worries or difficulties that can keep YOU from perfect peace and happiness in a life abandoned to, surrendered to, and given to Jesus Christ without restraint or condition?  After all, it is written:

 “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

He is the resurrection and the life to all that believe in Him:

Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live’” (John 11:25)

In sin, there is death; in Jesus Christ, eternal life.  The choice before us is clear.  Let us all pray for the grace to choose wisely, faithfully, and correctly all the days of our life.  Amen and Amen!!

 

Jesus ISthe Way” to God the Father, through what – – He Himself – – TEACHES.  By us keeping to His teachings, we will reach His open arms in heaven.  “The Way” is:

  • Through faith, which he inspires, because He came to this world so that:

Everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15).

  • Through Jesus’ example, since no one can go to God the Father in heaven without imitating God the Son (Jesus Christ).

 

  • Through Jesus’ merits, which makes possible for us to enter our heavenly abode, prepared for us by our loving and saving Messiah.

 

And above all, He is “The Way” to God the Father because:

 

  • He reveals and introduces us to His (and our) Father, with whom He is one because of His divine nature, with whom we are one because of His sanctifying grace.

 

Older Catholic Catechisms described God as “the Supreme Being, above all creatures, the self-existing and infinitely perfect spirit.”  (I seem to like Jesus’ Description of His Father better: “If you know me, you know Him.”)

As he invited Philip (and Thomas) to know Him, Jesus Christ is inviting us to know Him, “If you want to know what God is like, look at ME!”  For me, that means God cries, God laughs, God embraces little children, and God touches the lepers, the marginalized, and the outcast.

The Gospels of this Easter Season, along with my recent “Profession” in the Secular Franciscan Order, declares to me how amazingly and delightfully close, devoted, and intimate God the Father truly is to me.  (Boy, He still has a lot of work to do with me though!)

 

Jesus Christ is the ONLY path linking heaven and earth.  There are NO shortcuts to heaven!  Hanging on the Holy Cross of human death, His one outstretched hand touches this world (holding our hands) while the other touches heaven (holding His Father’s).  WOW – – What a powerful image!!

In saying “I am the way”, Jesus is speaking to ALL of us who are determined to take our individual Catholic Christian vocations seriously, be it the single, married, clerical, or religious life.  Jesus truly wants God (Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit) to be in our soul: our thoughts, on our lips, and in everything we do and say, always, – – continuously, – – and forever.

Jesus’ words do much more than simply provide an answer to the inquiries of Philip and Thomas in today’s reading.  He is telling them and us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, with an emphasis on all parts equally.  John the Evangelist says Jesus Christ is full of Truth because by coming to this world He shows that God is faithful to His promises, because He teaches the truth about “who” God is, and tells us that true worship must be:

“in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23)

 

Jesus IS eternally “the Life” because He had then, He has now, and He will always have divine life with His Father:

Through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race. (John 1:4).

Because of His life with God the Father, He makes us, through grace, sharers in that same divine life.  This is why John’s Gospel goes on to say:

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3).

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In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows us the purpose for our life; what we should strive for with all of our strength, being, and desire – – To know, love, and praise God in all we do, think, and say!  

Knowing God personally is the prize above all prizes.  Jeremiah says of the “Lord”:

“Let him who glories, glory in this, that in his prudence he knows me, Knows that I, the LORD, bring about kindness, justice and uprightness on the earth; For with such am I pleased, says the LORD.  See, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will demand an account of all those circumcised in their flesh (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

A great truth of the Catholic faith is that we can know the living God in our lives.  Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to possibly knowing something about God, but rather, knowing God intimately and personally.  The essence of Christianity, of Catholicism, is the knowledge of God as OUR personal and collective Father and Savior.  This intimate and loving relationship makes our Catholic faith distinct from Judaism and other religions.

 

Remember, Jesus said, “I AM the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.”  Everyone can achieve an understanding of “Truth” and the “Life”; but not all truly find “the Way”.  The sensible, the intelligent, and the clever living among us realize God is eternal life and a knowable truth.  The “Word of God”, – – who is Truth and Life, and joined to, and one with God the Father, – – became “the Way” by taking a human nature and form: Jesus Christ.

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Even among His “chosen”, they had moments of doubt.  Thomas doubted his fellow disciples’ news that they have seen Jesus Christ Risen.  Now, in today’s reading, Thomas challenges Jesus by saying that the “Twelve” don’t really know where He is going, or how He is going to get there.  Jesus explains that He Himself IS the way, IS the truth, and IS the life.  So, in knowing and loving Jesus then and there, the disciples (and we) now know and love God the Father Himself as we and they believe in and love Jesus their Lord!

Philip then makes a request that challenges Jesus’ words.  Philip wants Jesus to show God the Father to the assembled followers.  

Jesus had just finished telling those assembled disciples:

If you know me, then you will also know my Father.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7).

I rank Phillip asking for proof as one of the boldest questions directed to Jesus.  Philip is asking for a “theophany”, an appearance to a human being of a god in a visible form, similar to the one Moses experienced in Exodus:

“Moses then went up with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel, and they beheld the God of IsraelUnder His feet there appeared to be sapphire tile work, as clear as the sky itself.” (Exodus 24:9-10).

 

As a first-rate teacher, Jesus responds to Philip by repeating and elaborating on what he has just told the disciples:

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9).

They had seen Jesus and had known Jesus.  So, they have seen and known God the Father. Then Jesus immediately offers another reassurance about His departure:

“Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.” (John14:12).

 

The connection between Jesus and His Father, between Jesus’ work and the work of God the Father, is made clear in today’s Gospel.  Jesus is in God the Father, and God the Father is in God the Son: Jesus.  As God spoke His name to Moses, “I am,” so too Jesus speaks His name to His disciples:

 “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6).

 

Philip (and Thomas) were both blinded to the reality of the faith they actually had:

“Jesus said, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, “Show us the Father”?’” (John 14:9). 

 

Linger over this for a moment and consider who God the “Father” actually is.  He is:

  • The all-powerful Creator of the universe.
  • The Author of life who keeps everything in existence. 
  • He is the God whose beauty, only partially revealed, dazzled Moses and made Moses face so radiant that people were afraid to approach him (cf., Exodus 34: 30-35).  (Moses then decided to wear a veil after being with God.)

Previously, Isaiah was so overcome by the sight of God that he feared for his life:

“In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple.  Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet, and with two they hovered aloft.  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!’ they cried one to the other. ‘All the earth is filled with his glory!’  At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.  Then I said, ‘Woe is me, I am doomed!  For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’” (Isaiah 6: 1-5).

 

Wow!! God the Father is:

  • Glorious in holiness,
  • Robed in light, and
  • Majestic beyond compare.

This is God the Son – – Jesus Christ – – as well.  Seeing the one IS seeing the other:

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?  The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.  The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.” (John 14: 10-11).

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Jesus’ followers were feeling they were going to be left behind.  Jesus was going to His “glory”, and they were being left out.  Who hasn’t experienced that same feeling of being “left out” in the crowd?  I was poor athletically and ended up being picked last, as always, for team sports.  Over time I perfected “Right Field” and “Timed Out” on the various baseball and soccer teams.

In today’s reading, Jesus assures them:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:1,3). 

He assures us as well, with the exact same words:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:1,3). 

Jesus Christ will never leave us behind!

 

Jesus’ words must have seemed peculiar, puzzling, and even out of the ordinary to the “Twelve” who were dining, talking, and listening to Him at, what came to be, His last earthly meal.  They could not understand the unique and mysterious “oneness” of – – Father and Son.  By this time, Jesus Christ had walked on water, controlled the wind, forgave sins, and even raised the dead.  ALL in the presence of these “Twelve” men!  Yet, they still did not know Him yet as God.  No wonder Jesus rebuked these “men of faith”.

The vision of God the Father in Jesus the Son is a vision found only through faith.  No one has “seen” God as He truly is:

No one has ever seen God.  The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1:18);

And,

Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46).

 

No image, symbol, or thought can truly capture ALL that God is, for He is beyond any and all images, symbols, and thoughts.  However, an image, symbol, or thought, can express something about who God is and how each of us has experienced God the Father in our lives.  For some of us, it could be an image, symbol, or thought of a shepherd, a rock, a bright warm sunset, or the look in your spouse’s eyes.  What is your favorite image, symbol or thought of God the Father?

 

All manifestations of God the Father, Himself, – – a Theophany – – have only been seen as reflections of His greatness and power.  The highest and greatest visual expression of God the Father which has EVER been given to us is IN the person of Jesus Christ Himself; the Son of God sent to be among us in both a human and divine “Way”.  Vatican II says:

Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself: through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but especially through His death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth.  Moreover He confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed, that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal.”  (Vatican II, Dei Verum, 4).

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Before leaving this world, Jesus Christ promised His “Twelve” (and others, including us today) that He would make them (and us) “sharers” in His power and authority.  God’s plan of redemption and salvation was manifested through these “Twelve” men, and is now manifested through us and future generations.

The “works” of God: conversion of people to the Catholic Christian faith, sanctification by preaching and teaching and by the Sacraments of the Catholic Church which are all done in and through His Name – – Jesus Christ, and with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says, in today’s Gospel:

“…whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these …” (John 14:12).

The “works” Jesus speaks about are the miracles performed through their (and our) works in the name of Jesus Christ.  Here are only two of many such “works”, as found in the book of Acts:

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.” (Acts 3:1-10);

And,

“Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.  A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.” (Acts 5:15-16).

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Did Jesus Christ already know His “word” would be preached, not only throughout first century Palestine, but throughout the ends of the earth and for all eternity?  The answer: OF COURSE HE DID!!

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (John 3: 21)

Jesus’ extraordinary power, graced to us through “apostolic succession” and the Holy Spirit, cultivates within us a gift and ability to teach and preach.  We are lovingly bestowed a great grace proceeding from Jesus Christ HIMSELF, who ascended (not taken or escorted) to God the Father, and is “seated at His right hand!!

 

Jesus undertook and endured the humiliation and pain of the cross for the redemptive payment for OUR sins and not His (for He had none).  He not only gave of Himself in this heroic virtue of giving up His life, He still gives of His glorified “self” from heaven by the manifest actions of power through the Apostles – – and through US – – by the Holy Spirit!

 

The disclosure, the revelation of the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), is fully completed in the passage which follows today’s reading (and is the Gospel for next Sunday; John 14:15-21).  Because Jesus leaves and returns to His Father, the Father then sends in Jesus’ name the Holy Spirit, theAdvocate” promised by Jesus Christ: the Holy Spirit in the divine person, who continues the work of God the Father and of God the Son on earth today.  He is commonly referred to as the “Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity”. – – the ONE God of Israel.

 

Our minds can’t comprehend all the philosophical and theological questions about God.  It is far beyond our finite capabilities.  Even St. Thomas Aquinas (a Dominican), who, in my opinion is the greatest Theologian in Catholic Church history, is said to have remarked that everything he had written (a large amount – he loved to write) was like “straw”.  After experiencing a vision during the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Mass one day, St. Thomas Aquinas believed that what he wrote was absolutely worthless in describing the theology and philosophy of God and His unique Being.  He never wrote another word, and died a short time later.

If a man known as a “Doctor”* in the Catholic Church, a man recognized by other Christian religions as a “learned” man, a man whose writings are held in high esteem throughout all of Christianity, whose writings can be found in any and all Colleges and Universities of the world, cannot describe the essence of God, CAN ANYONE?!

(* a “Doctor of the Church” (from the Latin “docere”, to teach) is a title given to individuals whom the Catholic Church recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.)

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In Summary, members of the same family often bear close resemblances to one another.  Sometimes physical resemblances are shared within a family, but often the similarities are behavioral characteristics and mannerisms. Close resemblances in others (and possibly ourselves) are affirmed through a number of phrases commonly heard in our society: “He’s a chip off the old block” or “She’s her mother’s daughter.”

Can your friends recognize common traits of you in your family, and family in you?  Are there physical resemblances that friends recognize in you, and recognize in other members of your family?  Are there mannerisms which are shared among members of your family?  Are there any common interests and occupations that people might associate with your family?  (Medicine runs in my family’s occupational line.) 

Keep in mind that members of the same family intrinsically share many characteristics, even though each person in the family is a unique individual.  What does Jesus Christ tell His disciples about His relationship with God the Father? – – they are in each other.  The relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ (God the Son) is so close and intertwined that Jesus says those who have seen and known Jesus have also seen and known God the Father.  Jesus promises His followers that, because of their faith in Him and in God the Father, they too will be able to do the exact same work Jesus Christ did Himself.  Do others recognize in YOU the works, characteristics, mannerisms, and traits of God the Father and God the Son?

 

Today’s Gospel features a true “mystery of faith” which might be examined in light of familial relationships.  In Jesus Christ we see and know God the Father.  Likewise, God the Father is known through the life, work, and teachings of God the Son: Jesus Christ.

I can choose to look to Jesus Christ and the way He is revealed in Holy Scripture.  Whenever the glorious Jesus Christ comes to His disciples and Apostles in their individual and collective struggles, He is always merciful, compassionate, and loving, just as His God and Father is – – merciful, compassionate, and loving.  This is how I see God.  This I know God to be, and will always be in my life!

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To conclude, Jesus makes it possible for each of us to personally and individually know God as our loving and merciful Father.  To see Jesus is to see what “God the Father” is like.  In Jesus we see the perfect love of God.  Jesus’ perfect love illuminates a God who cares intensely for each of us in an individual and unique way, and who lovingly desires each of us to dwell in His kingdom.  God’s desire for us to share His “Way”, “Truth”, and “Life”, led Him to the point of laying down His own life solely for us: that is Jesus Christ upon the Holy Cross.  

Jesus is the true and full revelation of God, who loves us completely, fully, unconditionally, and perfectly.  He promises that God the Father will hear our prayers when we pray in His name.  For this reason, He taught His followers to pray with confidence the following words:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven” (Matthew 6:9).

 

Please meditate on the following, before answering:

Do YOU pray to your Father in heaven with joy and confidence found in His love, trust, and care for YOU?  Have you ever addressed God as “My Father in heaven?

The “God of all ages” was (and is) fully and definitively revealed in the human Jesus Christ!  If you want to know “what” God is, and how to reach Him, look to Jesus Christ.  Through Him, you have been given access to every grace and spiritual gift, to an imperishable and unending inheritance, and to none other than God the Father Himself!  Alleluia and Amen!!

 

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Our Father

 

“Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.  Amen.”

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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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:  Blessed Joachima (1783-1854)

 

Born into an aristocratic family in Barcelona, Spain, Joachima was 12 when she expressed a desire to become a Carmelite nun. But her life took an altogether different turn at 16 with her marriage to a young lawyer, Theodore de Mas. Both deeply devout, they became secular Franciscans. During their 17 years of married life they raised eight children.

The normalcy of their family life was interrupted when Napoleon invaded Spain. Joachima had to flee with the children; Theodore, remaining behind, died. Though Joachima reexperienced a desire to enter a religious community, she attended to her duties as a mother. At the same time, the young widow led a life of austerity and chose to wear the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis as her ordinary dress. She spent much time in prayer and visiting the sick.

Four years later, with some of her children now married and younger ones under their care, Joachima confessed her desire to a priest to join a religious order. With his encouragement she established the Carmelite Sisters of Charity. In the midst of the fratricidal wars occurring at the time, Joachima was briefly imprisoned and, later, exiled to France for several years.

Sickness ultimately compelled her to resign as superior of her order. Over the next four years she slowly succumbed to paralysis, which caused her to die by inches. At her death in 1854 at the age of 71, Joachima was known and admired for her high degree of prayer, deep trust in God and selfless charity.

Comment:

Joachima understands loss. She lost the home where her children grew up, her husband and, finally, her health. As the power to move and care for her own needs slowly ebbed away, this woman who had all her life cared for others became wholly dependent; she required help with life’s simplest tasks. When our own lives go spinning out of control, when illness and bereavement and financial hardship strike, all we can do is cling to the belief that sustained Joachima: God watches over us always.

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:

 

Franciscan Spirituality

 

Have I developed and nurtured my Franciscan Spirituality?  Or have I been developing and practicing another style and approach?

What have I been doing recently to develop my Franciscan Spirituality?

Have my religious activities been heavily “routine” and without much “spirit”?

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

 

“John, Don’t Lose Your Head Over My Divinity! You Are Great In Your Own Right!” – Matthew 11:2-11†


  

We are Half-Way though the Advent Season today; only thirteen (13) days till the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Green Bay’s Bishop David Ricken becomes first in US to approve local Marian apparitions from 1859

 

CHAMPION, Wis. (CNS) — Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has approved the Marian apparitions seen by Adele Brise in 1859, making the apparitions of Mary that occurred some 18 miles northeast of Green Bay the first in the United States to receive approval of a diocesan bishop.

Brise, a Belgian immigrant, was 28 when Mary appeared to her three times in October 1859. The first appearance took place while Brise was carrying a sack of wheat to a grist mill about four miles from Robinsonville, now known as Champion.

Brise devoted the rest of her life to teaching children. She began a community of Third Order Franciscan sisters and built a school next to the shrine. Brise’s father, Lambert, built a small chapel near the spot of the apparitions. When a brick chapel was built in 1880, the trees where Mary appeared were cut down and the chapel’s altar was placed over the spot.

Apparitions have taken place throughout history “as a sign of God’s providence, to remind us of what God has already revealed,” said Father Doerfler. “As a loving mother would remind her children about things that are important, so our Blessed Mother Mary has appeared throughout history to remind us of things that are important for our salvation and to draw us closer to her Son.”

Read the full story at:
http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1005014.htm

 

 

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.”  This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:4,5:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”

Some people mark this Sunday on their Advent wreath with a pink candle instead of a purple candle.  This day is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near.

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1098 – First Crusade: Massacre of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breach the town’s walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants. After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism. [A sad and lowly part of Church history]
†   1212 – Death of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York
†   1524 – Pope Clement VII approves Organization of Jewish Community of Rome
†   1610 – Birth of Saint Vasilije (St. Basil of Ostrog), Bishop of Zahumlje in Herzegovina (d. 1671)
†   1769 – Pope Clement XIV proclaims a universal jubilee
†   1779 – Birth of Madeleine Sophie Barat, French saint (d. 1865)
†   2003 – Death of Joseph Anthony Ferrario, American Catholic prelate (b. 1926)
†   2008 – Death of Avery Dulles, Roman Catholic Cardinal, Theologian (b. 1918)
†   Feast Day: Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe Day

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans witness to a genuine love and respect for the poor and vulnerable.

“For Francis, poverty involved not only serving the poor but being poor and connected to those who were poor and outcast.  This service to and identification with the poor was at the heart of the lives of Francis and Clare, it is there that they discovered Christ as “the poor Son of the poor Mother.”  Following the example of these saints, members of the Franciscan family today are called to be with and identify with the poor and vulnerable and with all who face discrimination of one form or another.  We are called to be in solidarity with them in their struggle to have their God-given rights honored by others.  We are called to develop a lifestyle that brings us close to the poor and makes us sensitive to those who are most vulnerable.” 

“Francis went around the cities and villages, proclaiming the kingdom of God and preaching peace.”  Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis, 36

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

You Might be a Roman Catholic…

…if you think God’s presence is always strongest in the back three pews.
…if you judge the quality of the Mass by the length of the Homily.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling John the Baptist of the signs of the kingdom that are being worked through him; and praises John as more than a prophet.

 

2When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him 3 with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  4 Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  6 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”  7 As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  8 Then what did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in fine clothing?  Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.  9 Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’  11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  (NAB Matthew 11:2-11)

 

This week’s Gospel continues a reflection on the personhood, ministry, and message of John the Baptist.  Last week at Mass, John spoke about his relationship to Jesus, the coming “one” prophesized in the Old Testament.  This week, we have Jesus’ message to John, who is imprisoned (and a message to us as well).  Jesus’ message is about the signs of the kingdom found in John’s ministry.  Jesus’ examines, and praises John’s “role” in salvation history and in the Kingdom of God.

Have you noticed the perceived undertone present in today’s Gospel reading?  There seems to be a subdued, yet noticeable and growing opposition to Jesus, if you “read between the lines.” From this point on, there will be more disputes, challenges, and attacks relating to “faith” and “discipleship” in reference (and preference) to Jesus in the future readings.

John the Baptist is now “in prison”.   Upon finding out of John’s capture and imprisonment, Jesus withdrew to Galilee (Matthew 4:12).  According to Josephus (Antiquities 18, 5, 2 #116-19), Herod imprisoned – – and then executed – – John because he feared that John the Baptist’s influence over the people could possibly enable him to lead a rebellion.  The murder of John (see Matthew 14: 1-2) by Herod Antipas foreshadows the death of Jesus (see Matthew 17:12).  

John stood in the doorway between the Old and New Testaments.  He stood in the doorway between the Old and New Covenants of God.  For me, John the Baptist was the bright “light stream” in the vast desert pointing vividly to the safe and lovingly calm harbor of Jesus, similar to the light stream of a lonely lighthouse pointing the lost in the vast seas to a safe, calm, and loving harbor of safety.  John points to the “door” of Jesus moving inwardly from the “Old” – – towards the “New” – – kingdom of God.

John foretold and prepared the way for the Messiah – Jesus Christ.  At the Jordan River, He also pointed his own followers to Jesus when he extolled, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  John knew early on in His ministerial life what Jesus the “Messiah” would accomplish through His death on that Holy Tree of crucifixion.

Nearing the end of His life, today’s Gospel shows us how John queried whether Jesus was truly the “promised Messiah”.  Jesus retorted to John’s uncertainties by recounting the firm proof of facts about his ministry.

While in prison, why did John send his followers to question Jesus as he was sitting in prison knowing was going to die soon, at the hands of King Herod.  In verse 3, the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another” expressed a doubt from John the Baptist.  He wanted to know if Jesus was truly “the one who is to come”.  The reason: because Jesus’ mission had NOT been one of a “fiery judgment” as John (and almost all Jewish people) had expected, but rather one of simple repentance.  John knew prophesies of the Old Testament.  In Malachi 3:1, it read:

“Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.  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.”

Jesus responds by pointing to the miracles that He has worked.  He says that His miracles, actions, and words about the kingdom of God is proof enough in recognizing the realization of Isaiah’s prophecy foretelling the signs and wonders which the Messiah would perform  (see Isaiah 35).  

In his rabbinic teaching style, Jesus also returned one question with another to Him and his followers: What do you see in John the Baptist?  His response to John’s question was also rabbinic in nature as it was taken from the Old Testament.   He took passages from Isaiah that pictures the time of salvation as being marked by deeds and acts, such as those that Jesus is doing. These passages were a caveat and warning to John the Baptist to NOT disbelieve solely because he believes his own expectations have not been met.

“But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.  For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.”  (Isaiah 26:19)

“On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.  The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”  (Isaiah 29:18-19)

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.”  (Isaiah 35:5-6)

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”  (Isaiah 61:1)

Jesus’ rebuke of John for questioning His divinity is offset by His reminder to the crowd of the greatness of John the Baptist’s role and function in salvation history (verses 7-11).  Jesus praises John for his role in preparing the way for Jesus – – the “MESSIAH!”

Why does Jesus contrast John with a “reed”?  Unlike a reed, which is spineless and easily bruised, John the Baptist stands as a truth of faith because his heart, soul, and body – his entire being – was surrendered to God.  John the Baptist burns brightly, warmly, and intensely with the fire of God’s truth and love for all mankind.

There was a common belief among the Jewish faithful that there had been no prophets in Israel since Malachi.  The coming of a new prophet was eagerly awaited among all Jewish people.  Jesus basically sanctions that John was that prophet, sent to foretell the coming of the Messiah that all was waiting.  John was the precursor of the “one” who would bring in the new and final age.  John was the last of the prophets to announce Jesus’ coming.  In leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb, John was also the first witness to Jesus’ divinity(along with Mary and Joseph)!

John’s preeminent greatness lies in his purpose of announcing the nearness of the “kingdom”.  Jesus is telling all hearing that the “kingdom” of God is so great a privilege, pleasure, and joy, – – that the least in God’s kingdom – – is greater than the last and greatest prophet: John the Baptist.  All who work for the Kingdom of God will be as great as John – and even greater!

Jesus’ message to John about the signs of the kingdom being performed recalls the salvation described by the prophet Isaiah. This Gospel reading is a reminder that the beginning of salvation is already present to us, but also yet to be fully fulfilled.

Someone who is “tepid” – careless, half-hearted, and lukewarm – can be easily influenced and converted by others.  If we want to be like John the Baptist, we must surrender our heart, soul, and body to Jesus Christ and his kingdom of everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.  There is absolutely NO room for compromise on this matter of faith and fact.  We are either for Jesus and His kingdom or against Jesus and His kingdom – no fence walkers are allowed.  

Salvation is already in our midst as apparent in the miracles demonstrated by Jesus so many years ago, and in the Church today.  But salvation is also to be fulfilled in the coming reign of God.  

Look at our society and the societies around us.  Look at what is happening around the world today.  Though we can find glimpses of God’s work among us, it would so very easy to become disheartened and depressed by the apparent and obvious secularization of society.  The “absence” of God and His salvation is prevalent in today’s families and societies (even so-called Catholic ones).  Jesus’ excruciatingly painful death on the “Holy Tree” captured our hearts and souls, and opened the doorway to heaven.  We cannot truly know why there is so much pain and suffering in this world.  But, we do know that Jesus walked that same path during His time of humanity on earth.  And He is accompanying us on our path still today, especially close to us in times of pain and suffering.  That is why He is called Emmanuel: “God is with us!!”

 Advent is a season of “hope.  We should acknowledge that salvation is both mysteriously present in our world, and yet to be fully and truly fulfilled in the unknown future.  We are also expected to help prepare the way for God’s kingdom by our own actions, words, and prayers.

Reflect on John’s question to Jesus: “Are you the One?”  Jesus does not answer his question directly (he was a great therapist – without a couch though), but points to the signs of the kingdom present around Him.  Try looking through your local newspaper for signs of hope that God is at work in your world and neighborhood.  

Each of us has times when we questioned God’s love, mercy, and attention to us.  There are times when we feel ambiguous or unsure about following Jesus on His path.  At these times, Jesus gives us the exact same answer he gave to John the Baptist: “Review your life.”  Try to remember the beautiful, wonderful, and awe inspiring things you have seen the Lord do in your life, in others, and in nature.  Keep hold of your trust, faith, and love for God – even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you at that time.  Eventually, you too will be vindicated by God’s love for you!!

 

Our Father

 

“Our Father, who art in Heaven; hallowed by Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the sixteenth century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego.  He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City.  On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds.  A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess.  The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga.  The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan Diego to have the lady give him a sign.  About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill.  This led poor Diego to try to avoid the lady.  The lady found Diego, nevertheless, assured him that his uncle would recover and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees.  On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac.  It was December 12, 1531.

Comment:

Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary and the God who sent her accept all peoples.  In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for Native Americans.  While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves.  According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time.  In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.

Quote:

Mary to Juan Diego: “My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth…and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me…”  (from an ancient chronicle).

Patron Saint of: Americas; Mexico

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 12 & 13 of 26:

 

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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.