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“We are ALL ‘Talent-ed’ Children of God!” – Matthew 25:14-30†


 

 

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

  

There are only a few more “New Translation of the Mass” portions left for my blog.  I have been posting, and reposting, these new translations of Holy Scripture to be used at Mass for about a year.

With the new Liturgical year, I will be deleting this section, and adding a new section titled, “Catholic Apologetics”.  It will be a simple listing of Scripture verses and Catechism references to explain such things as Papal Authority, Purgatory (yes, it is still a Catholic belief), and so on.  Let me know what you think.

  

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   354 – Birth of Saint Augustine of Hippo, North African theologian (d. 430)
†   866 – Pope Nicholas I answers the envoys of Boris (Ad consulta vestra) about the individual Churches or Rites of the Catholic Church
†   867 – Death of Nicholas I, (the Great), pope (858-67), at age 67
†   1004 – Death of Abbo van Fleury, [Floriacensis], French abbott/saint
†   1565 – Pope Pius IV publishes degree Professi fidei
†   1938 – America’s 1st saint, Mother Frances Cabrini, is beatified
†   1964 – Pope Paul VI gives tiara “to poor”
†   Feasts/Memorials: Bricius of Tours; Mother Cabrini; Saint Homobonus; Stanislaus Kostka, All the Saints of the Premonstratensian Order; St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople

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

 

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 Quote of the Day:

  

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” ~ Erma Bombeck

  

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable “of the talents”, in which He teaches about the importance of using the gifts that God the Father has given to each of us for use in service to the Kingdom of Heaven.

  

(NAB Matthew 25:14-30) 14“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  15To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.  Immediately 16the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five.  17Likewise, the one who received two made another two.  18But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.  19After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.  20The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five.  He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.   See, I have made five more.’  21His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.’  22[Then] the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents.  See, I have made two more.’  23His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.’  24Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; 25so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.  Here it is back.’ 26His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter?  27Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?  28Now then!  Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.  29For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  30And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

  

This week’s Gospel is the example of how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves as they wait for God’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Remember, last week’s reading taught that there is no way to predict the coming of God’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus’ disciples must, therefore, remain ever vigilant, and ever ready, to receive the Son of Man at any time.

Today’s parable talks about Catholic Christian discipleship using economic metaphors: something we can understand, see, and feel in order to show a moral point.  Before he leaves on a journey, the “master” entrusts to his servants a different number of “talents”, giving to each “according to their abilities.   Upon the master’s return, he finds that the first and second servants have doubled their money; both are rewarded.  The third servant, however, has only preserved what was given to him because he was afraid to lose the money, so he risked nothing.  This servant is punished by the master, and his talent is given to the one who brought the greatest return.

Recalling, and keeping last week’s parable in mind (the “Ten Virgins” about being ever ready for the Parousia), today’s parable goes on to teach that God’s judgment will be based on the service we render to God and to one another in accordance with the gifts and graces God has given to us.  Our gifts, or “talents”, are given to us for the service of others, NOT for our own personal use!!  If we fail to use these gifts, God’s judgment – – on us – – will be severe.  On the other hand, if we make use of these gifts in service to God’s Kingdom of Heaven, we will be rewarded and entrusted with even more responsibilities.

Т

Today’s parable makes it clear, from the very first verse (Verse 14), a parabolic comparison exists between “a man who was going on a journey” and “the kingdom of heaven”.  Being faithful users of one’s unique and divinely given “gifts” leads to a fuller participation in God’s kingdom.  At the same time, laziness and inactivity to God’s graces and gifts could also exclude one from paradise.

Today’s reading reminds us that Catholic Christian spirituality is neither passive nor inactive in attitude and works.  Let us remember that prayer helps us to discern His gifts, the “talents we have”, given to us freely by God the Father, and to be used for others.  Prayer and discernment should lead us to use our gifts (Time, Talents, and Treasures) in the service of God and our neighbor.  God’s uniquely personal gifts of grace, our “talents”, allow us to share in the work of serving His Kingdom of Heaven.

Т

So, what is a talent anyhow?  There are two distinct and correct answers to this question.  From a literal and historical viewpoint, a talent was a unit of coinage of high but varying value depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin.  It is mentioned in the New Testament only here and in Matthew 18:24 (The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant).

The other is from the anagogical viewpoint.  This viewpoint involves an allegorical interpretation of a passage in the Bible as a foreshadowing of people or events in the New Testament.  So, the term “talent” is taken in the literal sense, meaning: “an unusual natural or divinely inspired ability to do something well”.  We all have talents.  Some have many little ones, like wiggling their ears and dancing.  Some have big ones, like remembering everything they see, hear, read, or touch.  Most of us have a wide range of “talents”, from the least useful to the greatest needed in society. 

I know I personally have an uncanny ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, with relative ease.  I am a “people person”.  My wife says I have a great “gift of throwing the bull!!”  I simply consider myself “well-learned”.  In reality, I have been given a strong sense of curiosity, which has landed me in trouble occasionally throughout my many years.

Now, let’s get back on track and go back and read verse 15 of today’s reading again:

To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.” (Matthew 25:15)

Was Jesus talking about pieces of money, special abilities to be imparted to others, or both?  I believe He is more interested in the later than the former.  Jesus Christ was not a materialistic person, and money has no use in His kingdom.

Т

Two of the master’s servants used their “talents”, and in the process gained many more.  The last servant, out of fear, chose not to use his “Talent”.  Instead, he:

Dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.”  (Matthew 25:18)

This may seem strange to us, but in the unsettled and often violently ruthless conditions of Palestine during Jesus’ earthly time, it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground.  They did not have banks with safety deposit boxes back then, and the modern mattress had yet to be invented as well.

 

Although the first two servants received large sums, doubling the amount given to them initially, their faithful trading was regarded by the “master” as faithfulness, reliability, and devotion in small matters.  So, he rewards them with “great”, yet unspecified, responsibilities.  I believe Jesus’ statement in this parable:

Share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:23)

is reference to the joy of God the Father’s banquet of the heavenly kingdom, as reported earlier in Matthew’s Gospel:

“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

Luke offers a parallel verse for verse 21 in Matthew’s Gospel, “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities” (Matthew 25:21):

 “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” (Luke 16:10).

Interestingly, Luke seems to go a little bit further in his proclamation.  He adds a second part, recommending a constant fidelity to those with positions of responsibility.

Т

Have you ever been “called on the carpet” for doing something poorly, or creating a bad outcome for your employer?  I have a few times, but chose to use these “experiences” as a learning tool.  I firmly believe we learn more from our mistakes, than from our successes.

The last servant in today’s parable is “called on the carpet” in a big way; he truly messed-up.  He is called a “wicked, lazy servant”.  His sin is He did not even TRY!!  This foolish man’s “inactivity” is not insignificant, financially, but he is still seriously blameworthy for his lack of action.  He failed to use the “talent” he was given to him – – TO USE – – from his “master”.  The result: he loses the gift he had received; it going to the first servant, whose possessions are already great.

Т

What are the results of using YOURtalents” in the service of God?  Jesus says in verse 29:

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

Matthew has a nearly identical application of this proverb earlier in His book:

“To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 13:12)

The reference to “more” being given to those who use their talents transcends a basic understanding or wisdom we have of God’s kingdom.  Matthew is indicating that God the Father gives a further and greater understanding to those who accepts the revealed mystery; and from the one who does not, he will take it away.

This saying or proverb about giving more and taking away is found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels:

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

And,

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

Our “talents” truly respond to the “Word of God”!  Those who “hear” the word must “become a light to others” (Luke 8:16).  Our generous and persevering response to the “Word of God”, through our “talents”, leads us to an even further, more perfect response to His “Word”; a beautiful and continual circle of enlightenment.

Т

The last verse of today’s reading (verse 30) is very similar to a verse much earlier in Matthew’s book:

I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

This “wailing and grinding of teeth” is a phrase used frequently in Matthew’s Gospel to describe the “Final Condemnation” (cf., Matthew 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30).  “Wailing and grinding of teeth” is something I believe no one is truly looking forward too; being placed outside the kingdom and not even able to look in.

Т

To conclude, in today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the correlation between faithfulness and responsibilities.  Our lives provide many opportunities to illustrate this connection.  As we prove ourselves “trustworthy”, we are trusted to take on greater responsibilities.  Jesus teaches us, in this parable, that when we show ourselves to be trustworthy in small matters; we can be trusted to participate in greater matters of responsibility.

Why is Jesus telling this parable?  I believe it tells us something about how God the Father deals with us, His servants.  The parable speaks first of the “master’s” trust in his servants.  While he goes away he leaves them with his money to use as they think best.  While there were no strings attached, this was obviously seen to be a test in order to see if his servants would be productive and reliable in their use of the “talents” entrusted to them.  God the Father, OUR “Master” will reward the hard-working, productive, active, and faithful.  And, he will punish those who sit idly by, and who do nothing with His “talents”, which he has entrusted to us – – TO USE – – in accordance with our abilities.  The essence of this parable seems to lie in the servants’ conception of “responsibility”.  Each servant was faithfully entrusted with the master’s talents, and was faithful to his master’s will, to a certain end-point. 

Sadly, the servant who buried the master’s talent was deemed “irresponsible”.  One can bury seeds in the ground and expect them to become productive; they obey natural laws.  Coins and Talents (big “T” and little “t”), however, do not obey natural laws.  These gifts (graces) obey economic and supernatural laws, becoming productive only when in circulation.  Would it not be presumed then, that the “master” in today’s Gospel reading expected his servants to be productive in the use of his money?

God the Father entrusts His disciples with gifts and graces.  He gives His disciples the freedom to use them as they think best (free will).  With each gift, each talent, God the Father gives sufficient means (grace and wisdom) for using them in the most fitting and appropriate way: 

Faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God …  this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:5,10) 

I believe we “turn away” from God by our indifference and attitude; saying to Him, “it’s not worth trying”. 

God honors those who use their talents and gifts for doing “good deeds” for others.  Those who are faithful – – with even a little – – are entrusted with more!  But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have been given.  There is an important lesson for us to learn here for us.  We either get more OR we lose what we have; God’s kingdom is dynamic and not static in any way.  We either advance towards God or we slip back, out of the picture.  As Peter learned in the boat one stormy night, to walk towards God one must go “overboard”!!  Do you sincerely, seriously, and industriously seek to serve God with the gifts and graces (time, talents, and treasures) He has given to you?

Take some time to recall how you have matured, and how you can NOW be trusted with greater responsibilities (hopefully).  Our “trustworthiness” in small matters shows that we can also be trusted to share in the work of serving the Kingdom of Heaven. We share in the work of serving the Kingdom of Heaven when we use our talents to help and serve others.  So, as a gift to God, choose something to do this week to serve others; and repeat doing this gift-giving action every week.  

 

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  Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.  And kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And you will renew the face of the earth.
Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful.  In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation.  We ask this
through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

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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 “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely.  More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal.  It will now say, “I have greatly sinned” and later adds “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that
I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

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  A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917)

  

Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first United States citizen to be canonized; she became a U.S. citizen in 1909.  Her deep trust in the loving care of her God gave her the strength to be a valiant woman doing the work of Christ.

Refused admission to the religious order which had educated her to be a teacher, she began charitable work at the House of Providence Orphanage in Cadogno, Italy.  In September 1877 she made her vows there and took the religious habit.

When the bishop closed the orphanage in 1880, he named Frances prioress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.  Seven young women from the orphanage joined her.

Since her early childhood in Italy, Frances had wanted to be a missionary in China but, at the urging of Pope Leo XIII, Frances went west instead of east.  She traveled with six sisters to New York City to work with the thousands of Italian immigrants living there.

She found disappointment and difficulties with every step.  When she arrived in New York City, the house intended to be her first orphanage in the United States was not available.  The archbishop advised her to return to Italy. But Frances, truly a valiant woman, departed from the archbishop’s residence all the more determined to establish that orphanage.  And she did.

In 35 years Frances Xavier Cabrini founded 67 institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick.  Seeing great need among Italian immigrants who were losing their faith, she organized schools and adult education classes.

As a child, she was always frightened of water, unable to overcome her fear of drowning.  Yet, despite this fear, she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times.  She died of malaria in her own Columbus Hospital in Chicago.

Comment:

The compassion and dedication of Mother Cabrini is still seen in hundreds of thousands of her fellow citizens, not yet canonized, who care for the sick in hospitals, nursing homes and state institutions.  We complain of increased medical costs in an affluent society, but the daily news shows us millions who have little or no medical care, and who are calling for new Mother Cabrini’s to become citizen-servants of their land.

Quote:

At her canonization on July 7, 1946, Pius XII said, “Although her constitution was very frail, her spirit was endowed with such singular strength that, knowing the will of God in her regard, she permitted nothing to impede her from accomplishing what seemed beyond the strength of a woman.”

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

  

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

 

Is Reconciliation an act of faith on my part?

How can I better determine my characteristic fault?

How does spiritual blindness hurt us?

Do we need to offer satisfaction for our own sins and those of others?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 13 & 14 of 26:

 

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.

Т

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

 

 

 

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“Chose To Participate and Get More, Or Become Lax and Lose All Now AND In the Future!!” – Luke 19:11-28†


 

Wow, were has this year gone?  We are finishing the “Ordinary Time” of the liturgical year, and only a slight 10 days till the start of another liturgical year with the start of Advent.  Only 38 days till CHRIST- mas.  Are you ready?

 

 

 

Congratulations to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, on his election as head of the USCCB.  An excellent choice was made by our countries other shepherds.

 

Today in Catholic History:

  
      
†   594 – Death of Gregory of Tours, bishop and historian (b. c.539)
†   1231 – Death of Elisabeth of Hungary (Third Order Franciscan), daughter of Andrew II of Hungary (b. 1207)
†   1302 – Death of St. Gertrude the Great (b. 1256)
†   1576 – Birth of Roque Gonzales de Santa Cruz, Paraguayan Jesuit missionary (d. 1628)
†   1681 – Birth of Pierre François le Courayer, Catholic French theologian and writer (d. 1776)
†   1928 – Notre Dame finally loses a football game after nearly 25 years of straight wins.  In 2009, some believe they lost their Catholic identity as well.
Feast Days: Elisabeth of Hungary; Gregory of Tours; Hilda of Whitby; Hugh of Lincoln; Acisclus

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Exercise daily — walk with the Lord

 

 

http://www.thebricktestament.com

 

 

Today’s reflection is about being a trusted, faithful, and productive servant of God.

 

11 While they were listening to him [Jesus] speak; he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God would appear there immediately.  12 So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.   13 He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’  14 His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’  15 But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading.  16 The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’  17 He replied, ‘Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’  18 Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’  19 And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’  20 Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief,  21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding person; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’  22 He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant.  You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; 23 why did you not put my money in a bank?  Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’  24 And to those standing by he said, ‘Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.’  25 But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’  26 ‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  27 Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.'”  28 After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.  (NAB Luke 19:11-28)

 

Disciples MUST take risks in following our “King:” Jesus Christ,- – the “Messiah,” – – in His footsteps and on His path to salvation with eternal life in paradise!!  There is no “SAFE” position on this aspect of Faith.  The only path is to take risks!  How does this “prophetic statement” make you feel?  This reading today needs to be interpreted in its own context: What is to be given to Jesus, the King?

In today’s Gospel, Luke is combining two very distinct parables: (1) a parable about the conduct of faithful and productive servants and (2) a story about a rejected king.  A very similar story about the conduct of servants also occurs (in another fashion) in Matthew 25:14-20.  

The story about the rejected king might have stemmed from a historical event that occurred at that period in time.  After the death of Herod the Great (who ordered the slaughter of the children in the infancy narratives), his son Archelaus had to travel to Rome in order to receive the title of “King.”   A delegation of Jews, resolute that he not be their new king, travelled to, and appeared before Caesar Augustus, in Rome, in order to oppose the request of Archelaus.  Although not given the official title of “king,” Archelaus was made “ruler” over all of Judea and Samaria (which includes the city of Jerusalem).  

The Jews in Jesus’ time had a heightened sense that the Messiah would appear and usher in the kingdom of God on the earth.  In His teachings, Jesus often spoke in messianic and prophetic language about the coming supremacy of God.  Luke uses today’s story to supply a correction to the widely held expectation of the imminent end of the age and of the establishment of the kingdom in Jerusalem (see Luke 19:11 – covered in depth in my previous blog).  

Jesus is not on his way to Jerusalem to receive the power of a king.  There is to be no spectacular “manifestation” of the kingdom of God magically appearing before all eyes in Jerusalem.  For the manifestation of God’s kingdom to happen, Jesus must leave His “land;” and then only after returning from a “distant” place will reward and judgment take place (what a ‘poetic’ reference to the Parousia).  What is being offered by Jesus – – the “King” – – instead is dedication, persistence, and faithfulness, obedient to His Father’s will!

The “they” in verse 11 not only includes Jesus’ follows and admirers, but also His opponents.  Jesus wanted all, even those opposed to Him, to know that at issue in this lesson was how one should use their material possessions in response to the advent of Jesus’ in their lives. 

Jesus is the representation appearing as the “King” in the story line today.  The people, religious leaders, and disciples all respond differently to Jesus as “King.”  The people are anxiously awaiting the Messiah promised in scripture of old.  The religious leaders were adamant that Jesus not be looked upon as the Messiah, the “King”!  And finally, the followers of Jesus are at least suspicious of him, while others are well aware of the true nature of Jesus.

The ten gold coins from verse 13 literally denote “ten minas.”  A mina was a monetary unit that in ancient Greece was equivalent to one hundred drachmas.  So, in doing the “biblical” math, these ten coins mentioned in today’s reading equaled one thousand (1000) days wages.  (Wow – nearly three years worth of pay!)  But – and a big BUT, – this story IS NOT about investment banking!!  It is entirely about spiritual gifts and talents, and how we must share them!

Jesus taught in regards to their desire for a “new kingdom” in this story of a nobleman who went away to receive a kingdom.  The parable reveals something important about how God’s salvation plan, how He brings about the plan, and our purpose in His plan.  It opens with the nobleman’s trust in his subjects.  He leaves them with a large sum of money to use as they think best.  He TRUSTED them with his property.  Though there were no strings attached, he was obviously testing them to see if they would be faithful and reliable in their use of the money that was entrusted to them.  Finally, the nobleman, now a new “King” with his return from a distant land, rewards those who are faithful and punishes those who sit by idly and do nothing with his money.

God gives His kingdom to those who are ready to receive His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in a very personal way.  God trusts us with His gifts and graces.  He gives us the freedom (freewill) to use them as we think best.  With each gift and talent, God gives sufficient grace, resources, and power for using them in a fitting way.  As the parable of “the talents” (in an earlier reading) shows, God loathes apathy, lack of interest, and coldness with His graces, gifts, and talents that He has imparted to us. 

God admires, respects, and awards those of us who use their talents, gifts, and graces for doing His work joyfully and willfully. “Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more!”  Sounds like my old boss; “You did such a great job, here are three more things for you to do!”)  But for those who chose to neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them – – they will lose what they have.  (“YOUR FIRED” – literally if you can excuse the prophetic pun.) 

There is an important lesson here for all of us to learn!  Not one of us can be apathetic, stationary, or inactive in being a Catholic.  We either chose to participate and get more, or we become lax and lose what we have now AND in the future!  We either follow Jesus on our (and His) path to eternity in paradise or we follow on the much easier and carefree path to eternal torment.  Which path do you want to take?  Do you TRUST in God’s grace?  Do you make good use of the gifts and talents God has already given to you?  Finally, do you share these gifts and talents?

Our King (Jesus the CHRIST) is overflowing in the bounty He promises.  Acceptance of God’s rule over oneself is a great moment of decision for us.  Unfortunately, some decide not to accept what our King Jesus brings in plenty for all of us.  Jesus has the important, decisive, and critical role in regard to all of our destinies; He determines our “life” and “death!”  I bow to Him lovingly, gracefully, and gratefully!!

 

Prayer for the Sanctification of Labor

 

“O God, the creator of all things, you framed the law of labor for the human race.  Graciously grant, by the example and patronage of St. Joseph, that we may do the work you provide us and earn the reward you promise.  Sustain us with your grace to live up to our duties in charity and justice.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231)

 

In her short life Elizabeth manifested such great love for the poor and suffering that she has become the patroness of Catholic charities and of the Secular Franciscan Order. The daughter of the King of Hungary, Elizabeth chose a life of penance and asceticism when a life of leisure and luxury could easily have been hers. This choice endeared her in the hearts of the common people throughout Europe.

At the age of 14 Elizabeth was married to Louis of Thuringia (a German principality), whom she deeply loved; she bore three children. Under the spiritual direction of a Franciscan friar, she led a life of prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor and sick. Seeking to become one with the poor, she wore simple clothing. Daily she would take bread to hundreds of the poorest in the land, who came to her gate.

After six years of marriage, her husband died in the Crusades, and she was grief-stricken. Her husband’s family looked upon her as squandering the royal purse, and mistreated her, finally throwing her out of the palace. The return of her husband’s allies from the Crusades resulted in her being reinstated, since her son was legal heir to the throne.

In 1228 Elizabeth joined the Secular Franciscan Order, spending the remaining few years of her life caring for the poor in a hospital which she founded in honor of St. Francis. Elizabeth’s health declined, and she died before her 24th birthday in 1231. Her great popularity resulted in her canonization four years later.

Comment:

Elizabeth understood well the lesson Jesus taught when he washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper: The Christian must be one who serves the humblest needs of others, even if one serves from an exalted position. Of royal blood, Elizabeth could have lorded it over her subjects. Yet she served them with such a loving heart that her brief life won for her a special place in the hearts of many. Elizabeth is also an example to us in her following the guidance of a spiritual director. Growth in the spiritual life is a difficult process. We can play games very easily if we don’t have someone to challenge us or to share experiences so as to help us avoid pitfalls.

Quote:

“Today, there is an inescapable duty to make ourselves the neighbor of every individual, without exception, and to take positive steps to help a neighbor whom we encounter, whether that neighbor be an elderly person, abandoned by everyone, a foreign worker who suffers the injustice of being despised, a refugee, an illegitimate child wrongly suffering for a sin of which the child is innocent, or a starving human being who awakens our conscience by calling to mind the words of Christ: ‘As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me’ (Matthew 25:40)” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 27, Austin Flannery translation).

Patron Saint of: Bakers

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

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

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

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

 

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

“Me Prepared? Nope, But There Is Plenty of Time – Isn’t There?!” – Luke 12:32-48†


One week to go till the finish of my yearly devotion: St. Louis de Monfort’s “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.”  It has been an awesome journey of faith.  It ends next Sunday, when I renew my consecration of the Marian Feast of “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” 

As a side note, completion of the devotion and consecration, —   along with the Sacrament of Reconciliation attained yesterday, attendance at Mass on the day of consecration, and reception of the Holy Eucharist on that day, — will grant me a plenary indulgence: a total wiping clean of any imperfections on my soul from the abuses I have earned through my own sins – and that’s some serious wiping!  This is the ultimate in being prepared for the Parousia.  (If you do not understand what “parousia” is, you will after reading this reflection today.)

 

 

** A mini-reflection: (You get two reflections, for the price of one today!)
  

For those did not know their Church Calendar backwards and forwards, this past Friday was the feast of the “Transfiguration of the Lord.”
     

The Transfiguration of Christ is related in detail in the Synoptic gospels: Matthew 17:1-6, Mark 9:1-8, and Luke 9:28-36.  Six days after His stopover in Cæsarea Philippi, Jesus took Peter, James and John to Mount Tabor where He was “transfigured” before their eyes.  His face shone as the sun, and his garments became snow white.  The dazzling brightness which emanated from His whole Body was produced by an interior shining of His Divinity. 

This sounds a lot like what happened with Moses on Mount Sinai, as written in Exodus:  “The glory of the LORD settled upon Mount Sinai. The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.  To the Israelites the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop.  But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights. As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord.”  (NAB Ex 24: 16-18, 34: 29)

Previously, we learned from Exodus 3:14 — “God replied, ‘I am who am.’ Then he added, ‘This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.’” — that God revealed His glory in the bush that was burning bright, but not consumed.  Then, at a later time as written above, the bush blazed and the cloud became luminous on the mountain top, as God gave Moses the Law of the Covenant.  On another mountain top, Jesus like the bush before, again revealed His glory in Jesus, and the glory of His Father shining threw His whole body, and even His garments.

In this manifestation, Moses and Elijah not only encouraged Jesus, but also adored Him as the promised one of God.  And, for the second time (the first being at His baptism in the Jordan River), God spoke and proclaimed Him His only-begotten and well-loved Son.  Jesus’ speaking with Moses and Elijah about the trials which awaited Him at Jerusalem strengthened His faith, and the growing faith of his three friends, preparing them ALL for the terrible struggle they were to endure at Gethsemane.  After all, in witnessing this beautiful manifestation, Peter, James, and John received a foretaste of the glory and heavenly delights to come.        

Have you been transfigured?  Are you burning with God’s love and revelation?  Have you ever received Jesus in Holy Communion?

PS – See if you can find the link between the “Transfiguration” and today’s Gospel reading.

 

Does anyone have access to a few free “used but still usable” 1 volume Divine Office books (“Christian Prayer”)?  We have several new Inquirers and Candidates in our SFO Fraternity.  If you know of one collecting dust, please let us use it for the glory of God.  Will pick up if in St. Louis metro area, or will gladly pay for postage.  Please let me know if you can help.  We need a minimum of three, but can use 10 if possible.

Our SFO Fraternity has decided to try to get hold of donated “Christian Prayer” books that have been used in order to save trees, and to continue the good works from Religious that have died or left the order.  When using the original owner’s book, we will also be praying for their soul and intentions. (What’s a better payment than praying for one’s soul and intentions?!)
      

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

“What I desire most is to be faithful and to finish the race. It doesn’t matter if I finish running or crawling; all I want is to finish and to hear God the Father say to me, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:23). I can’t give up; I must keep going.”

— Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR,
Hiking the Camino:
500 Miles with Jesus,
Servant Books

 

  

    

Today’s reflection is about being prepared, for when we do not know or expect, the Son of Man will come.

 

32 Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.  33 Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.  34 For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.  35 “Gird your loins and light your lamps 36 and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.  37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.  38 And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.  39 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  40 You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  41 Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”  42 And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute (the) food allowance at the proper time?  43 Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.  44 Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.  45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.  47 That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; 48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.  (NAB Luke 12:32-48)

 

God desires to give us His Kingdom.  He wants to take us to be with Him forever in paradise.  But we MUST wait, and be Prepared.  Sounds like a “scouting” thing to me.  Maybe the scouts have it right in their “Scouting Oath and Law:”

“On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

The “Scout Law” is to be: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent (12 virtues).  What else can you ask for in being a Catholic?  Our entire Catechism and focus of our faith are possibly summed up in these two promises that “children” pledge routinely throughout the world.  Didn’t Jesus say we are to be like children to enter the kingdom?  Kind of makes you think; doesn’t it!?

Today’s Gospel Reading is a collection of quips and sayings related to Luke’s understanding of the “end time” and “the return of Jesus.”  Luke emphasized the importance of being faithful to the instructions and teachings of Jesus in the period before the “parousia.”  What the heck is “parousia?”

Parousia is the return of Jesus Christ to end the current period of human history and existence on earth, and to open the new era of paradise here for some, and eternal torment, also here, for others.  This “time” when Jesus will return has been given many names: the Day of the Lord, the Parousia, the end time, and the Second Coming of Christ.  I might even call it the “Oops – Too Late” time for some.

Why do we have to wait for the Parousia?  The Jewish people knew and trusted they would defeat their many enemies, but had to endure many plagues and tribulations before they were released by the Pharaoh, after the first “Passover.”  Abraham and Sarah had to wait a very long time before Isaac was born: and ditto for Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth.  I, for one, never joke about my wife and I being too old to get pregnant: God does have an awesome and surprissing sense of humor after all!  Waiting is a necessary component of faith in God: it is a virtue called patience.

God has bequeathed to us paradise with Him.  He just asks us to be prepared, by doing a few simple things.  First, forget about the materialistic things of this world, and instead embrace the spiritual things of His kingdom.  Secondly, use the resources available to you to help others in need.  After all, as is written in today’s Gospel reading, “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be (Luke 12:34).” 

“Gird your loins and light your lamps … ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks ….”  I yelled out this phrase to my teenage children, and then almost fell out of my chair laughing after seeing their faces.  I honestly believe they thought I went off the deep end!  This phrase simply means to be dressed and ready to go, day or night; for when He comes, no one knows.  I’ll go even further and say that the “dressed” part of this phrase is to be dressed in God’s graces and virtues; and the “light” is the illumination present in us (we call this “Sanctifying Grace”).  This transfigured grace guides us in walking in the brightness of Jesus’ footsteps.

Peter asks if this parable is meant just for the Apostles, or for the large crowd that had gathered to listen to Jesus.  Without answering Peter’s question, Jesus responds with yet another parable (I love Jesus’ style) about servants awaiting the return of their master.

This new parable adds to the theme of vigilance and caution.  It explains how to wait, and reminds us of the reward for the faithful follower at the heavenly banquet in paradise.  If it was addressed to the Apostles, then it was addressed to the leadership of the “early” Catholic Church; and the “Church body” of today: the faithful individuals and community, in union with the Magisterium.  

Those faithful followers and servants whom God finds observant will be sanctified on His return: the Parousia.  God so dearly wants to oblige himself to us.  He desires to have us recline at His table, and wishes to wait on us as He hosts the divine feast in heaven.  I suspect God will be the perfectly gracious host, at a meal of a lifetime!

“My master is delayed in coming” is a statement that indicates that the early Christian expectation for the impending return of Jesus had undergone some modification.  Luke warns his readers against depending on such a delay and acting irresponsibly, and may I say unwisely.  A similar warning can found in Matthew 24:48-51: But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”  Two warnings in the hand are better than one soul in hell! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Is this time of preparation and waiting going to be an easy wait?  Hell NO! – Literally.  Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.  The “Peter Principle” states that “we rise to our highest level of incompetency.”  The “Jesus Principle” states that we can rise to the highest level of sanctification and perfection.

God’s kingdom is unfolding in this world and in our hearts and souls – TODAY!  We actually see a hint of the kingdom at every Mass and Liturgical Sacrament.  We catch sight of the kingdom every time we gather in His name.  We make out His kingdom in every person we help, we forgive, and to whom we ask for forgiveness.

We are not to be like the greedy rich fool in last Sunday’s Gospel reading who planned to store his great harvest in barns rather than share it.  We are instead to share our wealth with anyone we encounter in need.  We need to see Jesus in all humans, regardless of their earthly predicaments.  The solution for the angst or fear brought on by Jesus’ return and the coming judgment is to surrender our greed and dependence for material possessions, and to provide for the needs of others as our circumstances allow us. Our immense treasure will instead be in heaven, where it cannot wear out, be stolen, nor destroyed (Luke 12: 33).

How many clocks are in your home?  If you’re like me, you have a timepiece everywhere: the kitchen and living room walls; on the microwave and oven, on the DVD/DVR device(s), on both sides of the bed, on the cell phone(s), and maybe even on your wrist.  With all of these time reminders, are you (or a loved one) still repetitively late to appointments, breaking my “11th Commandment: “Thou shall never be late!”?

FYI, I don’t believe you really want to be late, when the Parousia occurs.  Place a symbol such as a crucifix, Rosary, or picture of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus,” near your clocks as a reminder that it is always “time” for us to be acting like Disciples of Christ.  Another easy thing that I have recently started doing is to set an alarm on my cell phone (that is ALWAYS with me) for 3 p.m. (that’s 1500 hours for the military mind set).  At this time each and every day, when the alarm alerts me, I pray a very simple and short prayer: “Jesus, I trust in you.”  This literally puts Jesus into my thoughts and heart at least once in the middle, and probably the busiest point, of every day.

Another major way to be ready for the coming judgment is to simply be on continuous alert.  We must be like the servants waiting for the master’s return from a wedding banquet that (even now) usually lasts for days in the Middle East.  (And we complain about a couple hours of bad food and cash bars.)  We need be watchful, so that even if Jesus comes in the middle of the night, we will be ready for Him.  We ought to be found doing our Catholic and sacred jobs when Jesus arrives at the time of the Parousia.  If we are doing our jobs, our reward will be great.  But if we relax and neglect our duties, acting like the greedy rich man, we will not have a place in God’s kingdom: eternal paradise.  This requires that we be living in a consistently moral and obedient way, so that we are always ready and prepared to give a first-rate account to God of how we have lived.

It can be an easy wait for those that maintain their faith and Christian practices.  Here is the secret: Just live every day as you want to live in God’s Kingdom.  If you do, Jesus will surely wait on you!  He’ll honor you for helping others, and for walking in His footsteps.

There is a great hope and joy in today’s Gospel reading.  God is never outdone in generosity!  God ALWAYS wins: and He picked all of us to be on His team!

 

 “The Apostles Creed”

 

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
     

*****
    

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Holy Father Dominic 1170-1221
   
  

Dominic was born to wealthy Spanish nobility.  At his baptism, his mother saw a star shining from his chest.  Dominic, though of noble stature, eventually turned his back entirely on material possessions and wealth.

He studied theology at Palencia, and became the “Canon” of the church of Osma.  As a Priest and Augustinian, Dominic lived a lifelong apostolate among heretics, especially the Albigensians in France.  He founded the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans) in 1215.  The Dominicans were a group who live a simple and austere life.  Dominic also founded an order of nuns dedicated to the care of young girls.  He was a true visionary, and associated with friends such as Saint Amata of Assisi (a Poor Clare Nun).

At one point Dominic became discouraged at the stalled progress of his mission; the heresies remained.  He received a vision from Our Lady who showed him a wreath of roses, and told him to say the Rosary daily, and to teach it to all who would listen.  Eventually the true faith won out over the heretics. Dominic is often erroneously credited with the invention of the Rosary, but the Rosary predated his life.  It had been prayed long before his birth by those who could not read, as a substitute for reading and praying the Psalms.

Through St. Dominic and Blessed Alan, it is a widely accepted belief that our Blessed Mother Mary granted fifteen promises to all those who recite the Rosary:

1.  Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.

2.  I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.

3.  The Rosary will be a powerful armor against hell. It will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies.

4.  It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things.  Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

5.  Those who recommend themselves to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.

6.  Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred Mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune.  God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an un-provided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.

7.  Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

8.  Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death, the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.

9.  I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.

10.  The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.

11.  You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.

12.  All those who propagate the holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

13.  I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.

14.  All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son, Jesus Christ.

15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

Legend says that Dominic received a vision of a beggar who, like Dominic, would do great things for the Faith.  Dominic met the beggar the next day, and he embraced him saying, “You are my companion and must walk with me.  If we hold together, no earthly power can withstand us.”  The beggar was Saint Francis of Assisi.

Quote:

“A man who governs his passions is master of his world.  We must either command them or be enslaved by them.  It is better to be a hammer than an anvil.” – Saint Dominic

Based on: 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 #8 of 26:
   

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

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist.

Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

 

 

“On a Cloud and a Prayer!” – Acts 1:8-11† A unique reflection on the ascension of Jesus, as seen through my warped mind.


I hope all have a splendid and peaceful day celebrating with the Lord in some way.  After all, it is “His” day.

I also want to thank a dear friend in helping me “put to pen” some of my thoughts and reflections for this blog.  John H., you have helped me in more ways than you can imagine.  You are a true friend, and a reflection of Christ on earth.  Thank you.
   

Today in Catholic History:
   

†  583 – Death of Saint Brendan, Irish navigator (b. 484)
† 1265 – Saint Simon Stock, English saint (b. 1165)
† 1611 – Birth of Pope Innocent XI (d. 1689)
† 1657 – Andrzej Bobola, Polish Jesuit missionary (b. 1591)
† 1920 – In Rome, Pope Benedict XV canonizes Joan of Arc as a saint.
† 1943 – Holocaust: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ends.
† Feasts: Saint Brendan the Navigator, Saint Germerius, Saint Honoré of Amiens, Saint Andrew Bobola, Saint Ubaldus, Saint Peregrine of Auxerre

Quote or Joke of the Day:
    

If Jesus didn’t rise, an even greater miracle happened:12 relatively uneducated guys changed the world & were martyred to protect a lie.〜 Unknown
        

Today’s Meditation:
    

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”  (NAB Acts 1:8-11)

 

The Apostles are finally going to understand all that Jesus had taught them.  They are finally going to get a divine power to teach, lead, forgive, and heal (In ten days: at Pentecost).  But they are to receive this grace at a price.  They, as all Christians then and now, are charged by Jesus to be witnesses to their faith.  As priests of today still do, by the miraculous mark on their soul, these men were to leave their old lives behind and take up the mantle of Jesus: and to follow in His footsteps; including the good and the bad times. 
     

Jerusalem was the city of destiny in the Gospel of Luke; the place to be, and to come.  In Acts, Jerusalem was also the place where salvation was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This city was the starting point for the mission of the Christian disciples for destinations to “the ends of the earth.” Jerusalem was the place where the apostles were situated, and thus the focal point in the early days of the Church community.  The “ends of the earth” for the people of Jerusalem at this time in history probably meant Rome from a geographical viewpoint, and to the gentiles from a doctrinal view.
   

Can you just picture Jesus standing on a cloud, with a lovingly coy smile on his face, and His arms outstretched in a way of blessing; as He slowly moved in an upward direction until no longer visible to the naked eye?  There is a major amount of symbolism involved with this scene from Catholic history.
    

The first symbol is the cloud.  The cloud is composed purely of water; in a shapeless and ever-changing form.  This water moves throughout the cloud in a continuous and living manner, reacting to each other by either combining with other water molecules or by repealing other water molecules.  Sounds like a typical Catholic parish to me.  Isn’t it interesting that the blood of Jesus washed away our sins, giving us redemption and salvation; and the living water of Baptism, just as the living water of Jesus’ cloud, rises us up to the kingdom of heaven.
     

Next, I wish to delve into the image of Jesus’ rising to heaven: the Ascension.  Jesus’ ascension into heaven, body, blood, soul, and divinity is as of yet beyond my comprehension, but one I do take as a matter of faith.  Until Jesus, and later Mary; heaven was, and still is, a timeless, and measureless abode for the souls of the “righteous,” that have been perfected either while still on earth or in purgatory.  Again, I believe Jesus and Mary are in heaven “body, blood, and soul,” but I cannot explain how at this time.
   

Jesus rose to heaven on His own power.  Mary on the other hand did not. Although Mary was a living saint; the first disciple of Jesus; and the first Christian, she was still purely, and only human; whereas Jesus was totally human and totally divine (another mystery of faith).  Mary did not ascend to heaven, as many Catholics mistakenly believe. 
    

Our blessed Mother, our Queen, was “assumed” into heaven through the action of the Holy Spirit.  So, on August 15th, the day we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, please remember two things.  First, this feast is about Mary entering heaven and ruling with Jesus as our heavenly Queen, and as His (God’s) Queen Mother.  And secondly, Mary was brought “body, blood, soul, and humanity” to heaven by God for her dedication, purity, and a holy life worthy of God’s graces.  All we have to do is be humbly dedicated to Jesus, and lead a worthy life of pure love, as a gift which is heaven.  Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?!
   

The Apostles, and I am sure some of His disciples as well, were standing in awe at witnessing Jesus ascending to heaven.  They were probably wondering what to do now without their leader physically with them.  All of a sudden two men (I believe they are angels) are standing next to them.  Dressed in the color of purity and love, they inquisitively ask, “Wats U lookin at?!” (Sorry for the slang phrase.  I am using it for descriptive purposes.)
     

There is another thing I noticed about these two “angels” appearance to all to all these men of faith.  I believe this is one of only a very few appearances of angels in the Bible that did not cause some type of “fear factor” among the witnesses involved.  I wonder why?  Is it because they were already in some type of “mental overload” as to be unaffected by these heavenly beings?  Or, was it because these “men in white” comforted and calmed all present by telling them that Jesus would be returning in the future?
     

I think we Catholics, as a whole, are still standing in awe and looking at the sky for help.   We just need to remember that Jesus is still present with us, as He was present to these early Christians.  Since our struggles are really no different than those of the first Christians; the awesome fact that He loves us can keep us comforted and calmed in our times of stress, and in our trials of human life.  Finally, the members of the first Church were probably no different than today: a combination of sinners and saints.
     

We are all part of a great and divine phenomenon: Christianity.  Take heart, smile, and listen to our Church leaders.  They are inspired by the Holy Spirit when in communion with the Magisterium of the Church.  And Jesus is never wrong!
    

“Lord Jesus, give me a generous heart to those I meet.  Please make me your instrument on earth.  Amen”
          

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:    St. Margaret of Cortona 1247-1297

This Magdalen of the Franciscan Order came into the world in the year 1247 at Laviano near Cortona in the province of Tuscany. When she was 7 years old, she lost her pious mother. She was neglected by her careless father, who married again within a short time, and her unsympathetic stepmother death harshly with her, so that when Margaret was 18 years old, she left home to earn her bread among strangers.

She was possessed of rare beauty, and ere long this became a snare for her. For the space of 9 years she gave herself up to a life of sin and scandal. Then one day she waited a long time in vain for her accomplice in sin to return home to the place where she lived with him. Presently his dog came to her whining and tugging at her dress. She followed the animal into the heart of the forest, and there she suddenly stood before the blood stained corpse of the unfortunate man; his enemies had murdered him.

At the appalling sight, Margaret was stunned like one struck by lightening. Filled with terror she asked herself, “Where is his soul now?” Then and there she firmly resolved in future to be even greater in penance than she had been in sin. Like the prodigal son she returned repentant to her native town of Laviano.

In a penitential garb, her hair cut short, a cord around her neck, she knelt at the door of the church and publicly asked all the congregation to forgive the scandal she had given. Many people were edified at this public humiliation, but her stepmother was all the more embittered at it. She. as well as Margaret’s father, forbade her to enter the parental home again. This reception severely tempted Margaret to return to the road of vice, but God’s grace sustained her.

Led by divine grace, she repaired to Cortona, made a contrite general confession to a Franciscan there, and submitted to the spiritual direction of her confessor. In a poor little hovel she now lived a secluded life, in penance, tears, and prayer, earning her scanty nourishment by hard manual labor.

Again and again she begged for the habit of the Third Order, that she might be recognized by all the world as a penitent. But not until 3 years had elapsed and she had been severely tried, was her wish granted. She received the habit in 1277. Now her fervor increased, and it is almost incredible what rigorous penances she practiced from then on. Day and night she wept over her sins, and often sobs so choked her voice that she could not speak. Satan made use of every wile and snare to cause Margaret to relapse, but prayer, mortification, and humiliation successfully put him to flight.

When finally, after uninterrupted struggling, she had triumphed over every earthly inclination, God assured her that her sins were fully pardoned and granted her special proofs of His knowledge of the innermost secrets of hearts. In many an instance, even when people came from great distances, she recalled grievous sins to their mind, while her exhortations and prayers were instrumental in bringing about conversion. Many souls were released from purgatory upon her prayers. Almighty God wrought many miracles through her even in her lifetime. Health was restored to the sick, a dead boy was raised to life, and at her approach evil spirits shuddered and left those whom they possessed.

Finally, after 23 years of rigorous penance, in the 50th year of her life, God called the great penitent to the Beatific Vision on February 22, 1297. Her body is preserved in a precious shrine in the Franciscan church at Cortona which bears her name. It is incorrupt even at the present day and frequently emits a pleasant perfume. Several popes have confirmed the public veneration accorded her. Pope Benedict XIII canonized her amid great solemnity in 1728.

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 #16:
  

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