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♫“‘Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Jesus-Son Gone? Oh Where, Oh Where Can He Be?’ ♫ – – Well, He’s In the Temple, Listening And Asking!!” – Luke 2:41-52†


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Feast of the Holy Family:
Jesus, Mary, & Joseph

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For January 2013. pencil

 

Pope Benedict illustrationFor the faith of Christians: that in this Year of Faith, Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in Him.

For Middle-Eastern Christians: that the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.

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Mike depue, OFS is a dear friend of mine, a brother in the  Secular Franciscan Order, and the St. Clare OFS Region’s JPIC Coordinator.  He wrote this beautiful piece on the Christmas “Caroling” tradition.  Surprising (to me), Christmas Caroling was started by St. Francis and other Franciscans.  I hope you enjoy this bit of historical CHRISTmas trivia from Mike:

Blessings to all!

Did you know that Francis of Assisi began the Christmas caroling tradition in the early 1200s?  Francis wanted people to be able to express their joy at Christmas by singing simple songs themselves, wherever they happened to be, such as in their own homes or even while walking around outside.  Francis also wanted to present the Christmas story in a way that ordinary singing-christmas-carolspeople could best understand.  Priests had been singing formal Christmas hymns in church worship services since AD 129, when a bishop called for a song called “Angel’s Hymn” to be featured in a Mass in Rome, Italy.  However, these Christmas hymns were in Latin, which wasn’t a commonly spoken language by the 1200s.  Francis decided to add religious lyrics to popular tunes of his time, creating the style of song called a Christmas carol.  The word “carol” derives from the French word “caroler,” which means “dancing around in a circle.”  It refers to the pagan tradition of people dancing around in a circle during the Winter Solstice.  Francis wanted people to express their joy in Christ in a similar, uninhibited style.

It was almost certainly through the Franciscans that Christmas carols came to the British Isles. The earliest extant English Christmas carol, “A child is boren” (given below), is found in a set of sermon notes written by a Franciscan friar before 1350.  Collections of poems produced by friars in Scotland in 1372 contain lullabies to the infant Jesus.

A child is boren” in the English of today:

Let us gather hand in hand / And sing of bliss without an end: / The Devil has fled from earthly land, / And Son of God is made our friend. / A Child is born in man’s abode, / And in that Child no blemish showed. / That Child is God, that Child is Man, / And in that Child our life began.

I wish you all a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

Mike [DePue] ofs

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Qu. thought2ote of the Day:

 

Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart?  Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you?  Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it.  Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able hear Him saying, “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor.  Never give up daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person – not just the idea. ~ Taken from When Did We See You, Lord?”  by Bishop Robert J. Baker & Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.

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Today’s reflection: The boy Jesus is found in the Temple, with the Temple teachers, listening and asking.  When was the last time you truly listened and asked? 

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(NAB Luke 2:41-52)  41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, 42 and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.  43 After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  44 Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.  46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, 47 and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.  48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Holy Family”.  We should place today’s Gospel in the context of what LFamily-12uke tells us about the birth of Jesus during.  Luke has been answering the question “Who is Jesus?” through his stories of the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (Chapters 1 & 2).  Today’s Gospel reading continues this same theme: “Who Jesus IS”.  

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are presented as a faithful Jewish family.  In today’s story, they are participating in the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the “Feast of Passover”, an event shared each year with family and friends.  When Jesus is 6ddfb299120a9ca051e900744975446afound, Luke describes Him as seated “in the Temple in the midst of the Jewish teachers”. Although He is young, Jesus seems to NOT need teaching about His Jewish religion and traditions.  In His dialogue with these “learned” teachers (Rabbi’s), Jesus “astounds” them with His insight and understanding.  This event was the important turning point in Jesus’ earthly life when He shifted the name “father” from Joseph, addressing it to God, His Father in heaven instead. 

With this Gospel reading, the infancy narrative ends – – just as it began – – in the setting of the Jerusalem Temple.  This particular story today, is about an incident from Jesus’ youth, and is unique in, and to, Luke’s Gospel.  Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel to report of Jesus being “lost in the temple”.  Thus, Luke assumes and presents Jesus in the role of a faithful Jewish boy, raised in the traditions of Israel, fulfilling all that the Mosaic Law requires of a boy His age for Him to become a Jewish “man”.  

Today’s story starts with the Holy Family in Jerusalem for the “Feast of the Passover”, a high holy day (days) in the Jewish religion:

Each year His parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when He [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom (Luke 2:41-42). 

This Jewish holy feast was prescribed from the time of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.  The reason for this feast wJesus_as_boy_jpg_w300h300as to remember and celebrating God’s interaction in the Jewish “chosen” people’s lives, allowing the Jewish faithful to escape their oppressive captivity:

You will keep this practice forever as a statute for yourselves and your descendants.  Thus, when you have entered the land which the LORD will give you as he promised, you must observe this rite.  When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice for the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he delivered our houses.’  Then the people knelt and bowed down” (Exodus 12:24–27);

And, also in Exodus, the time when this feast is to take place each year:

You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread.  As I have commanded you, you must eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for it was then that you came out of Egypt.  No one shall appear before me empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15);

Abib” is the time of the year, the name of the month, in which the barley harvest happened.  “Abib” translates to “ear of grain, or, ripe grain” and corresponds to our present months of March and April.  At a later time, the month of “Abib” became known as the Babylonian name of “Nisan” instead.

Only males aged 12 and over were required to make this yearly journey of faith.  This clearly puts Jesus at this age, since this is His first time going to Jerusalem for the feast.  How far did they have to travel? Well, Nazaretdirect-map-nazareth-to-jerusalem2h is about 60 miles from Jerusalem (in a straight line on a map).  However, with the “hilly” nature of the country, this trip would actually be about 85 miles.  This is definitely a long way to walk, especially for women and children, every year.

On pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the Jews used to travel in two linked-groups: one of men, followed closely by another of women.  Children could go with either group, probably depending on age and sex of the child.  No wonder Mary and Joseph travelled for a full day’s journey before discovering the child Jesus missing.  They probably “discovered” Him gone when regrouping to camp for the night, each thinking Jesus was with the other group.

Just try to imagine the anxiety and fear Mary and Joseph were experiesimpsons_scaredncing.  Mary certainly was crying, with both of them running to the various family camps, searching for, and inquiring about Jesus’ whereabouts in each of the camps; discovering He is NOWHERE to be found!  I personally have had the anguish of “losing” one of my kids for just a few minutes.  I cannot even imagine the fear of realizing a child of mine was left behind in a strange and very threatening environment of a “big city” like Jerusalem.  

Hmm, here’s a notion or thought for you about “concern for Jesus”.  The concern Mary and Joseph had in “looking for” Jesus might, and should, encourage each of us to personally, and always, seek out Jesus in our own daily lives.  This idea is especially true if we “lose” Him through our sins.

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Jesus was probably found in the courtyard area of the Temple; this is where the “teachers” – – the “rabbi’s” – – taught.  “Listeners” used to sit on the ground at their feet, asking questions, and responding to questions untitledasked of them.  The four “Rabbinic” ways of teaching are:

  • ·        exegesis” – – literal, plain teachings and interpretations; following “hints” in words, phrases, and other elements of truth;
  • ·        eisegesis” – – an allegorical or homiletical application of a text, searching or reading one’s own thoughts into the text, and then expounding on them;
  • ·        finding the “secret” “mystical or hidden meaning” of Jewish Scripture by using the numerical values of the Hebrew letters in Scripture, noting unusual spellings, by transposing letters, and so on;

And finally,

  • ·        through parables:
    • o   as an illustration to help grasp a concept or teaching;
    • o   as a “secret speech”, to deliberately minimize or conceal a concept;

and, 

  • o   as a rhetorical narrative in order to draw a parallel between a fictional story and one’s reality in life.    

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (CCC) says of Jesus’ teaching through parables and secrets:

“Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of ‘parables’, a characteristic feature of His teaching.  Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.  Words are not enough, deeds are required.  …  Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables.  One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to ‘know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.  For those who stay ‘outside’, everything remains enigmatic [mysterious]”  (CCC, paragraph 546).

One third of Jesus’ teachings consisted of parables.  It is importance for us to not only try to understand the “Rabbinic ways of teaching” – – especially the parables – – from OUR viewpoint, but to understand them in their cultural, historic and linguistic context of Jesus’ time as well.

So, Jesus was sitting at the Rabbi’s feet, listening, and asking questions.  However, His questions and answers attc06racted a great interest from the “teachers”!  Jesus was obviously well informed and well taught, in the eyes of these religious men.   If they only realized the truth about this “boy” sitting among them!!

Not only were the “teachers” astounded, so were Jesus’ parents when they saw Him sitting and conversing with the learned religious men:

When His parents saw Him, they were astonished” (Luke 2:48).

Ever since the Annunciation, Mary (and Joseph) knew that her (their) child, Jesus, WAS GOD!!  Mary’s pure and true faith is the foundational bedrock for her generous fidelity to00007803_h her Son, Jesus, throughout her entire life.  There was no reason for Mary to know every detail about the sacrifices Jesus – – her Son, her GOD – – would ask of HER!  Nor, did Mary have reason to know how Jesus Christ would go about His mission of redemption and salvation.  The revelation of Jesus’ mission would be “discovered” as time went by, and while living and contemplating her Son’s life, death, resurrection, and assumption as it happened, and remembered.

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Mary and Joseph asked Jesus why He stayed behind when their group departed for Nazareth:

Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48). 

Iuntitleda am pretty sure I would NOT have been as stoic (showing patience and endurance) as Mary and Joseph was upon finding MY son, in this situation.  If my twelve year son purposely stayed behind, and not told anyone, I probably would have been augmenting my questions with unique “actions” as well: first, a hug and kiss – – then, “something else”. 

Jesus’ reply is His explanation of why he did such a “foolish” thing:

Why were you looking for meDid you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

These are the very first “Words” Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel.  In His saying, “I must be in my Father’s house”, Jesus is referring to God the Father as HIS Father!!  It also shows Jesus’ divine “Sonship”, His defirstwordsforiphonetermination, and His obedience to fulfilling His Eternal Father’s “will”; a “Sonship” which will take precedence over His ties to His earthly family.  Jesus does not chastise Mary and Joseph for searching for Him.  But He does raise their attention, their souls, to understanding and appreciating what He owes to His Eternal Father, whose Eternal Son – – He is!!  Jesus’ parents must have realized that His reply contained a deeper meaning they could not grasp (at that time):

But they did not understand what he said to them” (Luke 2:50).

They did grow to understand the revelation of their Son’s life, as it unfolded – – as it was revealed – – before their eyes.  Mary and Joseph’s faith, and their reverence to their incarnated child, led them to not ask any further questions.  Instead, they “reflected” Jesus’ “Words” and “actions” in this occurrence, and as they will d7%20Sorrowso on many other occasions in His and their lives:

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

Jesus, in His youth, recognized He had been given a “call” by His heavenly Father.  While Jesus recognized His unique call, He, nonetheless, submitted Himself – – with love and obedience – – to Joseph and Mary, waiting for the time when His “call” would be fulfilled.  

Our Heavenly Father also calls each of us to a unique task and mission in this earthly life.  We may not discover or understand it fully, but if we cooperate with God, He will use us for His righteous purpose and plan.  With any call, God also gives a grace – – a grace to say “yes” to His will, and a grace to persevere through any obstacles and trials we encounter.  It is truly an awesome feeling to recognize God’s “call” in one’s life.  It is also an awesome feeling to trust in His grace.  Give it a try the next time He “calls” YOU!!  I cannot even describe the AWE and JOY of answering His calling!!

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Today’s Gospel sums up Jesus’ life in Nazareth in a few simple words of the second to last verse:

[He] was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51).

Jesus, the “Second Person” of the Holy Trinity, came to earth to “obey” God tlove-obey1he Father – – and to obey His earthly “beings”, though Mary and Joseph are very special “beings” indeed!  We have to love God so as to love His will and desire in responding to His calls.  God’s will and desire comes to us through our ordinary daily duties: family, friends, work, private, public.  His will and desire come to us through our own – – and other’s – – difficulties and relationships, and in our eagerness to do what is right and just in life.

ThJesusGrewe final verse of today’s reading is insightfully interesting for me:

And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52).

A similar phrase, “growing in spirit”, is used two times in Luke’s Gospel:

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

The child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).

Luke is the only Gospel writer to connect John the Baptist – – who also “grew in age and favor” – – establishing John’s early direct-relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.  The key element in these three verses above is that both of these two great “beings” grew in age, spirit, wisdom, and favor before God the Father.  I personally believe we can also add Mary and Joseph to this extremely unique twosome of people – – models for how to live a “Christ-like” life.

Jesus lived like other people in Nazareth, working in the same trade as His “earthly” father, Joseph.  Just as any other tradesman, Jesus learned His living by the “sweat of His browthehomelifeofjesusluke2-51”.  Details of Jesus’ life are blank – – to us – – for nearly twenty years.  However, Jesus’ ENTIRE life is an example of how to be a Christian.  We are to sanction – – to SANCTIFY – – our unique and individual vocations, our paths in life, through years of our quiet, often humdrum, and mostly unspectacular living – – in, with, and through Him!  Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God has forgotten about any of us.  Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God hasn’t called you or me for an important role in His kingdom.  God wants us to know that each of us, in our own personal vocations, professions, and talents, are not absent from His divine plan.  Instead, with God – – in our lives – – has sanctified them, making them a more acceptable offering to Him.  WOW!!

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T. summarize titlehe dialogue between Mary and Jesus contains many references to family relationships.  Interestingly Mary and Joseph are never identified by name.  (I bet you didn’t catch this fact.)  Instead, they are referred to by their relationship to Jesus.  Ultimately, this style of writing emphasizes Luke’s point about the identity of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is asked a poiwords-hurt-feelingsnted question, “Why?”  Jesus responds with an equally pointed response, “I must be!”  Jesus did not intend to cause his mother and step-father any distress.  However, His actions most-likely provoked that type of response.  When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, they question Jesus, expressing their anxiety.  Jesus replies in “Words” that many of us may believe to be disrespectful.  Jesus, in fact, is saying He was never lost; He is God’s Son; and He was at home in God’s “house”.  Luke will continue throughout His Gospel to suggest that faith in Jesus establishes “new” family relationships as He describes Jesus’ public ministry in his later chapters.  Luke is also telling us, through his Gospel, that Mary’s importance is even greater than her role as Jesus’ mother.  Remember, Mary is the first disciple, also present with Jesus’ other disciples after His Resurrection at Pentecost.

In the Holy Family, we see the face of God’s love.  As Jesus told us – – and as my Order’s founder, Saint Francis of Assjs2isi lived – – we need to see the face of God in every single person we encounter, not just in the one’s we love.  If we see fear instead of love in others who are different from us, we are not seeing God!!  

We need to be in the presence of God every second of every minute of every day, not just for one hour on Sundays, and not just with people who are like us.  If we do not see the face of God in the marginalized – – the sick, the homeless person, the unborn child – – then God will not dwell within us.  Others will look at us, seeing fear instead of God’s love.

So, let us sing with great joy (Re-JOY-SING) at the celebration of the our Lord’s birth and the gift of the Holy Family to each of us, who are inviting each us into God’s – – HIS – –  family forever and ever.  Let us also renew our commitment, on a daily basis, to do as Jesus told us: to take up our cross and follow Him.  Let EVERYONE who sees us see also the face of God, knowing His love through us.

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T. conclusionoday’s Gospel describes a time of anxiety in the life of Jesus’ family.  We can imagine their panic and worry as Mary and Joseph discoveJesus in the temple discussing his Father's business Luke 2:46-49red Jesus was not with the caravan of people returning to Nazareth.  The Holy Family journeyed with family members and friends because traveling alone was dangerous.  When they found Jesus at the Temple, it appears Jesus spoke like a typical adolescent, unsympathetic to His parents’ concern.  But, His “Words” teach an important lesson about reducing anxiety in our family life.  In essence, Jesus says to them:

“If you had remembered who I am, you would have known where to find me.”

In their panic, Mary and Joseph had forgotten what had been told to them before Jesus’ birth, their son was the Son of God.  Knowing a person well helps reduce our anxieties for them because we can better predict how they will behave, and we know their capacity to handle the challenges that life might present to them.

Recall times when you learned something, even something trivial, about your close friend and/or family members.  Recall times when YOU told others something which possibly “startled” or “surprised” them.  Now, recall how you felt in each of these “revealing” “revelations”. 

Torange_man_thinking_questionake what you have learned from this simple exercise you just reflected on, and reread the questions and answers in today’s Gospel, placing yourself in the roles of the one asking AND the one being asked: 

Son, why have you done this to us?”  (Luke 2:48);

Why were you looking for me?”  (Luke 2:49);

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  (Luke 2:49).

Hmm, the one thing about “true” relationships is that we come to eventually learn to know each other well.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

A Relationship Prayer

 

“Lord, teach me how to love in a way that would be pleasing to You.  Open my eyes and heart so as to be receptive to the needs in my life, and not just for my wants.

Grant me wisdom, direction, purpose, confidence, discernment, and any other tool n06-07-buildingrelationships[1]eeded by me for this great journey with, in, and through You.  Wipe away any and all fears, tears, and doubts, created by my sometimes tumultuous relationship past.

Create in me a new heart filled with a deep and abiding love for You above all else, then for others, and finally for myself.  When the right person comes along, bless me with clarity of vision to see that this is indeed the right person for me.  When this person does come, I will never forget who made it all possible.  In each day, I will strive to exhibit a love that would make You proud.

With a fullness of heart, and a sincerity in my spirit, I ask this all in your name.  Amen.”

Based on a prayer at the following website:
http://www.flyguychronicles.com/2011/02/a-relationship-prayer/

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♫ “Oh Johnny Boy, The Christ, The Christ Is Com-um-ing!”♫ – Luke 1:57-66, 80†


 

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

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 OFS Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

           

Many churches of both the Eastern and Western faiths celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on this day. The Nativity of St John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, being listed by the Council of Agde [Southern France] in 506 as one of that region’s principal festivals, where it was a day of rest and, like Christmas, was celebrated with three Masses: a vigil, at dawn, and at midday.

 The Nativity of St John the Baptist on June 24 comes three months after the celebration on March 25 of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told Our Lady that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus.  The purpose of these festivals is not to celebrate the exact dates of these events, but simply to commemorate them in an interlinking way.

(per Wikipedia)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1386 – Birth of Giovanni da Capistrano, Italian saint (d. 1456)
†   1519 – Death of Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander, dies at 39
†   1529 – Zurich & catholic kantons sign Peace of Kappel, ending an armed conflict in 1531 between the Protestant and the Catholic cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy during the Reformation in Switzerland.
†   1542 – St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet (d. 1591)
†   1546 – Birth of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (d. 1610)
†   1572 – Death of Joannes van Naarden, OFM priest, hanged
†   1572 – Death of Ludovicus Voets, priest, hanged
†   1923 – Pope Pius XI speaks against allies occupying Ruhrgebied
†   1967 – Pope Paul VI publishes encyclical Sacerdotalis coelibatus, an encyclical on the celibacy of the priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of the birth of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Québec, brush makers and knife sharpeners; also Festival of San Juan observed in Bolivia and Peru, Jaaniõhtu in Estonia.

(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:

 

Why did John the Baptist take his shoes off before going into the water?

Why?

He wanted to save soles!

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist is born.  All wonder what he will grow to become.

 

(NAB Luke 1:57-66, 80) 57 When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.  58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.  59 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”  61 But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”  62 So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.  63 He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.  64 Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.  65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.  66 All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”  For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.  80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  He opens with Jesus’ infancy narrative, a collection of stories about the birth and childhood of Jesus.  However, Luke also presents the parallel scenes (diptychs) of angelic announcements of the birth of John the Baptist AND of Jesus.  Luke’s account shows the parallelism of their births, circumcisions, and presentations in the Temple.  With his parallel stories, the ascendency of Jesus over John is stressed in Luke’s Gospel:

John is the “prophet” of the Most High:

“You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways (Luke 1:76);

And Jesus is the “Son” of the Most High:

“He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). 

Then, John is said to be “great in the sight” of the Lord:

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

And Jesus “will be ‘Great’”:

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). 

Finally, John “will go before” the Lord:

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16–17);

And Jesus “will be” Lord:

“How does this happen to me [Elizabeth], that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord (Luke 1:43; 2:11).

In the verses before those read today at Mass, the birth of John the Baptist had been announced by the angel Gabriel to an elderly man, Zechariah, performing his duties as a priest in the Jerusalem Temple.  The Archangel Gabriel would then go on to announce the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth.  Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth never had children.  And, Mary is engaged to Joseph, but they have not yet come to live together. So, two women physically impossible to get pregnant are graced by God to give birth nonetheless.  The story of John (the Baptist) is placed in the center of the Jewish environment into which he and Jesus were born.  In the next chapter (Luke 2), Jesus’ annunciation and birth begins a movement of the Gospel into the environment of the occupying Roman Empire of Jesus’ adulthood, setting the stage for His Passion. 

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The birth and circumcision of John contained within the Gospel today emphasizes John’s incorporation into the people of Israel by the sign of the covenant, as promised in Genesis:

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said: I am God the Almighty.  Walk in my presence and be blameless.  Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.  Abram fell face down and God said to him: For my part, here is my covenant with you: you are to become the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you.  I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now residing as aliens, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.  God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the agesThis is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.  Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.  That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including houseborn slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:1–12).

And, again in the book of Leviticus (a great and easy read for first-time bible readers – NOT!!), circumcision is again alluded to as the sign of the covenant:

“The LORD said to Moses: the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised (Leviticus 12:1,3).

Did you know circumcision was actually widely practiced in the entire ancient world, usually as an initiation rite for males at puberty well before Abraham and Moses’ time?  However, with the Jewish nation shifting the time of circumcision to “the eighth day after birth”, the Jewish religion made it no longer a “rite of passage”, but THE sign of an eternal covenant between God and the community of, and descending from, Abraham.

The narrative of John’s circumcision also prepared the way for the subsequent description of the circumcision of Jesus in Luke’s next chapter:

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21).

So, at the beginning Luke’s books of Holy Scripture (His Gospel and the Book of ACTS), he shows those who play crucial roles in the inauguration of Christianity to be – – as a whole – – a part of the people of Israel.  On top of this acclamation of faith, at the end of the Acts of the Apostles (cf., Acts 21:20; 22:3; 23:6–9; 24:14–16; 26:2–8, 22–23), Luke makes a case for Christianity being a direct descendant of Pharisaic Judaism which accepted the supernatural origin of the universe, and of Abraham’s family, believing of a life after death, angels, and so on.  Our Jewish friends and brethren are truly our brothers in, and through, Christ – – their Messiah and OUR Savior!!

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The practice of Judaism at this time in Jesus’ time in human form in this world was to name the child at birth.  Furthermore, though naming a male child after the father is not completely unknown, the usual practice was to name the child actually after the grandfather, per biblical footnotes:

There is no one among your relatives who has this name” (see Luke 1:61).

In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation for this verse states:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patriautou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

patri is a male ancestor.  This male could be the nearest ancestor, a father of the corporeal nature, such as a male parent.  Or, the male ancestor could be a more remote ancestor, the founder of a family or tribe, a forefather such as a Grandfather.

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Zechariah was a godly man who was tuned to God’s voice.  He was born into a priestly family and it was his privilege to be chosen to enter the inner court of the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God in the “Holy of Holies”.  

The naming of the infant John, and Zechariah’s recovery from his loss of speech, should be understood as fulfilling the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement, given to Zechariah in the Holy of Holies:

“The angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.  But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”  (Luke 1:13, 20).

Luke records that the people wondered at Zechariah’s delay from emerging from the Holy of Holies, and were amazed that he was speechless when he withdrew from the inner sanctuary:

“When he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.  He was gesturing to them but remained mute.” (Luke 1:22).

I believe Zechariah also lost his hearing too.  WHAT did I say?!  How can I presume this “strange” fact?  You might even say, “I have NEVER been told this before!”  Well, my evidence comes directly from what is written ALSO in Luke’s Gospel:

“So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called” (Luke 1:62).

Why did they need to make “signs” to ask him a question if Zechariah was able to hear?  Zechariah himself would have had to make the signs to answer questions, since he was unable to speak.  Thus, I believe Zechariah was, in actuality, a “deaf – mute”, and not just deaf.

Well, actually, that is what I believed for some time.  I allowed my understanding of American English trapping me into believing what is NOT really there in the original word and meaning.  In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation proves my error in fact:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patri  autou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

eneneuon actually translates to mean “signifying or expressing ‘by a nod or a sign’”.  So, in reality, Luke 1:62 simply says, “They ‘nodded’ at Zechariah, asking him what he wished for the infant to be called”.

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The last verse from today’s Gospel jumps fourteen verses to this next verse:

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

Interestingly, Luke uses very similar words to describe Jesus’ growing into manhood as well:

The child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40).

Jesus too, goes into the desert, starting His public Ministry by attending John the Baptist preaching and observing him baptizing in the Jordan River.  Jesus presented Himself to be baptized by John in the Jordan River – – two more parallels between John and Jesus indeed.

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To summarize, in today’s reading Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoice with her because God had shown her mercy in the birth of a son – – an heir.  However, they were confused when Elizabeth told them her infant’s name was to be “John”, which means “God has been gracious”.  Zechariah had been unable to speak since the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel’s word.  When Zechariah writes “John is his name” all are amazed.  Then, a great fear comes upon everyone; and this event is spread and heard throughout all Judea:

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:65). 

Fear – – Awe – – along with joy and praise – – is the appropriate response to God’s mercy, per Luke.  I am sure people present and/or hearing of this event wondered what this infant would become, but this question was already answered by Gabriel:

He will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (Luke 1:15-16).

Zechariah responds with praise in his famous hymn of prayer, the “Benedictus” or “Canticle of Zechariah”:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.  He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79).

This canticle (a true song of praise) is not part of today’s Gospel reading at Mass.  Instead we jump to the last verse of this chapter (Luke 1:80), which explains that John will become strong in spirit, living in the desert until it is time to show himself to the people of Israel.  When John appears again at the beginning of Chapter 3, after the stories of the birth and childhood of Jesus, he will prepare those people for the ministry of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance for the acceptance of God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins.

John lived as a “Nazarite” (cf., Numbers 6) – – a person set apart for the Lord (The Old Testament “Samson” is another example of a Nazarite).  Filled with the Holy Spirit, even within his mother’s womb, he was sent to the people of God – – in the spirit and power of Elijah – – to turn hearts to God and one another, by turning the “disobedient to the wisdom of the just” (Luke 1:17).  When God acts to save us, He graciously fills us with His Holy Spirit, making our faith “alive and active” to, and through, God’s promises (cf., 2 Peter 1:3-4).  

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To conclude, names have special meanings.  Some people are named after parents or other relatives and ancestors.  Sometimes peoples’ names are symbolic, suggesting something unique about the person or recalling an event or experience related to that person’s birth.  Sometimes, names are even randomly bizarre and of their own in origin.  In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth gives her son the name John, meaning “God has been gracious”.  This name truly sets John apart – – in a special way – – for it was normally the father’s responsibility to name a child, and the name was usually a family name.  The unusual nature of John’s naming suggested (and still suggests) to everyone that he is truly a special child with a special purpose in God’s kingdom.

Spend some time focusing on your name – – and others’ names.  What is the significance of each of these names (?), and how did the naming take place?  Review the parts of today’s reading describing how John received his name.  

How important are names?  How are we as Catholics called to honor the name of God?  How can we emphasize and honor God’s name in our daily lives?  How can we promise to live “our lives” in and with God’s name?

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I would like to end with my favorite verse from today’s reading:

“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth (Luke 1:14).

Both John’s birth (June 24th) and Jesus’ birth (December 25th) are not only celebrated once a year, but are celebrated with each and every Baptism, Confirmation, and Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Their “births” are remembered by, and Jesus’ birth is renewed in me (and in you) each time I receive Him:  Resurrected body, blood, soul, and divinity during the Eucharist.  So, we can celebrate His (and our) birthday EVERY day if we wish.  In doing so, we will live by another verse (my all-time favorite verse, the bible verse I take as my personal motto):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17).

When God draws us into His presence, He wants us to be still and quiet – – before Him – – so we can listen to His voice as He speaks to our consciences and our hearts.  In doing so, He reveals His Word, Will, and Plan to us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  Do you listen attentively to the Lord (?) and do you ponder his Word in your heart with a certain trust and confidence in Him? I will finish with the prayer I say continually throughout the day:

My Lord and my God; I love You and I trust You”.

 What else is there to say!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Sign of the Cross

 

“In the name
of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
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 who 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, Laying on of hands for healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

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

Faith and Works

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’  Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith….Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?” (James 2:18-20) RSV.

“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18-20) KJV.

***

“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24) RSV.

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….”  But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).   

John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic.  He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.

His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus.  His Baptism, he said, was for repentance.  But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b).  But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b).  Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew.  John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah.  But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus.  John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah.  But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus.  For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah.  Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53).  John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

Comment: John challenges us Christians to the fundamental attitude of Christianity—total dependence on the Father, in Christ.  Except for the Mother of God, no one had a higher function in the unfolding of salvation.  Yet the least in the kingdom, Jesus said, is greater than he, for the pure gift that the Father gives.  The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil—all stem from his fundamental and total placing of his life within the will of God.

Quote: “And this is not something which was only true once, long ago in the past.  It is always true, because the repentance which he preached always remains the way into the kingdom which he announced.  He is not a figure that we can forget now that Jesus, the true light, has appeared.  John is always relevant because he calls for a preparation which all men need to make.  Hence every year there are four weeks in the life of the Church in which it listens to the voice of the Baptist.  These are the weeks of Advent” (A New Catechism).

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 (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 24 & 25 of 26:

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

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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.

 

 

“When I Grow-Up, I Want To Be a Martyr!” – Luke 21:12-19†


 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day  in the United States.  Here is a little prayer I found on-line, and wish to share with you for this uniquely scrumptious day:

“MAY YOUR STUFFING BE TASTY, MAY YOUR TURKEY BE PLUMP.  MAY YOUR POTATOES ‘N GRAVY HAVE NARY A LUMP.  MAY YOUR YAMS BE DELICIOUS.  MAY YOUR PIES TAKE THE PRIZE, MAY YOUR THANKSGIVING DINNER STAY OFF OF YOUR THIGHS!!”

 

 

 

31 Days till CHRIST-mas.  AND, just a few days (4) till the start of the New Liturgical Year.  What a great time to start anew and refreshed.  Go to “Confession” this week.

    

     

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   496 – Anastasius II succeeds Gelasius I as Catholic Pope
†   642 – Theodore I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1192 – Death of Albert I van Leuven/Luik, Belgian bishop of Luik/saint, at age 27
†   1583 – Death of René de Birague, French cardinal and chancellor (b. 1506)
†   1713 – Junipero Serra, priest had a mission in California
†   1775 – Death of Lorenzo Ricci, Italian Jesuit leader (b. 1703)
†   1833 – Birth of Antoine Labelle, Quebec catholic priest (d. 1891)
†   1925 – 1st radio-broadcast of Dutch KRO (Catholic Radio Broadcast)
†   Feast Days: Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and other Vietnamese Martyrs; Saint Colman of Cloyne – Cobh, Ireland

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Question:              Why can’t you take a turkey to church?
Answer:                 Because they have such FOWL language!

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ warning to His followers that persecution will come before the end time (the Parousia).

 

12 “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  13 It will lead to your giving testimony.  14 Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15 for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.  16 You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  17 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18 but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives. (NAB Luke 21:12-19)

 

 

For Luke to say “Before all this happens . . . “(in verse 12), he is saying that some of the signs of the Parousia described in today’s reading still remains pending for development, an emergence, and/or for discovery in the future.  In dealing with the persecution of the disciples, Luke is simply pointing to signs that have already been fulfilled, such as the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., some ten to twenty years prior.  There are still others that must be fulfilled prior to the Parousia event occurring.  We all need to realize that the Parousia will not be a “wham-bam” one day event; it will last for eternity.  Please remember, we are on God’s time, not “earthly” time.  Don’t count the “hours” or figure out the “how” Jesus will return to us, for He should always be welcome, and we should always be ready to welcome Him!

Jesus warns that His followers, His disciples, will most certainly face persecution for their beliefs.  The battle between good and evil, light and dark, and has been going on since the beginning of time. (Maybe even longer than the perpetual conflicts in the middle-east, and between the Democrats versus Republicans.)  Luke optimistically portrays “persecution” as an opportunity for Jesus’ followers to truly be known as believers – – as Sons of God – – because (as in verse 13) “It will lead to your giving testimony” – – to the truth.  In suffering persecution, or really any pain and inconvenience for that matter, – – especially suffering because of our  faith – – there is a vast potential to manifest God’s wisdom, power, and graces as an example of the love, adoration, and trust a follower has in the Holy Trinity – –  and the trust God has in us!  Perseverance in the face of harassment, maltreatment, and persecution is an opportunity to lead one’s soul, body, and humanity to salvation in God’s unending paradise: eternal life in union with Him.

Luke is imparting to all of us – – Jesus’ followers – – an assurance that God is truly with all believers, even, and especially in times of trial and distress.  Jesus ultimately witnessed to this with His own horrific torture and death.  As disciples of Jesus, we need to follow in His footsteps, on His path, and by His example.  It is much too easy to love and follow in His path when it is favorable; but what about in the rough times?!  It is so easy to forget that faith comes with a great price!  We must trust in God’s love, mercy, and protection, even when we are facing trials and tribulations. 

Why are so many opposed to the “good news”, the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  The real enemy of the Gospel is a fallen angel, and he is not alone.  Jesus identifies him as Satan or “Adversary” – – who uses trickery, fear, and hatred to incite and inflame hostile attitudes and behaviors in others towards Jesus, the Gospel, and Jesus’ followers.  What is Jesus’ answer to any hostility and opposition?  Love, compassion, and truth!  Only love can defeat prejudice, intolerance, and hatred.  God’s love purifies our hearts, souls, and minds from all evil that Satan uses to drive a wedge between people to tear them apart.  

Truth through God’s loving providence is also essential for overcoming Satan’s evil and misery in the world.  Satan deceives and lies!  Sin blinds the heart, soul, and mind.  Only God’s truth can liberate us from sin and spiritual exile.  Today’s Gospel is God’s word of truth and salvation.  I believe this is why Jesus instructs His disciples to proclaim the “living Word”, the Gospel, throughout the whole world, and to do so even if it entails sacrifice, opposition, and persecution.  (See 2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Jesus tells His followers that, if they endure, they will obtain eternal paradise and happiness with God.  “Endurance” is so much more than just human effort and perseverance.  Endurance, in this case, is a grace from the Holy Spirit which enables us to endure the trials, temptations, and persecutions in a spirit and attitude of trust, hope, and love. 

Spiritual endurance develops and strengthens the souls “muscle” to trust, relax, and be courageous and patient when we need them most.  And with this trust, hope, and through prayer, we experience God’s kingdom and become heir to all the promises He has made.  (2 Peter 1:3-5)  Can anyone’s actions or faith equal that of God?

Jesus doesn’t want any of us to be on the defensive.  We must go out, and go out boldly, to share our unconditional love for God, and His overwhelming and never ending love for us, with whom all come into contact. 

The word “martyr” in Greek means “a witness” (as in a trial).  True martyrs (witnesses) live, and also die, as bearing testimony (verse 13) to the Holy Gospel of Jesus – – the WORD of God (also in verse 13).  These witnesses overcome their enemies through persevering trust, hope, courage, love, patience, self-control, kindness, and compassion.  Christian martyrs witness to the truth, joy, and freedom of God in and by their life, testimony, and shedding of their own blood.  For a “true” martyr, everything that occurs is a means for God’s grace.

We may not have to prepare our defense of God’s word, but we can practice something else that is important for our defense.  We need to practice praising and pleasing God in everything we do, say, and witness.

Misguided, Ill-advised, and confused “zealots” who will sacrifice their lives in an attempt to kill others out of hatred, revenge, and prejudice are not true martyrs because their sacrifice is not motivated by God’s merciful love, forgiveness, truth, and righteousness.  True martyrs pray for their persecutors.  They truly love their enemies because of Jesus’ courage.  In their acceptance of suffering and death they witness to the hope and truth of God’s WORD that “He (the Father) so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him (Jesus of Nazareth) might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16).   

I believe that I am, as probably most caring people are, receptive and responsive to the worries and pain experienced by others.  We understand their worries and apprehensions as we share information in an appropriate and thoughtful way. We can also illuminate these worries, concerns, and apprehensions in the light of God’s grace, kingdom, hope, and plan for salvation; we share the assurance of God’s caring, love and wisdom for us.  Jesus Christ, the “Messiah”, calls us to believe with all seriousness His providential care for all of us.  In verse 18, it says, “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”  Remember, Jesus said that even when his disciples are persecuted, God would be with them.  He will never abandon the world, or His creations, to Satan.  Remember also, He knows His specific plan for each of us, and He is faithful to be with us always.

God will never allow us to completely destroy each other.  He does not wish anyone harm, and He does not want anyone to perish or suffer eternally.  “The Lord does not delay his promise as some regard ‘delay’; but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  Jesus died on the cross for Jews, Greeks, Christians, Muslims, AND EVEN for agnostics and atheists.  In fact, He died for ANY human being who ever has been, and for those still to come.

In what ways has God brought good out of the difficult events you have experienced?  What actions can you take to endure more gracefully the difficult and challenging situations you may be experiencing now?  Place your difficult situations and times into God’s hands (Psalm 37:5).  As a truly loving Father, He is even closer to you at these times; and He is active on your behalf.

For most of us, our “calling” is to be “non-martyrs” who bear testimony to the joy and power of Jesus’ salvation while performing our daily chores and challenges, and by reacting as a Catholic should to the trials, temptations, and hardships we experience and endure.  

When others observe Catholics “loving” their enemies, being “joyful” in suffering, “patient” in difficulties, “pardoning” those who injure us, and “comforting” the hopeless and helpless, they are naturally drawn to God’s magnificent love and mercy as well.  Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our enemies for God will give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any persecution and to answer any challenge to our faith that is asked of us.  The ability to speak with the wisdom of the Holy Trinity, and that we do not have to prepare prior to speaking these words of wisdom, is a gift from Jesus Himself.  It will leave our adversaries powerless to refute or resist (verses 14-15).  Are you eager to bear witness to God’s love, joy, and mercy?

 

An Advent Reflection Prayer

 

“All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”

– From Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions

 

St. Andrew was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. Now all have been canonized by Pope John Paul II.

Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan.

The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful.

Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries.

Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons.

The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution.

By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees.

During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.

Comment:

It may help a people who associate Vietnam only with a recent war to realize that the cross has long been a part of the lives of the people of that country. Even as we ask again the unanswered questions about United States involvement and disengagement, the faith rooted in Vietnam’s soil proves hardier than the forces which would destroy it.

Quote:

“The Church in Vietnam is alive and vigorous, blessed with strong and faithful bishops, dedicated religious, and courageous and committed laypeople…. The Church in Vietnam is living out the gospel in a difficult and complex situation with remarkable persistence and strength” (statement of three U.S. archbishops returning from Vietnam in January 1989).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 24 & 25 of 26: 

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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

“Persecution; What an ‘Optimistic’ Marketing Plan For Salvation History!!” – Luke 21:5-19†


 

I started this reflection with no real expectations.  I read the Gospel reading and initially thought of it as a purely “historical” document, without much relevance to today’s living in faith.  Boy was I WRONG!! 

I began reflecting and praying, and the Holy Spirit “broke the dam totally open!”  I could not keep up with my thoughts, and had to write notions and thoughts on a napkin as I was typing, in order to keep up with my thoughts and inadequate typing skills.  My reflections went down so many paths, that I literally needed to “map” out this reflection today.

The Holy Spirit wrote this blog – – NOT ME!!  I only allowed the use of my body.  This is, I believe, the longest of any of my reflection: about 2500 words in the reflection alone (twice as long as normal for me).  Make sure you grab a big cup of coffee and get relaxed.  You may also want to grab your Catholic Bible (Do you have one?) for I will be referencing it extensively today.

I hope you enjoy this reflection as much as I enjoyed reflecting on, and writing about this particular Gospel reading.

            

  

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   1359 – Death of Gregorius Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, Byzantine mystic/archbishop/saint (b. 1296)
†   1391 – Death of Nikola Tavelić, First Croatian saint (b. 1340)

†   1601 – Birth of Saint Jean Eudes, French missionary  and founder of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary and of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, and author of the Propers for Mass and Divine Office of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. (d. 1680)
†   1550 – Pope Julius III proclaims new seat on Council of Trente
†   1675 – Pope Clemens X declares Gorcumse martyrs divine

†   1746 – Birth of Giulio Gabrielli the Younger, Italian Cardinal
†   1971 – His Holiness Shenouda III is consecrated (Enthroned)as the 117th Patriarch of Alexandria and the See of St. Mark, the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church. (Pope Shenouda III as Pope of Alexandria)
†   Feast Days: St. Josaphat Kuncevyc on the General Roman Calendar as in 1954; Barlaam of Kiev; Saint Philip, celebrated in Eastern Orthodox Church

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ insights and knowledge regarding the future of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and His warning to His followers that persecution will come before the end time (the Parousia).

 

5 While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, 6 “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”  7 Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen?  And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”  8 He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’  Do not follow them!  9 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”  10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  11 There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.  12 “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  13 It will lead to your giving testimony.  14 Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15 for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.  16 You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  17 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18 but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives.  (NAB Luke 21:5-19)

 

Jesus foretold many signs of God’s action and judgment in the coming future.  The Jewish people took great pride in the Temple in Jerusalem and in the site where that Temple rested.  It was a true wonder of architectural achievement for the world as a whole.  Jesus cautioned His followers to not seek “signs” but rather to seek God’s kingdom in their everyday lives and prayers.  There will be plenty of signs – such as wars, famines, diseases, tidal waves, and earthquakes (and maybe even some spouses) – pointing to God’s ultimate judgment at the “Parousia”: the fullness of God’s personal presence at the coming of the Messiah.

While the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple had been prophesized and fulfilled (it was razed by the Romans in 70 A.D., one to two decades prior to this Gospel).  So it was past history for Luke’s community.  There still remained for Jesus’ followers a narrow open door of opportunity showing the way to salvation.   Remember, from the Mass readings some weeks ago that Jesus said: “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9).   The statement of Jesus is being experienced by the Lucan community!  Are you?!

In His life, Jesus frequently travelled to Jerusalem, home of the Jewish center of faith – – the Temple.  Jesus knew that he would meet betrayal, rejection, humiliation, pain, and death on the Holy Cross on a hill just outside the gates of the holy city.  However, Jesus’ death on the Holy “Tree” brought about victory over the power of evil and won salvation for all of us, not only for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, – but for both Jews and Gentiles – who would followed Jesus’ path in faith.

Jesus’ prophecy of the Temple destruction is a two-sided coin.  One side shows God’s judgment; the other side of that same coin shows His love, mercy, and protection.  In realizing that there are these two sides, those who first heard Luke’s Gospel may have actually taken these words as encouraging instead of disparaging.  

Luke’s community was most certainly composed of some of the first “non-Jewish” or “Gentile” Catholics.  He tries to make clear the destruction of Jerusalem by locating it in God’s salvation plans for mankind.   However, at the same time, Luke is suggesting to his community that there will probably be a substantial passing of time before Jesus’ final coming, the “Parousia.”  Luke’s community of believers experienced a lot of turmoil and mayhem with both the Roman government’s religious persecution of them, as well as some serious pressure from their Jewish leaders.  These earliest followers of Jesus were in desperate need of encouragement at this time in history.  They were anxious to know whether these past events were truly signs of Jesus’ coming, as well as what was in store for them in the near future.   Luke, in his writings, urged for a greater patience in their waiting for the coming of the end of the age.  (He was encouraging them to wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord.)

At this period in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is nearing the completion of His teaching time in Jerusalem, which takes place immediately before the events which will ultimately lead to His betrayal, arrest, scourging, and crucifixion.  Luke seems to be warning Jesus’ followers, and is also predicting ominous events in the future; but can Luke’s writings be interpreted other ways?

Luke’s reporting of Jesus’ insights and knowledge concerning the human soul in relationship to death, judgment, heaven and hell are probably inspired by Mark 13 which was written prior to Luke’s Gospel.  However, Luke made some noteworthy changes to Jesus’ actual words reported in Mark’s Gospel.   Luke maintains the early Christians’ belief in the imminent anticipation of Jesus’ return to earth which would end the current “age” and usher in the final age of the Messiah’s rein on earth.  (“Secula Seculorum”: Age of Ages).  By focusing attention throughout his writings on the importance of the day-to-day following of Jesus (a daily conversion experience), and by reinterpreting the meaning of some of the signs from the end of Mark 13, Luke had come to terms with this delay in the Parousia (the second coming of Christ).  In verse 8, Jesus warns of false teachings and false theologies.  Luke understood the destruction of the Temple some ten to twenty years prior, that the “coming” is without knowledge of the “time,” and to live each day in the present in faith and joyful expectation without worry of “signs”.

For Luke to say “Before all this happens . . . “(verse 12), he is saying that some of the signs of the Parousia described in today’s reading still remains for the future.  In dealing with the persecution of the disciples and the destruction of Jerusalem, Luke is simply pointing to signs that have already been fulfilled.  There are still others that must be fulfilled prior to the Parousia event.  We all need to realize that the Parousia will not be a one day event; it will last for eternity.  We are on God’s time, not “earthly” time.

Jesus warns that His followers, His disciples, will most certainly face persecution for their beliefs.  The battle between good and evil, light and dark, has been going on since the beginning of time. (Even longer than the conflicts in the middle-east, or between the Democrats and Republicans.)  Luke optimistically portrays “persecution” as an opportunity for Jesus’ followers  to truly be known as believers – – as Sons of God – – because  (as in verse 13) “It will lead to your giving testimony” – – to the truth.  In suffering persecution, or any pain and inconvenience for that matter, – – especially suffering because of our  faith – – there is a vast potential to manifest God’s wisdom, power, and graces as an example of the love, adoration, and trust a follower has in the Holy Trinity – –  and the trust God has in us!  Perseverance in the face of harassment, maltreatment, and persecution is an opportunity to lead one’s soul, body, and humanity to salvation in God’s unending paradise: eternal life.

Luke is imparting to all of us Jesus’ followers an assurance that God is truly with all believers, even, and especially in times of trial and distress.  Jesus ultimately witnessed to this with His own horrific torture and death.  As disciples of Jesus, we need to follow in His footsteps, on His path, and by His example.  It is much too easy to love and follow in His path when it is favorable; but what about in the rough times?!  We must trust in God’s love, mercy, and protection, even when we are facing trials and tribulations. 

Why are so many opposed to the “good news”, the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  The real enemy of the Gospel is a fallen angel, and he is not alone.  Jesus identifies him as Satan or “Adversary” – – who uses trickery, fear, and hatred to incite and inflame hostile attitudes and behaviors in others towards Jesus, the Gospel, and Jesus’ followers.  What is Jesus’ answer to any hostility and opposition?  Love, compassion, and truth!  Only love can defeat prejudice, intolerance, and hatred.  God’s love purifies our hearts, souls, and minds from all evil that Satan uses to drive a wedge between people to tear them apart.  

Truth through God’s loving providence is also essential for overcoming Satan’s evil and misery in the world.  Satan deceives and lies!  Sin blinds the heart, soul, and mind.  Only God’s truth can liberate us from sin and spiritual exile.  Today’s Gospel is God’s word of truth and salvation.  I believe this is why Jesus instructs His disciples to proclaim the “living Word”, the Gospel, throughout the whole world, and to do so even if it entails sacrifice, opposition, and persecution.  (See 2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Jesus tells His followers that, if they endure, they will obtain eternal paradise and happiness with God.  “Endurance” is so much more than just human effort and perseverance.  Endurance, in this case, is a grace from the Holy Spirit which enables us to endure the trials, temptations, and persecutions in a spirit and attitude of trust, hope, and love. 

Spiritual endurance develops and strengthens the souls “muscle” to trust, relax, and be courageous and patient when we need them most.  And with this trust, hope, and prayer we experience God’s kingdom and become heir to all the promises He has made.  (2 Peter 1:3-5)

The word “martyr” in Greek means “a witness” (as in a trial).  True martyrs (witnesses) live, and also die, as bearing testimony (verse 13) to the Holy Gospel of Jesus – – the WORD of God (verse 13).  These witnesses overcome their enemies through persevering trust, hope, courage, love, patience, self-control, kindness, and compassion.  Christian martyrs witness to the truth, joy, and freedom of God in and by their life, testimony, and shedding of their own blood.  

Misguided, Ill-advised, and confused “zealots” who will sacrifice their lives in an attempt to kill others out of hatred, revenge, and prejudice are not true martyrs because their sacrifice is not motivated by God’s merciful love, forgiveness, truth, and righteousness.  True martyrs pray for their persecutors.  They truly love their enemies because of Jesus’ courage.  In their acceptance of suffering and death they witness to the hope and truth of God’s WORD that “He (the Father) so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him (Jesus of Nazareth) might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16).   

I believe that I am, as most caring people are, receptive and responsive to the worries and pain experienced by others.  We understand their worries and apprehensions as we share information in an appropriate and thoughtful way. We can also illuminate these worries, concerns, and apprehensions in the light of God’s grace, kingdom, hope, and plan for salvation; we share the assurance of God’s caring, love and wisdom for us.  Jesus Christ, the “Messiah”, calls us to believe with all seriousness His providential care for all of us.  In verse 18, it says, “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”  Remember, Jesus said that even when his disciples are persecuted, God would be with them.  He will never abandon the world, or His creations, to Satan.  Remember also, He knows His specific plan for each of us, and He is faithful to be with us always.

God will never allow us to completely destroy each other.  He does not wish anyone harm, and He does not want anyone to perish or suffer eternally.  “The Lord does not delay his promise as some regard ‘delay’; but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  Jesus died on the cross for Jews, Greeks, Christians, Muslims, AND EVEN for agnostics and atheists.  In fact, He died for ANY human being who ever has been, and for those still to come.

In what ways has God brought good out of the difficult events you have experienced?  What actions can you take to endure more gracefully the difficult and challenging situations you may be experiencing now?  Place your difficult situations and times into God’s hands (Psalm 37:5).  As a truly loving Father, He is even closer to you at these times; and He is active on your behalf.

For most of us, our “calling” is to be “non-martyrs” who bear testimony to the joy and power of Jesus’ salvation while performing our daily chores and challenges, and by reacting as a Catholic should to the trials, temptations, and hardships we experience and endure.  

When others observe Catholics “loving” their enemies, being “joyful” in suffering, “patient” in difficulties, “pardoning” those who injure us, and “comforting” the hopeless and helpless, they are naturally drawn to God’s magnificent love and mercy as well.  Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our enemies for God will give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any persecution and to answer any challenge to our faith that is asked of us.  The ability to speak with the wisdom of the Holy Trinity, and that we do not have to prepare prior to speaking these words of wisdom, is a gift from Jesus Himself.  It will leave our adversaries powerless to refute or resist (verses 14-15).  Are you eager to bear witness to God’s love, joy, and mercy?

 

“Prayer In Time of Danger”

 

 

“O God, Who know us to be set in the midst of such great perils, that, by reason of the weakness of our nature, we cannot stand upright, grant us such health of mind and body, that those evils which we suffer for our sins we may overcome through Your assistance.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Gertrude (1256?-1302)

 

Gertrude, a Benedictine nun in Helfta (Saxony), was one of the great mystics of the 13th century. Together with her friend and teacher St. Mechtild, she practiced a spirituality called “nuptial mysticism,” that is, she came to see herself as the bride of Christ. Her spiritual life was a deeply personal union with Jesus and his Sacred Heart, leading her into the very life of the Trinity.

But this was no individualistic piety. Gertrude lived the rhythm of the liturgy, where she found Christ. In the liturgy and Scripture, she found the themes and images to enrich and express her piety. There was no clash between her personal prayer life and the liturgy.

Comment:

Gertrude’s life is another reminder that the heart of the Christian life is prayer: private and liturgical, ordinary or mystical, always personal.

Quote:

“Lord, you have granted me your secret friendship by opening the sacred ark of your divinity, your deified heart, to me in so many ways as to be the source of all my happiness; sometimes imparting it freely, sometimes as a special mark of our mutual friendship. You have so often melted my soul with your loving caresses that, if I did not know the abyss of your overflowing condescensions, I should be amazed were I told that even your Blessed Mother had been chosen to receive such extraordinary marks of tenderness and affection” (Adapted from The Life and Revelations of Saint Gertrude).

Patron Saint of the West Indies

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 14 & 15 of 26:

 14.     Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.

 

 

 

 

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.

“Jesus was Caught by a Red-Light Camera, But Who Is Going to Give HIM the Ticket?!” – Luke 14:1, 7-14†


  

 

Today is going to be a beautiful day in the St. Louis area.  I hope all have a spiritual day as well.  On Facebook yesterday, I was drawn into a “debate” over abstinence education versus prophylactic education.  Someone I consider a long-term friend, and already known as ultra-“progressive,” felt strongly that abstinence education is not only wrong, but also considered abstinence a joke in today’s society. 

When given information from LDI (Life Decisions International) that abstinence education was proven effective, and that the US Government tried to cover up its own study, he still persisted that abstinence will not work.  He wrote: “so ignore the facts, cloak sexuality in some divine gifting scenario, and hope such a priority will resonate with teens.  Good luck with that.  My children understand that sexual activity leads to parenthood, so if they are willing to accept that… consequence, then they are ready to understand contraception and why that is a good idea.  Marriage is not about sex.  Marriage is about money, assets, property and security. I think your values are awesome to attain and to maintain.  If they work for your family then good for you. But abstinence programs don’t work unless condoms are readily available…” 

My concern is that he left out the most important aspect of marriage: LOVE!!  And, sexuality IS a divinely magnificent gift, a grace, from God!  With love, anything is possible.  Please keep this person in your prayers and LOVE today.

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

 
    
†   1799 – Death of Pope Pius VI (b. 1717)
†   1844 – Death of Edmund Ignatius Rice, Irish founder of the Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers (b. 1762)
†   Liturgical Feast Day: Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholic Church commemorate the beheading of John the Baptist with a feast day.

 

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

 

   

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Q:     What brand of car does Jesus drive?
A:     A “Christ-ler!”

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ parable on humility; instructing us that when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.

 

1 On a Sabbath he [Jesus] went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.  7 He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.  8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor.  A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, 9 and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.  10 Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.  11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  12 Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.  13 Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  (NAB Luke 14:1, 7-14)

 

Was there such a thing as “red-light” cameras during the days of Jesus’ time on earth in human form?  Probably not, BUT he still had many “video cameras” trained on Him continuously during His adult ministry.  People observed Him incessantly, carefully, and with an eye (excuse the pun) to find any error, as well as any revelation that He uttered.  With many eyes trained on Him, many tongues followed; and these tongues wagged continuously, especially at lunch and dinner time. 

Meals played an important role in the society in which Jesus lived. More than just a time for sharing nourishment, meals were a time to share ideas and to develop and shape different aspects of social relationships.  A great deal of societal life — business, politics, romance, and religion — was discussed, argued, and debated over meals.  “Banquets” such as a wedding feast, could last for seven days.  That’s a lot of food and discussion!  In my home, I live by the “fresh fish” philosophy for guests:  Guests, like fresh fish, are always welcome, but after three days they both start to smell!

Jesus sets a banquet and invites us to this actual place of honor every day of the week; and it is here on earth right now!  It is the EUCHARIST, and Jesus is our host!  Imagine this: When you’re at Mass, let the image of Jesus hosting a banquet fill your imagination, letting it seep into your being.  In the presence of the Eucharist — JESUS, we are sitting next to the Lord, the angels, and all our loved ones that have preceded us to His heavenly glory.  How will the image of a heavenly banquet here on earth at this moment change the effect of the liturgy on you now, and in the future? (For a preview please read Hebrews 12:22-24.)

In Luke’s Gospel, the places where a person ate, such as at the home of a tax collector as in Luke 5:29; the people with whom a person ate, like the sinners in Luke 5:30; whether a person washed before eating such as in Luke 11:38; and, as in the case here, the place where a person reclines while eating, are all important.  Luke discloses that Jesus tells a parable; but this “story” is in reality prudent advice to both guests and hosts about finding true happiness at the heavenly banquet.

This banquet scene, this parable, is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Luke provides an opportunity for Jesus to teach on humility and presents a setting to display his interest in Jesus’ attitude toward the rich and the poor of society.  The poor in Luke’s gospel are associated with the downtrodden, the oppressed, the afflicted, the forgotten, and the neglected; it is they who accept Jesus’ message of salvation.  Hmm, “the meek will inherit the inherit earth!” (Matthew 5:5)

Jesus’ ministry to the poor and downtrodden is evident in other writings of Luke.  In Luke 4: 18-19, Luke describes Jesus reading: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

Jesus, in reading that “the Lord is upon Him” is declaring Himself as a prophet whose ministry is similar to the great prophets Elijah and Elisha and all the prophets recognized as the one’s anointed to speak and reveal God’s law.  Jesus did so when He said, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)

In another of his chapters, Luke 6: 20-26, Jesus — during His “Sermon on the Mount” (the “Beatitudes”) and the parable of the “two houses” — described blessings and woes as relevant today as then, with the current economic and social conditions of humanity.  Today there are still the poor and the rich, the hungry and the satisfied, those grieving and those laughing, the outcast and the socially acceptable.  In the sermon, the word “blessed” extols the fortunate condition of persons who are favored with the blessings of God.  The “woes,” addressed as they are presented to the disciples of Jesus, reveals God’s profound displeasure on those so blinded by their present “fortunate” situation that they do not recognize and appreciate the real values of God’s kingdom: the willingness on the part of the poor to believe God’s faithfulness in the words of Jesus.  In both the blessings and woes of people in the present condition of success on one hand, and those being poor, disposed, and outcast on the other, faith tells us the presentation of all these people addressed will be reversed in the future.

Also, in Luke 12:13-34, the parable of the “landowner with the bountiful harvest,” Jesus joined together two specific moral sayings, contrasting individuals whose focus and trust in life were on material possessions as symbolized by the rich landowner of the parable, with those who recognize their complete dependence on God, those whose radical detachment from material possessions symbolized their heavenly treasure (The real values of God’s Kingdom).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches His guests to choose the humble place at the table.  In this way they can avoid the fear of embarrassment that Jesus observed. This parable is more than just a lesson about earthly dinner etiquette.  It is sage advice on how to find your “true place” in the Kingdom of God, and relationships with others.  Jesus advises His hosts not to invite people who would be expected to repay them with an invitation to another greater and more elaborate dinner (the normal process at that time in history).  Jesus encourages them to invite those who could not repay: the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  This is where real blessings can be found and given!

We are all poor, lame, or blind (either physically or spiritually).  No matter how tough we are, we all want peace, healing, and love.  Jesus wants to shower us with these gifts every time we receive Him in the Holy Eucharist of Communion.  We need to receive His presence in Communion with an admonition and humility, and by reflecting on and saying, “Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.” (Mt 8:8)

In these four parables I have reflected on today, we are given not only advice on how to approach the future, but also on how to live according to Jesus’ vision of a good, Catholic-Christian society.  Luke’s Gospel also advises us how the Catholic Church must be part of bringing about Jesus’ vision for us.

Trivia time: I purposely said “Catholic-Christian society.”  When you break the words down, it translates into “a ‘universal’ (Catholic) society of ‘little Christ’s’ (Christian)!”

To summarize, we often “negotiate” over various issues in our lives.  Children try to squeeze as much allowance out of their parents as possible at certain times throughout their youth.  Teens vie for the use of the family car, extended curfews, and even permission to go to certain concerts and events.  As adults, we typically negotiate for various monetary and non-monetary compensations in bidding work requirements and expectations.  And, with today’s economic situation, sometimes we even negotiate FOR a job!

Typically, when someone seeks an increase in their income, it is usually attached to an increase in job requirements and/or responsibilities.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus talked about doing good deeds for others and expecting nothing in return.  

How would you feel if you were told to take on responsibilities or a work-load without ever expecting another raise in income or benefits?  Jesus teaches us that it is our duty as his followers, His disciples, to take care of the needs of others and to do so without any financial or compensatory expectations.  

We sometimes fall into the trap of wanting too many things, especially from others.  In the great prayer taught to us by Jesus, the “Our Father,” we pray for “our daily bread.”  This means that we pray for only what we really need in life.

 

“The Our Father”

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
your kingdom come; your 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.”
 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Martyrdom of John the Baptist

     

 

The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honor, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist.  The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom.  The “voice crying in the desert” did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth.  But why?  What possesses a man that he would give up his very life?

This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah.  His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh.  “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).  Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power.  John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory.  He knew his calling was one of preparation.  When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’  The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37).  It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ.  John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people.  His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions.  His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart.  Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.

 

Comment:

Each of us has a calling to which we must listen.  No one will ever repeat the mission of John, and yet all of us are called to that very mission.  It is the role of the Christian to witness to Jesus.  Whatever our position in this world, we are called to be disciples of Christ.  By our words and deeds others should realize that we live in the joy of knowing that Jesus is Lord.  We do not have to depend upon our own limited resources, but can draw strength from the vastness of Christ’s saving grace.

Quote:

“So they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.’  John answered and said, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.  So this joy of mine has been made complete.  He must increase; I must decrease’” (John 3:26–30).

 

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)

 

    

Prologue to the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO):

 

Chapter 1: Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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