Tag Archives: prophets

“You Cannot Mention My Father’s Name. However, I Truly Want You To Use MINE!” – Mark 9:38-48†


 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

As Catholics, we are to achieve a “unity of life”, letting our faith form our political decisions as we prepare to vote this November:

“We have important obligations as citizens.  But we have to carry out those obligations always in light of our duty to God” (Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles).

We, per Jesus’ “Word”, are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”  We are called to work for the common good of society, to obey just laws, and to respect society and government.  These responsibilities are what we render unto Caesar. 

What we render unto God – – IS FAITH. This means that “we can’t forget about the Church’s teachings and the demands of God’s law.  We have to make sure our participation and our contributions ALWAYS reflect the moral and religious values we find in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church.

When Catholics go to the voting booth, there are NON-negotiable aspects of Catholic social teaching.  Abortion, euthanasia, and marriage between a man and a woman, are among those that are non-negotiable!!

However, many issues ARE, and can be, debatable among Catholics.  Such issues include the economy, taxes, government spending, immigration, foreign affairs, and helping the poor and marginalized.  All these topics are matters for careful judgment – – careful CHOICE.  In such areas, we are always going to have legitimate differences of opinion over how best to apply the Church’s moral principles and teachings among members of our faith community.

So, what is a Catholic to do this November when we go to vote for our future?  What is important to remember is that we are always think and act with the mind of Christ and the mind of the Church in voting and in other civic responsibilities.

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We want with all our hearts to love, to BE “love”.  When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them.  God sees Christ, His Son, in us and loves us.  And so we should see Christ in others.” ~Dorothy Day, “My Wounded Hands“, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that whoever is not against Him – – is FOR Him.  Are YOU a fan, or a follower?

(NAB Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48)  38 John said to him, l “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  39 Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  40 For whoever is not against us is for us.  41 Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.  42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.  45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.  47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last week we heard Jesus rebuke His disciples for their arguing about who among them was the greatest.  Jesus taught them that the greatest among them will be those who serve the least among us.  Today, Jesus’ closest disciple, John, questions Jesus about an “unknown exorcist”, driving out demons in Jesus’ name.  John’s question to Jesus, in today’s reading, looks to have been motivated by simple jealousy:

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us (Mark 9:38). 

I believe John’s question is evidence that Jesus’ disciples have not completely grasped the meaning of Jesus’ “Words”.  These twelve extremely close followers of Jesus continue to compare themselves to others, especially others who appear to have greater healing powers than they possess.  They DO NOT want to share the power of Jesus’ name with others.  John and the other “disciples” even try to stop the man “because he was not following us“.

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Jesus’ reply is, in itself, filled with wisdom:

Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me (Mark 9:39).

Jesus strongly warns against jealousy and intolerance toward others who do not follow in His and our particular ways of faith, and leading to making false judgments.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian’s:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Let me ask you all a question: “Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to stand out more than us?”  I remember as a child being told by the Nuns teaching at my parochial school that ONLY Catholics would go to heaven.  All others would go to Hell, purgatory, or the infamous “limbo” (with the un-baptized infants), and going no further towards a full glory found in heaven.  Thank God (literally) that our closed-minded misunderstanding of dogma no longer exists in the Catholic faith today. 

All of us have to keep in mind that the Catholic Church was established by Christ Himself, at the “Last Supper”, and it has continued without a break in Apostolic Succession to the present day.  Yet, this “perfect” Church is filled with imperfect, sinful souls.  All can achieve the glorious perfection of heaven through their individual actions in this world, even without ever hearing the “Words” of Christ.  Christ knows all of us BY our works:

I [God] know your works (Revelations 3:15);

Christ knows all of us BY our faith and HOW we show our faith through our works:

“Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

With this in mind, there are many Catholics walking on the much easier road to Hell than much more difficult path to paradise.  These materialistic, jealous, judgmental people think they will be saved simply because they attend Mass when necessary, by sending their children to a parochial school, and by supporting their parish and diocese.  At the same time, they cheat, steal, tell lies, look at pornography, and so on.

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In today’s more medically advanced society, the “demon possession” described in Mark, might be seen as only a form of mental illness.  However, the need for healing, including for those with mental illness, was as real for them in the first-century, as it is for us still today.  “Exorcism” was a common practice during Jesus’ time on earth.  We know some people had the power to heal the symptoms of possession then, just as priests are able to do so now.  One of the strategies used in “driving out demons” was, and is still, by invoking the name of a person or figure believed to have the divine power and authority to heal: e.g., Jesus Christ.

The disciples observed that the “unknown exorcist” invoking Jesus’ name was potentially successful in his healing of others (hot-diggity-dogma!!).  This unknown healer recognized the power of Jesus’ name as truly having a divine power in itself, even though this “healer” who was not a member of the clan following of Jesus.  Even though this “healer” was an “outsider”, he must have believed in Jesus, by the fact of using His name. 

In Jesus’ reply to His disciples, He acknowledges that deeds of faith certainly can – – and DO – – precede the words of faith.  Our actions are more powerful than words alone.  Jesus continues teaching His disciples that they should not be reluctant to share Jesus’ healing powers with others.  In other words, we should “spread the wealth” of His grace and its power!!

In Mark 9:40, Jesus’ axiom truly demonstrates a broad attitude, belief, and tenet found in displaying His divine patience, lenience, and charitable tolerance toward others:

Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).

Even the smallest of considerations are shown to those who teach in Jesus’ name: – – and they will not go unrewarded!!  This axiom, this saying, compels a warning: there is NO position for a “neutral” stance where Jesus is concerned.  He Himself states to ALL present that they are either for or against Him – – they are either hot or cold.  NO lukewarm faith is allowed in His Kingdom:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot.   So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Revelations 3:15-16).

Jesus goes on further to speak about the positive effects in works of faith; in other words, those who act their faith in their love for God and others are those who are “hot”:

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward (Mark 9:41).

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Was Jesus’ exaggerating when He urged His followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences found in the last half of this reading (Mark 9:42-48)?  (I believe not.)  The last six verses (Mark 9:42-48) of this Gospel relate to the consequences of sin on one’s life.  Tying a heavy stone and being thrown into the sea, cutting your hand or foot off, or plucking your eye out, in order to save yourself from Hell, is an extremely vivid and morbid image to contemplate.  These images make me think of the idea of ALL of His children being part of His Church body.  If one of us sins, it truly affects ALL of us.  If a “sinner” remains unrepentant, they separate themselves from the Church body (Self-excommunication, which means they are out of fellowship with Christ – – until they choose to acknowledge their sin and repent). 

Just as a doctor might remove a limb, or some other part of the body, in order to preserve the life of the whole person, so too must we be ready to part with anything causing us to sin, leading to a spiritual death.  Jesus warns His disciples of the terrible responsibility of not putting stumbling blocks in the path of another.  Jesus warns us to not give offense or bad example, which may lead another to sin.  Even the first-century Jews understood that giving offense, or giving a bad example, is sinful since leads another TO sin.  If we lead another to sin, that person in turn may lead still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end – – and with assured devastation occurring – – unless someone harkens to an inspired conscious and grace, then to acknowledge their behavior as sin, and finally, to ask God’s forgiveness and mercy. 

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Remember: Christ came to heal; He was the first “medic” coming into – – and onto – – the field of battle: the Jewish nation, PLUS, ALL our individual souls, i.e., the whole human race.   His salves and bandages are the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.  They all heal our wounds of sin and strengthen our moral character.  Jesus treats ALL who come to Him (His practice is open 24 hours per day) with a pure love.  He expects us to treat people with His healing example of love.

With Jesus, there is no longer a need to cut off, or pluck out, anything to gain entrance to heaven.  Instead, we are to put on a great gift which Jesus gave to each and every one of us: the sanctifying grace of Himself and His Spirit!!  Through a proper faith in Jesus, we no longer have to worry about eternal misery with Satan.  After all, “Gehenna” does not sound like a fun place to be:

 “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

Ironically, it is interesting the number of people who end up going to Hell, even though they are aware of the consequences to their earthly actions.  There is not much, if anything, written about Hell that is positive.  So, why do we sin, knowing our action puts us on this road?  The answer is “Satan”  Satan is always wanting another soul – – NOT – – to go to paradise in heaven, but instead, to come to eternal misery and pain in HIS kingdom.  This is his only goal: JEALOUSY – – to take a soul away from GOD!!

The word, “Gehenna” (Mark 9:44, 46), is an interesting word indeed.  It refers to a valley just southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  To the Hebrew’s, this valley is known as the “Valley of Hinnom” (pronounced “gê-hinnōm”), or the “Valley of the son of Hinnom” (“gê ben-hinnōm”).  Gehenna was at one time the center of an idolatrous cult during a monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice.  This specific place is mentioned in two books of Jewish Scripture, our present-day Old Testament:

The king also defiled Topheth [a place of torment and punishment where the wicked are sent after death] in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be any immolation [killing; sacrifices] of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech [a Semitic deity]” (2 Kings 23:10);

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they go on building the high places of Topheth to sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire, something I never commanded or considered”(Jeremiah 7:31).

The concept of punishing sinners by fire, either after death, or after the final judgment, is found in Jewish apocalyptic literature:

Seventy shepherds were judged, and found guilty, and they also were thrown into that abyss of fire.  And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned.  And that abyss was on the south of that house. (Enoch 90:25-26**)

** (The “Book of Enoch” is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah.  It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from a group known as “Beta Israel”.  It is regarded however, as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church, but no other Christian group. ~ From Wikipedia)

“Gehenna” is traditionally used as an image of the invisible reality of the place of eternal punishment written about in the New Testament – – HELL!  Saying either Gehenna or Hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”, reminds me of another morbidly vivid description found in the book of Isaiah:

 “They shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against me; For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be extinguished; and they shall be an abhorrence [revulsion] to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24).

Per Isaiah, God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the “New Jerusalem” – – understood to be heaven.  As in the time of Isaiah, Jesus’ time on earth also had huge cemeteries of dead and decaying corpses, filth of every type, and societal/human waste scattered about in this “Valley of Hinnom” – – Gehenna – – JUST outside the city.  There still are many of God’s enemies surrounding us today – – the “living dead” who have rejected Jesus Christ.

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Jesus teaches us NOT to create obstacles for those who are just beginning to have faith, but to encourage even the smallest signs of faith.  In the vivid terms of today’s reading, Jesus teaches His disciples the consequences of putting obstacles before people on their road to faith.

The second part of today’s Gospel (Mark 9:42-48) contains a strong message for those sharing the responsibility of fostering faith in Jesus to others, an AWE-some responsibility.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that “FAITH” is a continuous, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, lifelong journey toward happiness – – which is God Himself!!  We don’t always understand our journey, or even stay on-track at times.  However, we should pray daily for the grace – – His grace – – to acknowledge and build upon even the smallest signs of faith, in ourselves, and in others.  This is what HOPEIS for Catholic Christians.   In today’s world, there are plenty of obstacles preventing the growth of faith in many individuals.  Pray you are not contributing to the obstacles, thus hindering another person’s continuously growing faith in Jesus Christ; instead continue to choose to encourage and strengthen that faith in others as well as ourselves.

We have a calling to confront obstacles to faith.  In dealing with obstacles confronting you, you may be called upon to use courageous, bold, outspoken word, and unpopular actions in order to surmount and break down that obstacle.  Perhaps God is calling YOU to break down that obstacle for another.  Saint Francis, a loyal member of the Catholic Church, and a radical challenger to Church of his day, broke down many obstacles in his public ministry, always with a sincere love, and with definite actions of faith and love.   Saint Francis routinely said:

Preach the Gospel, and at times, use words”.

Are you being called for a “challenge”, just as Saint Francis was called?  In a little, dilapidated, weathered chapel known as San Damiano, Jesus Christ spoke to him with the following words:

Francis, rebuild my church”!

What is Christ saying to YOU?!

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There are many people and things in our daily lives nurturing our faith, and, also attempting to hinder our faith.  Those nurturing our faith include: healthy family relationships and friendships, good literature, EWTN, Healthy Church life, retreats, and so on.  Those things that might be obstacles to our faith may include: improper relationships, scandals, bad habits, sin, and so on.

Jesus teaches us, in today’s Gospel, that we are to do everything possible to help another HAVE faith in Jesus Christ.  We are also to do everything possible to avoid creating obstacles hindering another’s faith life.  Pray that you will be a faith-filled Catholic Christian, helping others grow in faith, that you do not create obstacles for others obtaining or growing in faith.  YOU ARE the next “unknown exorcist” to proclaim God’s Word and Plan by your actions, and by passing on your faith to the next generation!

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen. 

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“Hey, You May Be Him – – But This Cross Is Heavy! You Carry It For Awhile!” – Mark 8:27-35†


 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today’s readings feature the famous passage from the Letter of Saint James in defense of the unity of faith and works:

Faith in itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

Thus, we can accept James’ wisdom in the two verses preceding the famous quote above:

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16).

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Peter declares that Jesus is the “Christ” prophesized in Jewish Scripture; and Jesus teaches that those who would follow Him must take up his or her cross.  How heavy is YOUR Cross?

(NAB Mark 8:27-35) 27 Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  28 They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”  29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.”  30 Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.  31 He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.  32 He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  33 At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  34 He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Who IS Jesus for you?  For the 1st century Jews, Jesus was widely recognized throughout His homeland as a charismatic man and prophet of God.  He was even compared with the greatest of the prophets: Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and even John the Baptist.  Peter, however, recognizes Jesus as being the true “Messiah” (the “Anointed One”) promised in Jewish Scriptures.  No mortal human being could have ever revealed this divine fact to Peter; but, this truth, this identity of Jesus, could only be revealed to him through the actions of God the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit working in Peter, AND through him. 

In Mark’s Gospel for today,, Jesus tries to reveal Himself more to all His disciples who were struggling to accept the mysterious unity of His words and deeds – – (along with His unity of a human AND divine nature.  Peter correctly proclaims before his fellow disciples that Jesus “is the Christ“.  However, when Jesus speaks openly about His suffering and death to come, Peter then rejects the way Jesus expects to “reveal Himself” who He truly IS: the true “Messiah”(in Greek: “Christ”) prophesized in their Jewish Scriptures.  Peter is then quickly rebuked by Jesus, who uses this public rebuke of him, and by doing so, to teach the other disciples not to think as Peter.  Mark has Jesus literally declaring that Peter is:

Thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Mark 8:33).

How shocked and upset do you think the disciples were when they heard these ominous words of suffering and death coming from Jesus- – and Jesus’ rebuke as recorded by Mark?!  This is what Mark has to say:

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days” (Mark 8:31).

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This episode in Mark’s Gospel is the turning point in regards to Jesus’ public ministry.  Popular opinions among those 1st century Jews following Jesus as disciples regarded Jesus as a “prophet”.  In contrast, His closest disciples believed Jesus to be the true Messiah Savior.  Jesus acknowledges their correct identification, but prohibits them from making His messianic mission known to others.  Why?  Jesus does so in order to avoid confusing His true mission with false and ambiguous contemporary views known by the Pharisees and others, with their misconceived nature of what His mission should be – – according to THEIR viewpoints!!

At the time of Jesus, the image of the Messiah was laden with extremely popular expectations of a messianic military-political leader who would physically “free” the Jewish people from Roman domination occupation – – in other words, a divine socio-military leader (another King David).  

The image and expectation of Jesus as this Messiah Savior, declared by Peter as spokesman for the other disciples (cf., Mark 8:27–29), is modified significantly in Mark’s Gospel when compared to Matthew’s account.  Matthew shows Peter’s declaration actually amplified and extended: stating Jesus as both the prophesized “Messiah” AND the true “Son of the living God”:

“Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16).  

Jesus’ response, drawn principally from material peculiar to Matthew, attributes Peter’s declaration to a divine revelation granted only to Peter (so far):

“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Matthew 16:17).

So, per Matthew, Peter’s “faith”, inspired by the Father. grasped the unity of the human and the divine in Jesus, the person called “Christ”.  He was the first disciple recorded as recognizing Jesus as the divine “Anointed One” (Messiah/Christ).  Peter’s faith however, per Mark, was very much “human”, as proved when told by Jesus it was necessary for Him, the “Messiah”, to suffer and die for God the Father’s work in order to bring about actual salvation and redemption to be accomplished!  

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Mark shows Jesus Christ using the term, “Son of Man” (v. 31).  Jesus does not use the term “Christ or “Messiah” for Himself in Scripture.  So, we see in today’s reading, Jesus referring to Himself instead as the “Son of Man”, a term derived from Jewish Scriptures: e.g., chapters two and three of the book of Ezekiel, and the book of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14) to indicate His identity.  Many bible scholars today suggest that the phrase “Son of Man” is best understood to mean simply, “human being”: Jesus uses the term to apply to Himself, and to describe His understanding of His messianic (divine) identity.

Son of Man” is has a quality of mystery and ambiguity about it.  This title was difficult to understand by most people hearing it come from Peter on that day, before his peers.  “Son of Man”, of itself, means simply “a human being”; yet, there is evidence of this term being used prior to Christian times in Jewish writings (e.g., Ezekiel and David) long before Jesus’ public ministry.  I believe Jesus’ use of this title about Himself, is due to His speaking of Himself in a certain unique, mysterious, way: as a completely “divine” person being completely “human” able to live, suffer, experience rejection and betrayal, and even death (something God cannot do; or, CAN HE?)!!  “WOW!!”  My faith inspires me to say more: I believe Jesus Christ saw beyond His death and burial; His Rising from His grave; His appearing to His mother, the other Mary’s, and Peter; His ascending to heaven; and His glorious coming at the end of the age.  In the meantime … He still comes to us – – in the Holy Eucharist – – in order to strengthen us to take up our individual cross and follow Him all the days of our lives.

Now that the disciples have acknowledged Jesus as “the Christ”, Jesus confides in them the soon-to-be outcome of His earthly public ministry: Jesus knows He will be “rejected”, He “must suffer and die”, and He “will rise after three days”.  Peter emotionally rejects this foretelling prediction; so, Jesus rebukes Peter severely for his “earthly”, one-dimensional view.  

In today’s reading, Jesus is giving us NOT the image of the Messiah Savior who Peter and all Jews were expecting, but the “Christ” image He has of Himself.  Instead, Jesus is teaching the crowd about the reality of His path of true discipleship.  In order to be “Christ’s” disciple, Jesus makes it clear one must follow in the way of the cross – – in the way of HIS cross – – in the way of OUR cross.

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Jesus states in verse 34:

Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel * will save it” (Mark 8:34),

He challenges all believers (you and me) about authentic discipleship AND about a total commitment to Him – – through our acceptance of the Holy Cross of daily suffering brought about by our fidelity to normal duties and obligations – – even to the sacrifice of our life itself for our family, our country, our Lord God, and even OUR SELVES.  

Some of our suffering comes about because of a certain ambivalence – – two opposing ideas – – of life now, AND to life as we will know it when we enter into the destiny Jesus promises.  A life seen as a meager or simple “self-centered” (materialistic, narcissistic) earthly existence, and lived in denial of Christ, will always end in greater suffering and destruction.  Such a life possesses an eternal separation from the JOY our Trinitarian God: in the glory and beauty of everlasting paradise (the “New Jerusalem” above). 

However, when lived in loyalty to Christ, even despite our earthly human death, our lives will be delivered to live in a completely divine “fullness”.  Jesus explained to all who would listen what it would cost, individually and personally, to follow Him as their Messiah.  It would cost EVERYTHING, including their very lives!  (Example: 11 of 12 Apostles were martyred; and the surviving Apostle, John, was exiled to a lonely island, to live in a cave.)  How can anyone make such a costly demand?  Well, God the Father freely gave us His Son, Jesus Christ to save us from the effects of sin and death by giving His very life – – not just a physical death, but also a spiritual death – – HELL – – so we would not have to experience this sad separation:

“Hence, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death.  For what the law, weakened by the flesh, was powerless to do, this God has done: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the sake of sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous decree of the law might be fulfilled in us, who live not according to the flesh but according to the spirit  (Romans 8:1-4)!!

Perhaps this is why Mark finishes his reading for today with a simple, yet spiritually complex verse:

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).

Later Mark uses similar terms again, to equate Jesus with the Gospel, the “good news” of God:

Jesus said, ‘Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.  But many that are first will be last, and [the] last will be first’”(Mark 10:29-31).

When we exchange our life for His life – – working in, with, and through us – – we receive far more than we could ever give up.  In this awesome exchange of lives, we receive pardon, peace, and the abundant eternal life of God’s kingdom now; and we also receive a sacred, divine, promise of a resurrection – – an unending life with God – – in the next age to come.

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We can easily miss the fear Jesus’ words must have evoked in His disciples when uttering His ominous warning.  Death by scourging and crucifixion was all too familiar as the preferred method of execution in Roman-occupied territories.  It was a universal, continuous, danger to the 1st century Christian community for whom Mark wrote.  The “path” Jesus was inviting His disciples to share meant, almost always assured, tremendous suffering and death for the early Christians.  This is the kind of radical commitment and sacrifice Jesus calls us to adopt “for the sake of the Gospel”, even still today.  (If you do not think so, look at what is happening in the middle-east this past week!  Please pray for our Orthodox Catholic Brothers and Sisters.) 

Peter certainly had expectations about what it meant to call Jesus the prophesied “Messiah”, the Christ.  Jesus was indeed the “Messiah”; but His life, and eventually His death, would show to all a different understanding of what it means to be the Messiah Savior.  

We, too, have expectations of our Trinitarian God, the Holy One of Israel.  Our own expectations are about what we think God ought to be doing in our present-day world.  Like Peter in today’s reading, we may risk limiting our image of God by thinking only in “human ways”.  God’s plan is always more than we can ever imagine with our finite minds and imaginations.  God’s thoughts and ways are absolutely different from our human, materialistic, earthly thoughts and ways!  Through humiliation, suffering, and death on the Holy Cross, Jesus broke the confining power of evil, sin, and spiritual/physical death.  Jesus, instead, won for us redemption, salvation, and eternal paradise in heaven.  So, when talking to Jesus in prayer, how do you answer Him when asked, “Who do you say that ‘I AM’?”  (He has asked this question to you.  You may have only heard it just now!)  I answer this question multiple time each and every day with the following:

“Jesus, I trust you, I love You.  You are my God and my ALL!!” (My personal “Jesus Prayer”)

More than any of Jesus’ other works (actions), Jesus’ passion and death is a living, active, expression of His “Words” – – in action; a living, redemptive, saving love for All His creation.  To be a Catholic Christian is to become conformed to Christ – – FULLY!!  Jesus states, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me“.  The image of the “suffering servant” of Isaiah is prophecies of “Christ”, as being the one who can say:

I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who tore out my beard; My face I did not hide from insults and spitting.  The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.  He who declares my innocence is near.  Who will oppose me?  Let us appear together.  Who will dispute my right?  Let them confront me.” (Isaiah 50:6-8).

Jesus spoke openly to His disciples, and dealt openly with those who opposed Him.  As those who bear the name of Christian Catholics, our faith should remain open to Jesus’ revelation of Himself in our daily lives, that we might lose our preconceptions of ourselves and others for the works of living His “Word”, His good news, His Gospel today, everyday, NOW, forever and ever.  AMEN!!

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Reflect on what you expect God to be doing in the world – – in YOUR world.  Reflect about why you believe Peter was so upset with what Jesus was saying to Him?  Jesus was also truly upset by Peter’s reaction to the foretelling of His passion and death.  Do we sometimes forget to just let God BE GOD for us?  Do we sometimes get discouraged because God doesn’t act in the world in ways WE expect Him to act?  Pray for a continual knowledge of God, always working for the world’s redemptive salvation, through ways beyond our limited imaginations.

When we discover the treasure of God’s kingdom – – God Himself – – we gladly give up all we have in exchange for the life of joy, exaltation, and happiness only God can offer us.  He always gives without measure. There is NO sadness or loss which can ever diminish the joy God offers to each of us personally – – on a daily, moment-to-moment, basis!  The Holy Cross of Jesus Christ truly and fully leads to TWO victories: a freedom from evil, sin, and death, AND, a freedom for choosing (a) not to sin, and (b) the better “right” things to do.  Let me ask, “What is the cross Jesus Christ is commanding you to take up each day?”  When my “will” crosses with His “will”, His “will” must be achieved.  (His “will” will “will” my “will”!!)   Are you ready to lose ALL on this earth, for Jesus Christ, in order to gain ALL WITH Jesus Christ?  I know “I AM(and “me too”!)!

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Reflection Prayer:   

 

“A Prayer Of Praise To God For His Salvation”

 

“I love the LORD, who listened
to my voice in supplication,
Who turned an ear to me
on the day I called.
I was caught by the cords of death;
the snares of Sheol had seized me;
I felt agony and dread.
Then I called on the name of the LORD,
“O LORD, save my life!”
Gracious is the LORD and righteous;
yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD protects the simple;
I was helpless, but he saved me.
For my soul has been freed from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living.  Amen”

(From today’s Mass – Psalm 116:1-6,8-9)

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“Those Who Do Not Believe Develop Heart and Soul ‘Murmurs’!” – John 6:41-51†


 

Nineteenth Sunday in OrdinaryTime

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

This next Wednesday, August 15th, is the “Feast of the Assumption of Our Mother Mary”.  Each year for the past 6 years, on this date, I have completed my preparations and renewing my “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”.  This devotion was created by St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and takes 33 days of preparation by means of prayer, reading, meditation, reflections, and personal promises – – a true “metanoia” (conversion process)!  (But then again, each and every day, I try to convert myself to God’s will, even if ever so slightly.)  Each time I have completed this particular devotion, the experience and journey itself seems to “taste “a little sweeter.  I’ll take this as a good sign to continue this yearly practice.

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There will no Reflection next Sunday, August 18th.  I will be on my yearly Franciscan (OFS) Retreat at King’s House in Belleville, IL.  Our OFS Region (about 100 Secular Franciscans) will get together there for the weekend to celebrate, learn, rejoice, pray, contemplate, and enjoy each other in community.  It is truly an awesome, up-lifting, powerful, and exciting time for me, both personally and spiritually.

Anytime spent with friends, family, and God – – all rolled into one experience – – is a true grace from God Himself.  Amen, Amen, Amen!!!

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 Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus responds to the murmurs of the crowd, who wonders what He means when He says, He “came down from heaven”.  What are your “murmurs” towards Jesus?

 (NAB John 6:41-51) 41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42 and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.  44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  45 It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.  46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.  47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  48 I am the bread of life.  49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  51 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.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On this Sunday, we continue to read from the “Bread of Life discourse” found in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.  We have been reading from this chapter for the past two Sundays and will continue to read from it for another two.  (Since I have grown to love John’s unique multi-dimensional viewpoint of Jesus Christ, one month of solely John’s Gospel (at the Sunday Mass) is totally awesome.).  Last week, the crowd with whom Jesus had been dealing for two liturgical weeks now asked Him for a sign which would show that He truly came from God. (So, He’s not a magician or con-artist).  Jesus replied by saying that “HE” is “THE” sign ANDthe bread of life” truly sent by God!

Today’s Gospel begins with a report that the Jews (the crowd) are “murmuring” about Jesus’ claim regarding His identity.  After all, they knew Jesus’ family (Mary and Joseph). So, they could not comprehend what Jesus meant when He said that He “came down from heaven” (John 6:41).  Jesus responds to the crowds request by saying, “Only those who are chosen by God will recognize Him” (John 6:44) as the one sent by God; this is (and will be) a recurring theme in John’s Gospel.  WOW!  Reflect on the fact that God chooses those who will have faith in Jesus. (And He always chooses those who wish to follow Him – – to come to Him!!)

In the verses which follow in today’s reading, Jesus talks more about His unique unity, His personal union, with God the Father.  He is the “One” who has seen God the Father and, therefore, truly and fully knows God the Father, and as His Father.  (But let me ask: “Was He the ONLY one?” The answer will come a little later.)  Those who listen to God – – and HEAR Him and BELIEVE (John 6:47)- – will recognize Jesus as being the “One” sent from God the Father Himself.  Those who believe this will have eternal life according to Jesus’ proclamation.  

Jesus will conclude today’s reading with the essential principle of our Eucharistic theology – – the Source and Summit of our Catholic Faith – – Jesus, “the bread of life”, will share ETERNAL life to those who believe Him!!  Jesus promises that His “bread of lifewill bring ETERNAL life to those who come to, and partake of it.  Jesus also prophetically tells us “the bread of life” will be “His own flesh, given for the life of the world” (John 6:51).  The flesh Jesus is referring to is the reality of His “Risen” self to a new life.

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In Capernaum (the location of today’s reading), Jesus is rejected solely because His origins are known to the people there.  By their “murmuring” (John 6:41), Jesus’ audience (the crowd who followed Him to Capernaum from Bethsaida) behaved like the Israelites of the Exodus, while lingering in the desert.  If you recall, their own “murmuring” provoked the gifts of water and manna being delivered to them from God the Father:

As the people grumbled against Moses, saying, What are we to drink?’ he cried out to the LORD, who pointed out to him a piece of wood.  When he threw it into the water, the water became fresh.” (Exodus 15:24-25);

Here in the wilderness the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. … in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, when he hears your grumbling against him.  But who are we that you should grumble against us? …[God says] I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, and then you will know that I, the LORD, am your God.” (Exodus 16:2,7,12).

This crowd’s “murmuring” was an example of the unbelief as prophesied in Isaiah and the Psalms:

But when the LORD has brought to an end all his work on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, I will punish the utterance of the king of Assyria’s proud heart, and the boastfulness of his haughty eyes.” (Isaiah 10:12);

Next they despised the beautiful land; they did not believe the promiseIn their tents they complained; they did not heed the voice of the LORD (Psalm 106:24-25).

Familiarity with His family and societal background led them to regard Him as pretentious and boastful in His claim.  They saw Jesus as a person they felt they knew completely and intimately; yet they were truly blind.

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Jesus’ command to “stop murmuring” (John 6:43) is followed by a short series of sayings.  The next two verses of today’s reading reiterate that only those “drawn by God” will believe in Jesus:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6:44-45) 

John is demonstrating the claim that God Himself is responsible for the faith of those who believe in Jesus.  There is NO knowledge of God the Father apart from Jesus:

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

John is repeating Holy Scripture, reminding his readers of verses found in both Exodus and earlier in his own Gospel:

But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20);

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

This belief reflects the Jewish tradition: to see God meant instant death!!   However, this belief is contradicted by others who DIDsee God”, yet live:

To the LORD who spoke to her [Hagar] she gave a name, saying, ‘You are God who sees me’; she meant, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after he saw me?’” (Genesis 16:13);

Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘because I have seen God face to face,’ he said, ‘yet my life has been spared.’” (Genesis 32:31).

In seeing Jesus Christ, this crowd truly SAW God.  Yet, we see the Holy Eucharist; we are also truly witnessing the Risen “God” is being revealed to us in a unique visible and spiritual (supernatural) way.  “Seeing”, and partaking of God in the Holy Eucharist, does not bring death, but everlasting life through Jesus Christ!!  “Seeing” is believing in and partaking of – – participating in – – God’s communion (co-union)!  This “seeing” God by faith does not bring death but everlasting life through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Jesus concludes His series of sayings with this final affirmation:

 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47) 

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The following “final” verse from today’s reading is an extremely powerful revelation:

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” (John 6:51),

At the end of this sixth chapter of his Gospel, John will shift his Gospel from the topic of Jesus as “the revealer of God the Father” – – to Jesus as the “living bread” which He Himself gives to us as a gift, revealing to us the grace, which we have learned to call “the Holy Eucharist”. 

Here follows is the next portion of John’s sixth chapter.  The verses which immediately follow today’s reading are also the verses for next week’s Gospel reading at Mass:

“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.’  These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.” (John 6:52-59)

These verses definitely say, and identify, the “Holy Eucharist” to me!  Does it to you?

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In today’s reading, we hear Jesus say again, as He did in last week’s Gospel, that “HE” is “the bread of life” (John 6:48).  We also hear Jesus adding that HE is “the living bread” (John 6:51).  Both of these statements help us understand better the gift Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist.  We celebrate this special and unique gift (grace) of Jesus each time we gather for Mass.  We, as Catholics, truly and fully believe that receiving the “Risen” Jesus in the Eucharist will lead us to our eternal life in the paradise of heaven, with our Trinitarian God.  (His “bread” is truly divine – – truly “heavenly”!!)

Today’s Gospel draws our attention to the faith in Jesus’ real, true, full, and Risen presence in the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus IS then, truly and fully “the bread of life”.  He gives us His Body and Blood as “the living bread” so that we may have eternal life.  When we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, with the proper attitude, our lives reflect the reality that our communion – – our unique union – – with the divine Jesus Christ Himself, is truly preparing us to see the way to reach His kingdom.  Our Holy Eucharist leads us to live as His people of promise, confident we will one day share the fullness of life with, and united to, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit!!  (Not a bad deal for us sinners!!)

The crowd in today’s story despised Jesus because they thought they knew who He was – – understanding Him to be an uneducated laborer from a rural “Hick” town called Nazareth.  They regarded His mother, Mary, and His “foster” father, Joseph as ordinary people with no particular distinction to their name or identity.  Their collective thoughts were: “How could such a common man claim to be God’s spokesman?”

This crowd surrounding Jesus became even more offended when Jesus claimed something only God could claim.  His claim which He revealed to them is that He is the very source of life who comes from God the Father, and who lasts forever and ever (John 6:51).

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I am sure we all make the same mistake as did the crowd in today’s Gospel.  We sometimes (maybe even oftentimes) refuse to listen to others solely because we think they are inferior to us?  (No humility in thinking such thoughts, is there?  NOT!!!!)   We can miss what God may wish to speak to us through others, especially when He speaks through these “inferior beings”.  We can miss what God says to us, if we despise and spurn the “instrument” God chooses to work through.  John states that the Jews from today’s reading “murmured” at Jesus.  They listened to Him, but with a critical spirit rather than “hearing” Him with faith, with an open ear, and with an earnest desire to learn and believe what God the Father wanted (and still wants) to speak to them (and us) – – through His Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  There are many different ways people can choose to listen to others: with an attitude of superiority, with indifference, or with a teachable spirit, wishing to learn, believe, grow, and ultimately, to be transformed.  Let me ask: With what “way” do you listen to God’s “Word”?

God is offering His people an abundant life; yet, we can miss out on this unique gift.  What is “the bread of life” which Jesus offers us?  When Jesus offers us a true life, He brings us into a new relationship with God the Father – – a relationship of trust, love, and obedience.  Jesus offers us a true, abundant, ever-sustaining life – – lasting forever and ever.  Jesus offers us a life of enduring love, fellowship, communion, and union with the “One” who made us “in love” to be uniquely united with Him forever and ever!!  

Think about your hope that one day you will share eternal life with God in heaven.  This “hope” can transform the way you (and we) live out our daily experiences and lives.  We are called to BE people “of hope”; we are taught to believe in God’s promises and to have confident “hope” that we will experience the fulfillment of those promises in our daily lives.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises us this gift of eternal life in and through the Eucharist.  Jesus taught us that those who listen to God know that He had been (and is still) sent by God the Father – – for the life of the world – – and for ALL creation.  Jesus is fulfilling His promise to us through His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Jesus Christ gave (and still gives) us the gift of HIMSELF in the Holy Eucharist – – in His Body and Blood – – given so we may have, and grow in, eternal life with Him.  Ask God to increase your faith in His true and full presence present in each morsel of the Holy Eucharist, and each sip of the cup of salvation, which we experience with all our senses.  (Doesn’t smell fishy to me at all!!)

There is NOTHING to “murmur” about when it comes to God the Father’s Salvation plan FOR US!!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Peace Prayer

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I
may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.”

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


 

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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 Quote of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

and,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Love

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

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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 New Translation of the Mass

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

with the new liturgical text we will say:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

 

What is the meaning of “penance”?

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

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

What is the greatest quality of a loving parent?

 

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

 

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

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

“Now Where Did I Put Those Darn Keys Anyhow?!” – Matthew 16:13-20†


 

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I will be going on my yearly Regional SFO (Secular Franciscan Order) Retreat for the St. Clare Region this weekend.  That is why I am posting this retreat a couple of days early.  Please pray for all of our intentions, for great weather, and for a time of spiritual renewal for all at the retreat, and at home.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1153 – Death of Bernard of Clairvaux, French theologian (b. 1090)
†   1567 – Birth of Francois de Sales, French bishop of Geneva/writer/saint
†   1760 – The church (later, a Cathedral) of “Our Lady of Candlemas of Mayagüez (Puerto Rico)” is founded, establishing the basis for the founding of the city.

(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:

 

“A Christian is a keyhole through which other folk see God.” ~ Robert E. Gibson

 

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Today’s reflection is about Simon Peter acknowledging Jesus as “the Christ”, and is given the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

(NAB Matthew 16:13-20) 13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his Apostles, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  20 Then he strictly ordered his Apostles to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

It is important to read today’s Gospel and next week’s Gospel (Jesus’ speaking of His future Passion, and rebuking of Peter) as two parts of a single story, for these readings are pivotal points in Matthew’s Gospel.  Today, we hear Jesus Christ name Simon Peter as the “rock” (No, not the wrestler or movie star) upon which He [Jesus] will build His Catholic Church.  Next Sunday, we will hear Jesus call Simon Peter “Satan” when he reacts negatively to Jesus’ foretelling of His Passion and death at the hands of others.

 In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks His Apostles what people are actually saying about His identity.  They indicate that most people believe that Jesus is a “prophet” of Israel, like John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.  With this answer from His cherished and close followers of nearly three years, Jesus asks who THEY believe that He is.  Simon Peter answers this probing question for the group: identifying Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.

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Matthew significantly modifies Mark’s affirmation of Jesus as “Messiah”, made by Peter as “spokesman” for the other Apostles.  Simon Peter’s affirmation is reported in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Mark 8:27–29; Luke 9:18–20):

Jesus and His Apostles set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way He asked His Apostles, ‘Who do people say that I am?’  They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.’  And He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter said to Him in reply, ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:27–29);

And,

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the Apostles were with him, He asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’  They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”’  Then He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter said in reply, ‘The Messiah of God.’” (Luke 9:18–20).

Peter’s affirmation is an pronouncement of Jesus being both “Messiah” and “Son of the living God” (verse16).  Jesus’ response, drawn chiefly from material distinctive to Matthew, attributes Peter’s affirmation to a divine revelation granted solely to him (verse 17), and makes him the “rock” on which Jesus Christ will build His Catholic (Universal) Church (verse 18).  Peter also realizes that he will be the Apostle whose authority (and his successors) in the church – – on earth – – will be (and continues to be) confirmed in heaven by God (verse 19).

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Caesarea Philippi was an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon.  Today, the city is no longer inhabited, but is an archaeological site located within the present Golan Heights.  Caesarea Philippi is situated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the territory was ruled by Philip in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Philip was a son of Herod the Great, who was “tetrarch” from 4 B.C. until his death in A.D. 34.  When Herod died, his territory was divided among three of his surviving sons, Archelaus who received half of it, Herod Antipas who became ruler of Galilee and Perea, and Philip who became ruler of northern Transjordan.  Philip rebuilt the town of Paneas (where the legend of the mythical “Pan” originated), naming it Caesarea in honor of the emperor, and Philippi (“of Philip”) to distinguish it from the seaport in Samaria that was also called Caesarea.  

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Jesus tests his Apostles with a crucial question: Who do men say that I am and who do you say that I am?  After all, He was widely recognized in Israel as a mighty man of God, even being compared with the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.

Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”(verse 13).  What a direct question to ask to the men who had accompanied Jesus for nearly three years.  Although the question in Matthew differs from Mark’s parallel verse:

 “Jesus and His Apostles set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked His Apostles, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” (Mk 8:27),

the meaning is the same in both Gospels: Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man (verse 15).

 

Their first response was, “John the Baptist”.  Why?  Well, let us look at how John the Baptist was seen by the 1st century Jews, along with prophesies foretold in the Old Testament:

This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” (Matthew 14:2);

And,

“You are destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of parents toward their children, and to re-establish the tribes of Israel.” (Sirach 48:10).

 

The expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread.  Most Jews believed John the Baptist was the returned “Elijah”.  Some believe Jesus was yet another John the Baptist or Elijah, continuing the work of re-establishing the tribes of Israel, and preparing people for the coming “Messiah”.

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Jesus repeats the question.  Peter, always quick to respond, exclaimed that Jesus was the “Christ”, “the Son of the living God”:

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

The addition of this exalted title to Peter’s affirmation (and not found in Mark’s Gospel) eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title “Messiah” connected to Jesus Christ.  

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In verse 17 of today’s reading, Jesus says to Simon Peter:

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and bloodhas not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Matthew16:17).

Two profound statements are pronounced by Jesus in this one verse.  I have chosen to separate these two statements with a hyphen in the above verse.

Flesh and blood” is a Semitic expression – – (a group of languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Maltese, and Amharic) – – for human beings, especially in regards to weakness.  We know Jesus spoke, or at least had a working knowledge of Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic, (along with Greek as well), and He understood the significance of this particular phrase very well.  (I don’t believe He ever said anything without a purpose and ever-current meaning.)

Jesus also said immediately after the above phrase, “Has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father”.  Simon Peter’s faith is spoken of – – by Jesus Christ Himself – – as NOT developing through human means, but instead, through a divine revelation from God the Father.  No mortal human could have revealed to Simon Peter this divine revelation about Jesus Christ; but only God the Father. 

Simon Peter’s revelation about Jesus is similar to St. Paul’s (Apostle to the Gentiles) description of his dramatic revelation and recognition of whom Jesus Christ “truly” was:

But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, l so that I might proclaim Him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:15–16).

The weakness of our human frailties and iniquities prevents us from truly realizing the divinity of Jesus Christ, without divine assistance.  Only through the Holy Spirit emitting from God the Father can we find the “true” Jesus Christ dwelling inside each of us, His creations.

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What happens next is probably one of the greatest things to happen to the Catholic Church: its foundation is set firmly on earth!!  This foundation is created by the following words of Jesus, spoken directly to Simon Peter:

You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).

Jesus then confers on Peter authority to govern the church that Jesus would build, a church that no powers would ever defeat. (For me, this last sentence is a proclamation and statement of hope and trust for us all.)

 

Jesus plays on Peter’s name which is the same word for “rock” in both Aramaic and Greek.  To call someone a “rock” is one of the greatest of compliments to be given for first century Palestinians.  You may not know that there was a saying at the time of Jesus that when God saw Abraham, He exclaimed: “I have discovered a rock to found the world upon“.  And, through Abraham, God established a nation for Himself.

The Aramaic word “kepa’” means “rock”, and transliterated into Greek as “Kephas (or Cephas)”.   Kephas is the name by which Simon Peter is called by St. Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians:

“… Paul or Apollos or Kephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you.” (1 Corinthians 3:22);

Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Kephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5);

He appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:5);

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Kephas and remained with him for fifteen days.” (Galatians 1:18);

And,

When they recognized the grace bestowed upon me, James and Kephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars …” (Galatians 2:9, 11, 14);

The only exception to Paul using the word, “Kephas”, is in Galatians 2:7–8:

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter to the circumcised, for the one who worked in Peter for an apostolate to the circumcised worked also in me for the Gentiles…” (Galatians 2:7-8)

 John instead chooses a separate word; it being “Petros” (“Peter”):

Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (John 1:42).

The accepted Aramaic of Jesus’ statement is, in English, “You are the Rock (Kepa) and upon this rock (kepa) I will build my church.”  The original Greek text probably indicates the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun “petros”, and the feminine noun “petra” (rock) may be simply due to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as a proper name for a male.  Although these two words (Petros and Petra) were generally used with slightly different degrees, they were also commonly used interchangeably for the word, “rock.”  

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Simon Peter is the “rock” the Catholic Church will be built upon.  Verse 18 is the first occurrence in the Gospels for the word “church”.  This word (in the original Greek: “ekklēsia”) occurs in the Gospels only here and later in Matthew:

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18: 17).

There are several possibilities for an Aramaic origin for this word, “church”.  Jesus’ “church” means the community that He will gather, and, like a building, will have Simon Peter as its strong and solid, well-placed, everlasting foundation.  The function of Simon Peter consists in his being the definitive witness to Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”, the “Son of the living God” (verse 16).  

 

Finally, I come to the last specific phrase quoted in verse 18: “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”.  The “netherworld” (in Greek, meaning “Hades”, the abode of the dead) is believed to be a walled city whose gates will not converge upon the Universal (Catholic) “church” of Jesus Christ, at the time of Matthew writing his Gospel in the late first century.  This “netherworld” will not be overcome by the power of death (Satan), but will be kept submissive to, and by, the power of the “true” Trinitarian God.

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Jesus Christ gives Simon Peter a special authority, symbolic “keys” to the “Kingdom of Heaven”.  Simon Peter will play an important role in the early Christian community as a spokesperson and “church” leader, the first Pope of the Catholic Church.

The image of the keys, “The keys to the kingdom of heaven” (verse 19), is probably drawn from Isaiah 22:15–25 wherein Eliakim is made successor to Shebnah as master of the palace.  He is given “the key of the house of David” for which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts”:

I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open” (Isaiah 22:22).

Today’s reading uses very similar words:

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

There are many instances in Jewish literature of a “binding-loosing” imagery.  Of the several meanings given for this metaphor, two may be of special importance in regards to this Gospel: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The promise of “the keys” is given SOLELY to Peter (and his successors); not to any of the other Apostles present there on that day.  Interestingly, all the Apostles are given the power of binding and loosing later in Matthew:

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

However, the context of this verse just mentioned above hints that only the power of excommunication is intended.  “The keys” are those to the kingdom of heaven and Peter’s authority in the “church” on earth, and confirmed in heaven.  Jesus’ giving to Simon Peter “the keys” shows an important and intimate connection between the “true” “church” on earth and the “kingdom of heaven”.

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Matthew makes Jesus explicit about a strong and absolute prohibition of telling others of Him being the “true” “Messiah”.  This episode, reflected on today, is the turning point in Jesus’ public earthly ministry.  Jesus acknowledges His identification freely to His Apostles, but, I believe, prohibits them from making His messianic office known to others – – by them – – in order to avoid confusing the “true” “Messiah” with unclear, imprecise, and contemporary ideas on the nature of whom and what the Messiah was believed to be, per traditional first century Palestinian Jewish beliefs.

Popular opinions at the time of Jesus regarded Him as a “prophet” like John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. The Apostles by contrast believed – – and KNEW – – Him to be the “true” “Messiah”.  

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In summary, Simon Peter’s recognition of Jesus’ identity is attributed to a divine revelation by God – – a grace.  This “gift” of the Holy Spirit will contrast sharply with Jesus’ rebuke of him (Simon Peter) in next week’s Gospel.  Next week, when Simon Peter rejects Jesus’ prediction of His passion and horrific death, he is said to no longer be thinking as God does, but as humans do.  How often are we given a “gift”, only to lose it?  How often do we each lose our faith and trust in God?  I believe this loss of faith is much more prevalent than the lines at Sacrament of Reconciliation show!!

Peter, in this Gospel is being credited as the strong base, the foundation, for the Catholic Church; a special privilege granted to him – – alone among the Apostles – – because of his recognition of Jesus’ identity.  He becomes the first Pope in a non-broken line in the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church continues to this day to be grounded in the faith, love, and trust that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

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In conclusion, today’s Gospel reminds us that the Catholic Church is built on the strong and unbreakable foundation of faith, trust, and love in Jesus Christ.  Simon Peter announces the heart and soul of our faith: Jesus Christ is God’s only Son, who came to deliver from our sins, and into the arms of His heavenly Father.  The “church” family, the domestic church, still has this same belief and faith as its foundation.

Think of people whose faith has helped you to be a member of the Catholic Church.  Think about what you have learned from “leaders” in our Church today.  What role did Simon Peter play in the early Christian community?  What can we learn from Simon Peter, and his “profession of faith” about Jesus’ nature?  

Through faith, Simon Peter grasped who Jesus Christ truly was.  Simon Peter was the first Apostle to recognize Jesus as the “Anointed One” (the Messiah and Christ), and the only “Son of God”.  The New Testament describes the “church” as a spiritual house or temple, with each member joined together as “living stones”:

“Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into rocks or spiritual stones.  Lord, please let me be a tiny pebble skipping forever along the sea of your grace, hope, and love for me.

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Faith

 

“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived. 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.

 

When the priest invites us to share in the Lord’s Supper, we now say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  With the new Missal, we will respond:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

The use of “under my roof” is a reference to the Gospel passage where the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant but says he is not worthy for Jesus to enter his house (Luke 7:6).  The other change is “my soul” instead of “I”, which focuses more clearly on the spiritual dimension of the healing we seek.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Pius X (1835-1914)  [And a Secular Franciscan]

 

Pope Pius X is perhaps best remembered for his encouragement of the frequent reception of Holy Communion, especially by children.

The second of 10 children in a poor Italian family, Joseph Sarto became Pius X at 68, one of the 20th century’s greatest popes.

Ever mindful of his humble origin, he stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.”  He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court.  “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend.  To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices.  They lead me around surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemani.”

Interested in politics, he encouraged Italian Catholics to become more politically involved.  One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of governments to interfere by veto in papal elections—a practice that reduced the freedom of the conclave which had elected him.

In 1905, when France renounced its agreement with the Holy See and threatened confiscation of Church property if governmental control of Church affairs were not granted, Pius X courageously rejected the demand.

While he did not author a famous social encyclical as his predecessor had done, he denounced the ill treatment of indigenous peoples on the plantations of Peru, sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake and sheltered refugees at his own expense.

On the 11th anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War I.  Pius had foreseen it, but it killed him.  “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me.  I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.”  He died a few weeks after the war began.  He was canonized in 1954.

Comment:

His humble background was no obstacle in relating to a personal God and to people whom he loved genuinely.  He gained his strength, his gentleness and warmth for people from the source of all gifts, the Spirit of Jesus.  In contrast, we often feel embarrassed by our backgrounds.  Shame makes us prefer to remain aloof from people whom we perceive as superior.  If we are in a superior position, on the other hand, we often ignore simpler people.  Yet we, too, have to help “restore all things in Christ,” especially the wounded people of God.

Quote:

Describing Pius X, a historian wrote that he was “a man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world and the hardships of life, and in the greatness of his heart wanted to comfort everyone.”

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:

 

SFO Fraternity Life

 

In what ways does a fraternity show “family spirit” on the part of the members?   How is this “spirit” manifested regularly?

Do your monthly meetings become a means of spiritual nourishment in the Franciscan (SFO) way?   Why, or why not?   What needs to be added to your meetings, if anything?

How do you make my judgments when it comes to elections in your fraternity?

Why are there term-limits?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 21 & 22 of 26:

 

21.  On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.

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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.



♫“Sow, Sow, Sow Your Faith, Gently Down His Path!”♫- Matthew 13:1-23†


 

 

Fifteenth Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

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:

 

Starting next Wednesday, July 13th, I will begin my yearly “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”, popularized and created by St. Louis de Monfort.  I will be posting the prayers for the four sections on both my blog and Facebook sites.  All you need to add is the 10 or so minutes each day, and a proper heart and soul.  So, please join me.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   983 – Death of Benedict VI, Italian Pope (974-83)
†   1086 – Death of Knut IV, the Saint, king of Denmark (1080-86), murdered
†   1609 – Catholic German monarchy forms Catholic League
†   1900 – Birth of Sampson Sievers, Russian Orthodox Christian monk, priest and wonder-worker (d. 1979)
†   1998 – Roman Catholic sex abuse cases: The Diocese of Dallas agrees to pay $23.4 million to nine former altar boys who claimed they were sexually abused by former priest Rudolph Kos.

(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:

 

 

“When GOD solves your problems, you have faith in HIS abilities; when GOD doesn’t solve your problems HE has faith in your abilities.” ~ Unknown author

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that the kingdom of heaven is like a seed that has been sown on good soil.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 13:1-23) 1 On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.  2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.  3 And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  5 Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, 6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  8 But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  9 Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  10 The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  12 To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’  14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  15 Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’  16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  17 Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  18 “Hear then the parable of the sower.  19 The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  21 But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  22 The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  23 But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

 

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Gospel Reflection

 

Today’s Gospel marks the beginning of a lengthy teaching or dialogue (His third discourse in Matthew) given by Jesus.  Over the next few weeks at Mass, the Gospel readings will cover of the whole of Matthew’s 13th Chapter. 

 

What was (and still is) the best and easiest way to help people understand God’s kingdom?  Like the Temple leaders and Rabbis of first-century Palestine, Jesus very often used “parables” – – short stories and images taken from everyday life – – to communicate “unknown” truths about the kingdom of God.  Jesus was a skilled artist of speech and imagery; a great orator and teacher.  Through His words, He etched in the listeners mind, vividly brilliant and unforgettable images.

A well-constructed image can speak more loudly and clearly than many words.  (Remember the old adage: “A picture says a thousand words.”)  Jesus epitomized this saying by using the ordinary everyday well-known images of everyday life and nature as a way to point to a different (and hidden) order of reality.  Jesus, through the use of parables, points to a different, visible order of reality for those who had “eyes to see” and “ears to hear“, and those who heard with faith.  

Jesus communicated His teachings with vivid and dramatic images, such as soil conditions, plants, and trees.  These images, these parables, grabbed ahold of the imagination of His audience more powerfully than any nonfigurative talk ever could.  His parables were like a “buried treasure” waiting to be discovered:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44).

(Note the inspiration of that salesman – – his “JOY”!)

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In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ teaching of “parables” is known as the “third great discourse” of His ministerial life.  It makes up the second of three parts of Matthew’s Gospel as well.  Matthew used only two of a set of three, and this one is number two of the three.  Matthew uses five other parables taken from other sources known collectively by Biblical Scholars as “Q” and “M”.  The authors of these two documents are unknown; that’s why they are indentified as “Q” and “M”.

In addition to Matthew’s seven parables, Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 13: 1-53, gives the reason why He uses a “parable” approach to teaching the faith and way of God:

“The disciples approached him and said, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’  He said to them in reply, ‘Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because “they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.”  Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: “You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.”’” (Matthew 13: 10-15).

Jesus declares the “blessedness” of those who understand His teaching:

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Matthew 13: 16-17):

He then goes on to explain the “parable of the sower”:

“Hear then the parable of the sower.  The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”  (Matthew 13: 18-23):

In verse 24 through 53 (not included in today’s reflection), Jesus explains the parable of the weeds, and ends with a concluding summary statement of teaching to His disciples.  He is stating in His summary that we are all to be “Scribes” in the new kingdom of God:

Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Matthew 13:52)

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What can a parable about “seeds” and “roots” teach us about the kingdom of God?  Well, any successful farmer (I am not one!  I have a black thumb – even killing a cactus once) will attest to the extreme importance for the need of “good soil” to supply the necessary nutrients for growth and fruit production.  After all, a plant gets all necessary food, water, and other nutrients by its roots?  

Holy Scripture repeatedly uses the image of “fruit-bearing” plants or trees to express the principles of spiritual life and spiritual death.  Here are just two examples from the Old Testament:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”  (Jeremiah 17:7-8);

And,

They are like a tree planted near streams of water that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

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There are different ways of accepting God’s “Word”, which, hence, produce different kinds of “fruit” as a result.  There is the opinionated “hearer”, who shuts one’s mind to differing views.  Such a person is, in reality, non-teachable, and “deaf” to what ne could hear, and blind to what lies behind what he sees.

Then there is the “shallow” hearer.  This person fails to meditate, reflect, and think things out completely.  They lack a “depth” of faith, knowledge, and openness to God’s “Word”.  They may initially respond with even a strong emotionally charged reaction; however, when this feeling wears off, their mind begins wandering to something else which will give them another “charge” without much effort.

A third type of hearer is the person who has many interests or concerns, but who “lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important”.  Such people are too “busy” to pray, or too “pre-occupied” to study and meditate on God’s “Word”.  Their focus is totally on the “here and now”.

Finally, there is “the one whose mind is open”.  This person, this disciple, is willing to listen and to learn – – AT ALL TIMES, ever looking for the spiritual truth lying beneath the surface of what they heard and see.  They are never too “proud” or too “busy” to learn the message and teachings of God; instead they listen with anticipation to His Word, in order to understand Him and His kingdom they will inherit.  

God gives a great gift, a great grace, to those who search for, yearn for, and hunger for His “Word”.  They are “consumed” in Him so that they may understand His will, His way, and His truth.  And, through His “Word”, they have the strength to live according to God the Fathers plan for salvation and redemption.   

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In Palestine, sowing (sort of loosely planting the seeds) was often preceded by plowing.  In “sowing” seeds, the seeds are literally thrown from the hand (similar to spreading salt/calcium on an icy driveway).  Much of the seed is thus oft times scattered on ground unsuitable for any growth.

Yet while many of the seeds are “wasted”, the seed which falls on “good” ground bears “fruit” in an exceptionally large amount.  The point of Jesus’ parable of the “Sower” is that, in spite of some failure, (usually because of opposition and indifference to His message), the trusting and hopeful “true” message of Jesus Christ, about the coming of His kingdom, will have an enormous success – – in those who, like little children, hear Him with faith:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)

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The word “parable” (from the Greek, “parabole”) is used to translate the Hebrew word, “mashal”, a designation for a variety of literary forms such as axioms, proverbs, similitude’s, and allegories.  What these literary forms have in common is a “hidden message” for the receiver.  The New Testament authors, and Jesus Christ Himself, consciously use “mashal” and “parable” to designate and illustrate comparisons and inter-relatedness of “kingdom truths” and everyday life events.  Sometimes, these everyday life events have a strange element quite different from an otherwise “usual” experience of everyday life: for instance, in the parable of the yeast, Matthew 13:33, the enormous amount of dough was produced by adding a small amount of yeast.  Thus, “parables” are meant to sharpen and hone the curiosity and interest of the hearer to leads them to internalize the “true” meaning of the parable.

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In today’s reading, Jesus told His disciples that not everyone would gain an understanding of His parables.  Do you think He was deliberately confusing and/or hiding the meaning of His parables, His stories, His message, from His listeners?   I don’t believe so.  

Jesus was speaking from experience – – past, present, and future experience!  His “experience” is not only internal, but His awareness of “experience encompasses ALL time at ONCE!  He is aware of all things and all times.   He is aware that “some” who hear His parables would refuse to understand them.  It isn’t that these people could not understand them; but rather that their hearts would be hardened, shut, closed, and blinded to what Jesus Christ was really saying.  In reality, they had already made up their minds NOT to believe.  What a pity, as God can only reveal the hidden truths of His kingdom to those who are not blinded spiritually.   God can only reveal the hidden truths to those individuals who have a deep hunger for Him and His “Word”, and humbly submit to His truth and Word.  As He Himself said to them:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Also, in last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father the following prayer of praise:

I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”  (Matthew 11:25)

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Since a parable is “figurative speech” requiring an amount of reflection for its understanding, only those who are open and prepared to explore and discover its true meaning can come to know it, and to internalize its meaning.  To understand Jesus’ teachings and parables is a gift (a grace) of God Himself, “granted” to His disciples, yet, not to those in the crowds when Jesus said:

“… it has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.”Matthew 13:11)  

In reading this verse, it is evident that both Jesus’ disciples’ understanding of His parables and the crowd’s ignorance to their meanings are both attributed to God’s will.  The question of human responsibility for a lack of knowledge is asserted in Matthew 13:13:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13). 

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Jesus mentions the “mysteries” in verse 11.  This word can also be found in Luke and Mark’s Gospel:

“Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.’” (Luke 8:10);

The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you.” (Mark 4:11).

And, the word “mystery” can even be found in the Old Testament:

They might implore the mercy of the God of heaven in regard to this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision, and he blessed the God of heaven. In the king’s presence Daniel made this reply: ‘The mystery about which the king has inquired, the wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers could not explain to the king but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what is to happen in days to come; this was the dream you saw as you lay in bed..’” (Daniel 2:18, 19, 27-28);

The word “mystery” is used to designate a divine plan or declaration affecting the course of history; which can only be known and understood when revealed by God.  Knowledge of the “mysteries” of the kingdom of heaven means recognizing God’s kingdom present in the person of Jesus Christ, and in His ministry.

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 “To anyone who has, more will be given” (verse 12).  Throughout the New Testament this axiom of practical “wisdom” is used several times:

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29);

To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mark 4:25);

“Take care, then, how you hear.  To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” (Luke 8:18);

And,

“I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Luke 19:26).

Its reference goes beyond one’s original gaining time, talent, and treasures.  In essence, God declares a granting of a further understanding of His kingdom to all who accept His “revealed” mystery.  And, from the one who does not accept or use His graces, He takes it away (The ultimate “use it or lose it” principle!)

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Jesus speaks in “parables” so that the non-believing crowds may not understand:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13);

 And,

They may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12),

Making the parables so that the non-believers cannot understand them is looked at by me as a form of discipline to the “crowds” (non-believers).  This “lack of understanding” is allowed them, by God, because He respects their “free will” in choosing not to accept His teachings.  

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In verse 14, Jesus’ cites Isaiah:

“Go and say to this people: Listen carefully, but you shall not understand!  Look intently, but you shall know nothingYou are to make the heart of this people sluggish, to dull their ears and close their eyes; else their eyes will see, their ears hear, their heart understand, and they will turn and be healed.”  (Isaiah 6: 9-10).

The “old” truly lives in the “new”, and the “new” truly FULFILLS the “old”!!

 

I find it interesting and confusing that there are people who are, or become, fruitless and/or uncaring of God’s “Word”!!  Differing priorities, believed more important than God, can distract some from what is truly important and worthwhile.  Allowing our hearts, minds, and souls to be consumed with material items and secular ideals can easily weigh us down, drawing us away from God’s eternal heavenly “treasure”.  

We all need to realize and keep current in our minds that God’s “Word” can only take root in a receptive and humble heart, mind, and soul; a heart, mind and soul, ready and willing to “hear” what God has to say to each of us, personally and intimately.  The parables of Jesus make clear to us what we need to know in order to grow in faith and life.  We need to approach His teachings with an attitude ready to let His teachings challenge us. (No pain, no gain!)  Can you submit to God’s “Word” with the love, trust, and obedience He wishes for you to have?

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Gross is the heart of this people …” (verse 15)!  “Gross” is a strong word that can mean the following: disgusting, unpleasant, foul, vulgar, nasty, uncivilized, repugnant, and grotesque.  This is definitely NOT a pleasant or hopeful image for the person who chooses to be blinded to the “mysteries” and “wonders” of a true and total faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Unlike the non-believing “crowds” of people accompanying Jesus, His true disciples, – – His true followers of the way, – – have seen the reality, revelation, and fulfillment of the prophets and the “righteous” people of the Old Testament (the Old Covenant).  These “chosen” people searched and yearned to “see”, without having their search and yearning being fulfilled during their “earthly” time of life.

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The four types of persons visualized in today parable of the “Sower and the Seed” are:

  • Those who never accept the word of the kingdom (Matthew 13:19);
  • Those who believe for a while but fall away because of persecution (Matthew 13:20-21);
  • Those who believe, but in whom the word is choked by worldly anxiety and the seduction of riches (Matthew 13:22);
  • Those who respond to the word and produce fruit abundantly (Matthew 13:23).

Jesus’ emphasis on the various types of soil on which the seed falls is an explanation on the “dispositions” with which one “sees” and “hears” Jesus’ preaching’s and teachings.  Similar stories and emphasis of the “Sower Parable” can be found in Mark 4:14-20 and Luke 8:11-15.

 

Let’s look at the second and third types of “sown” seeds from Matthew’s parable:

Seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21)

And,

Seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.” (Matthew 13:22)

These two can be explained in such a way as to support views held from many bible scholars that these examples derive not from Jesus Christ directly, but from an early Christian “reflection” on apostasy (a refusal to accept religious beliefs anymore) from the Catholic faith.  This “apostasy” became a major real-time consequence of first-century Christian persecutions, and the secularism of human society at that time.  

However, other scholars maintain that the explanation of these two situations comes from Jesus even though it was developed in the light of later Christian experience.  (Can we say, “Grace of the Holy Spirit!”)

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In conclusion, throughout Jesus’ teachings or dialogues (called a discourse), He offers several “parables” to His followers, illustrating in their (and our) minds what He means by the “Kingdom of Heaven”.  He begins His teaching in Chapter 13 of Matthew with what appears to be a rather straightforward parable of the “Sower and the Seeds”. 

Even “urban dwellers” (such as me) know seeds grow best in good soil.  Seeds which miss the soil, sown on rocky ground, or sown among other plants will not grow to harvest.  However, even with the loss of so many “seeds”, there is still a great and overwhelming “yield” from seeds sown on good soil.

 Jesus explains why He uses parables.  He suggests that He uses “parables” to teach because the meanings of parables are not self-evident without some reflection to find the true meaning.  Those who are willing to engage themselves in the effort to understand, willing to open themselves up to the Holy Spirit, will be rewarded with the discovery – – the revelation – – of the message, yielding much fruit.

Jesus interprets the parable of the sower to His disciples in order to show what can be revealed in His teachings via parables.  The different types of soil in which “seeds” are sown are metaphors for the disposition with which each individual hears the teaching about the kingdom of heaven. Some will be easily swayed away from the kingdom of heaven. Some will receive it for a time but will lose it when faced with difficulties. Some will hear the word but will then permit other cares to choke it out. Yet some will receive it well, and the seed will produce abundant fruit.  (AND THAT’S US!! – – Hopefully!!)

 

One lesson from today’s parable is made clear to all of us, even today: a great “harvest” is sure to come!  While some “seed” will fall away, never to bloom or fully grow to fruition, a harvest will most certainly come (at a time unknown to us):

But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”  (Matthew 24:36).

The seed that falls on good soil, – – on one’s heart, mind, and soul receptive to His “Word”, – – will produce bountiful fruits.  God is continuously ready to speak to each of us, personally and intimately, wanting so dearly to share with us an understanding of His “Word”.  

 

Today’s Gospel reminds us that in order for God’s “Word” to take root in us and produce abundant fruit, we must strive to be like the good soil in today’s parable.  Families, friends, peers, spouses, and the Catholic Church all have a responsibility for “preparing ‘your’ soil” so that the seeds of God’s Word can grow strong in you, producing a great harvest.  How can we “prepare the soil”?  Hold true to our Faith and Traditions in which our faith is celebrated, prayed, and fed by reading Holy Scripture (the Bible – it doesn’t bite), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  In these ways, you will fulfill the promises made at your Baptism when you received the lighted candle:

For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism.” (CCC, Paragraph 1254).

Please reflect on today’s Gospel reading and also on the Sacrament of Baptism for a short time.  Look at any pictures that may have been taken of the event.  Remember that one of the promises made at one’s Baptism is to grow in the practice and tenets of our Catholic faith.  How important is this promise to you?  How do you practice your faith (daily prayer, Mass attendance, religious instruction, etc.)?  We do these things and actions as a “family of God” in order that God’s “Word” can take root in our lives and produce an abundant awesomely tasteful fruit.  

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 “Psalm 65

 A prayer of praise to God for his abundance

 

“You visit the earth and water it, make it abundantly fertile.  God’s stream is filled with water; with it you supply the world with grain.  Thus do you prepare the earth: you drench plowed furrows, and level their ridges.  With showers you keep the ground soft, blessing its young sprouts.  You adorn the year with your bounty; your paths drip with fruitful rain.  The untilled meadows also drip; the hills are robed with joy.  The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys blanketed with grain; they cheer and sing for joy.  Amen.” (Psalm 65:10-14)

 

 

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 Glory to God (Gloria) has been significantly changed, with more words and many lines rearranged.

The Gloria

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of
the father,
have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One.
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the Glory of God the Father.
Amen.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)

 

Veronica’s desire to be like Christ crucified was answered with the stigmata.

Veronica was born in Mercatelli, Italy.  It is said that when her mother Benedetta was dying she called her five daughters to her bedside and entrusted each of them to one of the five wounds of Jesus.  Veronica was entrusted to the wound below Christ’s heart.

At the age of 17, Veronica joined the Poor Clares directed by the Capuchins.  Her father had wanted her to marry, but she convinced him to allow her to become a nun.  In her first years in the monastery, she worked in the kitchen, infirmary and sacristy and also served as portress.  At the age of 34, she was made novice mistress, a position she held for 22 years.  When she was 37, Veronica received the stigmata. Life was not the same after that.

Church authorities in Rome wanted to test Veronica’s authenticity and so conducted an investigation.  She lost the office of novice mistress temporarily and was not allowed to attend Mass except on Sundays or holy days.  Through all of this Veronica did not become bitter, and the investigation eventually restored her as novice mistress.

Though she protested against it, at the age of 56 she was elected abbess, an office she held for 11 years until her death.  Veronica was very devoted to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart.  She offered her sufferings for the missions.  Veronica was canonized in 1839.

Comment:

Why did God grant the stigmata to Francis of Assisi and to Veronica?  God alone knows the deepest reasons, but as Celano points out, the external sign of the cross is a confirmation of these saints’ commitment to the cross in their lives.  The stigmata that appeared in Veronica’s flesh had taken root in her heart many years before.  It was a fitting conclusion for her love of God and her charity toward her sisters.

Quote:

Thomas of Celano says of Francis: “All the pleasures of the world were a cross to him, because he carried the cross of Christ rooted in his heart.  And therefore the stigmata shone forth exteriorly in his flesh, because interiorly that deeply set root was sprouting forth from his mind” (2 Celano, #211).

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:

 

Holy Scripture

 

How do you use Holy Scriptures in your daily life?

Have you read the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (presented to us at Vatican Council-II)?  Here is the link: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

Have you come to know the differences of Catholic interpretation of the Bible from that of Christians of other faith traditions?  What are the differences?

What is the difference between Divine Revelation and Sacred Scripture?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’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.

 

 

“Let’s Have Two For the Road!” – Luke 24:13-35 †


  

 

Third 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:

On this Mother’s Day I wrote a little letter to my Mom in heaven:

Dear Mom,

I thought of you with love and a smile today, but this is truly nothing new,
I thought about you yesterday and the days before that too.
I think of you in silence, yet I often speak your name.
All I have are memories of you, and a picture in a frame. 

Your memory is a keepsake, with which I’ll never part.
God has you in His keeping – – His hug of warmth and love,
But I’ll always have you in my life and in my heart.

I Love You Always Mom.  Say “hi” to God for me.
Better yet, give Him a kiss and tell Him that someday
I also, pray to Him, for the grace to see.

Love,
Dan

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Today is the Apparition of Saint Michael the Archangel in Monte Gargano, (near Naples) Italy in the year 492 AD.  Saint Michael’s name means, “Who is like unto God”.

A man named “Gargan” was pasturing his large herds in the countryside.  One day a bull fled to the mountain, where, at first, it could not be found.  When its refuge in a cave was discovered, an arrow was shot into the cave, but the arrow returned to wound the one who had sent it.  Faced with so mysterious an occurrence, the persons concerned decided to consult the bishop of the region.  The bishop ordered three days of fasting and prayers. After three days, the Archangel Saint Michael appeared to the bishop and declared that the cavern where the bull had taken refuge was under his protection, and that God wanted it to be consecrated under his name and in honor of all the Holy Angels.

Accompanied by his clergy and town’s people, the pontiff went to that cavern.  He found the cave already disposed in the form of a church.  The divine mysteries were celebrated there, and there arose in this same place a magnificent temple where the divine Power has wrought great miracles.  To thank God’s adorable goodness for the protection of the holy Archangel, the effect of His merciful Providence, this feast day was instituted by the Church in his honor.

 (from http://www.magnificat.ca/cal/engl/05-08.htm website)

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Today is also the 66th anniversary (1945) of “Victory in Europe Day” day (VE Day).  VE Day officially announced the end of World War II in Europe.  On this day, at 02:41 hours, German General Jodl signed the document of unconditional surrender, formally ending war in Europe.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   535 – Death of Pope John II, [Mercurius], Italian (533-35)
†   589 – King Reccared summons the Third Council of Toledo
†   615 – St Boniface IV ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   685 – Death of Benedict II, Italian Pope (683-85)
†   1521 – Birth of Saint Peter Canisius, [Pieter de Hondt/Kanijs], Dutch Jesuit
†   1721 – Michelangiolo dei Conti replaces Pope Clement XI, as Innocent XIII
†   1786 – Birth of Jea Vianney, French Catholic priest (d. 1859)
†   1828 – Birth of Sharbel Makhluf, Lebanese monk (d. 1898)
†   1895 – Birth of “Servant of God” Fulton J. Sheen, American bishop (d. 1979)
†   1969 – Pope Paul VI publishes constitution Sacra Ritum Congregation
†   Feast/Memorials: Arsenius the Great in the Eastern Orthodox Church; Saint Desideratus of Soissons (d. 550); Saints Wiro, Plechelmus and Otger; Apparition of Saint Michael the Archangel

(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:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ appearing to two disciples who are walking to Emmaus.

 (NAB Luke 24:13-35)  13 Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, 14 and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.  15 And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, 16 but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.  17 He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast.  18 One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”  19 And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.  21 But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.  22 Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning 23 and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.  24 Then  some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”  25 And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the
prophets spoke!  26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.  28 As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.  29 But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”  So he went in to stay with them.  30 And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  31 With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.  32 Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”  33 So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them 34 who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”  35 Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

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On most Sundays during the Cycle “A” Liturgical Season “Easter” season, our Gospel Reading for Mass is taken from John’s Gospel, instead of Cycle “A’s” usual Matthew’s Gospel.  This week’s Gospel, however, is taken from the Gospel of Luke.  (Are you confused yet?)  As in last week’s Gospel (the appearance of Jesus Christ to the Apostles hiding together, as a group, somewhere in Jerusalem), today’s Gospel shows us how the first community of disciples came to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.  In these narratives, we gain a unique insight into how the community of the Catholic Church came to be formed.

As near as bible scholars can tell, the Gospel of Luke was written 40 – 50 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension; most likely for people who had never physically met Jesus during His earthly ministry.  In 70 AD, the Roman Army sacked Jerusalem, destroying the Jewish Temple, leaving not a stone upon a stone, thus fulfilling Jesus’ prophesies.

One reason why this account of Jesus Christ’s appearance to the two “followers” on the road to Emmaus was specially cherished by the early Catholic Christian community and incorporated into the Gospels, was because this account reveals what we do at each and every Catholic Mass.

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A little “history” of the events in this particular Gospel reading:

Jesus’ death scattered His disciples. His death shattered their hopes and dreams; their “Messiah” was now dead. They hoped so much that He would be the one to redeem Israel; and they believed that “hope” was destroyed in His death.  They saw the cross as a sign of defeat.  Most of His disciples could not understand the meaning of the empty tomb until the “Risen”Jesus Christ personally appeared to them, giving them an understanding that seemed previously incomprehensible.

Emmaus was about “seven miles” from Jerusalem. In the original Greek language found in the Book of Luke, it is literally, sixty stades.” With a “stade” being a measurement of 607 feet (Per NAB footnote), this equates to 36,420 feet or 6.9 miles. Because some old and historical manuscripts read that Emmaus was “160 stades” (more than eighteen miles) the exact location of Emmaus is disputed by some scholars.  I believe 18 miles was too long of a distance for people to routinely travel, especially in the rough and robber-ridden wilds of Palestine.  For this reason, I am in the belief of the former: a seven mile separation between Jerusalem and Emmaus.

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Have you noticed how many of Jesus Christ’s resurrection appearances involved “food” in some way?  Four of seven (or so) appearances involved eating, preparing, or supplying food in some way.  Jesus must have been a Franciscan at heart!

The first appearance is to the women (including Mary Magdalene) who were to finish preparing Jesus for His final burial:

“At daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 24:1).

Then, the “Risen” Jesus Christ appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus:

“And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:15-16);

 “It happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.” (Luke 24:30).

Next was His appearing to the ten Apostles, according to Luke:

“While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.” (Luke 24:41-43).

And finally, He appeared to seven Apostles at the Sea of Tiberius, grilling food for them at the seashore (Can you say, “Bar-B-Q”):

“When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. (John 21:9).

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The event in today’s Gospel reading centers  Jesus’ explanation and illumination of the Jewish Scriptures by the “Risen” Jesus Himself (the true “Christ”: the Word, Life, and Hope of Israel.  And, the reading also focuses on the disciples recognition of Jesus Christ Himself being physically present with them when “breaking bread” during the evening meal.  Then, at this moment, Sanctifying Grace opens their eyes to recognize Him as He really is.

When we read today’s Gospel, we may be amazed to learn that these two “followers” of Jesus could walk, talk, and share with Him, – – at length, – – yet not recognize Him until the last minute of their lengthy interaction with Him in this unique and very personal way.  We discover, again this week (as in last week’s reading), that the “Risen” Jesus was (and still is) not always easily recognizable in our lives – – and something not even when we are present with Him at the breaking of the bread.

“Cleopas” and the other disciple walked with a person whom they believed to be a stranger.  Only later in their communications and dealings with Him did they discover that this “stranger” was Jesus Himself – – in a Resurrected and Transfigured form.  Through this first interaction with Jesus’ community of two, we learn to recognize Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, just as they met Jesus Christ in the “breaking of the bread”.

With His fellow travelling partners, walking on that dusty, hot road, Jesus references certain quotations of Holy Scripture and explains those references – – in relating to Himself without their knowing it yet.

“And he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!  Was it not  necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27).

The disciples on the road to Emmaus finally hear Holy Scripture, as interpreted by Jesus Christ Himself, in a way which never came to mind for them before.  It caused their hearts and souls to burn intensely within their bodies.  It was what they had been waiting to hear for all their religious faith lives.  They heard Him, understood Him, and then believed:

Hear me, all of you, and understand.” (Mark 7:14)

Jesus rebuked His disciples on the road to Emmaus for their “slowness of heart” in believing what Holy Scriptures had said concerning the prophesies of the “Messiah”:

And he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke’”! (Luke 24:25).

Is Jesus quoting from Isaiah in His rebuke of the two disciples?  See what I mean:

 “Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Was it not foretold you from the beginning?  Have you not understood?” (Isaiah 40:21).

These two men did not recognize a “Risen” Jesus Christ until He had “broken bread” with them.

Jesus proclaims to them the message of His whole ministry on earth: a kerygmatic proclamation; good news to the poor and the blind and the captive.  Here is an example of another kerygmatic statement:

The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34),

Kerygma comes from the Greek verb “kerusso”, meaning to cry or proclaim as a herald, and means proclamation, announcement, or preaching.  “Kerygma” is a Greek word used in the New Testament for proclaiming and/or preaching. Other examples include the following New Testament verses:

“In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea.” (Matthew 3:1);

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19);

And,

“But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Romans 10:14).

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Imagine the feelings of the two disciples in today’s reading.  They are leaving their Passover “community” in Jerusalem, probably returning home to Emmaus or elsewhere.  Their friend and their reason to believe in the “truth”, Jesus Christ, had been tortured and crucified in a humiliating and horrifying way.  Their hope is gone and they are probably in fear of retaliation from Jewish and/or Roman officials.  They are bewildered and confused, trying to make sense of what had just occurred.  These two men, as well as the entire Christian community, was wondering what their future would entail.

Jesus Himself approaches the two men on the road to Emmaus.  They take Him for an unknown person, a stranger.  Jesus asks them what they are discussing.  He invites them to share their experience and interpretation of the events surrounding His crucifixion and death from their points of view.  When the two disciples give their feelings and beliefs of what happened, Jesus offered His own interpretation of His crucifixion and resurrection, citing the Jewish Scripture:

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.”   Luke 24:27)

In reality, and unbeknownst to these two men of faith, it was impossible for Jesus Christ to be held by a human condition such as a death on the Holy Tree.  Jesus took this “finality” of a human condition, – – and changed it, turned it around, – – making His death a divine condition of redemption and salvation for all His followers.

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In the encounter with these two disciples, we find the model for our Liturgy of the Word: what we do each time we gather as a Catholic Community, as a Catholic Church, in preparation for the Eucharistic Celebration at Mass.  In the encounter of these two men with Jesus Christ, we can reflect upon our own life experiences, and interpret them in light of Holy Scripture, just as Jesus Himself did for them.  In the “Liturgy of the Word” the great issues of life are addressed.  Holy Scripture is used to help all of us to understand these issues.

The dialogue from the Liturgy of the Word is followed by the “Liturgy of the Eucharist”, our communal-personal “breaking of the bread”.   In today’s Gospel reading, we also find a model for our Liturgy of the Eucharist.  These two men, these two “followers” of Jesus Christ, invite the yet “unrecognizable” Jesus Christ to stay and eat with them.  During the meal in which they shared in the “breaking of the bread”, the disciples’ eyes are made “un-blinded”!  They finally recognized the stranger as truly being Jesus Christ, in His Resurrected and humanly perfected body.  In the Eucharist, we also are allowed to share in the same “breaking of the bread”, discovering Jesus in our midst (though He has always been there).  In the Eucharist, and in our lives, we gather together to “break open” the Word of God.

Jesus Christ presented to His faithful disciples an example of the liturgical gestures still used to this day at every Eucharistic celebration at Mass:

“And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.” (Luke 24:30)

For me, the events happening in today’s reading overtly suggest primarily a catechetical and liturgical reference, rather than an apologetic or teaching reference.  (Teaching relates to a removing of intellectual impediments to Catholic faith, thereby enhancing believers’ confidence in the truth being taught; it also helps to weaken skeptics’ objections.)

Finally, at Mass there is the dismissal rite.  We are not only instructed to go out to tell the “good news” (the Gospel) to other people in the way we live, in the things we do, and in the words we say, but also so compelled by the Holy Spirit to do so.  Like the disciples who walked on the way to Emmaus, we are to witness to Jesus Christ’s presence in the world today.

Just as the disciples turned, and returned to Jerusalem to recount and relive their experience “on the road” to other disciples and Apostles, we too are sent from our Eucharistic gathering, the “Mass”.  Our experience of Jesus in the Eucharist COMPELS us to share the encounter of our “discovery” with others:  “Jesus Christ died, has ‘Risen’, and will come again.”   (Jesus is alive, with AND within each of us!)

As the Apostles and His disciples were first-century witnesses to the resurrection, God calls us to be 21st-century witnesses to the same event.  Two thousand years later, God still wants the resurrection to be at the heart and forefront of our faith.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

“We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this day he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.   The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith  believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross: Christ is risen from the dead!  Dying, he conquered death; to the dead, he has given life.” (CCC 638)

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There is a consistent and on-going element found in several of the “Resurrection” narratives: not immediately recognizing the “Risen” Jesus Christ.

“And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:15-16)

The Fifth Century Church Father, Augustine, reflected on the dim perception of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection in the  minds of these first
century disciples:

“They were so disturbed when they saw him hanging on the cross that they forgot His teaching, did not look for His resurrection, and failed to keep his promises in mind” (Sermon 235.1).

And, Augustine continues:

Their eyes were obstructed, that they should not recognize Him until the breaking of the bread.  And thus, in accordance with the state of their minds, which was still ignorant of the truth ‘that the Christ would die and rise again’, their eyes were similarly hindered.  It was not that the truth Himself was misleading them, but rather that they were themselves unable to perceive the truth.” (From The Harmony of the Gospels, 3.25.72)

The “Risen” Jesus Christ appeared somehow different, initially unrecognizable.  He only becomes recognizable after an encounter with Him had already been on-going for a period of some time.

“After this he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country.” (Mark 16:12);

 “But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” (Luke 24:37);

 “When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.” (John 20:14);

And,

“When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” (John 21:4).

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These two disciples of Jesus Christ, in today’s reading, had probably walked that same road from Jerusalem to Emmaus before.  They certainly had read Holy Scriptures before.  They had probably even shared meals with others before.  Yet, not like this time, with Jesus Christ being in their personal, physical, presence.  This meal was made different solely because it was presided over by the “Risen” Jesus Christ Himself.

They recognized Him in the “breaking of the bread”.  That is the exact, same kind of presence we can experience in both the usually expected and uniquely unexpected ways of our lives.  In these expected and unexpected ways, we can realize that the “Risen” Lord is with us (with me) in a personal and unique way.

As a disciple – – a follower – – of Jesus Christ, I personally experience Him in many ways in my life and lifestyle.  (How ‘bout you?)  Sometimes, I have learned to see Jesus in unpredictable ways such as under the clear, starry, night sky, or maybe in a beautiful sunset or sunrise.  I also experience Jesus Christ sometimes when I think deep thoughts, or when I see other people, and yes, I see Him even sometimes in tragedy.

However, the only place where I can count on experiencing Jesus Christ, my merciful and magnificent Lord, is in the Holy Eucharist.  He can come in a hundreds of different ways, and they are ALL beautiful and real.  But, the one place that is predictable, and the one place where Jesus Christ is usually more intense, is in the Holy Eucharist, His true physical body, blood, soul, and divinity.

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Why should we go to Mass?  I can, and should, read Holy Scriptures at home, or even listen to them in my car and I-Pod.  I can pray without going to a particular building at a specific time and having to be with others also not necessarily wanting to be there.  I believe this is how most Catholics feel about attending Mass (SOooo SAD!).  So, why go to Mass?

The answer is very simple.  God is everywhere, and was everywhere, for these two men on that dusty, hot, country road connecting two cities.  But there was a distinctive, more intense, more active presence of Jesus Christ with them, when they sat down to “break bread” that evening, with that “stranger” who became God before their eyes.  I believe that when a Sacrament is celebrated, especially the Holy Eucharist, that is the kind of presence we can experience in a most personal way.

So why go to Mass?  Because something different and unique can be found there!!  To meet Jesus Christ fully and completely in this Sacramental way, to have Him speak His words to us, and to “break bread” with us, is to experience a special kind of regular, intense, predictable, and recognizable presence which is different – – more full and more complete, – – from any other kind of experience possible.

The “Risen” Jesus Christ is with each of us in a distinctive way at the Holy Eucharist at Mass and Adoration.  His Presence had a powerful effect on the two travelling disciples when He “broke bread” with them that day.  His Presence in the Holy Eucharist can have a powerful effect on me and you, in that same personal way.  That’s why we go to Mass.

Someone that I have come to appreciate, and someone I watch on EWTN each and every week, wrote of his feelings towards the Holy Eucharist:

There is no price too high, no sacrifice too precious, and no demand too great for the privilege of dining at the table where Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist.”  (Marcus Grodi and others, Journeys Home, The Coming Home Network International)

I could not express this personal, internal emotion any better than this wise and sage man.

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The “Risen” Jesus Christ comes among us in order to engage us, to connect us, and to draw us into living, dying, and passing through death to life, even now as we live.  He still does this by sharing a meal with us in the Holy Eucharist.  When you go to Mass and are offered the Holy Eucharist, are you ready for this kind of personal and powerful connection with Him?

How often do we fail to recognize the Lord when He speaks to our hearts and opens His mind to us? The Risen Jesus Christ is ever ready to speak His word to us and to give us understanding of His ways and of His (our Father’s) plan for salvation.  Listen to the “Word of God” attentively, and allow His “Word” to change and transform you.

As the domestic or “Militant” church, we have the opportunity to make our time on earth a prayerful encounter with others, and with Jesus Christ Himself.  We can share our encounters, interactions, and experiences of the day, thus connecting them with the encounters, interactions, and experiences of others.  We should take time to reflect upon our life in the light of Holy Scripture, and to connect with Jesus in our unique and personal way – – in a one-on-one communication with our loving God and Savior.

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Prayer to St. Joseph for the Church Militant

“O Glorious Saint Joseph, you were chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus, the most pure spouse of Mary, ever Virgin, and the head of the Holy Family. You have been chosen by Christ’s Vicar as the heavenly Patron and Protector of the Church founded by Christ.

Protect the Sovereign Pontiff and all bishops and priests united with him. Be the protector of all who labor for souls amid the trials and tribulations of this life; and grant that all peoples of the world may be docile to the Church without which there is no salvation.

Dear Saint Joseph, accept the offering I make to you. Be my father, protector, and guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me purity of heart and a love for the spiritual life. After your example, let all my actions be directed to the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and your own paternal heart. Finally, pray for me that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death.  Amen”

(From http://www.ucatholic.com/catholicprayers website)

 

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.

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

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

It is right and just.”

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

It is truly right and just.

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Peter of Tarentaise (c. 1102-1174)

There are two men named St. Peter of Tarentaise who lived one century apart.  The man we honor today is the younger Peter, born in France in the early part of the 12th century.  (The other man with the same name became Pope Innocent the Fifth.)

The Peter we’re focusing on became a Cistercian monk and eventually served as abbot.  In 1142, he was named archbishop of Tarentaise, replacing a bishop who had been deposed because of corruption.  Peter tackled his new assignment with vigor.  He brought reform into his diocese, replaced lax clergy and reached out to the poor.  He visited all parts of his mountainous diocese on a regular basis.

After about a decade as bishop Peter “disappeared” for a year and lived quietly as a lay brother at an abbey in Switzerland.  When he was “found out,” the reluctant bishop was persuaded to return to his post.  He again focused many of his energies on the poor.

Peter died in 1175 on his way home from an unsuccessful papal assignment to reconcile the kings of France and England.

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:

Love of Life and Suffering

 

Identifying with Christ – Is this the real goal of my life?  How much effort do I put into this?

Can my acceptance of pain I cannot avoid have a purifying role in my life?  If I unite my sufferings to Christ’s, can it ease my pain as well?

What is MY sense of appreciation for all the things that the Word Made Flesh has suffered for me?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 8 & 9 of 26:

8. As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist.  Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

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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.