Tag Archives: raised

“Follow Me and Let Me Cross You (And ME)!” – Matthew 16:21-27†


 

22nd Week of Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Last weekend, I was at my Regions (St. Clare) Secular Franciscan Retreat.  Father John Paul Cafiero, OFM was the Retreat Master, and about 70-80 Secular Franciscans, along with a few Franciscan Friars and Poor Clare Nuns attended the retreat.  Friar John Paul discussed and reflected on St. Francis’ “Peace Prayer”.  It was a very spiritual, education, and uplifting weekend.

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Today is the feast day of Saint Augustine of Hippo.  I have a special affinity to this particular saint for an atypical reason.  In reading about his life, I discovered this “pious” man was a real “Yay-Hoo” as a young man; a womanizer, gambler, and a despicable person.  He even left his mother on a boat dock (missing the boat home) in another country once.  Then, he discovered Jesus Christ, becoming a devout Catholic, a Saint, and a Great Church Father.  (He gives me hope.)

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   430 – Death of Augustine of Hippo, North African saint and theologian (b. 354)
†   1189 – The Crusaders begin the Siege of Acre under Guy of Lusignan
†   1544 – Death of Alardus Aemstelredamus, priest/humanist, dies at about age 53
†   1774 – Birth of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, 1st American Catholic saint (1975)
†   1824 – Birth of Carel JCH van Nispen of Sevenaer, Dutch Catholic politician
†   Feasts/Memorials:  feast day of Saint Augustine of Hippo.  In Eastern Orthodox Churches using the “Julian calendar”: Feast day of the Assumption of Mary, the mother of Jesus

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

“I have come to see that either we meet Mary at the foot of the Cross, in our own moments of suffering and pain, or, we meet her elsewhere and she brings us there…to the Cross of Jesus, to contemplate and to receive the water of the Spirit flowing from His wounded side.  This is our place of safety as we seek to live more deeply in the Holy Spirit.” ~ Patti Gallagher Mansfield, Magnificat

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus speaking of His Passion and rebukes Peter for his objection.

 

(NAB Matthew 16:21-27)   21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.  22 Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord!   No such thing shall ever happen to you.”  23 He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

The Conditions of Discipleship.  24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  26What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  Or what can one give in exchange for his life?  27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

What is the most important endeavor you can take in your life?  Challenging our human assumptions about what is most profitable and worthwhile in our lives; Jesus poses some deeply probing questions.  In every decision of life we are forming ourselves into a certain kind of person, our character.  To a large extent, the kind of person we are – – our character – – determines the kind of future we will face and live.

It is possible some will gain and/or accomplish all the things they set their heart on, only to realize later on they missed the most important things in their lives.  Of what value are earthly, material things, if they don’t help you gain what truly lasts – – in everlasting eternity?  Neither money, nor possessions, can purchase a ticket to heaven, mend a broken heart, or truly cheer up a lonely person.

 

Today’s Gospel continues the story begun in last Sunday’s Gospel. Simon Peter was called the “rock” upon which Jesus would build His Catholic (Universal) Church.  Yet, Simon Peter continued to show the limitations of his understanding of Jesus’ “true” identity as savior and Messiah.  After the Apostles acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, He confides to them the outcome of His earthly ministry: He must suffer and die in Jerusalem to be raised “on the third day”.  

Peter rejects Jesus’ foretelling, and sharply rebukes Simon Peter, calling him “Satan.”  Simon Peter shows that he is no longer speaking – – rooted in the divine revelation from God, but – – as a human being.  After this rebuke, Jesus teaches all of His disciples about the difficult path of “true” discipleship: to be Jesus Christ’s disciple is to follow in HIS way of the cross.

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Today is Jesus’ first foretelling of His Passion, and predominately follows Mark 8:31–33:

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.  He spoke this openly.  Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  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.’” (Mark 8:31-33).

Today’s Gospel serves as an adjustment to an established messianic understanding by the first century Jews.  Jesus’ “Messiah-ship” was to be exclusively one of “glory and triumph”, a military victory over the Jewish peoples oppressors.  By Jesus’ addition of “from that time on” (verse 21), Matthew emphasized Jesus’ revelation of His impending suffering and death marks a new chapter in His Gospel.  As read, neither this particular reading, nor Matthew’s two later passion predictions, should be taken as sayings initiated by Jesus Himself:

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.’ And they were overwhelmed with grief.” (Matthew 17:22–23);

And,

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve [disciples] aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.’” (Matthew 20:17–19).

However, is it possible He foresaw His mission entailing suffering and death, but was confident He would ultimately be justified and saved by God?:

I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father. … “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me …” (Matthew 26:29).

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This first verse in today’s reading has a “mega-amount” of theological messages and connections within it.  I feel it necessary to break down this one sentence into several parts, and then discuss the meaning of each of the individual elements.

 

First, “He”, from verse 21 of today’s reading, is “the Son of Man” in Mark’s parallel verse:

 “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).

Since Matthew had already designated Jesus by this title:

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’” (Matthew 16:13),

this designations omission in today’s reading is not significant.  Matthew’s prediction is equally about the sufferings of the “Son of Man” without stating this title.

The “Son of Man” is an enigmatic (mysterious) title. It is used in Daniel’s book:

As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man.  When he reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed. … the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingship, to possess it forever and ever.” (Daniel 7:13–14, 18),

Daniel’s symbol of “the holy ones (saints) of the Most High,” was believed to be the “faithful Israelites”, who would receive the everlasting kingdom from the Ancient One (God) as a group.  This group is represented by a human figure contrasting with the various beasts (“the four kings”) who themselves represent the previous kingdoms of the earth.  On the other hand, in the Jewish apocryphal books of “1 Enoch” and “4 Ezra”, the “Son of Man” is not a group as in Daniel:

With the righteous He will make peace, and will protect the elect, and mercy shall be upon them.  And they shall all belong to God, and they shall be prospered, and they shall all be blessed.  And He will help them all, and light shall appear unto them, and He will make peace with them.”  (1 Enoch 1:8);

And,

I, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude, which I could not number, and they all were praising the Lord with songs.  In their midst was a young man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each of them he placed a crown, but he was more exalted than they.  And I was held spellbound.  Then I asked an angel, ‘Who are these, my lord?’  He answered and said to me, ‘These are they who have put off mortal clothing and have put on the immortal, and they have confessed the name of God; now they are being crowned, and receive palms.’  Then I said to the angel, ‘Who is that young man who places crowns on them and puts palms in their hands?’  He answered and said to me, ‘He is the Son of God, whom they confessed in the world.’  So I began to praise those who had stood valiantly for the name of the Lord.” (4 Ezra 2:42-47).

In these two apocryphal books, a unique person of extraordinary spiritual gifts, who will be revealed as the “one” through whom the everlasting kingdom pronounced by God the Father will be established.  Could it be possible [though I believe to be doubtful] that this individualization of the “Son of Man” had been made in Jesus’ time, thus making His use of the title in the above apocryphal sense is possible?

In itself, the expression, “Son of Man”, simply means a human being as there is evidence of this “singular” use in “pre-Christian” times.  The use of this enigmatic title in the New Testament is probably due to Jesus’ speaking of Himself in this specific way: “a human being”.  At a later time, the first-century Catholic Church takes this mysterious title, in the “true” sense, and applies it to Jesus Christ with its apocryphal meaning.

 

Second, the word “must” (also from verse 21) is a word my dear friend and spiritual director despises (“Adults should not have to be told what to do, but should just do it!).  However, this word is a necessary part of “tradition”, and is found in all the Synoptic Gospels:

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);

And also,

“He said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.’” (Luke 9:22).

 

Third, as stated earlier, “The elders, the chief priests, and the scribes” (still from verse 21) is also found in Mark’s Gospel:

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).

These “pious” men made up the Jewish faith’s supreme council called “the Sanhedrin”.   The Sanhedrin, itself, was made up of seventy-one members from these three groups, and presided over by a elected “high priest”.  It exercised authority over the Jewish peoples in ALL religious matters.

 

Finally, the fourth element from this “first verse” of today’s Gospel is, “On the third day”.  Matthew uses the same formula as Luke:

“He said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.’” (Luke 9:22).

Mark, however, uses the formula, “after three days”:

“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).

Matthew’s formulation, in the original Greek, is almost identical with what is found in 1 Corinthians:

I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures …” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

And, is also found in prophesy as written in the Old Testament book, Hosea:

“He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence.” (Hosea 6:2)

I believe this to be the Old Testament background to the proclamation that Jesus would be raised “on the third day”.  Josephus, a first century Jewish historical writer, used “after three days” and “on the third day” interchangeably many times.  There is, in my opinion, no difference in meaning between these two phrases, in context to Jesus Christ.

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Now, to leave the first sentence and go on, Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ predicted suffering and death is seen as a “satanic” attempt to avert Jesus from His God the Father’s – – planned and appointed – – course of action (salvation history), and this “Rock” of a Apostle is rebuked in terms which is similarly recalled Jesus’ dismissal of the devil in His “temptation account”:

Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10).

Peter’s “satanic” purpose is emphasized by Matthew adding:

You are an obstacle to me” (Matthew 16:23).

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Jesus’ path is a narrow one, and full of obstacles, as demonstrated by Peter in today’s reading.  Jesus declares a condition for “true” discipleship is a readiness to follow Him, even if it means giving up one’s life for Him.  This surrender of “self” will be repaid by Him at the “final judgment” (The Parousia).

 

What does Jesus Christ mean by stating, we “must deny oneself”:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’”  (Matthew 16:24).

 To deny someone is to disown him.  Denying Jesus Christ is rejecting Him:

Whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father” (Matthew 10:33);

And,

“Jesus said to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’  Peter said to him, ‘Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.’  And all the disciples spoke likewise.”  (Matthew 26:34–35).

And, to deny oneself – – is to disown oneself – – as the center of one’s existence.  Denying Jesus is disavowing Him as the center of one’s existence.  Anyone who denies Jesus – – in order to save or improve their earthly life – – will be condemned to everlasting devastation in hell.  One who Does NOT deny Jesus will suffer a loss of earthly life – – for Jesus’ sake – – will be rewarded by everlasting life in His kingdom, His (and our paradise).

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To paraphrase today’s Gospel, Jesus asked the following question: “What will a person give in exchange for his life?”  Everything we have is a gift, a grace, from God.  We owe Him everything, including our very lives, if (and when) He wishes.  It may be possible to give God our money, but not ourselves; or to give Him lip-service, but not our hearts.  I see examples of this every day in church, in politics, and in society.  

True disciples of Jesus Christ gladly give up ALL they are and have, in exchange for an unending life of joy and happiness in paradise with God, who gives without measure.  He offers a joy which no sadness or loss can ever diminish.  The cross of Jesus Christ leads to victory, release, and freedom from sin and death.

What is the cross which Jesus Christ commands me to take up each day?  When my “free-will” crosses with His “planned-will”, then His will must be done.  Are you ready to lose ALL for Jesus Christ in order to gain all with Jesus Christ?

 

Jesus’ words are made absolutely crystal clear: EVERY person has to bear in mind the coming “last judgment”, the “Parousia”.  In other words, Salvation is something radically personal – – a DAILY Conversion:

For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Matthew 16:27)

The “Parousia” and “final judgment” are described later in Matthew’s Gospel, in terms similar with what is presented in today’s final verse (27):

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-32).

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In conclusion, Peter did not, and could not yet understand what it meant to call Jesus “the Messiah”.  It is unlikely the other disciples understood this concept any better than the “Rock” (Simon Peter) himself.

Messianic expectations were a common aspect of first-century Judaism, and well-known by the Apostles.  Under the Roman’s occupation, many in Israel hoped and prayed God would send a “Messiah” to free the Jews from the Roman Government’s (and Military’s) oppression.  The common Jewish view was that the “Messiah” would be a political-military figure, a king who would free Israel from Roman rule.  I am confident this is what Simon Peter envisioned when he came to recognize Jesus as “the Messiah”.  However, in today’s reading, Jesus is introducing to His disciples that he would be “the Messiah” in a much different and atypical way.

Jesus would be more like the “suffering servant”, described by the prophet Isaiah, than like the political liberator who most Jews believed would come to free them.  Those who wish to be Jesus’ disciples would be called to a similar life of service – – the suffering servant – – with, of, and for Jesus Christ.  Perhaps this is what Simon Peter feared most in Jesus’ foretelling of His Passion.  He whom Jesus had called “Rock” (along with ALL disciples) would also be called upon to offer their “self” in sacrifice and service to others.  We are all still called to sacrifice, and serve others to this day, and into the forever future, as Jesus did.

Jesus Christ was (and still is) the true “Messiah”.  His life and death would show a different understanding of what it means to be the rescuing and saving Messiah.  We too have expectations of the Trinitarian God, and notions about what we think the Holy Trinity should be doing in our world and in our lives.  Like Simon Peter, we may risk limiting our image of God by thinking only in human terms and ways.  God’s plan is always more than we can ever imagine!!

What do you expect God to be doing in our world, and in your life?  Why do you think Simon Peter was so upset and disturbed by what Jesus was saying to him?  

 

Did you notice how Jesus reprimanded Simon Peter?  Do we sometimes forget to let God – – be God – – for us?  Do we sometimes get discouraged because God doesn’t act in the ways we expect Him to act?  Remember, the Trinitarian God is always working for yours, mine, and the world’s salvation in ways which are infinitely far beyond our simple human imagination.  Simply love the Lord, trust in His divine plan, and hope for an everlasting life in paradise with Him.

 

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Reflection Psalm:

 

Psalm 63

Our souls yearn for God.

 

“O God, you are my God — it is you I seek!  For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, in a land parched, lifeless, and without water.  I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory.  For your love is better than life; my lips shall ever praise you!  I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.  My soul shall be sated as with choice food, with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!  You indeed are my savior, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.  My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me.  Amen. (Psalm 63:2-6,8-9)

 

 

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.

 

Currently, the priest says, “The Lord be with you” five times: at the Entrance Rite, before the Gospel, when the Eucharistic Prayer starts, at “the sign of peace”, and finally at the dismissal. The new response from the congregation will be:

“And with your spirit

instead of “And also with you”.

This is a more direct translation of the Latin and matches what many other language groups have been using for years.  It will obviously take some adjustment, since we have been used to saying, “And also with you,” for so long.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

 

A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint.  But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience.

There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God.  The tears of his mother, the instructions of Ambrose and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love.

Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day.  His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally.  He was both feared and loved, like the Master.  The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism.

In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet.  Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet.  “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).

Comment:

Augustine is still acclaimed and condemned in our day.  He is a prophet for today, trumpeting the need to scrap escapisms and stand face-to-face with personal responsibility and dignity.

Quote:

“Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new!  Too late I loved you!  And behold, you were within, and I abroad, and there I searched for you; I was deformed, plunging amid those fair forms, which you had made.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Things held me far from you—things which, if they were not in you, were not at all.  You called, and shouted, and burst my deafness.  You flashed and shone, and scattered my blindness.  You breathed odors and I drew in breath—and I pant for you. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace” (St. Augustine, Confessions).

Patron Saint of:  Printers

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 Origins

 

What were the expressed reasons people formed a “third order” around St. Francis?

What is considered the starting date for the SFO? 

Who are often named among the first SFO members?

How did the Catholic Church fit into the picture of the SFO then, and now?

What are YOUR reasons for being a member of the SFO fraternity?

What might you do to improve the purpose and effect of the SFO in my life?

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order
(SFO) Rule:

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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“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.

♫“Do You Know the Way To … Emmaus?!”♫ – Luke 24:13-35†


 

Wednesday of the Octave of Easter

 

Today’s Content:

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

With a bitter-sweet feeling, I am announcing that this will be my last WEDNESDAY Gospel reflection blog.  The Sunday Gospel blog will continue as always; hopefully getting better in the end result.

I have been attempting to finish TWO books, plus some other ventures – – all with little success due to time.  With changing my format somewhat, I hopefully can achieve a greater success in my other areas of interest.

I still plan on blogging throughout the week, just not to the extent I am presently, and without an enormous amount of meditation, reflection, and multiple rewrites and changes.  Thank you all for your understanding.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1509 – Pope Julius II excommunicates (places under interdict) Italian state of Venice
†   1522 – Battle at Bicacca: Charles I & Pope Adrianus VI beat France
†   1605 – Death of Leo XI, [Alessandro O de’ Medici], Italian Pope, at age 69 (b. 1535)
†   1613 – Death of Robert Abercromby, Scottish Jesuit (b. 1532)
†   1939 – Birth of Stanislaw Dziwisz, Polish Cardinal
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Floribert; Saint Liberalis; Saint Mariana; Saint Zita

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

“People are like tea bags – you have to put them in hot water before you know how strong they are.” ~ Unknown

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Today’s reflection is about the “Road to Emmaus” discovery that Jesus Christ was among them, during the breaking of the bread.

 (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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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.  They saw the cross as a tool and sign of defeat.  Most of His disciples could not understand the meaning of the empty tomb until the Jesus Christ personally appeared to them, giving them an understanding previously incomprehensible.

The event in today’s Gospel reading centers on the interpretation of Holy Scripture – – by the “Risen” Jesus Christ Himself – – and the recognition of Him by the two journeying to Emmaus in the breaking of the bread at the evening meal.

With His fellow travelling partners, Jesus references quotations of Holy Scripture, and explains the references.

“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).

Jesus rebuked His disciples on the road to Emmaus for their “slowness of heart” to believe what Holy Scriptures had said concerning prophesies
concerning the “Messiah”.  They 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; a good news to the poor and the blind and the
captive..

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

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Kerygma is related to a 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 poorHe 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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Jesus Christ also presented to His faithful another 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 seem to very overtly suggest a primarily a catechetical and liturgical reference, rather than an apologetic (Removing intellectual impediments to Catholic faith, thereby enhancing believers’ confidence in, and weakening skeptics’ objections.)
or teaching reference as for Luke’s audience.

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Emmaus was about “seven miles” from Jerusalem.  In the original Greek, 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 to 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; the seven mile separation between Jerusalem and Emmaus.

There is a consistent and on-going element of the “Resurrection” narratives.

“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 Augustine, a Church Father, reflects on the dimness of these first century Disciples perception of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection:

“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,

“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)

It seems that the “Risen” Jesus Christ appeared somehow different, and initially unrecognizable.  He only becomes recognizable after an encounter with Him had already been instituted for a period of time:

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

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

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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Luke is the only New Testament writer to speak clearly, openly, and overtly of a “suffering Messiah”:

“Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?  And he said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.’” (Luke 24:26, 46);

“God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Messiah
would suffer
.” (Acts 3:18);

“… expounding and demonstrating that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead, and that ‘This is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I proclaim to you.’” (Acts 17:3);

And,

The Messiah must suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:23).

The image, and concept of a suffering Messiah is not found in the Old Testament or in other Jewish literature prior to the New Testament
period, although the idea of the Suffering Servant is hinted at in Mark:

“He [Jesus] 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.  He spoke this openly.  Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  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.’” (Mark 8:31-33).

I wonder if Luke is possibly alluding to Isaiah in calling Jesus the “Suffering Servant”:

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7);

And,

I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6)

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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 plan for salvation.  Listen to the “Word of God” attentively, and allow His “Word” to change and transform you?

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Help me to Know

“You gift me with all the good gifts that make me the person you created me to be.  Help me to know and find your will and to trust that you will help me to understand the path you call me to journey in life.  Where there is doubt give me courage.  Give me a heart open to your quiet voice so I can hear your call to me.  Help me to know your faithfulness and help me to be faithful to that which you call me to.  Amen.”

(from http://www.catholic.org/prayers)

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.

A big change occurs in the text of the “Creed” (Our “Profession of Faith”).  The first obvious change is with the very first word.  Currently we begin with “We believe.” The new, revised text has “I believe” instead of “We”. Another noticeable change comes in the tenth line, regarding the Son’s divinity.  We currently say Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  The new text will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.”

Consubstantial is not really a translation.  In reality, It is a transliteration—the same Latin word, spelled in English— of the Latin “consubstantialis”, which means “one in being.”  Translation versus transliteration is not the point.  The point is that Jesus is God, one with the Father.

A third noticeable change occurs in how we speak of Christ’s human nature.  We currently say, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” The new text will now say, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

Incarnate means “made flesh.” So, using the term here reminds us that he was human from the moment of his conception and not just at his birth.

There are several other minor changes in the text of the “Creed” (new version is shown below).  It will certainly take us some time to commit the new version to memory, and to be able to profess it together easily.

The new missal also allows the option of using the “Apostles’ Creed” instead of this version of the “Nicene Creed”, especially during Lent and Easter.  The “Apostles’ Creed” is another ancient Christian creed, long in used by Roman Catholics in our baptismal promises and at the beginning of the Rosary.

The Creed

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Louis Mary de Montfort (1673-1716)

Louis’s life is inseparable from his efforts to promote genuine devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus and mother of the Church. Totus tuus(completely yours) was Louis’s personal motto; Karol Wojtyla chose it as his episcopal motto. Born in the Breton village of Montfort, close to Rennes (France), as an adult Louis identified himself by the place of his Baptism instead of his family name, Grignion.  After being educated by the
Jesuits and the Sulpicians, he was ordained as a diocesan priest in 1700.

Soon he began preaching parish missions throughout western France.  His years of ministering to the poor prompted him to travel and live very simply, sometimes getting him into trouble with Church authorities.  In his preaching, which attracted thousands of people back to the faith, Father Louis recommended frequent, even daily, Holy Communion (not the custom then!) and imitation of the Virgin Mary’s ongoing acceptance of God’s will for her life.

Louis founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (for priests and brothers) and the Daughters of Wisdom, who cared especially for the sick. His book, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, has become a classic explanation of Marian devotion.

Louis died in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, where a basilica has been erected in his honor.  He was canonized in 1947.

Comment:

Like Mary, Louis experienced challenges in his efforts to follow Jesus.  Opposed at times in his preaching and in his other ministries, Louis knew with St. Paul, “Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).  Any attempt to succeed by worldly standards runs the risk of betraying the Good News of Jesus.  Mary is “the first and most perfect disciple,” as the late Raymond Brown, S.S., described her.

Quote:

“Mary is the fruitful Virgin, and in all the souls in which she comes to dwell she causes to flourish purity of heart and body, rightness of intention and abundance of good works.  Do not imagine that Mary, the most fruitful of creatures who gave birth to a God, remains barren in a faithful soul.  It will be she who makes the soul live incessantly for Jesus Christ, and will make Jesus live in the soul” (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin).

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:

Daily Conversion I

How much of Francis’ life was spent in “conversion”?

As an SFO member, what is the primary meaning of the title given me by Francis?

Do I live this “penance” from a sense of duty, or of a love relationship?  How so?

Could it be said that being “brothers and sisters of penance” means that the spirit of lent is not just for 40 days a year?

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order
(SFO) Rule:

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s Have Some ‘Passion’!” – (Matthew 27:11-54 – – shorter form)†


 

“Palm Sunday”

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Today’s Content:

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote or Joke 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:

WARNING:  Today’s reflection about Jesus’ Scourging and Crucifixion is very graphic.  My reflection today may be too graphic in detail for the faint of heart, or those with “weak stomachs.”

I purposely did not hold back on what truly happened to Jesus from a physiological (physical) and psychological viewpoint.  In doing so, hopefully you may gain a greater insight into what our Lord Jesus Christ did FOR US!

Please let me know your thoughts after reading this recognizably long reflection.

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Here is an easy way to make crosses from the palms you will receive at Mass today.  Go to this website for easy step-by step directions, with illustrations:

http://midsouthdiocese.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/can-you-make-a-palm-leaf-cross/

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Today in Catholic History:

†   617 – Death of Donnán of Eigg, Celtic Christian martyr, patron saint of Eigg
†   858 – Death of Benedict III, Italian Pope (855-58)
†   1272 – Death of Zita/Cita, Italian maid/saint, at about 59 years of age
†   1492 – Spain and Christopher Columbus (a third order Franciscan) sign a contract for him to sail to Asia to get
spices.
†   1573 – Birth of Maximilian I, duke/ruler of Bayern (Catholic League)
†   1865 – Birth of Ursula Julia Ledochowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic saint (d. 1939)
†   1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy (a Roman Catholic).
†   1970 – Death of Sergei U S Aleksi,patriarch of Russian-Orthodox church, at age 92
†   Feasts/Memorials: Pope Anicetus (died 166); Saint Stephen Harding (d. 1134), Simeon Barsabae and companions

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ crucifixion, and His body being placed in the tomb.

 (NAB Matthew 27:11-54 –short form) 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  Jesus said, “You say so.”  12And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer.  13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”  14 But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed.  15 Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one
prisoner whom they wished.  16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called (Jesus) Barabbas.  17 So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, (Jesus) Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?”  18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over.  19 While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”  20 The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.  21 The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They answered, “Barabbas!”  22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!”  23 But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?”  They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!”  24 When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.”  25 And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”  26 Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.  27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him.  28 They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.  29 Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand.  And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  30 They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.  31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.  32 As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.  33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull), 34 they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.  35 After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; 36 then they sat down and kept watch over him there.  37 And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.  38 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.  39 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, (and) come down from the cross!”  41 Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.  43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”  44 The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way.  45 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  47 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”  48 Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a
reed, gave it to him to drink.  49 But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”  50 But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.  51 And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth quaked, rocks were split, 52 tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.  53 And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.  54 The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

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Today is the beginning of Holy Week, the days during which we journey with Jesus on His “way of the cross” in anticipation of His Resurrection on the morning we know as Easter.  Today’s liturgy begins with a procession with palms to remind us of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.

Palm, or Passion, Sunday begins the most sacred week of the Catholic Church year – – Holy Week.  During these days, we prepare ourselves for Easter by prayerful reflection upon the events of Jesus’ Passion and death.  To help you prepare, why don’t you place a crucifix next to your television, on the kitchen table, or by the front door for this week.  Use it as reminder of the redemption and salvation Jesus Christ won for us through His death and Resurrection.  Use the crucifix also as a reminder and focal point for special prayers during Holy Week.

The events of Jesus’ Passion are proclaimed in their entirety in today’s Liturgy of the Word (at Mass).  These events will be proclaimed again, in the gospel reading, when we celebrate the liturgies of the Triduum – – Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and the Easter Vigil (There is no Mass on Holy Saturday).

In communities that celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation (RCIA) with catechumens (Our parish has three catechumens this year), these liturgies of the Triduum take on special importance because they invite the catechumens and the community to enter together into the central mysteries of our faith.  These special days are indeed profound and holy ones in the Catholic Church.  In Cycle A of the Liturgical reading rotation, we read of the Passion of Jesus as found in the Gospel of Matthew on Palm Sunday, often called Passion Sunday.  On Good Friday, we will read the Passion of Jesus from the Gospel of John instead of Matthew.  The story of Jesus’ Passion and death in Matthew’s Gospel focuses particularly on the obedience of Jesus to the will of His Father: God, instead of the actual event particulars.

I have elected to write my reflection on the shorter form of the Gospel reading for this reflection.  Even at dealing with “only” 44 verses instead of two chapters, please be prepared to sit and drink some coffee or another favorite beverage, and enjoy God’s word.  You may even wish to break this reflection up over a couple of days.

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Not specifically covered in my reflection will be the happenings of Jesus sending His disciples to prepare for Passover, and His indication (in the Garden) that the events to come are the will of God the Father “He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, The teacher says, My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.‘” (Matthew 26:18).

In Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, He prays three times to God the Father to take away His “cup of suffering”.  Yet, each time, He concludes by affirming His obedience to the Father’s will (Matthew 26:39-44).

“He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.’  When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’  Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, ‘My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!’  Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open.  He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. (Matthew 26:39-44)

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Another theme of Matthew’s Gospel is to show Jesus as the fulfillment of Holy Scripture.  Throughout the Passion narrative, Matthew cites, hints, refers to, and alludes to Old Testament Scripture in order to show the events of Jesus’ Passion and death are in line with all that was prophesied of the “Messiah”.  Matthew is stressing the fact that if the events of Jesus’ Passion story were foretold and fulfulled, then God must be in control.  In addition, Matthew is particularly concerned that his readers do not miss the fact that Jesus IS the “Suffering Servant” of the Old Testament.

Jesus acts in obedience to God the Father – – even in death – – so OUR sins may be forgiven.  Matthew makes this clear in the story of the Lord’s Supper.  As Jesus blesses the cup, he says:

“. . . for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)

The evangelist places the responsibility for Jesus’ death on the “Sanhedrin”, the “chief priests and elders” (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) who were responsible for the Temple.  However, the enmity, hostility, and malice that these Jewish “leaders”, along with the Jewish “mob”, displayed toward Jesus should not be interpreted in a way that blames the Jewish nation (or people as a whole) for Jesus’ death.

Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, the Passion narrative reflects the tension that probably existed between Matthew’s early Christian Catholic community and their Jewish contemporaries.  At the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers made clear that all sinners share responsibility for the suffering and death of Jesus and that it’s wrong to place blame for Jesus’ Passion on the Jewish contemporaries of Jesus, or on the Jewish people today.

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My reflection starts with Jesus before the governor who is questioning Him:

Are you the king of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11)

 “King of the Jews” was a title used [of Jesus] only by the Gentiles.  Matthew used this title only several times, and always as coming from a Gentile:

 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Matthew 2:2);

And,

“Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’   And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”  (Matthew
27:29, 37)

I believe Matthew is equating this title with the more accepted Jewish title of “Messiah”.  In the following verses, Matthew changed “king of the Jews” found in Mark’s Gospel (Mk 15:9, 12) to “(Jesus) called Messiah”:

“’Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’  Assembling all the  chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” (Matthew 2:2, 4);

 And,

“So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you, (Jesus) Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?’   Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?’  They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’” (Matthew 27:17, 22)

The normal political nuance, association, and implication of either title (King or Messiah) would be of concern to the Roman governor who did not want dissention and uprising among the Jewish population, or for anyone to be claimed as a “king” from a group of people ruled over by the Romans.

Jesus’ answer, “You say so” (verse 11) is unique to only Matthew’s Gospel.  Jesus’ response is not a total “yes” to the governor’s question.  It is, at best, a half-affirmative response.  The emphasis on Pilate’s question is placed on the pronoun “You”.  The answer implies Jesus’ statement would not have been made if the question had not been asked.  I believe, Jesus does not answer the question completely, because His kingship is something Pontius Pilate could not understand it to be, even if He did answer the question in a total and full affirmative response: YES I AM.

Jesus, a man of great faith, preaching, and charisma, could verbally destroy the accusations against Him with little effort.  Yet He chooses to remain quiet; to allow God’s plan of salvation to take place, even when ordered to speak:

The high priest rose and addressed him, ‘Have you no answer?  What are these men testifying against you?’”  But Jesus was silent.  Then the high priest said to him, ‘I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’” (Matthew 26:62-63).

As in the trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus’ silence may be meant to recall what was written in the Book of Isaiah:

“Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers; he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).

The governor’s being “greatly amazed” is an allusion to another verse of Isaiah:

“Even as many were amazed at him— so marred was his look beyond that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals– so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless; For those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it.” (Isaiah 52:14-15).

The choice that Pontius Pilate offers the crowd, Barabbas or Jesus, is believed to be a standard practice agreed upon between the Roman government and Jewish nation; a custom of releasing one prisoner, chosen by the crowd, at the time of Passover.  Matthew denotes that this release is done at the time of “the feast”:

Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished.” (Matthew 27:15).

The custom of releasing a prisoner is also mentioned in Mark 15:6 and John 18:39, but not in Luke.  Your bible may have the following Lucan verse:

He was obliged to release one prisoner for them at the festival.” (Luke 23:17)

However, it is not part of the original text of Luke and is not found in many early and important Greek manuscripts.

Outside of the Gospels, there is no direct evidence or confirmation of this practice of releasing a prisoner.  Per NAB footnotes, scholars are divided in their judgment of the historical reliability of the claim that there was such a practice.

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There was another Jesus at this event: “[Jesus] Barabbas”?!  Jesus was a common Jewish name then, and still is now within the Mexican culture.  The Hebrew name Joshua (Greek Iesous) is a first century translation for the name Jesus, meaning “Yahweh helps”, and was interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”

“[Jesus] Barabbas” is found in only a few texts, although its absence in most all other writings can be explained as an omission of the word “Jesus” for reasons of reverence to the name, the person, and the God who is instantly imaged in saying the name.

Two little trivia’s of fact: The name [Jesus] is bracketed in today’s reading because of its uncertain textual proof in relation to Barabbas.  The Aramaic name “Barabbas” means “son of the father”.  How ironic was Pilate’s choice which was offered: Barabbas (son of the father) and Jesus (Son of God), the “true son of the Father.  I wonder; was the distinction and meaning in the names known to Matthew’s first century Christian Catholics?

Have you ever wondered why “envy” was such a deadly and reviled sin in the Catholic Church?  Here is a great example as to why.  Out of envy, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes sought out evidence and conspirators against Jesus, solely due to His status within the Jewish community.  They found and paid Judas Iscariot to hand Him over:

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.” (Mark 14:10).

Verse 16 through 18 of today’s reading is also a prime example of the tendency, found in all the Gospels, to present Pontius Pilate in a somewhat favorable light.  It also emphasized the hostility of the Jewish authorities which eventually poured out to the people caught up in a type of “mob mentality”.

Jesus had friends in high places, even in the governor’s mansion.  Jesus’ innocence was declared by a Gentile woman: the governor’s wife.  She told her husband what was related to her “in a dream”.  If you remember from Matthew’s infancy narrative, dreams were a means of divine communication:

“Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.’” (Matthew 1:20);

And,

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.  When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.  Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.  When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.  But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there.   Because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.” (Matthew 2:12, 13, 19, 22).

Even the governor, Pontius Pilate, believed that Jesus would have been the most appropriate prisoner to be released.  Jesus, by far, would also have been the safest for Him in a political way as well.  Barabbas was a well-known instigator of public actions against the Roman Government; something Pontius Pilate did not want to happen.  It is also an event (unrest and riot) Pilate did not want higher ups in Rome to get “wind” of, as it would be dangerous for him personally and politically.

With a “crowd mentality” well established and riled-up, the Temple leaders persuaded the crowd to start yelling “Let him be crucified”!  The crowds, incited by the chief priests and elders demanded that Jesus Christ be executed by crucifixion, – – the most horrible form of capital punishment, – – and reserved only for the fewest of dangerous criminals.

Marks parallel verse from his Gospel is in the active case, making Pontius Pilate more implicated in the decision to crucify Jesus’:

Crucify him” (Mark 15:3).

Matthew changed His verse to the passive case in order to emphasize the responsibility of the crowds in the decision:

“They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’” (Matthew 27:22)

Again, only found in Matthew’s Gospel the following verse appears:

“… [Pilate] took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Matthew 27:24)

This verse reminds me of the following from Deuteronomy:

“If the corpse of a slain man is found lying in the open on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you to occupy, and it is not known who killed him, your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distances to the cities that are in the neighborhood of the corpse.  When it is established which city is nearest the corpse, the elders of that city shall take a heifer that has never been put to work as a draft animal under a yoke, and bringing it down to a wadi with an ever flowing stream at a place that has not been plowed or sown, they shall cut the heifer’s throat there in the wadi.  The priests, the descendants of Levi, shall also be present, for the LORD, your God, has chosen them to minister to him and to give blessings in his name, and every case of dispute or violence must be settled by their decision.  Then all the elders of that city nearest the corpse shall wash their hands over the heifer whose throat was cut in the wadi, and shall declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, and our eyes did not see the deed.  Absolve, O LORD, your people Israel, whom you have ransomed, and let not the guilt of shedding innocent blood remain in the midst of your people Israel.’  Thus they shall be absolved from the guilt of bloodshed.” (Deuteronomy 21:1-8).

Hand washing was prescribed in the case of a murder when the killer was unknown.  The “elders” of the city nearest to where the corpse (the dead body) wash their hands, declaring, “Our hands did not shed this blood.”

Pontius Pilate goes further in saying, “look to it yourselves”.

“I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? Look to it
yourself
.’”
(Matthew 27:4).

The crowd, “the whole people”, the entire people (Greek “laos”) of Israel say:

His blood be upon us and upon our children.” (Matthew 27:25)

In this verse (Mt 27:25), Matthew is referring to the Old Testament prophesy from Jeremiah:

“But mark well: if you put me to death, it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves, on this city and its citizens.  For in truth it was the LORD who sent me to you, to speak all these things for you to hear.” (Jeremiah 26:15).

The responsibility for Jesus’ death was accepted by the Jewish leadership and nation, God’s special possession, God’s own people, and they thereby lose that singular high privilege:

“Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine.” (Exodus 19:5);

“On that day I will respond, says the LORD; I will respond to the heavens, and they shall respond to the earth” (Hosea 2:23);

And,

“Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43).

The “people that will produce its fruit” are the “believing” Israelites and Gentiles, the church of Jesus.

When Mark’s Gospel was written in the late first century, there still was a controversy between Matthew’s Catholic (universal) church and the Pharisees Judaism about which “faith” group was the “true” people of God.  For me, this is overtly and obviously reflected in Matthew’s writings.

As the Second Vatican Council had pointed out, guilt for Jesus’ death is not attributable to all the Jews of Jesus’ time, or to any Jews of later times.

“True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.  Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.  All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.” (Pope Paul VI, Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate, 10/28/1965)

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Crucifixion is a horrible and humiliating way to die.  To start with, Pontius Pilate “had Jesus scourged”! Scourging is an act which usually prefaced the crucifixion itself.  Scourging is the first act of public humiliation and pain for the condemned prisoner. Matthew does not go into detail about Jesus’ actual scourging, yet we can all imagine the violence, humiliation, and misery that Jesus went thought, so far, – –  for US!!  He was tied to a tree or pillar in public view, stripped of His clothes, forced to be naked, without any protection or humility before all on-lookers and revelers of that Jewish/Gentile society.  He was struck up to 39 times (Roman law forbade more) with devices like wooden and leather rods, and the
infamous  “Cat of nine tails”, a mace type of whip made of multiple leather strands.  At the end of these strands of leather was a bent piece of metal.

With each strike of this tool of “pain and destruction”, the metal pieces would imbed into the skin and muscle of Jesus Christ, only to then be yanked out of His body, taking chunks of flesh and muscle with each pull.  No part of His body was spared: head, torso, arms, legs, buttocks, face, and genitalia were all affected!  I imagine that Jesus literally looked like raw hamburger after His scourging – – His beating!

After the scourging, Jesus was taken into the inner depths of “the praetorium”: the residence of the Roman governor.  In reality, Pontius Pilate’s usual place of residence was at “Caesarea Maritima” on the Mediterranean coast.  As the local “governor”, he went to Jerusalem during the great Jewish feasts, as the Roman representative.  Whenever there was an influx of Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem, there was always an inherent increase in the danger of nationalistic riots from the Jewish populace and other instigators.

More trivia: It is disputed among scholars whether the praetorium in Jerusalem was, in reality, the old palace of Herod located in the west of the city proper, or the fortress of Antonia northwest of the temple area.

Verse 27 relates that the “whole cohort” was present “around Him” in the praetorium.  That is a lot of people, considering a cohort was normally six hundred Roman soldiers.

A humiliating act, though not a public humiliation this time, was the forceful tearing away of Jesus’ clothes, His stripping.  Jesus was forced to first stand among His tormentors naked again – – with NO protection again; then to have a “Scarlet military cloak” thrown about Him, most certainly with great force in the process.  Jesus was truly “manhandled” by these strong and innately violent men.

The color of the “military cloak” is reported for a purpose.  Royal purple was significant in this era:

They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.” (Mark 15:17);

And,

“And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak.” (John 19:2).

Purple cloth was expensive and hard to acquire.  The color purple (not the movie) was reserved for nobility in the society.

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Being spit on is gross!  Picture being “Spat upon” by 600 nearly unruly men intent on wanting to defame and destroy you.  He had already been subjected to similar humiliation and pain by the Sanhedrin:

“Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him.” (Matthew 26:67)

This spitting and striking Jesus is the manifestation found in the prophesy of Isaiah:

“I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6).

The “crown out of thorns” was probably made of long thorns that grew in the bushes of the area.  The “crown” was fashioned so that the thorns stood upright as to resemble a “radiant” crown (a crown with points along the top, or a diadem [wreath] with spikes worn by Hellenistic kings).

The soldiers’ purpose at this time was one of mockery and humiliation, and not necessarily that of torture (per se, from their warped minds). They wanted to bully Him and to treat him in a harassing way; a way we would consider to be the epitome of hazing.   Also, for this reason, “a reed” (thick stick) was placed in His hands a mock scepter, the symbol of a ruler.  Matthew is the only Evangelist to write about a reed being placed in Jesus’ hand. Now, imagine the pain of wearing a crown of thorns.  Imagine
600 strong soldiers, in turn, taking reeds and striking His head and the associated thorns resting upon His head.  These thorns pierced His skin – – penetrated His skin, muscle, and bone – – with an intensity unknown to most of us.  Those thorns were not just ON TOP of His head.  Thorns on the forehead region were violently pushed into the skin of His forehead, AND into His eyebrows, nose, EYES, and even His cheeks and teeth.  The thorns on the side of his head penetrated His ears, and possibly went through the very thin bones of the skull located just in front of the ears and into His BRAIN.  The thorns on the back of His head most likely could not go through the skull in that region (too thick), but I am sure they burrowed and scraped along the bone surface with each hit of His head.  Also these same thorns could have easily been pushed down into the neck and shoulder regions.

Sadly, this act, along with the previous scourging, was only leading up to the actual death sentence – – Crucifixion.  It is hard for me to even picture something that could be more terrifying and painful.

After His Scourging, Jesus was forced to put the torn rags of His clothing back on, and then too carry a heavy piece of wood (similar to a present day rail-road  tie) along the rough city streets of Jerusalem.

The “human” Jesus was far too weak to accomplish the task of carrying the instrument of His physical death – – the Holy Cross.  The soldiers forced into service “a Cyrenian named Simon” to carry Jesus’ cross.  By Roman law, Roman garrisons in Palestine had the right to requisition the property and services of the native population without mutual consent for any reason.

Where did this man named Simon come from, and why was he chosen to pick up Jesus’ mission?  From a map and atlas, I found the area of Cyrenian on the north coast of Africa, with Cyrene as its capital city.  It also was a Roman Province.  The area had a large population of Greek-speaking Jews.  Simon may have been actually living in Palestine at this time, or may have simply come to Jerusalem as a Passover pilgrim.  Scholars believe however that Simon was known among the early Christian Catholics.

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Dying by crucifixion is a brutal death.  Jesus Christ was again stripped naked, and laid out on the cross placed on the ground.  Nails similar to thin railroad spikes were driven through the bones near the wrists and ankles, using a sledge hammer.  If they missed the nail, striking the hand, arm, foot or leg – – oh well!!  The arms were stretched out, using multiple men and ropes, till they literally popped out of their sockets (dislocating them).

The specific placement of the nails was not only chosen for being the best place to hold a person’s weight without ripping out (the nail is surrounded by many small bones and associated tissues), it also was an area where many nerves grouped together (a nerve plexus).  Going through the nerves in this area would cause a severe shocking-type of cramping pain throughout the entire extremity, extending into the shoulder and pelvis regions.  This pain and cramping would last intensely and continuously, until the prisoner (Jesus) died.  Have you ever had a several muscle cramp in your calf; one so severe that it made you stand up to “work it out”?  Imagine this same type of pain and cramping throughout the entirety of all four extremities, AND all at once, AND continuing for the three hours Jesus was alive on the cross.

Now, Jesus (attached to the cross) has hoisted into the air where gravity took effect.  Jesus’ own weight would cause His torso to stretch out with the arms and chest extended fully.  If have to explain some physiology in breathing.  We breathe (inhale and exhale) by the use of two muscle groups: muscles in the chest wall, and the diaphragm muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities.  The chest wall can no longer expand and contract (go in and out) any longer, so only the diaphragm is working
somewhat.  Thus, Jesus is literally suffocating – – very slowly.

There are other physiological things going on in the body of the scourged and crucified body, for which I will not get into detail in this reflection.  I believe I have given you the idea of how much abuse, torment, humiliation, and pain Jesus went through for US!

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While hanging on the cross, Jesus was offered “wine to drink mixed with gall.”  Mark, in a parallel verse has the wine mixed with a narcotic drug:

“They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.” (Mark 15:23).

I wonder if Matthew is attempting to make a vague reference to Psalm 69:

“Instead they put gall in my food; for my thirst they gave me vinegar.” (Psalm 69:22).

Psalm 69 belongs to the class of psalms called the “individual laments”, in which a persecuted “just or righteous” man prays for deliverance during great pain and suffering.  The theme of the suffering “Just One” is frequently applied to the sufferings of Jesus in the passion narratives.

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By Roman tradition, the clothing of an executed criminal went to his executioners, the soldiers that are physically killing our Lord Jesus Christ.  The description of the procedure in Jesus’ case, and found in all the Gospels, is plainly inspired by Psalm 22:

They divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:18).

However, only John quotes Psalm 22:18 verbatim:

“So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,’ in order that the passage of scripture might be fulfilled (that says): ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.’  This is what the soldiers did.” (John 19:24).

The offense of a person condemned to death by crucifixion was written on a tablet that was displayed on his cross.  In Jesus’ case, the charge against Him was that he had claimed to be the “King of the Jews”.  It was written in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

Crucified on either side of Jesus were two “revolutionaries”.  These two individuals were criminals, just as Jesus was found to be a criminal.  Interesting for me, is that John’s Gospel uses the same word (revolutionary) in the original Greek for Barabbas.

“They cried out again, ‘Not this one but Barabbas!’  Now Barabbas was a revolutionary(John 18:40).

Matthew does not get into much detail about the two thieves who are experiencing the same horrible death as Jesus.  We know from tradition that one verbally abuses and taunts Jesus, and the other (St. Dismas) eventually repents for his sins, and asks Jesus for forgiveness (a true confession and remorse of his sins).  One will die in body and spirit, and the other “good thief” will die in body, yet live forever in paradise.

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Why did the people that passed by Jesus “revile him, shaking their heads”?  The answer can be found in Psalm 22:

All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me.” (Psalm 22:8).

They certainly did mock Him in their yelling out to Him, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days… come down from the cross!” just as the Sanhedrin had done earlier in the Passion narrative:

“They found none, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two  came forward who stated, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.'” (Matthew 26:60-61).

The words these people mocking Jesus, “If you are the Son of God” are the same words as those of Satan during the temptation of Jesus at the very beginning of His public Ministry:

“The tempter approached and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread. … If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.’  For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” (Matthew
4:3, 6).

Jesus started His public life, and is now ending His public life with the same question being asked of Him.

The Pharisees and Scribes mocked Jesus by sarcastically calling Him “the King of Israel!”  In these words, the members of the Sanhedrin call themselves and their people not “the Jews” (as individuals) but instead “Israel” (as a nation).  (I guess the irony and joke is on them!)

Members of the Sanhedrin continued to mock and tease Jesus.  Distinctive to Matthew’s writing style is the verse:

He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. (Matthew 27:26)

Psalm 22 is again being referred to by Matthew:

“You relied on the LORD–let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you.” (Psalm 22:9).

Matthew having the Temple leaders saying, “He said, ‘I am the Son of God’” is   most likely a hint to the Book of Wisdom wherein the theme of the suffering “Just One” appears:

“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD.  To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like other men’s, and different are his ways.  He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father.  Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him.  For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.  With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”  (Wisdom 2:12-20).

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A little known prophet of the Old Testament is Amos (No relationship to Andy).  Amos prophesied that on the day of the Lord “the sun will set at midday“:

“On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight.” (Amos 8:9).

Why would Jesus Christ cry out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”  He is actually crying out the words of Psalm 22 (again Psalm 22):

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?” (Psalm 22:2).

In Mark’s Gospel, the verse (Psalm 22:2) is cited entirely in Aramaic.  Matthew, however, partially retains some of the original Aramaic, but changes the invocation of God is changed to the Hebrew word “Eli”.  Matthew may have done this so his readers could more easily relate to the following verse about Jesus’ calling for Elijah in today’s reading:

“Some of the bystanders who heard it said, ‘This one is calling for Elijah.’” (Matthew 27:29).

The expectation of the return of “Elijah” from heaven in order to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread among the Jewish people.  Elijah was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, taken up into heaven in a most unusual way:

“As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” (2 Kings 2:11).

Do you think Elijah was abducted by a UFO? (he, he)  Seriously, the Jewish people believed Elijah would come to the help of those in distress.  For this reason, I believe that is why they said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”

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Three hours after being hoisted into the air, hanging on the cross, Jesus “gave up His spirit”.  Mark says that Jesus “breathed His last“:

Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.” (Mark 15:37).

Matthew’s use of different words, “Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit” articulates both Jesus’ control over His destiny and His obedience in giving up of His human life to God; in doing God’s will.

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At the moment of Jesus’ human death, “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.” Mark and Luke use the exact same or similar words:

“The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:38);

And,

“Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.” (Luke 23:45);

Interesting to me, is the fact that the Evangelist Luke puts the tearing of the veil immediately before the death of Jesus.

There were two veils in the Mosaic tabernacle, the outer one at the entrance of the “Holy Place” and the inner one before the “Holy of Holies”:

“You shall have a veil woven of violet, purple and scarlet yarn, and of fine linen twined, with cherubim embroidered on it.  It is to be hung on four gold-plated columns of acacia wood, which shall have hooks of gold and shall rest on four silver pedestals.  Hang the veil from clasps.  The ark of the commandments you shall bring inside, behind this veil which divides the holy place from the holy of holies.  Set the propitiatory on the ark of the commandments in the holy of holies.  ‘Outside the veil you shall place the table and the lamp stand, the latter on the south side of the Dwelling, opposite the table, which is to be put on the north side.  For the entrance of the tent make a variegated curtain of violet, purple and scarlet yarn and of fine linen twined.’” (Exodus 26:31-36).

Only the high priest could pass through the latter and ONLY on the Day of Atonement as described in Leviticus:

“After the death of Aaron’s two sons, who died when they approached the LORD’S presence, the LORD spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the propitiatory on the ark; otherwise, when I reveal myself in a cloud above the propitiatory, he will die.  Only in this way may Aaron enter the sanctuary.  He shall bring a young bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a holocaust.  He shall wear the sacred linen tunic, with the linen drawers next his flesh, gird himself with the linen sash and put on the linen miter.  But since these vestments are sacred, he shall not put them on until he has first bathed his body in water.  From the Israelite community he shall receive two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a holocaust.  Aaron shall bring in the bullock, his sin offering to atone for himself and for his household.  Taking the two male goats and setting them before the LORD at the entrance of the meeting tent, he shall cast lots to determine which one is for the LORD and which for Azazel.  The goat that is determined by lot for the LORD, Aaron shall bring in and offer up as a sin offering.  But the goat determined by lot for Azazel he shall set alive before the LORD, so that with it he may make atonement by sending it off to Azazel in the desert.  Thus shall Aaron offer up the bullock, his sin offering, to atone for himself and for his family. When he has slaughtered it, he shall take a censer full of glowing embers from the altar before the LORD, as well as a double handful of finely ground fragrant incense, and bringing them inside the veil, there before the LORD he shall put incense on the fire, so that a cloud of incense may cover the propitiatory over the commandments; else he will die.  Taking some of the bullock’s blood, he shall sprinkle it with his finger on the fore part of the propitiatory and likewise sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times in front of the propitiatory.  Then he shall slaughter the people’s sin-offering goat, and bringing its blood inside the veil, he shall do with it as he did with the bullock’s blood, sprinkling it on the propitiatory and before it.  Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary because of all the sinful defilements and faults of the Israelites. He shall do the same for the meeting tent, which is set up among them in the midst of their uncleanness.  No one else may be in the meeting tent from the time he enters the sanctuary to make atonement until he departs. When he has made atonement for himself and his household, as well as for the whole Israelite community,  he shall come out to the altar before the LORD and make atonement for it also. Taking some of the bullock’s and the goat’s blood, he shall put it on the horns around the altar.’” (Leviticus 16:1-18).

The veil that is torn in two as described in the Passion narratives was probably the inner one, if not both.  What significance can be found in the veil separating the Holy of Holies?  To me, the meaning of the veils tearing, thus exposing the “Holy of Holies”, is a symbol that with Jesus’ death all people have now access to the presence of God at all times.  God is no longer segregated from people or from society.  Or, can another representation be made that with Jesus’ – – the Son of God’s – –  death on the Holy cross, the tearing of the veil in the Temple allows all to see the “holiest” part standing exposed, making it profane and no longer needed in God’s kingdom, and foretelling that it will soon to be destroyed (in the year 70 AD)?

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Matthew included many things to the Passion narrative that the other Evangelists did not.  This includes the following:

“The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.  And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared too many.”  (Matthew 27:31)

The earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, and especially the resurrection of the dead saints indicate the coming of the final age of man.  In the Old Testament the coming of God is frequently portrayed with the imagery of an earthquake:

“The earth quaked, the heavens shook, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.” (see Psalm 68:9);

And,

“The thunder of your chariot wheels resounded; your lightning lit up the world; the  earth trembled and quaked.” (see Psalm 77:19).

Earlier in Matthew’s (the 24th chapter), Jesus speaks of the earthquakes that will accompany the “labor pains” signifying the beginning of the conclusion of the old world:

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place.  All these are the beginning of the labor pains.” (Matthew 24:7-8).

For the expectation of the resurrection of the dead at the coming of the new and final age, we should look at a favorite of Jesus’ Old Testament books, Daniel:

“At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.  At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book.  Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.  But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” (Daniel 12:1-3).

The “end” of the old age has not come about:

“Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

However, the new age has broken in with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Since the kingdom of the Son of Man has been described as “the world” and Jesus’ sovereignty precedes His final “coming” in glory:

The field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.  The weeds are the children of the evil one.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.” (Matthew 13:38, 41).

The “coming” is not the “parousia” (The second coming of Jesus Christ), but rather, the manifestation of Jesus’ rule “after His Resurrection.”  Matthew uses the words, “After His Resurrection”, because he wishes to assert the primacy of Jesus’ resurrection.

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There was an obvious and dramatic change in many of the witnesses to Jesus’ death.  Even non-believers instantly changed in heart, mind, and soul.

When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’ (Mark 15:39)

At this uniquely reverential and special time, when most of Jesus’ followers including His Apostles and Jewish brethren has abandoned Him, a Catholic profession (or, a statement at least) of faith is made by the same Pagan, Gentile, Roman Soldiers that physically mocked, jeered, beat, and put Jesus to death.

The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54)

Not only the “Centurion” immediately believed this “Act of Faith”, as in Mark’s Gospel, but the other soldiers who were keeping watch over Jesus believed in His divinity as well.

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In Summary, there are many vantage points from which to imagine and reflect on Jesus’ Passion.  In the characters of Matthew’s Gospel, we can find expressions of ourselves and the many ways in which we respond to Jesus Christ.  Sometimes we are like Judas Iscariot, betraying Jesus and then regretting it.  Then there are times when we are like Peter by denying Him; or like His Apostles who fall asleep during Jesus’ darkest hour but then act rashly and violently at His arrest.  There are times we are like Simon (the Cyrenian), who was pressed into service to help Jesus carry His cross. And finally, we are often like the Temple leaders who feared Jesus, and/or like Pontius Pilate who washed his hands of the whole affair.

After reading, examining, and studying on the Passion, we are left with one final mission for this Lenten Season – – to meditate and reflect on the events in today’s Passion narrative and on the forgiveness that Jesus’ obedience won for us.

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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

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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.

A second option for the “penitential rite” (the “Confiteor” being the first option) has been revised.  This second form had been little used in recent years.  The second option is presently:

Lord, we have sinned against you:|
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your mercy and love.
And grant us your salvation.

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.

It will now read as follows:

The priest
says, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.”

The people respond, “For we have sinned against you.

Then the priest says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,”

and the people respond, “And grant us your salvation.”

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Benedict Joseph Labre (d. 1783)

Benedict Joseph Labre was truly eccentric, one of God’s special little ones. Born in France and the eldest of 18 children, he studied under his uncle, a parish priest.  Because of poor health and a lack of suitable academic preparation he was unsuccessful in his attempts to enter the religious life.  Then, at 16 years of age, a profound change took place. Benedict lost his desire to study and gave up all thoughts of the priesthood, much to the consternation of his relatives.

He became a pilgrim, traveling from one great shrine to another, living off alms.  He wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor.  Filled with the love of God and neighbor, Benedict had special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Blessed Sacrament. In Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum for a time, he was called “the poor man of the Forty Hours Devotion” and “the beggar of Rome.”  The people accepted his ragged appearance better than he did.  His excuse to himself was that “our comfort is not in this world.”

On the last day of his life, April 16, 1783, Benedict Joseph dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house.  Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint.

He was officially proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII at canonization ceremonies in 1883.

Comment:

In a modern inner city, one local character kneels for hours on the sidewalk and prays.  Swathed in his entire wardrobe winter and summer, he greets passersby with a blessing.  Where he sleeps no one knows, but he is surely a direct spiritual descendant of Benedict, the ragged man who slept in the ruins of Rome’s Colosseum.  These days we ascribe such behavior to mental illness; Benedict’s contemporaries called him holy.  Holiness is always a bit mad by earthly standards.

Patron Saint of: Homeless

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Virtues I

What are virtues?

How do you explain what a virtue is, to someone who asks?

How many virtues do you think St. Francis had?

What are the fundamental virtues given to us as starters at Baptism?

How essential are these virtues given as Baptism?

How often do we use the Baptismal virtues, consciously or implicitly?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 17 & 18 of 26:

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

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

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18.  Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.

“John and James, Your Mother Is Asking For Favors! Doesn’t She Know I Have Pressing Issues On My Mind Right Now? BTW, Has Anyone Seen My Cup?!” – Matthew 20:17-28†


  

“Wednesday of the
Second Week of Lent”
 

 

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:

 

Satan is laughing his “tail” off right now.

The devil hates and despises priests, but I bet he LOVES this “de facto guilty” policy the Magisterium has taken in regards to the clergy automatically being permanently suspended without a proof of guilt.  It seems all someone has to do to get rid of a member of the clergy, and/or to destroy the reputation of a (usually good) person is to simply accuse him of sex and/or drugs (even anonymously from what I understand).  The accuser knows that the Church will do the rest: simply remove the clergyman from any type of service, permanently, – – even if not credible. 

Satan also knows an important SACRAMENT of the Holy Catholic Church – – Holy Orders – – the (Deacon, Priest, and Bishop) – – can’t stand a chance with this ease in destroying a good person’s reputation.

We need to remember that we are a Church of faith, mercy, and charity (love).  Let us all please pray for the accuser and accused; each is a victim in one way or another.  We need to place our trust and hope that “truth” will prevail. 

I do have a question with this policy, which I believe needs to be tweaked or fixed in some way.  Don’t we owe it to our clergy to support them until certain they have broken their vow, promise, and position of respect?

 

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Have you donated to the Catholic Relief Service (CRS) for the victims of the Japanese Tsunami and earthquake relief efforts?  If not, please go to the following address and give.  It’s the right thing to do!

http://crs.org/japan/ 

 

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Today in Catholic History:


    
†   1153 – Treaty of Konstanz signed between Frederik I “Barbarossa” & Pope Eugene III.
†   1174 – Jocelin, abbot of Melrose, is elected bishop of Glasgow.
†   1555 – Death of Julius III, [Giovanni M del Monte], Pope (1550-55), at age 67.
†   1568 – Peace of Longjumeau ends the Second War of Religion in France. Again Catherine de’ Medici and Charles IX of France make substantial concessions to the Huguenots.
†   1752 – Pope Stephen II elected to succeed Zacharias, and thendied 2 days later.
†   1914 – Death of Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès (Saint Rebecca), Lebanese saint (b. 1832).
†   1966 – 1st official meeting between Catholic & Anglican Church, after 400 years.
†   1980 – “Servant of God” Archbishop Óscar Romero (August 15, 1917 –    March 24, 1980) of El Salvador gives his famous speech appealing to men of the El Salvadoran armed forces to stop killing the Salvadorans.  A short time later, he was assassinated while celebrating Mass, – – in the process of elevating the chalice at the end of the Eucharistic rite.  (His blood spilled over the altar along with the contents of the chalice.)

(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:

 

“Imagine what a harmonious world it could be if every single person, both young and old, shared a little of what he is good at doing.” ~ Quincy Jones

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ third prediction of His Passion as related by Matthew.

  

(NAB Matthew 20:17-28) 17 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve (disciples) aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, 19 and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”  20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.  21 He said to her, “What do you wish?”  She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”  22 Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?”  They said to him, “We can.”  23 He replied, “My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left (, this) is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”  24 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers.  25 But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.  26 But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; 27 whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.  28 Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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Today, Jesus connects His notion of authority with service and sacrifice of one’s life – – for the sake of another. We all have to remember that authority is self-serving and selfish without sacrificial love

Jesus used simple, blunt, unembellished, and glaring language to explain what kind of sacrifice He had in mind for Himself, and for others choosing to follow Him.  His disciples were, and still are obligated to drink from His “cup” if they expect to reign with Him in His kingdom. 

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Today, we are presented with the third, and the most detailed of the passion predictions from Matthew’s Gospel.  The two others are from chapters 16 and 17:

“From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21),

And,

“As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.’ And they were overwhelmed with grief.” (Matthew 17:22-23).

 

Jesus’ prediction speaks of being “handed over to the Gentiles“:

“They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.” (Matthew 27:2),

Of His being “mocked“:

“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him.  They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.  Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand.  And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’  They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.”  (Matthew 27:27-30),

Of His being “scourged“:

Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:26),

Finally ending with His “crucifixion“:

“And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.  After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots.” (Matthew 27:31, 35).

The Evangelist and Gospel writer Mark mirrored his Gospel exactly with Matthew in all but the last of these four events involving Jesus’ passion.  Whereas Matthew speaks of Jesus being specifically “crucified”, Mark only speaks of Jesus being “killed”:

“Who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.”.” (Mark 10:34).

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Don’t you just love a Jewish mother at work pushing for the best in regards to her children!  They could have been doctors or lawyers, but chose to follow Jesus instead.  Yet, their mother is still trying to get the best position for them.

The request of the sons of Zebedee (John and James), made through their mother, Salome, for the highest places of honor in the kingdom, – – and at the “indignation” of the other ten Apostles, – – shows that neither John and James, nor the other ten Apostles, truly understood that what makes for greatness in God’s kingdom is not “power” or a high status.  Greatness in God’s kingdom comes from a position of humble service to God and to His creations.  

Jesus gives the example of what their request to sit next to Him would mean:

“Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus’ “ministry of service” will reach its highest point – – the SUMMIT – – when He gives His life – – a ransom – – on that Holy Tree outside the walls of Jerusalem, for the liberation of the human race from sin.

 

It isn’t absolutely clear the reason Matthew has the men’s mother, Salome, being the petitioner.  I wonder if John and James were embarrassed.  Did you think they said, “Oh mom, stop interfering with our lives!”

So, how do I know the “two disciples” are John and James?  Matthew does not mention the two Apostles name directly.  However, Mark does:

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’” (Mark 10:35)

Was Matthew alluding to Bathsheba’s seeking the kingdom for Solomon in having Salome (Her name is found in Flavius Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities”) being the person asking for a place of honor for her children?  Doing this would then link King David’s wife and son to the wife of Joseph and her son, Mary and Jesus.  What an interesting linkage of the Old and New Testaments for Matthew to make; see for yourself:

“Then Nathan said to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother: ‘Have you not heard that Adonijah, son of Haggith, has become king without the knowledge of our lord David?  Come now, let me advise you so that you may save your life and that of your son Solomon.  Go, visit King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, lord king, swear to your handmaid: Your son Solomon shall be king after me and shall sit upon my throne?   Why, then, has Adonijah become king?’  And while you are still there speaking to the king, I will come in after you and confirm what you have said.’  So Bathsheba visited the king in his room, while Abishag the Shunamite was attending him because of his advanced age.  Bathsheba bowed in homage to the king, who said to her, ‘What do you wish?’  She answered him: ‘My lord, you swore to me your handmaid by the LORD, your God, that my son Solomon should reign after you and sit upon your throne.  But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord king, do not know it.  He has slaughtered oxen, fatlings, and sheep in great numbers; he has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest, and Joab, the general of the army, but not your servant Solomon.  Now, my lord king, all Israel is waiting for you to make known to them who is to sit on the throne after your royal majesty.  If this is not done, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, I and my son Solomon will be considered criminals.’”  (1 Kings 1:11-21).

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In verse 21, Salome answers Jesus’ question about her wish she had for her sons with these words:

Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” 

I wonder what she meant by “your kingdom”?  We know it now as “the world and heaven”, but did she?  Jesus’ sovereignty preceded His final coming in glory.   The preceding of His sovereignty and His kingdom is extolled much earlier in Matthew’s Gospel:

The field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one.” (Matthew 13:38)

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.” (Matthew 13:41)

The word “coming” does not mean the “parousia” event – – the “final” coming.  Instead, it is the manifestation of Jesus’ rule after His resurrection, and the granting to Him of “all power in heaven and on earth” as foretold later in Matthew:

“Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” (Matthew 28:18).

 

Let me throw a “wrench” into the discussion!  Jesus’ kingdom is set apart from that of God the Father!  WHAT – – SAY WHAT!!!  Relax; read the two verses below and what follows:

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Matthew 13:43);

“Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.  For He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24-25).

So, where, and what, is Jesus’ kingdom?  Answer: The church is the place where Jesus’ kingdom is truly and fully manifested.  However, His royal “authority” embraces the entire world.

 

Ignorance is bliss!  We all jump into situations with both feet, not realizing where the “quick sand” is in our path.  Jesus said to Salome (along with John and James):

You do not know what you are asking” (Matthew 20:22)

The original Greek verbs in this verse are plural.  With the rest of the verse, it indicates that Jesus’ answer was addressed – – not to the mother, Salome, – – but to her sons, John and James.

Jesus asked John and James (and probably the other ten Apostles present as well) if they could “drink the cup that He was going to drink”?!  Mark relates an identical question in His Gospel.  But, Mark also ties baptism into a commitment of discipleship, and a willingness to serve God and others; – – to give oneself as a ransom for Jesus’ kingdom on earth: 

 “Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’  They said to him, ‘We can.’  Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.’” (Mark 10:38-40).

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Ransom” (verse 28) is a noun.  It is an active action word.  To ransom is to do an action.  Jesus came to actively redeem us, and to bring us to His Father’s paradise in heaven – – AND STILL IS!!  This noun occurs only here in the New Testament, and in the Mark’s parallel Gospel reading:

“For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45),

Mark’s verse uses the word, “many”.  This word can be confusing for English language people.  This word is used in regards to the numbers of people liberated by Jesus’ redemption.  Isaiah also says that the liberation bought by Jesus’ “ransomed” death will be for many:

“Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses. (Isaiah 53:12).

The word “many” in Mark’s Gospel and Isaiah’s prophecy does not mean that some are excluded.  Instead, it is a word designating a united benefit of all – – from the service of one.  In this usage, “many” is equivalent to “all”.  Reread the verses substituting the word “all” for “many”.

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The “fourth Servant Song” of Isaiah is an extraordinary description of the “sinless Servant” (Hmm, who could that be?).  His voluntary suffering atoned for the sins of His people (need another hint).  He saves His people from a just punishment at the hands of God.  (OK, enough hints – now the answer,) Only in Jesus Christ is Isaiah’s prophecy perfectly fulfilled.

There are links between today’s Gospel reading and the last of the four “Servant-of-the-Lord” visions.  The fourth Servant Song, (cf., Isaiah 52:13-53:12) shows the particular aspects of Isaiah’s vision being reflected again in today’s reading.

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Jesus’ “cup” involved crucifixion.  What kind of “cup” does the Lord have in mind for you?  I suspect that for some of His followers, thecup” that we must drink entails physical suffering and even the painful struggle of martyrdom.  However, for many of us, it will entail a long Christian life of simple routines and practices, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, struggles, frustrations, hurdles, and temptations.  A disciple – – a follower of Jesus Christ – – must be willing, able, and ready to lay down one’s life as a martyr.  One must be ready to do this every day, every moment, by embracing the little and big sacrifices required of a disciple.

“Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little, since I do them with Your power; and little things as though they were great, since I do them in your name.  Amen” (unknown author) 

We share in God’s reign by living and laying down our lives in humble service to one another exactly as Jesus did for our sake.  Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did?  Are you ready to serve and to reign with Christ?  I know I am, I am, I am!!

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Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament

 

“We adore You,
O Lord Jesus Christ,
in this Church and all the Churches of the world,
and we bless You,
because,
by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Turibius of Mogrovejo (1538-1606)

 

Together with Rose of Lima, Turibius is the first known saint of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for 26 years.

Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada.  He succeeded too well.  But he was not sharp enough a lawyer to prevent a surprising sequence of events.

When the archdiocese of Lima in Peru required a new leader, Turibius was chosen to fill the post: He was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area.

He cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled.  He was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst.  The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population.  Abuses among the clergy were flagrant, and he devoted his energies (and suffering) to this area first.

He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with neither bed nor food.  He confessed every morning to his chaplain, and celebrated Mass with intense fervor.  Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was St. Rose of Lima, and possibly St. Martin de Porres.  After 1590 he had the help of another great missionary, St. Francis Solanus.

His people, though very poor, were sensitive, dreading to accept public charity from others.  Turibius solved the problem by helping them anonymously.

Comment:

The Lord indeed writes straight with crooked lines.  Against his will, and from the unlikely springboard of an Inquisition tribunal, this man became the Christ like shepherd of a poor and oppressed people.  God gave him the gift of loving others as they needed it.

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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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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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscan Spirituality I

At every Mass, immediately after the Consecration, we all proclaim the “mystery” of faith.  Is this the mystery of YOUR faith?  How much of a disciple are you?  

How can you use the devotion of the Way of the Cross (the Stations) to enrich your meditation on the Lord’s Passion- which he suffered for me?

Do you think about, and appreciate the great price that Jesus underwent so that you might be reinstated in the holiness of God?  How might you express this appreciation?

How does our SFO “TAU insignia” compare to the “habit” St. Francis adopted as his public sign of commitment?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’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.

“It Just Goes To Figure – – No, TRANSFIGURE!” – Matthew 17:1-9†


 

“Second Sunday of Lent” 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

Only in St. Louis can one’s children shovel snow on one day, and wear swimming trunks and playing in the sprinklers the very next.  I love the St. Louis area. 

Т

I hope everyone had a great (and safe) St. Patrick’s Day and Feast of St. Joseph (Yesterday); I did.

 

  Т

  

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   687 – Death of St. Cuthbert, patron saint of Northumbria (born 634)
†   1191 – Death of Clement III, [Paolo Scolari], Pope (1187-91, 3rd crusades), dies
†   1393 – Death of Johannes Nepomucenus, [Jan Nepomucky], Czech saint, killed
†   1619 – Death of Matthias II, Holy Roman Catholic emperor (1611-19)
†   Feast/Memorials: Feast of St. Cuthbert; Abdon and Sennen at Soissons; Saint Herbert; Saint Wulfram; Saint Alexandra

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

 

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Joke of the Day:

  

(from http://thebackpew.com)

 

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Today’s reflection is Matthew’s account about Jesus’ Transfiguration.

 

 

 

(NAB Matthew 17:1-9) 1 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  2 And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.  4 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  6 When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.  7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”  8 And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.  9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

 

Wow, we are at the second Sunday of Lent already.  We move from Jesus’ forty day “retreat” in the beautiful and warm Palestinian desert, to His “Transfiguration” on a “cloudy” mountain top.  Today’s story of Jesus’ Transfiguration is told in each of the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  And, in each of the three Gospels, the Transfiguration follows Jesus’ initial prediction of His death, and His teaching about the cost of being His disciple such as temptations from evil and from worldly influences.  

While praying on a mountain top (High Prayers?), a voice pronounces that Jesus IS God’s “Son” in words not unlike those heard “from the heaven’s” at Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River.  In addition, the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus on the mountain connects this “Transfiguration” story with God’s relationship to the people of Israel – – His “chosen” people.  Moses and Elijah represent the “Law” and the “Prophets”, respectively.  Together with Jesus, they represent God’s “complete and fulfilled ‘Word’”.

Jesus very likely discussed with Moses and Elijah His crucial and earth-shattering (and creation saving) decision to go to the Holy Cross – – the Holy Tree – – of salvation and redemption. 

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The Transfiguration occurs in the presence of just three of Jesus’ disciples.  Peter, James, and John always seemed to be with Jesus.  Matters of fact, in Matthew’s Gospel, these three disciples are among the first whom Jesus calls to be His Apostles.  These men had a very special relationship among Jesus’ chosen group of men – – The Apostles – – who, as a group, all had a uniquely special relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  These twelve particular men – – the Apostles – – are identified as the “inner circle” among Jesus’ disciples. 

Peter, James, and John were obviously Jesus’ “BFF’s” (Text talk for “Best Friends Forever”) as these three Apostles were also with Jesus at a later [important] date, while He was at prayer on another hilltop – – Gethsemane, just prior to His arrest:

“He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.” (Matthew 26:37).

The “Transfiguration” confirms to the three Apostles accompanying Jesus (and all who believed and still believe) that Jesus is truly the “Son of God”.  The Transfiguration also points to a fulfillment of prophesy that “He will come in His Father’s glory at the end of the age”:

“For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Matthew 16:27).

Jesus goes up “a high mountain” (verse 1).  This mountain has been identified with Mount Tabor, or possibly Mount Hermon.  The meaning of “a high mountain” may be a theological, rather than geographical, statement.  Some scholars say “a high mountain” may have been used in a literary way to recall the revelation of God given to both Moses and Elijah (at separate times) on Mount Sinai; and linking that relationship to the New Covenant brought in by Jesus.  The Lord was with both on their mountain tops, and is now again with them on His mountain top:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and, while you are there, I will give you the stone tablets on which I have written the commandments intended for their instruction.’  So Moses set out with Joshua, his aide, and went up to the mountain of God.  The elders, however, had been told by him, ‘Wait here for us until we return to you.  Aaron and Hur are staying with you. If anyone has a complaint, let him refer the matter to them.’  After Moses had gone up, a cloud covered the mountain.  The glory of the LORD settled upon Mount Sinai.  The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.  To the Israelites the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop.  But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights.” (Exodus 24:12-18)

And,

“He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb [Sinai].  There he came to a cave, where he took shelter.  But the word of the LORD came to him, ‘Why are you here, Elijah?’  He answered: ‘I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.’  Then the LORD said, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.’  A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake–but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was fire–but the LORD was not in the fire.  After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.  When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.  A voice said to him, ‘Elijah, why are you here?’  He replied, ‘I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts.  But the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.’  ‘Go, take the road back to the desert near Damascus,’ the LORD said to him. ‘When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram.  Then you shall anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king of Israel, and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed you.  If anyone escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill him. If he escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill him.  Yet I will leave seven thousand men in Israel–all those who have not knelt to Baal or kissed him.’” (1 Kings 19:8-18).

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I have been embarrassed a few times, and sunburned many, many, times in my life (I never seem to learn).  My face has glowed red with anger a few times as well.  But, never has my face been described as “shining like the sun”!  This physical description reminds me of two events in the Old Testament; Moses on Mount Sinai, and Daniel’s prophesy:

Then the Israelites would see that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant; so he would again put the veil over his face until he went in to converse with the LORD. (Exodus 34:35)

 “His body was like chrysolite, his face shown like lightning, his eyes were like fiery torches, his arms and feet looked like burnished bronze, and his voice sounded like the roar of a multitude.” (Daniel 10:6).

Jesus’ garments became glistening and intensely white.  Jesus’ face shined and “His clothes became white as light”.  Just as Jesus is manifesting God now, Moses skin shined when he met with God on Mount Sinai as he experienced God directly:

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the LORD.” (Exodus 34:29). 

White clothes are a prominent image associated with God’s manifestation.  Daniel’s prophecy (about 600 years earlier) states that the clothing of God appeared “snow bright”:

“As I watched, Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne.  His clothing was snow bright, and the hair on his head as white as wool; His throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire.” (Daniel 7:9)

The Evangelist Paul said the Jewish people could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness after spending time with God:

“Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, was so glorious that the Israelites could not look intently at the face of Moses because of its glory that was going to fade.” (2 Cor. 3:7).

And, even the book of Revelations is fairly active with “white garments” for heavenly beings:

“Surrounding the throne I saw twenty-four other thrones on which twenty-four elders sat, dressed in white garments and with gold crowns on their heads.”  (Rev 4:4)

“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.” (Rev 7:9)

“The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen.” (Rev 19:14)

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The cloud which eclipsed Jesus, His apostles, Moses, and Elijah fulfilled the Jewish peoples prophesy of God’s presence, when the true “Messiah” came to His “chosen” people, in the form of a cloud.  This cloud would again fill the temple, as the cloud did in the Old Testament:

“When Aaron announced this to the whole Israelite community, they turned toward the desert, and lo, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!  (Exodus 16:10).

The LORD also told him, ‘I am coming to you in a dense cloud, so that when the people hear me speaking with you, they may always have faith in you also.’  When Moses, then, had reported to the LORD the response of the people.” (Exodus 19:9). 

As Moses entered the tent, the column of cloud would come down and stand at its entrance while the LORD spoke with Moses.”  (Exodus 33:9). 

“When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:10). 

“Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord will be seen in the cloud, just as it appeared in the time of Moses and when Solomon prayed that the Place might be gloriously sanctified.”  (2 Maccabees 2:8). 

Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus Christ as God’s representatives and witnesses to the fulfillment of the Old Covenant laws and prophecies.   These laws and prophesies are being fulfilled in the person of Jesus as He appears in glory before theses two Old Covenant representatives, His three much loved Apostles, and His magnificent Father in heaven.

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Peter asked Jesus if he should make “three tents”.  “Tents” were places in which the Israelites lived during the “Feast of Tabernacles” while in their travels to Jerusalem from their home towns; in essence biblical era mobile homes.  The reference to “tents” in today’s Gospel reading is meant to recall the Jewish ancestors’ living in tents (also called “booths”) during the Exodus journey from Egypt to the “promised land”.  The words “tents” is a translation of the original Greek word, “skene”.  It is used interchangeably with the word “booths” which is sometimes used instead in reference to the “Feast of Tabernacles”. 

Per “Bible-truth.org”, the “Feast of Tabernacles”, also called “Sukkoth” or “Booths”, starts on the fifteenth of “Tishri”, the seventh month of the Jewish (biblical) calendar (sometime in the Gregorian calendar month of September or October).  This feast is the third of seven Jewish feasts in the Hebrew calendar year.  The “Feast of Tabernacles” required a pilgrimage of the Jewish peoples to Jerusalem in order to worship in the Temple, and to offer sacrifices and offerings to the Lord.  The Feast of Tabernacles is explained well in the book of Leviticus, and is also vaguely mentioned in John’s Gospel:

“On the fifteenth day, then, of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast of the LORD for a whole week.  The first and the eighth day shall be days of complete rest.  On the first day you shall gather foliage from majestic trees, branches of palms and boughs of myrtles and of valley poplars, and then for a week you shall make merry before the LORD, your God.  By perpetual statute for you and your descendants you shall keep this pilgrim feast of the LORD for one whole week in the seventh month of the yearDuring this week every native Israelite among you shall dwell in booths. (Leviticus 23:39-42).

And,

The Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.” (John 7:2)

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Jesus went to the mountain in full knowledge of what awaited Him in a short amount of time in Jerusalem: His betrayal by Judas, His rejection by all His Apostles, His scourging and humility, and His crucifixion on the Holy Tree of redemption. 

Jesus was in prayer on this mountain top when a “cloud cast a shadow over them” and the “Word” emanated from the clouds.  (I wonder if they brought umbrellas and a tape recorder.)  The Gospel of Mark parallels Matthews account in a nearly identical way:

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, ‘This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.’” Mark 9:7.

Jesus’ most loved and closest friends – – three of His Apostles – – enter into the mystery of Jesus’ glorification on that mountain top.  (Wow!  Can you just imagine their feelings?!)  

Peter, James, and John were privileged witnesses of the glory of Jesus Christ.  Remember though, we too, as followers of Jesus Christ are also called to be witnesses of His glory in today’s world.  In witnessing to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, we change into His likeness little by little, as this possible as a grace from our Lord, – – and in, with, and through the Holy Spirit:

“All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18).  

Why a cloud, and “words” coming from the cloud?  Well, in the Old Testament, a cloud covered the “meeting tent” during the 40 year exodus (had to be high quality tents), indicated the Lord’s presence in the midst of His people.  This same “cloud” came to rest upon the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of its dedication.  Verses from the Books of Exodus and 1 Kings are being revealed again:

“Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.” (Exodus 40:34-35)

And,

“When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:10).

 

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” is identical to Matthews’s earlier statement of God’s word at the time of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River:

“And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:17).

In both cases, God the Father’s voice speaking from the “heavens” is a reflection of God’s words heard in several Old Testament encounters:

“Then God said: ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.’”  (Genesis 22:2);

“Then speaks to them in anger, terrifies them in wrath: ‘I myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’  I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, who said to me, ‘You are my son; today I am your fatherI will proclaim the decree of the LORD, who said to me, ‘You are my son; today I am your father”.  (Psalm 2:5-7);

And,

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)

The voice of God heard by Peter, James, and John not only repeats the baptismal proclamation about Jesus; it adds the commandlisten to him”.  “Listen to Him” makes reference to a particular verse from the book of Deuteronomy:

“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen.” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

The command “’listen’ to Jesus” is a simple and generally academic command.  However, in the context of today’s Gospel reading, it may apply particularly to the past prophesies of His “Passion”, His “Resurrection”, and of His coming again – – IN GLORY!  Matthew exemplifies this belief later on in his Gospel:

“From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21);

And,

“For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.  Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:27-28).

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How powerful is this statement from verse 7: “Rise, and do not be afraid“?!  The Old Testament typography found in this verse is amazing and comforting for me.  I use a very similar verse from the book of Daniel quite often, especially when stressed.  Please write down these verses from Daniel, and use them as a prayer and meditation when in need of comfort, courage, and strength: 

“When I heard the sound of his voice, I fell face forward in a faint.  But then a hand touched me, raising me to my hands and knees.  The one who looked like a man touched me again and strengthened me, saying, ‘Fear not, beloved, you are safe; take courage and be strong.’”  (Daniel 10:9-10, 18-19).

For me, it is apparent that Jesus was not only well-versed in this particular book of the Old Testament (Daniel), He internalized, loved, and emitted this beautifully “prophetic” book. 

 

Matthew is the sole Gospel writer using the words, “the vision” to describe the ‘Transfiguration’.   It was impossible for these three men (the Apostles) to fully understand the importance of the “Transfiguration” event that happened before their very eyes UNTIL the “Son of Man” – – Jesus Christ – – had been raised from the dead on that one Sunday morning!  Only in the light of, the illumination of, and the radiance of Jesus’ “Resurrection” can the true and full meaning of His life and mission on earth be completely and justly understood.  Prior to Jesus’ Resurrection, – – happening three days after His horrific torture and demise on the Holy Tree, – – NO testimony, declaration, or evidence to the “vision” presented to these three Apostles would be able to lead people wholeheartedly to faith in Jesus Christ, as the “Messiah”, without the works of the Holy Spirit.

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I am certain the Apostles’ had questions about the appearance, – – the return to earth – – of the Old Testament’s law giver – Moses, and the Old Testament’s leading prophet – Elijah.  In addressing any questions, Jesus unravels the mission and actions of the “greatest” Law-giver and prophet from the Old Covenant.

  Through Moses, God brought His law to His “chosen” people.  Jesus is not only continuing the law of God, but through Jesus Christ, the law is completely and fully revealed.  Elijah’s expectations and prophecies are brought about and fulfilled in Jesus Christ when baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.  God’s “Law” is fulfilled, and ALL the “Messianic” prophesies are fulfilled – – Through Jesus Christ!!

I find it interesting that the role in salvation history which John the Baptist played, – – and revealed many centuries before in Elijah’s prophesies – – was not suspected by those individuals who vehemently opposed John’s message, and also those individuals whom ultimately had him killed. 

Jesus ends this Gospel reading with a fact yet unknown, yet to berevealed, to man. He tells of a human fate for Himself, similar to Elijah and John the Baptist – – death.

 

Have you ever been able to use the memories of previous “good times” and “positive experiences” to sustain you in the difficult times?  Jesus’ Transfiguration was certainly an event from which Peter, James, and John drew courage when facing the difficult events of Jesus’ Passion, and in their own personal “passions” later in their lives.  

Are you prepared to see God’s glory?  Do you seek, search out, His presence with faith and reverence in all we do, we experience, and we see?  The Lord wants to reveal His glory to us, His much loved disciples.  Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the good times and experiences that you have had in your life.  Pray to use these experiences to sustain you during the difficult times.  

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Psalm 33”
(from today’s Mass)

 

“For the LORD’S word is true; all his works are trustworthy.
The LORD loves justice and right and fills the earth with goodness.
But the LORD’S eyes are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for his gracious help, delivering them from death, keeping them alive in times of famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and shield.
May your kindness, LORD, be upon us; we have put our hope in you. Amen.”

Psalm 33:4-5,18-20,22

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Salvator of Horta (1520-1567)

 

A reputation for holiness does have some drawbacks.  Public recognition can be a nuisance at times — as the confreres of Salvator found out.

Salvator was born during Spain’s Golden Age.  Art, politics and wealth were flourishing.  So was religion.  Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus in 1540.

Salvator’s parents were poor.  At the age of 21 he entered the Franciscans as a brother and was soon known for his asceticism, humility and simplicity.

As cook, porter and later the official beggar for the friars in Tortosa, he became well known for his charity.  He healed the sick with the Sign of the Cross.  When crowds of sick people began coming to the friary to see Salvator, the friars transferred him to Horta.  Again the sick flocked to ask his intercession; one person estimated that two thousand people a week came to see Salvator.  He told them to examine their consciences, to go to confession and to receive Holy Communion worthily.  He refused to pray for those who would not receive those sacraments.

The public attention given to Salvator was relentless.  The crowds would sometimes tear off pieces of his habit as relics.  Two years before his death, Salvator was moved again, this time to Cagliari on the island of Sardinia.  He died at Cagliari saying, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”  He was canonized in 1938.

Comment:

Medical science is now seeing more clearly the relation of some diseases to one’s emotional and spiritual life.  In Healing Life’s Hurts, Matthew and Dennis Linn report that sometimes people experience relief from illness only when they have decided to forgive others.  Salvator prayed that people might be healed, and many were. Surely not all diseases can be treated this way; medical help should not be abandoned.  But notice that Salvator urged his petitioners to reestablish their priorities in life before they asked for healing.

Quote:

“Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.” (Matthew 10:1).

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Prayer III

Read the explanations about contemplative prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church?  Does this help your understanding of contemplative prayer?

How many paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church are devoted to instructing us about prayer?  Have you we read these pages, and reflected on them?

Why do you think the Catholic Church has devoted this amount of space to publish the aforementioned section on prayer in the Catechism?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 20 & 21 of 26:

 

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

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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.  

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


  

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Today in Catholic History:


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

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

You Might be a Roman Catholic…

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.  But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Our Father

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of: Americas; Mexico

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 12 & 13 of 26:

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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