Tag Archives: Repay

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


 

22nd Week of Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.  He spoke this openly.  Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’” (Mark 8:31-33).

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Since Matthew had already designated Jesus by this title:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

 

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

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

And also,

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Reflection Psalm:

 

Psalm 63

Our souls yearn for God.

 

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

“And with your spirit

instead of “And also with you”.

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of:  Printers

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

SFO Origins

 

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

What is considered the starting date for the SFO? 

Who are often named among the first SFO members?

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

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

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

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order
(SFO) Rule:

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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“Ash Wednesday – – First Day of Lent” 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the start of the Lenten Season.  Most followers of Western Christianity observe Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Holy Saturday (April 23, 2011).  The six Sundays in this period are not counted because each one represents a “mini-Easter,” a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. 

The number forty has many Old Testament Biblical references:

  • the forty days and nights God sent rain in the great flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4);
  • the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18);
  • the forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the desert while traveling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33);
  • the forty days Jonah in his prophecy of judgment gave the city of Nineveh in which to repent (Jonah 3:4).
  • the forty days and nights Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8);

AND, Jesus retreated into the wilderness, where he fasted for forty days, and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-2, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-2).  Jesus said that his disciples should fast “when the bridegroom shall be taken from them” (Matthew 9:15), a reference to his Passion.  Since the Apostles fasted as they mourned the death of Jesus, Christians have traditionally fasted during the annual commemoration of his burial.

The Etymology of the word is interesting for me.  In Latin, the term “quadragesima” (a translation of the original Greek meaning the “fortieth” day before Easter) is used instead.  In the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the common vernacular instead of the traditional Latin, the English word “lent” was adopted.  This word (lent) initially meant, simply, “spring” (as in German language “Lenz” and Dutch “lente”) and derives from the Germanic root for “long” because, in the spring, the days visibly lengthen.

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude, below (after my reflection on the Gospel), is one of the most famous of the prayers for souls in purgatory.  St. Gertrude the Great was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century.  According to tradition, our Lord promised her that 1000 souls would be released from purgatory each time it is said devoutly.  Please say this prayer each day, during Lent.

            

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1422 – Death of Jan Zelivsky, Hussite priest (b. 1380)
†   1440 – Death of St. Frances of Rome, Italian nun (b. 1384)
†   1452 – Pope Nicolaas I crowns Frederik III RC-German emperor
†   1568 – Birth of Aloysius “Luigi” van Gonzaga, Italian prince/Jesuit/saint
†   1824 – Death of Jacobus J Cramer, priest of Holland/Zealand/Friesland, dies at 79
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Gregory of Nyssa; Saint Frances of Rome; Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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In today’s reflection, Jesus teaches that almsgiving, prayer, and fasting should be done in secret.

 

1 “[Jesus said to His disciples] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  16 “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.  They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.  And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.   (NAB Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

  

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Today, we celebrate “Ash Wednesday”, the first day of the liturgical season known as “Lent” (explained in detail at the beginning of this blog, above).  We should be preparing ourselves to celebrate the Catholic “summit” of our Spiritual and Liturgical year: Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead on that early Sunday morning we now call “Easter”.  

Each year, the readings for Ash Wednesday are the same.  They instruct us to develop and mature a true and loving change of heart.  This season is a time to build-up our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; disciplines that are meant to be part of our individual and communal Catholic ways of life during every season – – every day – – of the year.  However, during the Lenten season, we are given an opportunity as a Catholic Family (the Church militant) to renew and refresh our commitment to theses regular “yearly” practices.

The Jewish people considered prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as the fundamental works of religious life.  These three practices were the essential and primary practices of a pious person; the three great pillars on which the good life was based (a Trinitarian statement).  

Jesus is warning against doing good so others can see you.  He then gives three examples in today’s reading: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  In each example, the conduct of the “hypocrites” is compared with what is actually demanded of His followers.  Jesus is instructing His followers with the aim of praying, fasting, and giving alms, to not draw attention so that others may notice and think highly of them?  He is instead instructing His followers to give glory to God, and not allow glory to self.    

Self-seeking glory is in opposition to “piety”.  True piety is far more than just feeling good or looking holy to others.  True piety is a virtue of loving devotion and surrender to God in all aspects of life.  Piety is an individual and person attitude of awe, reverence, worship, and obedience to our almighty God.  True piety is a grace and action of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through us, – – individually, – – enabling us to devote our entire lives to God with a righteous longing to please Him in all things, thoughts, and actions.

Jesus warns his followers against acting for the sake of appearance.  When His disciples give alms, pray, and fast, they are to do so in such a way that only God, who sees their heart and soul – – and knows what is hidden, – – will know.  Although our Gospel reading today omits the Lord’s Prayer (cf., Matthew 6:9-15), we can bear in mind that Matthew presents the Lord’s model of prayer for His disciples’.

 Do not pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his Gospel.” (Didache 8:2)

 

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The references to “reward” in today’s reading, is also found in other verses of Matthew’s Gospel:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:12)

“For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46)

“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42)

It seems that Matthew considered all Christian disciples as “prophets”.  A prophet is, by definition, one who speaks in the name of God.   In addition, being “righteous” is required for all of Jesus’ disciples.  The Prophets, the righteous man, and the “little ones” from Matthew 10:41-42, are used here for different groups within the followers of Jesus Christ – – Christian missionaries of the era – – per se, as compared to His “close group” of Apostles and disciples that stayed near His physical presence.

What is the “reward” that Jesus offers to His disciples – US?  Answer: Communion with God our Father. (WOW!!)  In God the Father, we find the true and complete fullness of life, happiness, truth, beauty, love, and eternal joy. (What else would anyone want?)  Saint Augustine, the great fourth century bishop of Hippo, wrote the following prayer in his Confessions:

“When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.  The Lord rewards those who seek him with humble and repentant hearts.  He renews us each day and he gives us new hearts of love and compassion that we may serve him and our neighbor with glad and generous hearts.”

This reference to “reward” in today’s reading shows the word itself is an early part of Christian moral buzz-words.  In using this particular word (reward), Jesus is possibly attempting to emphasize the distinction between the Christian idea of reward and that of the hypocrites, especially the Scribes and Pharisees.  In the original Kenoi (Biblical) Greek, Matthew uses two different Greek verbs to express the reward of the disciples compared to that of the hypocrites.  The “reward” word for the hypocrite is the verb “apecho”, a business-related term meaning to give a receipt for what has been paid in full.

The word “hypocrite” occurs 21 times in the New Testament.  Mark uses it once. Luke uses it four times.  In addition to parallel words and references, Matthew uses it eleven times in passages that are found solely in his Gospel.  All of these are Jesus’ statements in which “hypocrite” refers to the most religious Jews of Jesus’ day – – the Scribes and Pharisees.  Interestingly for me, the word “hypocrite” is not found in the Book of Acts or any of the other epistles, but only in the Gospels.

When Jesus used the word “hypocrites” in verse 2, was He is, in fact, referencing the Scribes and Pharisees of the Jewish temple:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.” (Matthew 23:13) 

 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You pay tithes 12 of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.  (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.” (Matthew 23:27)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous.” (Matthew 23:29)

The designation – – “hypocrite” – – reflects an attitude which resulted, not only from the disagreements and controversies at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry in the early first century A.D., but also continued with antagonisms and disagreements between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s congregation in the later part of the first century A.D., and continuing on throughout history.  I believe we sadly still experience a large amount of hypocrisy in everyday life, in the Catholic Church itself, and even within my own Secular Franciscan Order.  Hypocrisy continues throughout all aspects of earthly existence to one level or another.  How sad!

Jesus, in saying “they have received their reward”(verse 2), is telling His followers that these individuals desired “praise” in their actions instead of a relationship with God, and have received exactly what they were looking for, and not God’s grace.

 

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The only “fast” (verse 16) prescribed in the Mosaic Law is on the “Day of Atonement”:

“Since on this day atonement is made for you to make you clean, so that you may be cleansed of all your sins before the LORD, by everlasting ordinance it shall be a most solemn Sabbath for you, on which you must mortify yourselves. (Leviticus 16:30-31).

However, the practice of regular fasting became a very common practice in later Judaism and Christianity:

“Do not let your fasting be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second day and the fifth day of the week [Monday and Thursday], but you shall fast on the fourth day and the day of preparation [Wednesday and Friday].  (Didache 8:1).

 

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Now, let’s return to the beginning of my reflection.  What is our responsibility during the Lenten Season?  What does rubbing burnt palm leaves on one’s forehead have to do with praying, fasting, and alms-giving?

The meaning behind tracing a cross on our foreheads with ashes at the beginning of Lent (the outward liturgical sign of our inner belief and faith) is a summary of our Catholic Christian life.  The ashes on our foreheads remind us of our origin from God through Adam in that beautiful garden, and of our human death in body.  Today, when receiving ashes, listen to the words prayed by the minister when receiving them on your forehead:

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

There are actually three representations associated with the ashes.  Most know about the ashes representing our origins and death, but there is actually an additional representation most probably don’t think of (Isn’t it interesting that even the ashes have a Trinitarian aspect to them!)

The ashes are also the sign of our victory: that victory being – – the cross of Christ.  As the minister places the ashes on your forehead, he is making the sign of the cross. (Through sometimes it appear to look like a map of Europe or a Rorschach test.)  In Jesus’ death and resurrection, He overcame and conquered death.  Our destiny as Catholics is to receive the same “victory” over death that Jesus Christ triumphed over, and won for us.  We acknowledge Jesus’ victory over death when we:

 “turn away from sin and are faithful to the Gospel.”
(Words from the alternative prayer when receiving the ashes.)

 

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In summary, the season of Lent presents an opportunity to examine our life and to re-commit ourselves to the Catholic practices of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  Ash Wednesday is a great time to pray and to plan Lenten practices.

Jesus expected His disciples to give alms, pray, and fast.  He gave instructions that when we do those practices, they should not be done solely for public display.  Think of one way YOU will give “alms” during Lent; to share what you have with people in need – – in a private way.  Think of one way YOU will “pray” – – privately – – during Lent.  Choose one thing that YOU will “give up” during Lent as a reminder of your love for God – – without telling others.  

Finally, pray that God blesses your Lenten promises by praying today’s psalm from Mass (Psalm 51), the “Our Father”, or the Prayer of St. Gertrude (below).

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude

 

Eternal Father, I offer you the Most Precious Blood of your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family.  Amen.

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440)

 

Frances’s life combines aspects of secular and religious life.  A devoted and loving wife, she longed for a lifestyle of prayer and service, so she organized a group of women to minister to the needs of Rome’s poor.

Born of wealthy parents, Frances found herself attracted to the religious life during her youth.  But her parents objected and a young nobleman was selected to be her husband.

As she became acquainted with her new relatives, Frances soon discovered that the wife of her husband’s brother also wished to live a life of service and prayer.  So the two, Frances and Vannozza, set out together—with their husbands’ blessings—to help the poor.

Frances fell ill for a time, but this apparently only deepened her commitment to the suffering people she met.  The years passed, and Frances gave birth to two sons and a daughter.  With the new responsibilities of family life, the young mother turned her attention more to the needs of her own household.  The family flourished under Frances’s care, but within a few years a great plague began to sweep across Italy.  It struck Rome with devastating cruelty and left Frances’s second son dead.  In an effort to help alleviate some of the suffering, Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever the sick might possibly need.  When all the resources had been exhausted, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging.  Later, Frances’s daughter died, and the saint opened a section of her house as a hospital.

Frances became more and more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, and it was not long before she requested and was given permission to found a society of women bound by no vows.  They simply offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor.  Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but rather at home with her husband.  She did this for seven years, until her husband passed away, and then came to live the remainder of her life with the society—serving the poorest of the poor.

Comment:

Looking at the exemplary life of fidelity to God and devotion to her fellow human beings which Frances of Rome was blessed to lead, one cannot help but be reminded of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (September 5), who loved Jesus Christ in prayer and also in the poor.  The life of Frances of Rome calls each of us not only to look deeply for God in prayer, but also to carry our devotion to Jesus living in the suffering of our world.  Frances shows us that this life need not be restricted to those bound by vows.

Quote:

Malcolm Muggeridge’s book Something Beautiful for God contains this quote from Mother Teresa say about each sister in her community: “Let Christ radiate and live his life in her and through her in the slums.  Let the poor seeing her be drawn to Christ and invite him to enter their homes and lives.”  Says Frances of Rome: “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife.  And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

Patron Saint of: Motorists; Widows and Oblates

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The third form of the penitential rite, with the various invocations of Christ (e.g., “You came to call sinners”) will be much the same (not much of a change), though an option is added to conclude each invocation in Greek:

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

instead of in English: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy”, as it is presently.  The first two forms (found in the past two previous blogs) may conclude with this threefold litany too, either in English or in Greek.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Money

How does the monthly fraternity collection fit into your understanding of poverty and penance?  How does shopping at second-hand stores (e.g., garage sales/Good Will/Salvation Army/etc.) for clothing and furniture show concern for the environment and natural resources?  What is your attitude toward money and possessions?  Are you comfortable curbing your desire to “want more”?  Can you think of examples of doing this (curbing your desires)?

 

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

 

9.  The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.

 

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

“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

 

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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).

“If you are going to talk the talk, then you have to walk the walk; just like the Samaritan!” – Luke 10:25-37†


It is a beautiful Sunday morning.  I hope all my Benedictine friends have a great day celebrating the founding of their religious order in the Catholic Church. 

My Secular Franciscan Order’s Fraternity is having our monthly meeting today.  We have a new inquirer, and I excited to travel with her on our journey in the Franciscan Order.  Anyone interested in the SFO, or even just have questions, please let me know.  Can’t find a better group of fun and pious people; and being Franciscan’s, it seems there is always food present.  

  

Today in Catholic History:

 

†   Feast Day of Saint Olga (first Russian Saint)
†   Feast Day of Saint Benedict (founder of the Benedictine Order)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
    

The greatest kindness one can render to any man consists in leading him from error to truth. ~ St. Thomas Aquinas
            

Today’s reflection is about the story of the “Good Samaritan.”

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.  ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’  He said to him, ‘What is written in the law?  What do you read there?’  He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’  And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’  But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’  Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them.  Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.”  Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’  He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ (NRSV Luke 10:25-37)

 

In response to questioning from a Jewish “Lawyer” about inheriting eternal life, Jesus gets the “Lawyer” to respond that what is written in the law comes from Deuteronomy 6:5: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  In this Old Testament bible verse, one of the most important prayers in Judaism and said twice a day in Jesus’ time, confirms that love of God and neighbor are what is required for eternal life. Jesus’ response to this official was just as pure and simple as this verse from Deuteronomy above; “Do this and you will live.”

When questioning continued, with an attempt to trap Jesus, He illustrated the superiority of love over legal rhetoric through the parable about the “good” Samaritan, found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Samaria was the territory between Judea and Galilee west of the Jordan River. Samaritans were descendents of Jews from the northern part of the country, who had intermarried with Gentiles and did not worship in Jerusalem.  For these cultural and religious reasons, the Samaritans and the Jews had a bitter hatred of each other. 

This “lawyer” is obviously an expert in the Mosaic Law, and was probably a “Scribe.”  Scribes were Jewish temple leaders that were extensively trained in oral interpretation of the written law, and were adversaries of Jesus because Jesus questioned their interpretations and judgments. 

As an example, remember the story of Jesus asking for water from a Samaritan woman at the well.  What a dangerous thing to carry out; and explicit statement to make, with this action.  Jews used nothing in common with Samaritans.  Samaritan women were regarded by Jews as ritually impure, and therefore Jews were forbidden to drink from any vessel they had handled.  For a Samaritan to touch a Jew was diabolical, for it made the Jewish person ritually unclean as well.  Jesus, taking a cup of water from her was, in essence, a slap to Jewish Law.

Earlier in Luke’s gospel (the Sermon on the Plain found in 6:27-36), Jesus talked about the “law of love.”  In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus proclaimed that the Samaritan, a person the temple lawyer would have considered ritually impure, actually exemplified the love we should offer to others much more than the Priest and Levite did.  The Temple lawyer (or Scribe) had to bitterly admit that the identity of the “neighbor” was a Samaritan, a despised person to the Jewish faith and people.  For the Jewish people, and especially the Temple officials, the Priest and Levite being religious representatives of Judaism, would have been the expected models of the “neighbor.”

Where does all this hatred in the Jewish people come from, and is it in Scripture?  There is no actual Old Testament commandment demanding hatred of one’s enemy, but the “neighbor” of the love commandment was understood as only one’s fellow countryman.  Hatred for others outside your group could be interpreted from Old Testament and Dead Sea Scroll Passages as being a correct attitude.  Psalm 139:19-22 states (O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves up against you for evil!  Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?  And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?  I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.).  The Qumran 1QS 9:21 reads (And these are the norms of conduct for the man of understanding in these times, concerning what he must love and how he must hate: Everlasting hatred for all the men of the “Pit” [those who do not belong to the Essene community] because of their spirit of hoarding!).

Where does hatred come from today?  It is all around us.  With groups such as Al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other “Jihad” groups; the Ku Klux Klan; Neo-Nazi’s; and the Black Panther’s, hatred is spread in a separatist and destructive style.

Relations sometimes even erupt in every day religion.  Issues involving Protestant, Catholic, and Judaic groups seem to be an everyday occurrence; with clear and specific beliefs by some that each other group may be doomed to eternal hell for not believing exactly the same way as they do.  And we definitely cannot forget the Pro-Abortion, Pro-Capital Punishment, Pro- Euthanasia versus Pro-life conundrum.

How do I, [and we], get over all of our issues to live in harmony?  How can I, [and we], make a difference in this world, in order to establish peace throughout the lands?  Start small!  I say the following prayer every day:  “Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little, since I do them with Your power; and little things as though they were great, since I do them in Your name.”   The key is to keep God in your hearts, and on your lips.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is extending the “love commandment” to any enemy, and to the persecutor. Jesus demands that His disciples, being children of God, must imitate the example of His Father in heaven: God the Creator, who daily offers His gifts of sun and rain to both the good and the bad equally

Jesus’ disciples (then and now) must not be content with merely displaying the “usual” standards of conduct for their status in society.  What Jesus taught (though I am not even close to being worthy of summarizing anything Jesus taught), is that love for God and each other is basically genetic in origin, and natural in all of us.  It is already in our hearts and consciousness.  Love of God and each other is not a complex set of theological rhetoric or formulas. 

We do not choose to do good for others.  We actually have to choose to be malevolent, or even ignore the person, when we witness one in need of assistance.  For whatever reason, (even if it is a realistic reason), we make a definite decision NOT to help when we see a need; and sometimes we choose to do the exact opposite of helping by encouraging further distress to an individual.  Think about this the next time you see a person fall, hurt, or otherwise in need: and you do not act; be it for safety, lack of knowledge, time constraints, or for some other reason.  Remember this also the next time you see someone threatening to jump from a high obstacle (even on television) and hear, “Go ahead, jump, jump, jump!”

Jesus, with this parable, utterly destroys the notion that social definitions such as class, religion, gender, or ethnicity determines who our neighbor will be.  A neighbor, through Jesus, is now defined as a person who acts with compassion towards another.  It is no longer “who” deserves to be loved as I love myself, but that I become a person who treats everyone with compassion, regardless of their social status.

The last sentence of this Gospel Reading threw me for a loop!  Jesus is an extremely smart and cunning person; who would make a great lawyer today: He knew how to use His words to play with people.  When He said “Go and do likewise,” He is explicitly saying that it is not enough to just understand loving God and each other; the “doing” is important as well.  If He were to make this point today, He would probably have say something like, “If you are going to talk the talk, then you have to walk the walk!”

With the English Translation of the new “GIRM” (General Instructions of the Roman Mass) coming out within the next year, the dismissal at Mass is changing to the more accurate vernacular found in Scripture.  The words presently are, “The Mass is ended, go in peace.”  The Priest, with the upcoming changes in the Mass, will have the option to say either, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”  It is now time to walk that walk!  Do as St. Francis of Assisi did; go up to the metaphoric “leper” to hug and feed him.  In other words, try to find Jesus in everyone: family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and even enemies; and then ACT on that love.

 

 “Act of Love”

    

“O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love.

I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.  Amen.”

  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

  

*****

  

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

Comment: 

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

Quote: 

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

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

     

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #11:

  

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

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

  

  

“Oh, Oh, Look At Me, I Am Doing This for God! Nani-Nani Boo-Boo! ” – Mt 6:1-6, 16-18†


 Today in Catholic History:

† 1161 – Birth of Pope Innocent III (d. 1216)
† 1216 – Death of Pope Innocent III (on his 55th birthday)
† 1846 – The Papal conclave of 1846 concludes. Pope Pius IX is elected pope, beginning the longest reign in the history of the papacy (not counting St. Peter).
† 1955 – Pope Pius XII excommunicates Juan Perón.
† Liturgical Feasts: Saint Benno; Saint John Regis, patron of medical social workers; Saints Julitta and Quiricus; Saint Lutgart of Tongeren (died 1246, patron saint of the Flemish National Movement)

Quote or Joke of the Day:
    

A disciple once complained, “You tell us stories, but you never reveal their meaning to us.” The master replied, “How would you like it if someone offered you fruit and chewed it up for you before giving it to you?” – Anonymous
   

Today’s reflection is a warning against doing good in order to be seen.

 

Jesus said to His Disciples, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.  (NAB Mt 6:1-6, 16-18)

 

Listen to the “nuance” of Jesus’ words when He says “Don’t do this.”  He is warning against doing good in order to be seen, and then gives three examples: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  In each, the conduct of the “hypocrites” is contrasted with what Jesus demands from His followers.  All three of these spiritual acts (per Jesus) are suppose to be part of a personal relationship we have with God, and should not be made public with the sin of pride.  There are many aspects of our family life that are not made public, and the same should be true of some of our “spiritual life” practices as well.

The hypocrites that Jesus is talking about in this Gospel reading are the Scribes and Pharisees.  The designation “hypocrite” reflects an attitude towards some discontents of Jesus resulting from the many controversies during the time of His ministry.  The Scribes and Pharisees have received their reward in that they desired praise, and thus received what they were looking for by drawing attention to themselves.  Jesus just gave them what they wanted; a short time (relatively) of fame and possibly even fortune, in exchange for eternity separated from God.  Are we Scribes and Pharisees in how we treat are prayer lives, and in how we contribute to our parishes and dioceses?

Our faith has to be one of humility and reverence.  This is ESSENTIAL.  We are giving a gift to God, and thus it is for Him alone.  Who goes to a party and yells out “I gave that to Him, I gave that to Him; Nani-Nani Boo-Boo!”  Only a brat does!  We should have the innocence of a child, but not necessarily the behaviors.

Our gift to God is done as a tribute to the love and mercy He has given to us.  His bouquet of graces has endowed us with many fortunes and gifts in life.  Jesus does not boast about His actions.  As a matter of fact, I have found that Jesus usually works in small and mysterious ways; behind the scenes.  If Jesus is working stealthily, and we are to follow in His footsteps, then it should be obvious that boasting about deeds and bringing attention to our activities is certainly not what He wants of us.

Though we are not required to give 10% of our income to the church, as other church groups call tithing; we are required to support the church “as our status in life” allows.  Yes, this is one of six chief requirements for being a Catholic in full union with the church.  (The others are to attend and possibly even assist at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; fasting and abstaining on required days; confessing our sins at least once a year; receiving Holy Communion during the Easter time; and observing the laws of the Church concerning marriage.)

The almsgiving Jesus is talking about does not necessarily mean MONEY.  Yes, the rent and utilities have to be paid, so please give as you are able.  Supporting your church certainly entails placing money into the collection basket, but it is much more than that.  Do your children go to the parish school, if available?  If not, do they attend the parish school of religion?  Do you volunteer to help out at the school/parish picnic?  Do you attend church functions: i.e., sports, socials, men’s club, Vincent DePaul Society, etc.?  Do you assist at the weekly Masses as a server, Scripture reader, Greeter, Usher, or Eucharistic Minister?  This list continues: as you can see, there is a lot of potential for involvement in church and parish life. 

The problem I see in our church family today is a mentality of “If I don’t do it, someone else will!”  It is the rare person or family in the parish that volunteers in the parish family today.  The problem this creates is one of a burn-out factor for the person or family.  One person doing everything, wears them out!

 In today’s society, we are permeated by a “me first” behavior and attitude.  Because it is not a priority, a large percentage of Catholics do not go to Mass on a weekly basis; and when they do go (usually only at Easter and Christmas time), mass cannot go fast enough for them.  These same people more than likely will receive the Eucharist without receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior; not realizing (or just not caring) that they are committing another grave sin in doing so.   Not surprisingly, I have truly seen more than half the people attending Mass leave during “communion” time.  I wonder if they realize that the only person to leave the “last meal” early was Judas Iscariot!  It seems like a lot of Catholics want to keep the “Jude Man” company for eternity, in a very warm environment

I have taught 6th grade PSR (parish school of religion for public school children) for the past two years.  I am amazed at the attitude of parents in regards to the importance of a good Catholic basic education, and in their own faith practices. 

I once had a student (6th grade mind you) that whispered to me proudly, while sitting in the pew awaiting for our first mass of the school year to start, “I think I have been here twice before!”  I felt so sorry for the injustice this child had been dealt by his parents.  Another time, two students were brought to my PSR class three weeks into the semester.  The parent said she had not been notified about the start date.  After reminding her that it had been in the bulletin every week of the summer, she responded, “Well that would require me going to mass to get a bulletin!”  Do you believe these parents are doing everything they can to support the parish: financially, or even though their talents and prayers?  Let me answer for you: NO!!

I love to hear people say they are fasting or abstaining by not eating meat on Friday’s during lent, when you know they are VEGETARIANS all year round!  Fasting and abstinence is important practice in our faith, and should not be taken lightly.  Fasting and abstaining is a way to show God (and ourselves) that we are serious about our relationship with Him, and of our wanting to develop a deeper fellowship with Him.  By voluntarily avoiding something, we are taking our eyes off the things of this world, so that we can focus far better on Christ.

The current rules for Catholics require fasting only on Ash Wednesday, and on Good Friday; and abstaining on each Friday of Lent as well.  Anyone over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 should eat only one full meal on fast days, although they can also have small amounts of food in the morning and the evening.  All adult Catholics are required to refrain from something on the “abstinence” days.  You don’t have to stop there: the Catholic Church continues to encourage the faithful to observe a stricter fasting and abstinence habit (preferably year-round), as long as it is not to an extreme point that can be physically, spiritually, or mentally harmful to the individual.

Trivia time:  The English word “breakfast,” means a meal that breaks the fast.  Interestingly, I did not realize the only fast prescribed in the Mosaic law was that for the “Day of Atonement,” known today by a more popular term: “Yom Kippur” (see Lev 16:31), but the practice of regular fasting (according to the Didache) was common in later Judaism.

It would have been fun to be a “fly on the wall” when Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees that “they have received their reward!”  I wonder if He could hold back that coy little smile that says, “You guys are idiots.  Get off your high-horses.”

The statements about a reward found in this Gospel reading illustrate an authentic component of Christian moral teaching for the early Church, and continuing for Catholics today as well.  Possibly to underline the difference between the Christian idea of “reward,” and that of the hypocrites; Jesus used two different Greek verbs (unknown to me: Hey, I’m not a theologian) to express the rewarding of His disciples, versus that of the hypocrites.

So, what DO we do now?  Pray in quiet: and be open to God talking to you.  How often do you talk to God as you would talk to your biological father? We have two ears and one tongue; and God gave them to us in this ratio on purpose.  Give Him time to talk to you.  Another possibility, if you never tried it; go to Eucharistic Adoration.  Realistically, you probably won’t last an entire hour at first, so start with 10 – 15 minutes, and build up to it over some time.  It will become a treasured and wonderful experience if you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you.

When you look in a mirror, do you see Jesus looking back at you?  To see Jesus in others, I believe you need to see Jesus in yourself.  When in the light of Christ, which means doing what Catholics are suppose to do, “be happy.”  If uncertain if you are in the light of Christ, reread this reflection.  After all, doing what you are supposed to do will necessitate seeing Jesus in everyone; regardless of their social-economic status.  How can anyone, other than Satan, be gloomy doing what God wants us to do for others, for His Church on Earth, and for Him?

We no longer wear sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance for our sins.  Fasting is a form of prayer, and should be done without any fanfare, and with a smile on your face.  Look at the “hunger pains” you may have as a prayer of gratitude for being closer to our Lord.

Let me add another pet peeve that I witness every year: ashes on forehead, which are typically received on “Ash Wednesday.”  Ashes remind us of our mortality and are an outward sign of our sinfulness on the first day of Lent.  It is not supposed to be a smudge, but instead a cross drawn on the forehead.  However, some of the clergy (like Deacon Dave and Father Syd) at my parish must have failed liturgical art in the seminary.

These three disciplines (prayer, almsgiving, and fasting) go together as “spiritual gadgets” in our “Catholic tool chest.”  The Church calls us to practice all three together, often!  I think of these three practices of Catholic spirituality as blades on the “Papal Swiss Army Knife” of the Church.

“O Lord, In my prayers, make me a hungry child
that I may know solidarity with the poor.

In my fasting, make me an empty bowl
that you may fill the hollow space in me with love.

In my almsgiving, make me a grain of rice
that in the company of others,
my gifts may feed a starving world.

We pray this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Bl. Guy (Guido) Vignotelli

Born 1185 in Cortona, Italy.  He was known for his charities and recieved the Franciscan habit from Francis at Cortona in 1211.  Guy built a cell on a bridge near Cortona, was ordained, became famed for his holiness and miracles and died in the Cortona convent of the Franciscans.

Blessed Guy (Guido) Vignotelli, OFM Tert was born in Cortona, Italy, circa 1185, and died circa 1245.  After hearing a sermon by Saint Francis, the wealthy Guy invited Francis home for a meal.  At the end of the meal he asked to become a disciple.  He liquidated his goods and with Francis distributed the money among the poor.  Guy received the Franciscan habit of a tertiary from the order’s founder, was ordained a priest, built a cell on a bridge near Cortona, and lived there.  He became well known for his holiness and for his miracles, which were said to include resuscitating a girl who had drowned and multiplying food during a famine.  At age 60, Saint Francis appeared to him in a dream and foretold his death–the exact hour at which Guy died.

(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #16:

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

 

“Simon, You Didn’t Kiss My Feet, and the Food Sucked Too!” – Luke 7:36-50†


What a week has it been for me.  It started last Saturday with our Secular Franciscan Regional Chapter.  Though the St. Clare Region is the smallest of the SFO Fraternities in the United States, all 11 Fraternities were represented, and a good time was had by all.  The day ended with Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Parish: a dynamic church group where you will see a person in a pin-stripe suit and $500 shoes sitting next to a person with a purple Mohawk and 20 pierces on the head hugging each other during the sign of peace.  The adult male server had a pony-tail down to his waist.  I truly enjoyed the love present at this Mass.

Sunday was my Fraternities (Our Lady of Angels) meeting, and we had a new member come for her first time.  I believe she is going to request admission, along with another from last month.  This is exciting for our fraternity had been stagnating for quite some time.

Friday was the “Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus” and Yesterday (Saturday) was the “Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  I literally take to heart (excuse the pun) these two days of remembering the love, mercy, and forgiveness present in our Savior Jesus, and in His (and ours) loving Mother, Mary.

Yesterday (Saturday) was my weekly meeting of our parish fellowship group.  It always starts with a rosary before the Blessed Sacrament,” Mass, and then the Divine Mercy Chaplet after Mass; again before the Blessed Sacrament.  Afterwards we go to our groups “corporate office” (most others know of it as McDonalds) for a couple hours of small talk, religious and parish discussion; and some cholesterol enhancement.

To some this week up in a sentence or two:  It has been a peaceful, thought-provoking, and spiritual week for me.  God is truly great and magnificent with me; I love Him so!

   

Today in Catholic History:

† 1525 – Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora, against the celibacy doctrine decreed by the Roman Catholic Church on priests and nuns.
† 1798 – Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is founded.
† 2000 – Italy pardons Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill
† Pope John Paul II in 1981.  He has since converted to Catholicism.
† Liturgical feasts: Saint Anthony of Padua, priest, confessor, Doctor of the Church; Saint Agricius, bishop of Sens, confessor; Saint Leo III, pope; Saint Onuphrius, hermit, confessor; Blessed Thomas Woodhouse, martyr

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give it anyway ~ Bl. Mother Teresa
    

Today’s reflection is about the sinful woman washing and kissing Jesus’ feet.
            

Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he [Jesus] was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”  Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.  “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.  Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”  Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.  But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”  He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (NAB Luke 7:36-50)

    

Similar scenes to this Gospel reading can be found in the three other books of the Gospels.  In those versions the anointing takes place in the town of Bethany, near Jerusalem, and just before Passover.  In the other three Gospels, this anointing is related to Jesus being proclaimed “king” by the crowds when he entered Jerusalem; and is related to his being anointed as a preparation for his burial.  In today’s Gospel reading, the anointing takes place in the north, in the town of Galilee, and early in his ministry instead.

In this story of the pardoning of a “sinful” woman responding to God’s gift of forgiveness, we are presented with two different reactions to the “ministry” of Jesus.  A Pharisee named Simon, suspecting Jesus to be a prophet, invites Him to a festive banquet at his house; but the Pharisee’s self-righteousness leads to little forgiveness by God and little love shown towards Jesus.  

The sinful woman, on the other hand, displays a faith in God that led her to search for forgiveness of her sins.  Because so much was forgiven, she now overwhelms Jesus with her display of love.  What a powerful lesson on the relation between forgiveness and love!

The normal posture while eating at a banquet was to recline at the table, on the left side.  The most honored guest was immediately to the right (front) of the host, with his back near or against the host’s chest.  The least honored guest was at the end of the table.  Other oriental banquet customs alluded to in this story include the reception by the host with a kiss (Luke 7:45), washing the feet of the guests (Luke 7:44), and the anointing of the guests’ heads (Luke 7:46).

In learning that Jesus was at the house of the Pharisee Simon, she literally “crashed” the party. Though she was “sinful,” there is no evidence of her being a prostitute but possibly guilty of some other sin.  What can be alluded to, is that she was “unclean” according to first century Palestine societal norms.  In allowing someone deemed unclean by society, Jesus showed that His norms for clean and unclean conflicted with those of the Pharisees.

She brought with her a alabaster flask of ointment.  Ointments were typically very expensive, even for the wealthy of that time. 

She stood behind him, and at his feet.  This position obviously is a position of humility and a sign of submissiveness towards Jesus.  Her weeping was a sign of great love for Him, and of her sorrow for her sins that separated Her from Jesus’ grace.

She began to bathe Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair, kissed His feet, and finally anointed the feet with the ointment she had brought with her.  The feet were the dirtiest part of any person of that day.  Most people walked either bare foot or with a rudimentary type of sandal.  With no sewage system, dirt floors in most homes, and all the animals present, one can imagine what people had to tread through in their everyday lives. 

To wash one’s feet was the job of the lowliest slave.  To fall to her knees and wash Jesus’ feet, and then dry them with her hair, as well as to kiss and anoint them showed an adoration, reverence, and love for Jesus that was beyond reproach.  Her actions towards Jesus was, to say the least, generous.

Simon witnessed this event, and said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”  Simon did not realize that Jesus was greater than a prophet!  Jesus responded by telling him the parable about two people owing money, forgiveness, and love.  As is typical of Jesus’ style, He doesn’t answer Simon’s question Himself, but draws the correct answer out of Simon; allowing him to learn a moral lesson.  Simon is forced to admit that the one who had the bigger debt canceled probably loves the creditor more, when he said, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” 

Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Though Simon followed all societal rules of hospitality towards Jesus, he had not shown any special acts of hospitality either.  In a sense, the generosity of the sinner is contrasted with that of the stingiest of Jesus’ host: Simon.

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.”  Jesus rebuked and challenges Simon for his self-righteousness and inadequate love towards Him.  Jesus then commends the woman for her great and unconditional love and self-sacrifice to Him.

This “sinner” performed such acts of love towards Jesus that her sins were forgiveness.  What is intriguing for me is that I believe she received the gift of forgiveness before her encounter with Jesus at Simon’s home.  The woman’s sins were forgiven by the great love she showed toward Jesus, which had to be immense and strongly evident prior to her physically meeting Jesus.  Her humility was only surpassed by her love for the “Messiah.”

Jesus tells the woman, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Jesus in saying this is doing more than healing physical problems as some of the prophets had done. He is forgiving sins!  We hear these exact, or very similar, words at the end of the “Sacrament of Reconciliation.”  The priest, in “Persona Christi,” forgives our sins in the same way that Christ instituted on this day.  To me, this shows a proof that Jesus loves all, the woman of this first century, and the people of this day, with the same intensity.  When we show our love, reverence, and humility towards God’s creation; we are showing our love, reverence, and humility towards Jesus.  Our “tears,” our “hair,” and our “kissing and anointing” are our actions as a citizen of this earth, and our duties as a Catholic.  Do we love Jesus as much as this “sinful” woman?!

The others at table said to themselves, ’Who is this who even forgives sins?’”  The answer is quite simple: a person greater than a prophet did: Jesus, the “Christ” (meaning anointed one), and the “Messiah” (referring to the leader anointed by God.  A future King of Israel physically descended from Davidic lineage who will rule the people of a united tribes of Israel and herald in the Messianic Age of global peace), and the second person of the “Trinity” (meaning GOD)!!

Prayer of Wisdom from St. Francis & St. Claire of Assisi

“Jesus, following You is not always easy and carefree.  It does require something from me: I must follow your commands. 

Often out of pride or convenience, I seek to follow my own will instead.  Lead me through the narrow gates.  Be merciful and soften my heart when I stubbornly refuse to follow You.

Remind me that life with You is well worth any cost I may incur in following You.”

      

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Anthony of Padua 1195-1231
           

Anthony was born in the year 1195 at Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, where his father was a captain in the royal army. Already at the age of fifteen years the youth had entered the Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, and was devoting himself with great earnestness to study and to the practice of piety in the monastery at Coimbra, when a significant event, which occurred in the year 1220, changed his entire career.

The relics of St. Berard and companions, the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order, were being brought from Africa to Coimbra. At the sight of them, Anthony was seized with an intense desire to suffer martyrdom as a Franciscan missionary in Africa. In response to his repeated and humble petitions, the permission of his superiors to transfer to the Franciscan Order was reluctantly given. At his departure, one of the canons said to him ironically, “Go, then, perhaps you will become a saint in the new order.” Anthony replied, “Brother, when you hear that I have become a saint, you will praise God for it.”

In the quiet little Franciscan convent at Coimbra he received a friendly reception, and in the very same year his earnest wish to be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled. But God had decreed otherwise. Anthony scarcely set foot on African soil when he was seized with a grievous illness. Even after recovering from it, he was so weak that, resigning himself to the will of God, he boarded a boat back to Portugal. But a storm drove the ship to the coast of Sicily, and Anthony went to Assisi, where the general chapter of the order was held in May, 1221.

As he still looked weak and sickly, and gave no evidence of his scholarship, no one paid any attention to the stranger until Father Gratian, provincial of Romagna, had compassion on him and sent him to the quiet little convent near Forli. There Anthony remained nine months occupied in the lowliest duties of the kitchen and convent, and to his heart’s content he practiced interior as well as exterior mortification.

But the hidden jewel was soon to appear in all its brilliance. Anthony was sent to Forli with some other brethren, to attend the ceremony of ordination. At the convent there the superior wanted somebody to give an address for the occasion. Everybody excused himself, saying that he was not prepared, until Anthony was finally asked to give it. When he, too, excused himself most humbly, his superior ordered him by virtue of the vow of obedience to give the sermon. Anthony began to speak in a very reserved manner; but soon holy animation seized him, and he spoke with such eloquence, learning, and unction that everybody was fairly amazed.

When St. Francis was informed of the event, he gave Anthony the mission to preach all over Italy. At the request of the brethren, Anthony was later commissioned also to teach theology, “but in such a manner, St. Francis distinctly wrote, “that the spirit of prayer be not extinguished either in yourself or in the other brethren.”

St. Anthony himself placed greater value on the salvation of souls than on learning. For that reason he never ceased to exercise his office as preacher along with the work of teaching. The concourse of hearers was sometimes so great that no church was large enough to accommodate the audiences and he had to preach in the open air. He wrought veritable miracles of conversion. Deadly enemies were reconciled with each other. Thieves and usurers made restitution of their ill gotten goods. Calumniators and detractors recanted and apologized. He was so energetic in defending the truths of the Catholic Faith that many heretics re-entered the pale of the Church, so that Pope Gregory IX called him “the ark of the covenant.”

Once he was preaching at Rimini on the seacoast. He noticed that a group of heretics turned their backs to him and started to leave. Promptly the preacher turned to the sea and called out to the fishes: “Since the heretics do not wish to listen to me, do you come and listen to me!” And marvelous to say, shoals of fish came swimming and thrust their heads out of the water as if to hear the preacher. At this the heretics fell at Anthony’s feet and begged to be instructed in the truth.

The blessings of St. Anthony’s preaching were not confined to Italy. St. Francis sent him to France, where for about three years (1225-1227) he labored with blessed results in the convents of his order as well as o]in the pulpit. In all his labors he never forgot the admonition of his spiritual Father, that the spirit of prayer must not be extinguished. If he spent the day in teaching, and heard the confessions of sinners till late in the evening, then many hours of the night were spent in intimate union with God.

Once a man, at whose home Anthony was spending the night, came upon the saint and found him holding in his arms a child of unspeakable beauty surrounded with heavenly light. It was the Child Jesus.

In 1227, Anthony was elected minister provincial of upper Italy; and then he resumed the work of preaching. Due to his taxing labors and his austere practice of penance, he soon felt his strength so spent that he prepared himself for death. After receiving the last sacraments he kept looking upward with a smile on his countenance. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered, “I see my Lord.” Then he breathed forth his soul on June 13, 1231, being only 36 years old. Soon the children in the streets of the city of Padua were crying, “The saint is dead. Anthony is dead.”

Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints in the very next year. At Padua a magnificent basilica was built in his honor, his holy relics were entombed there in 1263. From the time of his death up to the present day, countless miracles have occurred through St. Anthony’s intercession, so that he is known as the Wonder-Worker. In 1946 he was also declared a Doctor of the Church.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed.
by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

        

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #13:
   

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

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

“Not MY Job, It’s HIS; Or Is IT?!” – Mark 13:13-17†


The Holy Father’s (The Pope) Prayer Intention’s for June, 2010:

General Intention: That priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God.

Missionary Intention: That the Holy Spirit may bring forth from our communities numerous missionary vocations, willing to fully consecrate themselves to spreading the Kingdom of God.

 

It is the first day of June, and I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday weekend.  Hopefully we all remembered and prayed for all veterans and military personnel, living and dead.

 

Today in Catholic History:

† 1480 – Birth of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (d. 1550)
† 1495 – Friar John Cor records the first known batch of scotch whisky.
† 1571 – Death of John Story, English Catholic
† 1846 – Death of Pope Gregory XVI (b. 1765)
† 1903 – Birth of Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky C.Ss.R Bishop and Martyr (d. 1973)
† Today is Commemoration of Justin Martyr (Eastern Orthodox).

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

Men have never wearied of political justice: they have wearied of waiting for it. – G.K. Chesterton
     

Today’s reflection is about Civic and Religious Duties.
     

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech.  They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.”  They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”  So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.  (NAB Mark 13:13-17)

  

Who were the “Pharisees and Herodians?”  Of the three major religious societies of Judaism at the time of the New Testament, the Pharisees were often the most vocal and influential.  The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were the most bitter and deadly opponents of Jesus Christ, and His message.

The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God at first, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist to only a small portion of the Jewish Laws that they became blind to the “Messiah” when He was in their very midst.  They saw His miracles and heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy they did all that they could to stop Him; to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the “Son of God.”

The Herodians on the other hand were one of the Jewish parties of Jerusalem and Judea during the human lifetime of Jesus Christ.  Unlike the other Jewish groups, the Herodians were primarily a political group, rather than religious.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod.  While the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed Jesus Christ because they viewed Him as a competitor for religious leadership of the people, the Herodians opposed Jesus because they viewed His growing popularity as a political threat to their Roman masters.

In the conflicts Jesus had with the Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple Scribes, Jesus vanquished his adversaries with simple and honest responses and parables to their questions; reducing them to silence.  In Mark 12:34, it is written, “And when Jesus saw that (He) answered with understanding, He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.” 

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  What a simple, yet profound, statement!  I firmly believe we have as much difficulty with the concept today, as the Disciples of Christ did two-thousand years ago.  Jesus did not say, “Give to Caesar nothing, and give everything to the Church.”  Nor did He say, “Make sure what you give to Caesar is in no way associated with the Church.”  Jesus made it clear that we had a duty not only to the Church, but also to the people around us, to the civic leaders, and to society as a whole.  To be a good Catholic is to be a good citizen as well.  There is both a “physical” king, and a “spiritual” king to which we answer.  Jesus was not to rule by the force of military might, but by service to all.  He was not to be a political “Messiah.”

What do we owe to the government and others, and what do we owe to Christ and the Church.  Church precepts are easy, because they have been written down, and easily found.  The five duties of ALL Catholics:

1. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and rest from servile labor on these days. 
2. To receive the
Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, if aware of committing a mortal sin, more often.
3. To receive
Holy Communion at least once a year, between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.
4. To observe the
fast days and abstinence days established by the Church.
5. To contribute to the support of the Church

How sad that so many Catholics today do not adhere to ANY of these five simple precepts of our Church.  Some people get upset and disgusted that these “C&E” (Christmas and Easter) Catholics only come to Mass twice a year if that, AND then go to Communion on top of it!  I instead have a strong feeling of sadness and spiritual pain that these misguided (those usually self-guided) individuals don’t know how bad they are hurting themselves, and the Church community as a whole, by putting their own needs and selfishness over following a few simple rules.

There are other practices that a good Catholic should also be involved with.  The Church has broken them down into two categories:  “Corporal” and “Spiritual” Works of Mercy.  Being a good citizen involves, but is not limited, to these various works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s body:

1.  Feeding the hungry
2.  Giving drink to the thirsty
3.  Clothing the naked
4.  Sheltering the homeless
5.  Visiting the sick
6.  Visiting the imprisoned
7.  Burying the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s soul:

1.  Admonishing the sinner
2.  Instructing the ignorant
3.  Counseling the doubtful
4.  Comforting the sorrowful
5.  Bearing wrongs patiently
6.  Forgiving injuries
7.  Praying for the living and the dead

Being a good Catholic is nothing more than doing your best, being your best, and living your best.  We are to love all others because they are creations of God, and we are to be good Stewards of the gifts and resources God has given us.  When Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar … and to God …,” He was, and still is, extolling a need for an organizational flow in order to have a safe and orderly society; with realistic requirements, needs, and almsgiving in this world and in the next.  Jesus recognized the civil authority and its rights, but He warned that greater rights belong to God.

In this world, it involves paying taxes, adhering to the laws of society, and value the Church precepts, including the “works of mercy.”  In the next world, it involves simply honoring and praising our Creator, which will be easy for me as I am getting a head start well before getting there!

Give to Caesar the coins, and to God your heart!
    

A Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.  We beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.  Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.  Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our Country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded; and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.  Amen”
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph the Worker
   

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #1:
   

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

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