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“Love Doesn’t Calculate; It Spends Lavishly Instead – – And Boy, Does My Wife ‘LOVE’ Spending!” – Mark 12:38-44†


32ndSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Now that the elections are over, it is our duty as Catholic Christians to help bring all people – – all our brothers and sisters in Christ together in peace and HARMONY.  Let us all pray for our country’s leaders, for our country itself, and for each of US. 

A friend gave me the following intentions for prayer during the election period; however, I tweaked it to be used as a way of praying daily.  Please let me know what you think about the following set of various bible verses:

SCRIPTURE VERSES TO PRAY FOR OUR NATION

It is critical that Christians pray for our nation.  There is amazing power in united prayer.  Pray with others whenever possible.  The power of prayer can overcome any obstacle or ungodly influence and, indeed, do great things!

II Chronicles 7:14– If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, will heal their land.
Acts 17:30 – Pray for repentance for yourself and for our nation.

Psalm 32:6-7
– Pray that Christians will be motivated to pray faithfully for our nation and that the Lord would deliver us from the wrong leaders.
Proverbs 16:13
– Pray that our nation will listen to the truth and not be led astray.
Psalm 125
– Pray that those who trust in the Lord will not be shaken.
Psalm 86:14-17
– Pray that the Lord would defeat those who have no regard for Him in this election.
II Kings 13:16
– Pray that the Lord would put His hands on the president (and his team) and guide them.
Daniel 2:20-22
– the Bible tells us that God sets up kings and God deposes kings. God is in control.
Luke 12:54-57
– Pray that our nation will do what is right.
Psalm 16:7-8
– Pray that the Lord would give wise counsel and guidance to the president.
Proverbs 1:5-6
– Pray that the President will listen with discernment, add to his knowledge, and receive wise counsel.
John 16:33 – Pray that the President would be given wisdom and ability from the Lord to overcome any obstacle or difficulty.
Philippians 4:13
– Pray that the President will have special strength and unusual ability from God.
Psalm 18:32-36
– Pray that the Lord would arm the President with strength; would guide him in battle; and would sustain him and give him victory.
2 Corinthians 12:9
– Pray that the Lord would empower and enable the President in any area of weakness.
Habakkuk 1:5 and 3:2
– Pray that the Lord would do something that would utterly amaze us and grant the country true freedom.

 Please print out this prayer guide and pray daily.  Please forward this to every Christian you know!

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 Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus notices a poor widow’s offering and commends her great sacrifice.  What’s your commitment to “tithing”?

(NAB Mark 12:38-44)  38 In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums.  42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The context for today’s Gospel continues to be one of mounting tensions between Jesus and the Jewish authorities.  In today’s reading, Mark tells of Jesus’ teaching specifically in the Temple area where He could observe His Jewish brethren putting in their offering to the Temple treasury.  

Today’s Gospel reading is what my children call a “twofer”: the denunciation of the Scribes, and the poor widow’s contribution, combined into one teaching.

In the first part, we hear Jesus warn the crowds to not follow the example of the Scribes in seeking honor and coveting attention from others by their actions and religious behavior.  It is important for us to recall that Jesus taught these things while in the vicinity of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Scribes “home court” territory.  Mark, in this first part of his Gospel today, is setting the stage for Jesus’ arrest, passion, and crucifixion.  While the tradition of a deep hostility between the Pharisees and Jesus is well founded, this reading reflects a growing animosity which goes beyond that of Jesus’ personal ministry to that of the bitter conflict between Jesus, His followers, and the Temple leaders, in their religious practices.  

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Jesus’ first teaching is about the Scribes (and, I am sure, the Pharisees and Sadducees as well), and their very public and overt attention which they purposely bring onto themselves.  The Scribes’ narrow, legalistic, and external practices of piety in matters of public worship, and observance of the commandments, with their own interpretations, places them in opposition to Jesus’ teaching of the TRUE moral intent of God the Father’s divine law.   

Per Jesus and divine law, the following practices and tradition of the Temple leaders are dubious, questionable, and untrustworthy:

    •  going around in long robes
    • accept greetings in the marketplaces,
    • having seats of honor in synagogues, and
    • holding places of honor at banquets”.  

So, Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes for their lack of humility.  In their misguided zeal, the Scribes desired and sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”.  They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and religious “rulers”.  They unfortunately made the practice of their faith one of a place of honor rather than “humbly serving” the “chosen people” of God.

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues (humility and piety) actually leads one to increased greed and further separation from God the Father.  Mark actually warns of the consequences of greed and arrogance in today’s reading:

In the course of his teaching he [Jesus] said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation’” (Mark 12:38-40).

The Scribes are “acting” in order to impress others and earn praise.  Their actions were solely for the purpose of making their “piety” more noticeable.  The hypocrisy of the Scribes (and the Pharisees and Sadducees) is in their “long prayers” and public actions – – in their purposeful, very public demonstrations of “piety” – – having no other purpose than to enhance their ego’s and reputations as the paramount and BEST religious persons in the area (and beyond).

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The Scribes “place of honor and worship” was the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was the center of Jewish worship from the time Solomon built it in 957 BC – – and rebuilt after its first TOTAL destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC – – until shortly after the time of Jesus when it was destroyed completely by the Romans in 70 A.D. and never rebuilt.  Jesus observed how Jewish “pilgrims” were making their required contributions to the Temple treasury.  It was expected that observant Jews would make pilgrimages to the Temple to offer prayer and sacrifices.  These visiting pilgrims also were expected to make a financial contribution to the Temple treasury.  (See, Catholics aren’t the only ones who are expected to contribute financially to their “parish”!)

As we would expect, Jesus observed that those who were rich contributed large sums to the treasury, while those with less funds made smaller contributions.  A similar situation exists in most of our parishes as well today, especially in our financially depressing times which we are currently experiencing now.  

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Jesus, in His second teaching from today’s reading, calls attention to a “poor widow” who makes the smallest of contributions – – a paltry sum of money, just two coins of very little value.  Jesus give His approval to the poor widow’s offering, commending her because her small offering was an act of profound love and generosity.  She was giving from “her livelihood” rather than from her surplus.  WOW!!  Do you trust God enough to do such an act?  I admit, I have difficulties in doing this quite often.  (This is something to truly work on for me.)

Jesus says of her that she is “blessed”, not only for her actions, but especially for her attitude, intentions, and because she gave “from her poverty”.  This “poor widow” had “contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”.  This “widow” is an example of the poor ones – – such as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis of Assisi – – who detached from material possessions, showed her dependence on God; which led to her (and their) blessedness (and the wonder & admiration from Jesus Himself):

Calling His disciples to Himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury” (Mark 12:43).

Her simple offering provided a striking contrast to the pride and pretentiousness of the Scribes who were “censured” by Jesus in the preceding verses (Mark 12:38-40).

Jesus is extolling the fortunate condition of this poor woman who is, at the same time, favored with the blessings of God the Father because of her true, deep faith.  She was a REAL disciple of Christ who appreciated the real values of God’s kingdom.  The present condition of this “poor widow” will ultimately be reversed in God’s kingdom.  She will inherit the riches of eternal life – – in the everlasting presence of God – – at the bountiful and eternal banquet in heaven.

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In Jesus’ denunciation of the Scribes, He warns against three things: 

  • the desire for prominence rather than selfless service;
  • the desire for admiration and recognition (seeking esteem from others) rather than seeking to promote the good of others through humble service and love;

and thirdly,

  • attempting to use one’s position (even a religious position) for self-gain and self-advancement.

True faith means relating to God – – and to one’s “neighbor” – – with love, honor, and reverence.  God places the Holy Spirit within each of us, filling us with the joy of His presence, the joy of true worship, and the joy of selfless giving and love for, and to, others.  This true love, honor, and reverence for God frees our heart to give freely, generously, and abundantly both to God AND to neighbor.

To give from our livelihood is not only an act of love and generosity, it is also an act of trust in God’s mercy, love, and providence.  We can only give from our need if we trust in God providing for us.  Jesus Himself demonstrated the ultimate act of loving generosity and trust in God when He gave His life – – for US – – on the Holy Cross.

Jesus, through His Passion and death, taught His disciples a dramatic lesson in giving with love.  Love doesn’t calculate; it spends lavishly instead!  (And boy, does my wife “LOVE” spending!!)  Jesus drove this point of “love giving more than it takes in” home to His disciples while sitting in the Temple, observing and commenting on the people offering their contributions to the Temple treasury.  

Jesus’ teaching seems to be very simple: this “poor widow” trusted with all she had, believing God would provide for her.  Jesus reveals to her that love for God is more precious than any amount of money!  Jesus taught that real giving must come from the heart.  A “gift” which is given – – for show or with conditions – – loses most of its value.  However, Jesus reveals that He is impressed by a gift given out of love, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice, is truly invaluable – – priceless – – in God’s eye and His kingdom.  

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The amount or size of the gift doesn’t matter as much as the cost to the giver.  The “poor widow” could have kept one of her coins, but instead she gave away ALL SHE HAD!!  Jesus praised this person who gave the Temple barely anything of monetary value, solely because it was everything she had in life, “her whole living”.  

What we have in life to offer to God and neighbor may look very small and not worth much in our eyes, and even in others’ eyes; but if we put ALL we have towards God’s will and plan, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you and others, God will certainly do with it – – and with us – – what is beyond our feeble consideration and understanding.  

Today’s Gospel leads us to think about our family’s financial contributions to our personal parish communities, the diocese we live in, other Church-sponsored organizations, and even other charitable groups.  Good stewardship (the way in which someone organizes and takes care of something) invites us to share our time, talents, and treasures.  

Sometimes, our decisions about charitable giving are made without the knowledge of others in our family.  However, we need to remember that we can teach a valuable lesson when we make family members aware of HOW we are contributing to our Church and to other charitable organizations.  We can pass on our knowledge of God’s gifts for others imparted to us in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.

Think about your family’s financial contributions to your parish and to other Church functions and activities, as well as other charitable organizations.  Think about why it is important for you to share your resources with these organizations.  Finally, reflect on what Jesus observed in the generosity of the “poor widow”.  In what ways might you make a sacrificial gift to support your parish or other charitable organization through a donation of time, talents, or treasures (it does NOT have to be money!).  Then, participate in the action you choose to take for the organization you chose to support.  Finish your reflection on the generosity of the “poor widow” with a prayer, asking for God’s help to be “generous” like the generous “poor widow” in today’s Gospel.  Thank you.

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 Reflection Prayer:  

STEWARDSHIP PRAYER

Generous God, I give thanks to you for the gifts you have given me: my life, my family, my friends; my time, talents, and material possessions.  All that I have comes from you. Help me to remember this and rejoice in your goodness.

Walk with me, my God. Help me on my spiritual journey, so that I may constantly renew my relationship with you and all the good people in our parish and throughout the world.

Renew in me your Spirit.  Give me the strength and courage to become a better follower of Jesus, to be a disciple.  Help me hear the call to “Come, Follow Me.”

I give glory to you, my God, as I make stewardship a way of life.  Amen.”

http://www.stewardshipli.org/main/prayer.html

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“Doubting Thomas Came To Believe in Jesus – – AND – – Also In The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus And …!” – John 20:19-31†


    

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday [TODAY]), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ Himself to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.

A plenary indulgence (the forgiveness of all temporal punishment resulting from sins that have already been confessed) is granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy if to all the faithful who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and “in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. ‘Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!’).”

A partial indulgence (the remission of some temporal punishment from sin) is granted to the faithful “whom, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.”

(From http://catholicism.about.com website)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1220 – Death of Adolf of Altena, Archbishop of Cologne
†   1250 – Pope Innoncent III refuses Jews of Cordova Spain to build a synagogue
†   1610 – Death of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (b. 1546)
†   1652 – Death of Patriarch Joseph, head of the Russian Orthodox Church
†   1793 – Death of Ignacije Szentmartony, Croatian Jesuit missionary and geographer (b. 1718)
†   1853 – Protestant church questions king Willem III Roman Catholic Bishops
†   1889 – Death St. Father Damien, Belgian missionary to Hawaii Leper Colony (b. 1840)
†   1902 – Pope Leo XIII encyclical “On Church in US”
†   1942 – Birth of Francis X. DiLorenzo, American Catholic prelate
†   1945 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Communium interpretes dolorum”
†   1949 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Redemptoris nostril”
†   1652 – Death of Patriarch Joseph, head of the Russian Orthodox Church

(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: Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.

 

(NAB John 20:19-31) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” 28Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.  31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter in each of the lectionary cycles.  This detail alone should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus described in today’s reading.  This particular Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to the disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb was empty.  This appearance of the Risen Jesus Christ happens on the evening of the “first day” (Easter Sunday Eve) on which He rose from the dead.

The “mystery” of Jesus’ Resurrection is that He personally and truly appeared to His disciples, His followers, NOT as a spirit, but in bodily (“resurrected” flesh and blood) form.  However, as with His appearances to Mary Magdalene and to the travelers on the road to Emmaus some time later, Jesus’ bodily form was not readily recognized to His disciples.

Yes, the Resurrected Jesus had a physical presence, but the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus Christ unless He allowed.  His Resurrected body, though “transfigured”, nonetheless, showed the five “marks” of His crucifixion: hands, feet, and side.  The “Risen” Jesus chose to reveal the glory and magnificence of His Resurrection to His disciples, – – gradually, – – over a forty-day period of time.

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Today’s Gospel puts the spotlight on an Apostle, “Thomas”.  John’s Gospel also calls him “Didymus” (Hee, hee; what a funny name.  “Yo, Diddy-man, let’s play ball.”).  Didymus is the Greek word for “twin”.  And, the name “Thomas” is actually an Aramaic word, also for twin.  Other manuscripts give Thomas yet another name: “Judas”.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in Roman Catholic tradition; it would get too confusing with a “Judas (Thomas)”, a “Judas (Iscariot)”, and a “Judas” Thaddeus, also called “Jude”.

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  However, he was the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time. 

Thomas, for me, was a bona fide, natural pessimist.  Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people “rising from the dead”.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas is reported as saying to Jesus’ other disciples:

 “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage (as all the Apostles did) to stand with Him, Jesus, during His passion and crucifixion.  After Jesus’ death, Thomas apparently withdrew from the other disciples.  He wanted solitude rather than fellowship during his time of difficulty and hardship.  A few days later, he doubted the women, even Mary Magdalene, who reported seeing the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He even doubted his fellow disciples, personally hand-picked by Jesus Christ Himself, even though he too was one of the “chosen” few.  When Thomas finally gained the courage to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus made His presence known to them again, and to Thomas personally and intimately.  Jesus then reassured Thomas that He had indeed overcome death and had “Risen” again to new life in, with, and through God, His heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit.  The Risen Jesus also reassured them all – – in His appearing to them – – that they will rise again, as well.

John’s narrative of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples – – without or with Thomas – – has somewhat rough parallels in Mark and Luke’s Gospels, as compared to today’s John 20:19-23;

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  (Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  And when he had said  his, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:19-23).

Now, compare these verses above with the following verses from Mark and Luke.  First, from Mark:

(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.  He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:14-18).

And, then from Mark:

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39).

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Even after the two (at least) disciples, after they heard the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women, and saw the empty tomb; they all (not just Thomas) were still weak in their faith, and extremely fearful of being arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Jesus’ “Resurrected” – – Transfigured and perfected – – human body was then, and is STILL free of earthly physical limitations and constraints.  Jesus Christ appeared to His frightened and hiding disciples despite the fact that their doors were locked.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24, was not with these other disciples when the “Risen” Jesus first appeared to them that “first night”.  Ten of the Twelve Apostles (Judas was already dead and Thomas was absent) are gathered together in extreme fear, in one room or building within the city walls of Jerusalem.

Jesus surprisingly and miraculously appeared to them in this “fortress”, greeting His disciples with the gift of “peace” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit”.  In doing so, Jesus freed them (and us still today) from their fears and anxieties, and then commissioning them to continue the work of the Resurrection which He had begun during His earthly ministry; His mission, now theirs in the first century, and ours today in this century:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

During His appearance, Jesus showed the integral, vital, and fundamental connection between “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and God’s “forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus did what only love, trust, and faith actually, naturally, and even supernaturally does for the body and soul.  He commissioned His weak, frightened, and timid Apostles to carry the Gospel – – His Word – – to the ends of the earth: to ALL peoples and ALL nations.

This sending out, this commissioning, of the Apostles parallels the “sending out” of Jesus Himself, by His heavenly Father in heaven: God.  Jesus fulfilled His mission through His perfect love, trust, and obedience to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Jesus called His disciples to continue this mission, AND, He calls each of US to do the same, now and in the future.  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He also “breathes” on each of us, imparting to each of us, the exact same Holy Spirit, equipping us with power, grace, and strength to do the will of His Father, their Father, and OUR Father, in heaven:

Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘”  (John 20:17)

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 Jesus greeted His followers twice in this reading using the same words of greeting both times: “Peace be with you.”  I believe this greeting was customary among all the Jewish people of the time.  He greets His followers with the same warmth and affection He displayed to them prior to His Passion and dying.  (I believe He greets us the same way still today.)

Peace be with you” may have been simply an ordinary greeting for Jesus to give, however, John intends here to echo an earlier verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

An inherent theme of rejoicing in today’s reading also repeats and reinforces an earlier verse found in John’s Gospel:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:22).

Jesus, in essence, recreates His customary character of familiarity, closeness, and understanding of His Apostles as friends, and even brothers, in using this “customary” greeting upon His return.

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 John mentions Jesus showing His disciples “His Hands and His side” in order to dispel any thought of His presence being ONLY a spirit.  Luke talks about Jesus’ “hands and feet,” basing his version on Psalm 22:17:

’Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’  And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40);

Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” (Psalm 22:17 – RSV).

There is no longer any doubt of the image before these followers, these disciples, being Jesus Christ, Himself, truly “Risen” from the dead.

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By means of Jesus’ sending: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you“, the eleven trusted and personally picked disciples were made “Apostles”, a word meaning, “those sent with full authority”.  Another example of Jesus sending His disciples out into the world with God’s authority can be found just a little earlier in John’s Gospel, in which Jesus Himself prays:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:18).

It is note-worthy that John does not use the noun “Apostle” in reference to the eleven “hand-picked” men.  However, the solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the eleven men in the Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew says:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19).

Now, Mark says:

He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15).

And, Luke says:

“… repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).

Universal power, “full authority”, belongs to the risen Jesus Christ.  And, He freely gave the eleven “Apostles” a mission that is also universal.  They were sent out to make disciples of ALL nations: Gentiles and Jews alike; and this required a participation in the universal power and fulfilled authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  As Apostles – – now sent – – they have become full delegates of Jesus Christ, their Lord and their God.

Pope Leo XIII explained how Jesus Christ conveyed His mission on earth to the Apostles:

What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded?  This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated.  This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did.  ‘As the Father bath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21).  ‘Ad thou bast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18).  […]  When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching.  ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth.  Going therefore teach all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20).  So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish.  ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned (Mark 16:16).  […]  Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own – ‘He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me’ (Luke 10:16).  Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father.  ‘As the Father sent Me so also I send you’ (John 20:21).” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 6/29/1896).

The Apostles are “ambassadors of Christ”.  In this ambassadorship mission, Bishops become the successors of the Apostles; thus, Bishops then also share in Jesus’ consecration, mission, and divine authority:

Having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and missionThe office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests.  Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.” (Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorrum Ordinis, 12/07/1965)

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This action of “breathing on them” recalls a verse from Genesis:

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed on the first man, Adam, and gave him life.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ – – now called Apostle’s – – are given a new spiritual life coming directly from Jesus, the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit.

“Breathing on” someone brings to my mind prophesies found in Ezekiel 37.  In his prophesy, Ezekiel sees the revivification (an imparting a new life, energy, or spirit to something or somebody) of the “dry bones” of the whole house of Israel.  It is a very interesting chapter and read, so please read Ezekiel 37, which deals with prophesies of the salvation of all Israel, written hundreds of years prior to Jesus Christ’s birth.

Today’s Gospel reading is John’s version of the “Pentecost” narratives: the Holy Spirit coming onto the Apostles.  There is a definite connection presented between the imparting of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ’s glorious and magnificent ascension to His heavenly Father, making for an awesome vision or image for the reader.

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The Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) defined that the power to forgive sins is exercised in the Sacrament of Penance, known in the Catholic Church today as the “Sacrament of Reconciliation”.  Matthew uses very similar words in describing this grace imparted to the “Eleven” Apostles, and STILL continuing through their spiritual descendants: Catholic Bishops and Priests, all of whom being in a direct line of faith with the first Bishops: the Apostles.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19);

And,

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

There are many instances in rabbinic literature of the “binding-loosing” imagery used today.  In reflection, I believe there are several meanings to this metaphor of “binding and loosing”.  I think there are two of special importance to these words: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The Apostles’ exercise of authority in the Catholic Church on earth is confirmed in heaven through the actions of the Holy Spirit.  In this way, there is an authoritive and intimate connection between the Catholic Church on earth AND the kingdom of heaven.

The “Sacrament of Reconciliation” is, for me, the most inspiring and uplifting manifestation of God’s mercy.  This beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church is described so vividly in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (cf., Luke 15:11-32).  God always awaits us, with His arms wide open (open as wide as when He was stretched on the Holy Cross), waiting for us to turn, to repent and to return completely to Him.  If we do repent and return, He will immediately and lovingly forgive us (no questions asked), restoring us to the dignity of being His son and daughter.

The Popes have consistently recommended for Catholics to have a regular practice of using this most beautiful and loving of Sacraments:

To ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated.  By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.”  (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 88, 6/29/1943)

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Thomas initially doubted that the one present before him was the “Risen” Jesus Christ.  After Jesus placed Thomas’ fingers into the open wounds of His crucifixion, Thomas extolled:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas’ reply is not simply exaltation, a feeling of intense or excessive happiness, awe, and exhilaration.  It is a declaration – – a venerable “act of faith” – – in the divinity of his dear friend, Jesus Christ.  These words, “My Lord and my God”,  were an unexpected and sudden prayer of faith, praise, and joy; a prayer still often used by Catholics, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist (the Eucharist – Communion).

Consider John’s following statement:

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion linking the first verse of his Gospel:

… and the Word was God.“  (John 1:1)

I have been asked many times what “THE WORD” actually means.  I believe an exact definition cannot ever be truly completed as it is such an intimate, personal, unique, and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

“The Word” (the Greek word is “logos”) is a term which combines God’s living, very active, and creative word; incarnate pre-existing Wisdom; being THE instrument or tool of God’s creative activities; and the definitive, authoritative, completely full, supreme precision and clearness of His truth, love, and trust for us.

“THE WORD” is our Bible! – – an acronym (B.I.B.L.E.) for our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”!

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Consider the following verse:

Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29)

This verse of today’s Gospel can be viewed as a type of beatitude, maxim, or guiding principle from Jesus Christ, meant for future generations.  What Jesus is saying is that faith, and not sight, is what truly matters in believing and trusting in His kingdom.

Like everyone else, Thomas needed the grace of God in order to “believe”.  However, in addition to God’s grace, he was given an extraordinary confirmation of Jesus’ living presence, power, and divinity over ALL.  Just imagine how Thomas felt having Jesus Christ place his fingers into His wounds.  Thomas’ faith would have had more worth if he had truly accepted and believed the testimony of the other Apostles without any need for proof.  Revealed truths are normally transmitted by word; by the “testimony” of others who, – – sent by Jesus Christ, and aided by the Holy Spirit, – – preach the Word: the guarantee and security of faith in Jesus Christ:

“He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15-16)

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The final two verses (about performing many other signs and coming to believe) in today’s Gospel reading are unmistakably a start of John’s conclusion to his Gospel.  He clearly states, as only a good author does, his reason for writing the book, His Gospel.  These last verses sum up John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel – – to have ALL people believe Jesus Christ was, and is now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in the First (Old) Testament (the first Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe this saving truth, – – the heart and foundation of Revelation, – – that Jesus Christ IS God, and by believing, we begin to share and participate in His eternal life.

What I found interesting for me, personally, in researching these verses is that I discovered a few manuscripts from the early Church which actually state: “continue to believe”, instead of John’s “come to believe” (verse 31).  I believe John implied a missionary purpose for His Gospel by using these particular words.  He was urging his readers to go out and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John had a definite opinion on eyewitness testimony leading to the “truth”:

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe.” (John 19:35).

Other manuscripts (the “few” I just mentioned), suggest to me that its readers, its audience, consisted of Christians whose faith needed to be deepened or motivated by this particular book.

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In concluding, I see the story of Thomas as an excellent exemplification of our Catholic experience today.  We are ALL called to believe “without seeing”!   Thomas’s doubt is, in reality, hardly surprising from a “human” understanding.  The reports of Jesus’ appearance were barely credible even to the disciples who had seen Him, and witnessed Him being brutally crucified, died – – and then hastily buried.

Thomas’s human nature compelled him to want physical, observable, and provable, “hard” evidence that the person who appeared to the disciples after Jesus’ death – – was indeed – – the same Jesus who had been crucified and buried.  So, Thomas was given a special opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to actually and personally take action on his human desire for this “hard” proof.  Thomas is OUR eye-witness that Jesus is truly, fully, and really “Risen” and “Alive” today, in OUR lives.

When Thomas recognized his Master, his friend, and his Leader, he came to believe.  He proclaimed that Jesus was “truly Lord and truly God!”  Through the gift and grace of faith, we also proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord, Savior, and our God.  My daily “mantra” prayer which I repeat continuously throughout the day mirrors Thomas’ exclamation:

My God and My All; I Love You and I Trust You!” (DEH)

Jesus died and rose that we too might have new life in, with, and through Him.  Jesus Christ offers each of us a new life in His Holy Spirit so that we may know and walk with Him personally in His “new way of life”.  Jesus Christ offers to each of us, personally, individually, and uniquely, a new way of life, given to each of us through the power of His Resurrection, AND all of these are continued in the seven Sacraments of the Holy Catholic “Universal” Church.

Think about Thomas’s response to reports of the risen Jesus Christ.  Is Thomas’s doubt a reasonable one?  How does Jesus respond to Thomas and his human doubt? (Is it with frustration, anger, or love?)  Jesus grants Thomas the evidence that he needed to believe, but Jesus also affirmed the faith of those who will be called upon to believe without a “hard-proved” first-hand experience.

Many of us can relate to Thomas’s response to news that the disciples had actually seen Jesus AFTER His death on the cross.  Some of us want to see for ourselves too.  We grow in faith by learning to trust the experiences and knowledge of others.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we receive the same “Holy Spirit” that Jesus brought to His first disciples.  We are among those who are “blessed” because we believe without having seen!

Many of us have heard the saying, “Seeing is believing!”  Take some time to consider what this maxim really means.  What are some things we believe because we see them? (My parent’s love for me is an example)  Is there anything we believe without seeing? (For me, it’s Santa and the tooth fairy, along with protons and neutrons).  Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith sometimes asks us to believe things we cannot see with our eyes.

We are among those whom Jesus called “blessed”.  What is the basis of your faith in Jesus Christ?  It should be the witness of the first disciples (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the rest of the Apostles), the Holy Gospels, the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit in your life and the lives of others, and in the community of the Catholic Church.  It is simply a matter of FAITH!!

In our normal “human” lives there will be presented to each of us many opportunities for conflict.  Jesus did not promise us the absence of conflict in our lives, and on our paths to Him.  Instead, He gave us the grace and gifts of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation in order to reduce our personal and unique conflicts.  The measure of a true Catholic Christian is not the absence of conflict, but the manner in how conflict is resolved in our lives.  Filled with the race, the gift, of the Holy Spirit, we ask Jesus to help us to bring peace and forgiveness to situations of conflict in our daily lives.

Today, right NOW, take this opportunity to examine how you resolve conflict.  Recall a recent argument or disagreement and how the conflict was resolved.  Was the conflict resolved peacefully, in the way and spirit of Jesus Christ’s example?  If not, what alternatives might be tried in the future for a proper Christian response to conflict?  We have each received Jesus’ grace and gift of the Holy Spirit, and that same Holy Spirit imparted to the first Apostles helps each of us, personally, uniquely, and intimately, to be people who forgive ALL others and seeks peace in their life and their world.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so
much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Purgatory:

“Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) RSV.

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.  If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) KJV.

***

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey …” (1 Peter 3:18-20) RSV.

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient … “ (1 Peter 3:18-20) KJV.

***

But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life..” (Revelations 21:27) RSV.

“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelations 21:27) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Caesar de Bus (1544-1607)

 

Like so many of us, Caesar de Bus struggled with the decision about what to do with his life.  After completing his Jesuit education he had difficulty settling between a military and a literary career.  He wrote some plays but ultimately settled for life in the army and at court.

For a time life was going rather smoothly for the engaging, well-to-do young Frenchman.  He was confident he had made the right choice.  That was until he saw firsthand the realities of battle, including the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacres of French Protestants in 1572.

He fell seriously ill and found himself reviewing his priorities, including his spiritual life.  By the time he had recovered, Caesar had resolved to become a priest.  Following his ordination in 1582, he undertook special pastoral work: teaching the catechism to ordinary people living in neglected, rural, out-of-the-way places.  His efforts were badly needed and well received.

Working with his cousin, Caesar developed a program of family catechesis.  The goal—to ward off heresy among the people—met the approval of local bishops.  Out of these efforts grew a new religious congregation: the Fathers of Christian Doctrine.

One of Caesar’s works, Instructions for the Family on the Four Parts of the Roman Catechism, was published 60 years after his death.

He was beatified in 1975.

Comment:

“Family catechesis” is a familiar term in parish life today.  Grounded in the certainty that children learn their faith first from their parents, programs that deepen parental involvement in religious education multiply everywhere.  There were no such programs in Caesar’s day until he saw a need and created them.  Other needs abound in our parishes, and it’s up to us to respond by finding ways to fill them or by joining in already established efforts.

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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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

15.  Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives.  Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

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

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“Thomas, Thomas, Thomas! My Much Beloved Doubting Thomas!” – John 20:19-31†


 

Divine Mercy Sunday

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:

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday [TODAY]), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ Himself to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.

A plenary indulgence (the forgiveness of all temporal punishment resulting from sins that have already been confessed) is granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy if to all the faithful who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and “in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. ‘Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!’).”

A partial indulgence (the remission of some temporal punishment from sin) is granted to the faithful “whom, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.”

(From http://catholicism.about.com website)

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John Paul the Great is Beatified today.  One more step till he is officially declared a Saint in the Catholic Church.  I am excited and in awe.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1555 – Death of Marcellus II, [Marcello Cervini], Italian Pope (1555), at age 53
†   1572 – Death of Pius V, [Antonio Ghislieri], great-inquisiteur/Pope (1566-72) (born 1504)
†   1948 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Auspicia quaedam”, an encyclical on worldwide public prayers to the Virgin Mary for World peace and the solution of the problem of Palestine.
†   1987 – Pope John Paul II beatifies Edith Stein, a Jewish-born Carmelite nun who was gassed in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.
†   Feast/Memorials: Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker; Saint James the Less; Saint Philip the Apostle; Saint Andeol; Saint Asaph; Saint Brieuc; Saint Sigismund of Burgundy; Saint Theodulf; Saint Augustin Schoeffer

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Thomas coming to believe because he saw Jesus at His first appearance to the Eleven, (soon to be) “Apostles” and touched His wounds.

 (NAB John 20:19-31) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus
came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  31 But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

 

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The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to the disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb was empty.  This appearance happens on the evening of the first day on which He rose from the dead.

The “mystery” of Jesus’ Resurrection is that He personally and truly appeared to His disciples, His followers, NOT as a spirit but in bodily (“resurrected” flesh and blood) form.  However, as with His appearances to Mary Magdalene and the travelers on the road to Emmaus, Jesus’ bodily form was not readily recognized to His disciples. 

Yes, the Resurrected Jesus had a physical presence, but the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus Christ unless He allowed them.  His Resurrected body, though “transfigured”, nonetheless, showed the five marks of His crucifixion: hands, feet, and side.  The “Risen” Jesus chose to reveal the glory and magnificence of His Resurrection to His disciples, – – gradually, – – over a forty-day period of time.

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Today’s Gospel puts the spotlight on Thomas, the Apostle.  John’s Gospel also calls him “Didymus” (Hee, hee; what a funny name.  “Yo, Diddy-man, let’s play ball.”).  Didymus is the Greek word for “twin”.  The name “Thomas” is actually the Aramaic word for twin.  Other manuscripts give Thomas
yet another name: “Judas”.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in Catholic tradition; it would get too confusing with a “Judas (Thomas)”, a “Judas (Iscariot)”, and a “Judas” Thaddeus, also called “Jude”.

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He also was the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time.  Thomas was a bona fide, natural pessimist to me.  Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people rising from the dead.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas said to the disciples:

“Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage to stand with Jesus during His passion and crucifixion.  After Jesus’ death, Thomas apparently withdrew from the other disciples.  He wanted solitude rather than fellowship in his time of difficulty and hardship.  He doubted the women, even Mary Magdalene, who reported seeing the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He even doubted his fellow disciples, hand-picked by Jesus Christ Himself, as he too was one of the “chosen” few.  When Thomas finally gained the courage to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus made His presence known to them again, and to him personally.  Jesus then reassured him that He had indeed overcome death and had “Risen” again to new life in, with, and through God, His heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit.  He also reassured them all in His appearing to them, that they will rise again, as well.

John’s narrative of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples, without or with Thomas, has somewhat rough parallels in Mark and Luke’s Gospels,
as compared to today’s John 20:19-23;

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  (Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  And when he had said  his, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:19-23).

Now, compare these verses above with the following verses from Mark and Luke.  First, from Mark:

“(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raisedHe said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:14-18).

And, then from Mark:

“While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39).

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Even after the two (at least) disciples saw the empty tomb after they heard the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women; these same disciples (not just Thomas) were still weak in their faith, and extremely fearful of being arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Jesus’ “Resurrected” – – Transfigured and perfected – – human body was then, and is now free of earthly physical limitations and constraints.  Jesus Christ appeared to His frightened and hiding disciples despite the fact that their doors were locked.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24, was not with the other disciples when the “Risen” Jesus appeared to them that first night.  Ten of the Twelve Apostles (Judas was already dead and Thomas was absent) are gathered together, in one room or building, in Jerusalem out of extreme fear.

Jesus greeted His disciples with the gift of “peace” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit”.  In doing so, Jesus freed them from their fears and anxieties, and then commissions them to continue the work of the Resurrection that He has begun; His mission, now theirs:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

During His appearing, Jesus showed the integral, vital, and fundamental connection between “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and God’s “forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus did what only love, and trust, and faith actually, naturally, and even supernaturally does.  He commissioned His weak and timid Apostles to carry the Gospel – – His Word – – to the ends of the earth: to all peoples and nations.

This sending out, this commissioning, of the Apostles parallels the “sending out” of Jesus by His heavenly Father: God.  Jesus fulfilled His mission through His perfect love, trust and obedience to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Jesus called His disciples, AND, He calls each of US to do the same.  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He also “breathes” on each of us, imparts to each of us, the exact same Holy Spirit, who equips us with power, grace, and strength to do His will of His Father, and their Father in heaven:

Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘”  (John 20:17)

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Jesus greets His followers twice using the same words of greeting both times: “Peace be with you.”  I believe this greeting was customary among all
the Jewish people.  He greets them with the same warmth and affection as He displayed to them prior to His Passion and dying.

Peace be with you” may have been simply an ordinary greeting for Jesus to give, however, John intends here to echo an earlier verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

This theme of rejoicing in this reading also repeats and reinforces an earlier verse in John’s Gospel:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:22).

Jesus, in essence, recreates His customary character of familiarity, closeness, and understanding of His Apostles as friends, and even brothers, in
using this “customary” greeting.

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John mentions Jesus showing His disciples “His Hands and His side” in order to dispel any thought of His presence being ONLY a spiritLuke talks about His “hands and feet,” basing his version on Psalm 22:17:

“’Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’  And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40);

“Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet –.” (Psalm 22:17 – RSV).

There is no longer any doubt of the image before them being that of Jesus Christ, Himself, truly “Risen” from the dead.

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By means of Jesus’ sending: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you“, the eleven trusted and personally picked disciples were made “Apostles”, which means, “those sent with full authority”.  Another example of Jesus sending His disciples out into the world with God’s authority can be found just a little earlier in John’s Gospel, in which He Himself prays:

“As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:18).

It is note-worthy that John does not use the noun “Apostle” in reference to the eleven “hand-picked” men.  The solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the eleven men in the Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew says:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew
28:19).

Now, Mark says:

“He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15).

And, Luke says:

“… repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).

Universal power, “full authority”, belongs to the risen Jesus.  And He freely gave the eleven a mission that is also universal.  They were sent out to
make disciples of all nations: Gentiles and Jews alike; and this required a participation in the universal power and fulfillness of authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  As Apostles now sent, they have become full delegates of Jesus Christ, their Lord and their God.

Pope Leo XIII explained how Jesus Christ conveyed His mission on earth to the Apostles:

“What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded?  This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated.  This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did.  ‘As the Father bath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21).  ‘Ad thou bast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18).  […]  When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching.  ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth.  Going therefore teach all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20).  So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish.  ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned’ (Mark 16:16).  […]  Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own – ‘He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me’ (Luke 10:16).  Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father.  ‘As the Father sent Me so also I send you’ (John 20:21).” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 6/29/1896).

The Apostles are “ambassadorsbof Christ”.  In this ambassadorship mission, Bishops are the successors of the Apostles; Bishops also then share in Jesus’ consecration, mission, and divine authority:

“Having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and mission.  The office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests.  Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.” (Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorrum Ordinis, 12/07/1965)

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This action of “Breathing on them” recalls a verse from Genesis:

“The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed on the first man, Adam, and gave him life.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ – – now Apostle’s – – new spiritual life comes directly from Jesus, Son of God, through the Holy Spirit.

“Breathing on someone” brings to my mind prophesies found in Ezekiel 37.  In his prophesy, Ezekiel sees the revivification (an imparting a new life, energy, or spirit to something or somebody) of the “dry bones” of the whole house of Israel.  It is a very interesting chapter and read, so please read which deals with prophesies of the salvation of all Israel, hundreds of years prior to Jesus Christ’s birth.

Today’s Gospel reading is John’s version of the “Pentecost” narratives: the Holy Spirit coming onto them.  There is a definite connection presented between the imparting of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ’s glorious and magnificent ascension to His heavenly Father that makes for an awesome
vision or image.

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The Council of Trent defined that the power to forgive sins is exercised in the sacrament of penance, also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Matthew uses very similar words in describing this grace imparted to the “Eleven” Apostles, and continuing through their spiritual descendants: Catholic Bishops and Priests, all of whom being in a direct line of faith with the first Bishops: the Apostles.

“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19);

And,

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

There are many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery used today.  In reflection, I believe there are several meanings to this metaphor of “binding and loosing”.  I think two others meanings have a special importance to these words, “binding and loosing”: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The Apostles’ exercise of authority in the Catholic Church on earth is confirmed in heaven.  In this way, there is an authoritive and intimate connection between the Catholic Church on earth and the kingdom of heaven.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is, for me, the most inspiring and uplifting  manifestation of God’s mercy.  This beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church is described so vividly in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (cf., Luke 15:11-32).  God always awaits us, with His arms wide open (open as wide as when He was on the Holy Cross), waiting for us to turn, to repent and to return completely to Him.  If we do so, He will immediately and lovingly forgive us, restoring us to the dignity of being His son and daughter.

The Popes have consistently recommended for Catholics to have a regular practice of using this most beautiful and loving of Sacraments:

“To ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated.  By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.”  (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 88, 6/29/1943)

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Thomas initially doubted that the one present before him could be the “Risen” Jesus Christ.  After Jesus placed Thomas’ fingers into the wounds of His crucifixion, Thomas extolled:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas’ reply is not simply exaltation, a feeling of intense or excessive happiness, awe, and exhilaration.  It is a declaration, a venerable “act of faith” in the divinity of Jesus Christ.  These words were an unexpected and abrupt prayer of faith, praise, and joy, still often used by Catholics, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist (the Eucharist – Communion).

Consider John’s following statement:

“Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion with the first verse of his Gospel:

“… and the Word was God.”  (John 1:1)

I have been asked many times what “THE WORD” actually means.  I believe an exact definition cannot ever be truly completed as it is such an intimate and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

The Word” (the Greek word is “logos”) is a term which combines God’s living, very active, and creative word; incarnate pre-existing Wisdom; being THE instrument or tool of God’s creative activities; and the definitive, authoritative, completely full, the supreme precision and clearness of His truth, love, and trust for us.

“THE WORD” is our Bible! – – our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”: the B.I.B.L.E.!

Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29):

This verse of today’s Gospel can be viewed as a type of beatitude, maxim, or guiding principle from Jesus Christ, meant for future generations.  What He is saying is that faith, and not sight, is what truly matters.

Like everyone else, Thomas needed the grace of God in order to “believe”.  However, in addition to God’s grace, he was given an extraordinary confirmation of Jesus’ living presence, power, and divinity.  Just imagine how Thomas felt having Jesus Christ place his fingers into His wounds.  Thomas’ faith would have had more worth if he had truly accepted and believed the testimony of the other Apostles without any need for proof.  Revealed truths are normally transmitted by word; by the “testimony” of others who, – – sent by Jesus Christ, and aided by the Holy Spirit, – – preach the Word: the bond, the guarantee, and the security of faith in Jesus Christ:

“He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15-16)

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The final two verses (performing many other signs, and coming to believe) in today’s Gospel reading are unmistakably a start of John’s conclusion
to his Gospel.  He clearly states, as only a good author does, his reason for writing the book.  These last verses sum up John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel – – to have all people believe Jesus Christ was, and is now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in the Fist Testament (Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe this saving truth, – – the heart and foundation of Revelation, – – that Jesus Christ is God, and by believing this begin to share and participate in His eternal life.

What I found interesting for me, personally, in researching these verses I discovered that a few manuscripts from the early Church actually state: “continue to believe”, instead of John’s “come to believe” (verse 31).  I believe John implied a missionary purpose for His Gospel.  He was urging his readers to go out and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John has a definite opinion on eyewitness testimony leading to the “truth”:

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows  that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe.” (John 19:35).

Other manuscripts (the “few” early ones that I just mentioned), suggest to me that its readers consisted of Christians whose faith needed to be deepened or motivated by their particular book.

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In concluding, I see the story of Thomas as an excellent exemplification of our Catholic experience today.  We are ALL called to believe “without
seeing
”!   Thomas’s doubt is, in reality, hardly surprising from a “human” understanding.  The reports of Jesus’ appearance were barely credible to the disciples who had seen Him, witnessed Him, being brutally crucified, died, and then hastily buried.

Thomas’s human nature compelled him to want physical, observable, and provable, “hard” evidence that the person who appeared to the disciples after Jesus’ death – – was indeed – – the same Jesus who had been crucified and buried.  Thomas was given a special opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to actually and personally take action on his desire for this “hard” proof.  He is OUR eye-witness that Jesus is really “Risen” and “Alive” today, in OUR lives.

When Thomas recognized his Master, his friend, and his Leader, he came to believe.  He proclaimed that Jesus was “truly Lord and truly God!”  Through the gift and grace of faith, we also proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord, Savior, and our God.  My daily “mantra” prayer which I repeat continuously throughout the day mirrors Thomas’ exclamation:

“My God and My All; I Love You and I Trust You!” (DEH)

Jesus died and rose that we too might have new life in Him.  Jesus Christ offers each of us a new life in His Holy Spirit so that we may know and walk with Him personally in His “new way of life”.  Jesus Christ offers to each of us, personally and individually, a new way of life, given through the power of His Resurrection, and all of these are continued in the seven Sacraments of the Holy Catholic “Universal” Church.

 

Think about Thomas’s response to the reports of the risen Jesus Christ.  Is Thomas’s doubt a reasonable one?  How does Jesus respond to Thomas? (Is it with frustration, anger, or love?)  Jesus grants Thomas the evidence that he needed to believe, but Jesus also affirmed the faith of those who will be called upon to believe without a “hard-proved” first-hand experience.

Many of us can relate to Thomas’s response to the news that the disciples had seen Jesus.  We want to see for ourselves too.  We grow in faith by learning to trust the experiences and knowledge of others.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we receive the same “Holy Spirit” that Jesus brought to His first disciples.  We are among those who are “blessed” because we believe without having seen.

Many of us have heard the saying “Seeing is believing!”  Take some time to consider what this saying really means.  What are some things we believe because we see them? (My parent’s love for me is an example)  Is there anything we believe without seeing? (For me, it’s Santa and the tooth fairy, along with protons and neutrons).  Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith sometimes asks us to believe things we cannot see with our eyes.

We are among those whom Jesus called “blessed”.  What is the basis of your faith in Jesus Christ?  It should be the witness of the first disciples (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the rest of the Apostles), the Holy Gospels, the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit in your life and the lives of others, and in the community of the Catholic Church.

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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, SFO

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New Translation of the Mass

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph the Worker

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Daily Conversion II

What is the “spirit of lent” in the church year?

Was Francis a Christian “fundamentalist”?

In what ways do change and conversion require detachment and humility (a form of poverty)?

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Secular FranciscanOrder (SFO)
Rule #’s 1 & 2 of 26:

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

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

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

“Daddy, Can I …__________ …, PLEASE!” – Luke 11:1-13†


We are exactly five months till CHRISTmas!!  WOO-HOO!!  It is 75 degrees outside right now:  I need to find a coat to wear (OK, this is sick humor).

 

I am also starting part-two of St. Louis de Monfort’s “Total Consecration to Jesus, Through Mary” 34-day “novena” of prayers and meditations.  It has been an unbelievable, and very spiritual journey for me.  I am a firm believer that anyone that truly experiences this beautiful set of prayers and meditations will gain magnificent graces from our beloved Father.

 

Today’s reflection on the Mass Gospel Reading is the longest I believe I have ever written,  It has also been the deepest I have ever delved into the early Church, and the theology of Jesus’ words.  I started with the misconceived notion that this reflection would be easy since I have been saying the “Lord’s Prayer” every day since I can remember.  I am sure Jesus was sitting next to me, laughing hysterically, while I was writing this minor thesis! 

Though I have used my usual (and sometimes sick) humor throughout this reflection, it became a very deep and fairly thorough examination of the Jesus’ words and history of that time, in order to understand the complexities of this seemingly simple prayer.  Please read it slowly and carefully in order to get the full intent of the reflection.  Grab a cup of coffee and sit down in a comfy chair.

I want to thank a dear friend, John H., for helping me by proof reading this reflection and bringing out further thoughts from my soul.  He has become my resource and “bouncing board.”  This very pious man has definitely become a grace from God, for me.  Thank you John, Luv Ya.

 

Today in Catholic History:
    

†   1261 – The city of Constantinople is recaptured by Nicaean forces under the command of Michael VIII Palaeologus, thus re-establishing the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines also succeed in capturing Thessalonica and the rest of the Latin Empire.
†   1492 – Death of Pope Innocent VIII (b. 1432)
†   1593 – Henry IV of France publicly converts from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism.
†   1882 – Birth of George S. Rentz, Navy Chaplain, Navy Cross (d. 1942)

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

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

Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching us about prayer.

 

1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”  2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread 4 and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”  

5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ 7 and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed.  I cannot get up to give you anything.’  8 I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

9 “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  10 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  11 What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?  12 Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?  13 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (NAB Luke 11:1-3)

 

Luke gives more attention to Jesus’ teachings on prayer than any other Gospel writer.  Today’s reading presents three sections concerning prayer.  The first recounts Jesus teaching his disciples this Christian communal prayer, the “Our Father”; the second part concerns the importance of persistence in prayer; and the third is about the effectiveness of prayer.  I have separated each section in the above reading for your convenience.

Matthews’s manner of the “Our Father” is the one we most commonly say, and is the one used in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 6:9-15).  Stripped of much of the language we are used to, Luke’s version seems simple and direct.  This shorter version occurs while Jesus is at prayer, which Luke regularly shows Jesus devoutly doing at important times in His public ministry.  Other times include at the choosing of the Twelve Apostles (Luke 6:12); before Peter’s confession (Luke 9:18); at the transfiguration (Luke 9:28); at the Last Supper (Luke 22:32); on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:41); and on the cross (Luke 23:46).  Matthew’s form of the “Our Father” follows the liturgical tradition of his synagogue.  Luke’s less developed form also represents the liturgical tradition known to him, but it is probably closer than Matthew’s to the original words of Jesus.

Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray just as John [the Baptist] taught his disciples to pray.  To have its own distinctive form of prayer was the mark of a religious community: the start of the “Christian” community in this case.  This ancient way of recognizing a religious community is also true today, e.g., the consecration to Mary of the Marianists, and the “We adore you” of the Franciscans.

Jesus presents them with an example of a Christian “collective” prayer that stresses the fatherhood of God, and acknowledges Him as the one that gives us daily sustenance (Luke 11:3), forgiveness (Luke 11:4), and deliverance from the final trial [or test] (Luke 11:4).

The words “our Father in heaven” is a prayer found in many Jewish prayers with inception of the New Testament period.  “Hallowed be your name” was an interesting phrase for the young Catholics I taught in PSR.  I cannot tell you how many children thought they were saying “Harold be thy name:” actually thinking God’s real name was “Harold!”  The word “Hallow,” used as a verb, is defined as: “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate.”  The adjective form “hallowed,” as used in this prayer, means: “holy, consecrated, sacred, or revered.”

The act of “hallowing” the name of God is an intentional reverencing of God by our acknowledging, praising, thanking, and obeying Him and His will.  This is what most Catholics have come to believe.  I know I did!  Actually, it is more likely a petition that God hallow his own name; that he reveal His glory by an act of power!  This can be demonstrated in Ezekiel 36:23: I will prove the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations, in whose midst you have profaned it.  Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.  In regards to the “Our Father,” God is manifesting His power with the establishment of His “Kingdom,” first within us personally, and to be fulfilled completely in the future.

“Your kingdom come” is an appeal that sets the tone for this prayer, and slants the balance toward divine interaction and intervention, rather than human action in the petitions of this prayer.  “Your will be done, on earth as in heaven” is a request that God establish His Kingdom already present in heaven and on earth.  God’s Kingdom breaks the boundaries that separate the rich from the poor, the clean from the unclean, and the saint and sinner.

Trivia time: Instead of this appeal, some early church Fathers prayed, per the USSCB web site (www.usccb.org/nab/bible), “May your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us.”  This indicates that the “Our Father” might have been used in baptismal liturgies very early in Christianity.

“Give us today our daily bread” espouses a petition for a speedy coming of God’s Kingdom.  Interestingly, God’s Kingdom is often portrayed with the image of a “feast” in both the Old and New Testaments.  Examples can be found in Isaiah 25:6, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines:” and in similar themes found in Matthew 8:11; 22:1-10; Luke 13:29; 14:15-24.

Luke uses the more theological word “sins” rather than “debts,” used in Matthew’s version.  The word “debts” in “Forgive us our debts” is used as a metaphor for sins, meaning our debts owed to God.  This request I believe is for forgiveness now, and at our final judgment.  But Jesus’ disciples (even today) need to be careful, since disciples of Jesus NOT forgiving each and every person who has sinned against them, cannot have a proper view of Jesus’ Father, who is merciful to ALL!  See, the Father is truly Catholic: truly universal!

Jewish apocalyptic writings speak of a period of severe trials before the end of the “age.”  You may have possibly heard it called the “messianic woes” or “Jacob’s Trials” (The Book of Jubilees: Chapter 23).  The petition, “do not subject us to the final test” asks that we be spared these final tests.

Having taught his disciples this simple, but complete, daily prayer, Jesus reassures them that God answers all prayers given to Him.  He stresses this point by telling the parable about the persistent neighbor who asks a friend for bread at midnight.  The friend is already in bed and has no desire to disturb his family by opening the door.  But because the neighbor is persistent, the sleeping man gets up and gives him all that he needs.  The moral: If a neighbor is willing to help us if we are persistent enough, how could God not respond to our requests?!

Would I have acted the same way as the neighbor?  I can remember when my children were much younger, and spending a huge amount of time to get them to sleep.  If someone would have banged on my door, or rang the door-bell, I would have been quite upset, and not very hospitable or Christian when I answered that door.  I also know from past experiences, that I would have ultimately submitted to their request, and helped them in whatever way I could.  Is God the same way?  I believe yes!  He definitely does respond to us if we are persistent in our requests and communications with Him.

In the last sentence of this Gospel reading, Luke alters the  traditional saying of Jesus, found in Matthew 7:11: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more l will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” Luke substitutes “the Holy Spirit” for the underlined “good things.”  Luke presents the gifts of the Holy Spirit as God’s proper response to our prayers.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are significant in Luke’s theology, and play an important role in the growth of the early Church after Pentecost, and in our very personal relationship with our Lord.  “Good things,” Luke knew, could get disciples of Jesus in trouble.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord) sum up all that is given to the Christian community through prayer.  As we learn these gifts, we then experience the fruits of the Holy Spirit: joy, strength, and the courage for witnessing to Jesus’ mission on earth.  These gifts and fruits prepare us for life in eternity with Him in paradise.

I firmly believe that part of a solution to today’s problems in the Church, in the family, and in the world – – problems like abortion, wars and other conflicts, religious and racial harmony, physical and mental illness, family issues, and issues involving money, poverty, and excess wealth (including idolatry to money) – – is for all of us to practice a strong, constant, persistent, and unrelenting PRAYER life.  Given who and what Jesus really is, He taught us a perfect prayer, as it recognizes God’s holiness and His rule over all things.  

Jesus taught us to approach God simply as we would approach a loving father.  Think of times when family members were persistent about something until they were able to achieve a goal or receive what they sought.  Prayer is a way of striving to recognize how God is reaching out to us in love, and that He responds when we present Him with our needs and gratitude.  God hears ALL our prayers.  He also answers ALL our prayers, just maybe not the way we want or anticipate.  God’s invitation is, as Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”  The Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father) helps do just that!

 

“Our Father”

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. James
    

This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20).

James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani.

Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “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’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!”

The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life.

On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them…” (Luke 9:54-55).

James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a).

This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.

Comment:

The way the Gospels treat the apostles is a good reminder of what holiness is all about. There is very little about their virtues as static possessions, entitling them to heavenly reward. Rather, the great emphasis is on the Kingdom, on God’s giving them the power to proclaim the Good News. As far as their personal lives are concerned, there is much about Jesus’ purifying them of narrowness, pettiness, fickleness.

Quote:

“…Christ the Lord, in whom the entire revelation of the most high God is summed up (see 2 Corinthians 1:20; 3:16–4:6), having fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips the Gospel promised by the prophets, commanded the apostles to preach it to everyone as the source of all saving truth and moral law, communicating God’s gifts to them. This was faithfully done: it was done by the apostles who handed on, by oral preaching, by their example, by their dispositions, what they themselves had received—whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or by coming to know it through the prompting of the Holy Spirit” (Constitution on Divine Revelation, 7).

Patron Saint of: Chile; Laborers; Nicaragua; Rheumatism; Spain

 

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #25:
    

Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

 

 

“Hey Steve, Let’s Get Stoned!” – Acts 7:51-60†


I want to wish a very happy and blessed birthday to a woman I have grown to love.  I think I have read nearly all her books.  This woman raised herself up and out of despair and poverty, to become a poor and simple woman doing God’s work on earth; and doing it exceptionally well: Happy Birthday Mother Angelica.  May you have a blessed day.

Today in Catholic History:
570 – Birth of Muhammed, founder of Islam (d. 632) (date disputed)
1303 – The University of Rome La Sapienza is instituted by Pope Boniface VIII.
1314 – Death of Pope Clement V (b. 1264)
1586 – Birth of Saint Rose of Lima, Peruvian saint (d. 1617)
1923 – Birth of Mother Angelica, American nun and broadcaster
    

Today’s reflection is about the stoning of Stephen.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. — Eleanor Roosevelt
  

Today’s Meditation:
    

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors.  Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.  You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”  When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.  But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.  As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”   Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.  (NAB Acts 7:51-60)
     

Israel had generations of resistance to God’s word.  God repeatedly sent prophets to correct their ways, but the Jewish people rejected, persecuted, and murdered the prophets.  There seemed to be in a constant cycle of reverence, then immoral acts leading to destruction or capture.  Then prophets proclaim the fruits of following God’s laws with limited results for long periods.  Finally, the people ask for forgiveness and redemption, which is gained through sacrifice and prayer.  The Jewish people are forgiven and live in peace, harmony, and in the presence of God in a reverent manner; only to repeat the cycle again and again (I believe seven times).    

Stephen affirms to the Sanhedrin that the prophecy Jesus made before them had been fulfilled (see Mark 14:62): Jesus died, and was resurrected on the third day.  His church was torn down (His death on the cross), and was rebuilt in three days (with His resurrection).  The location of God’s “glory” is in heaven with the risen Christ, rather than in the Jewish Temple made by humans.

 The reason they covered your ears, is that Stephen’s declaration, like that of Jesus, is a scandal to the court which regards Stephen’s declaration as blasphemy.  I can picture them all acting like little children with their eyes closed tightly, hands firmly over their ears, looking downwards, and yelling “nani, nani, nani”.   

Stephen is taken outside the city, because any death makes the ground it occurs on as “unclean.”  No one, the Jewish people nor the roman officials, would ever think of making a planned murder on sacred ground.  Murder, in whatever form, is also death to a sacred life from God.  The location of murder is irrelevant to me.  Even in this present era, people are still purposely murdered.  Sacred lives are destroyed out of our immoral thoughts that “this” life is unnecessary or a hassle.  Abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty are all offenses against this sacred life, and are wrong!

Stephen was destined to be our Church’s first martyr.  This man chosen to feed the elderly widows and other members of the Church of Christ is being killed for his faith by a mob.  Stephen sees Jesus standing with God as he is being persecuted.  Stephen is literally walking in Jesus’ footsteps. 

The word “standing” may refer to Jesus’ welcome to his martyr in an individual way.  It is a variation of Jesus sitting at Gods right hand.  When you go to a friend’s house, how much warmer is the welcome when you are met at the door, or on the porch, with a smile and handshake from the home owner.  I think this is what Jesus is doing:  standing on the porch, welcoming Stephen to His abode.

Witnesses” hardly would be probable in a lynching.  These “witness participants” were probably people caught up in the mob hysteria present, and probably threw a stone or two at Stephen.  I wonder how they felt afterwards: was there any remorse?  Stephen forgave them before they even asked; did any ask God for forgiveness?

In the crowd was a young man that will become one of the greatest figures and disciples of the Catholic Church.  This man, at this time, is a strong and devout Jew, who hates any heresy to the current Jewish faith: Saul.  Saul’s presence appears at the precise point when the Churches mission moves outward from Jerusalem to the Gentile world.

“Jesus, I am in awe at the piety of the early followers of your disciples.  Please give me the grace of these early Church Fathers.  I so want to live and die in you presence and love.  Amen.”
   

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Marian
    

When St. Mamertinus was Abbot of the monastery which St. Germanus had founded at Auxerre, there came to him a young man called Marcian (also known as Marian), a fugitive from Bourges then occupied by the Visigoths. St. Mamertinus gave him the habit, and the novice edified all his piety and obedience. The Abbot, wishing to test him, gave him the lowest possible post – that of cowman and shepherd in the Abbey farm at Merille. Marcian accepted the work cheerfully, and it was noticed that the beast under his charge throve and multified astonishingly. He seemed to have a strange power over all animals. The birds flocked to eat out of his hands: bears and wolves departed at his command; and when a hunted wild boar fled to him for protection, he defended it from its assailants and set it free. After his death, the Abbey took the name of the humble monk. His feast day is April 20th

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.

“Told You So, Tommy!” – Jn 20:21-29†


“DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY”

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.  Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ Himself to Saint (Sr,) Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.

A partial or plenary indulgence can be granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy if certain conditions can be met.  There are various websites that explain how to obtain these graces.
     

Today’s reflection is about the gifts of the “priesthood.” and “Doubting Thomas.”

Quote or Joke of the Day:
      

Faith without action serves no useful purpose. ~ Anonymous
     

Today’s Meditation:
   

(Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  (NAB Jn 20:21-29)
   

By means of “sending” the eleven picked disciples, they became apostles, meaning, “Those sent.”  This declaration of a solemn and special mission is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the Apostles in the other three gospels as well.  Jesus is not just telling these eleven men to go out and preach the good news though; He is expecting all of us to evangelize.

My wife would faint if she had to talk to crowds of people; especially if it had to be on the subject’s of religion or politics.  This is not what Jesus meant; He wants us to use the gifts we have, in our own individual ways.  I have no problem talking to large crowds of all levels.  Others deal with very small groups or individuals.  And others do better demonstrating a proper Christian life through their own everyday behaviors and attitudes.  St. Francis said, “Preach the gospel.  If you have to, use words.”  Most may not know that all baptized Catholics are “priests.”  All are to go out into the world and spread the “good news,” thus making us members of the “common priesthood.”

The action of “breathing on them” recalls Genesis 2:7, where God breathed on Adam and gave him life.  As Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ new spiritual life comes from Jesus. The act of “breathing on” has a very distinct role in the Catholic Church, even today.  The Bishop “breathes on” the seminarian or deaconate candidate, at their ordination, passing on the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus did to the first priests and bishops: the eleven Apostles.  The priest “breathes on” the host at mass, allowing the Holy Spirit to change this bread and wine, into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Just two examples of the miraculous grace God has bestowed on the “ministerial priesthood.”

The Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) defined the power to forgive sins to be performed in the sacrament of penance, by a priest.  The priest is not the one that is actually forgiving the sin.  So why do we have to go to a man, and tell our sins?  The answer is simple: Because Jesus said so

When Jesus breathed on the apostles, and said those words, He passed on a special grace to these men, which allows the Holy Spirit to work through them in a very specific and special way.  Through “apostolic succession,” this grace is passed on to the priests and bishops of today.  If you notice, nowhere in the bible does it say that anyone can forgive sin, or that you can just ask for it in a prayer.  It actually says of the apostles, “Whose sins you forgive.”  The priest is actually in the person of Christ (persona Christi) via the Holy Spirit during this blessed and magnificent sacrament.  There are no shortcuts to salvation and redemption.

Thomas is probably my favorite Apostle.  He seems to be always the last to arrive.  He wasn’t in the room when Jesus first appeared to them, and had to be convinced, by Jesus Himself.  Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (September 8, 1774 – February 9, 1824), in one of the books of her visions, saw the death of the Blessed Mother: Mary.  In this vision, Thomas was the last to arrive at Mary’s house in Ephesus (present day Turkey); getting there the day after her death.

I believe Thomas was one of the most devout (though time deficient) of the apostles as well.  He traveled the furthest of the eleven, going to the orient.  On proof of Jesus’ resurrection being real, he fell submissively and reverently, stating “My Lord and my God.”  Thomas is not only exclaiming that Jesus was his superior (Lord), but also his divine creator of all (God).  Thomas was the first to pronounce his true faith in Jesus Christ.   

The last sentence of this gospel reading is a beautiful beatitude on future generations.  Belief by faith and not by sight is what matters.  It is easy for someone to believe in something they can see, touch, or feel.  Faith is a trust without a logical (in the scientific way) proof.  Just as a child knows his/hers parent will protect them, we know our heavenly mother and father will be with us, and protect us.

“Jesus, I doubt no longer.  I believe in you, and your eternal love for all your creation.  Please help me to be a good steward of our resources.  Amen.”
    

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Marguerite d’Youville
   

Foundress of the Sisters of Charity, the Grey Nuns of Canada. St. Marguerite D’Youville was born at Varennes, Quebec, on October 15, Marie Marguerite Dufrost de La Jemmerais. She studied under the Ursulines, married Francois D’Youville in 1722, and became a widow in 1730. She worked to support herself and her three children, devoted much of her time to the Confraternity of the Holy Family in charitable activities.

In 1737, with three companions, she founded the Grey Nuns when they took their initial vows; a formal declaration took place in 1745. Two years later she was appointed Directress of the General Hospital in Montreal, which was taken over by the Grey Nuns, and had the rule of the Grey Nuns, with Marguerite as Superior, confirmed by Bishop of Pontbriand of Quebec in 1755.

She died in Montreal on December 23, and since her death, the Grey Nuns have established schools, hospitals, and orphanages throughout Canada, the United States, Africa, and South America, and are especially known for their work among the Eskimos. She was beatified by Pope John XXIII in 1959 and canonized in 1990 by Pope John Paul II.  Her feast day is April 11th.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #11:
   

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

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