Tag Archives: Sadducees

“Great, Another Question About the Greater Greatness!” – Matthew 22:34-40 †


 

Thirtieth 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

 

ТТТ

 

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Let’s put overpopulation in perspective.  There will be a total of 7 billion people in the world by the end of this month.  “Progressives” are concerned that this amount of people is too much, and the world is getting over-crowded.

Well, if each of the 7 billion people stood on a square three foot by three foot, the overall size would be 47.5 square miles, about the size of a couple typical counties in ONE state.

An acre of land is 208.7 feet per side.  For us “city dwellers”, an American football field is 360 feet by 160 feet, about 1.3 acres.  The United States land mass is 3,536,294 sq mi of land (No water is included in the figures).  SO, each of the 7 billion people on the earth can live within the US borders, and have about a 1/2 acre of property, EACH!  (That’s more than I have now.)

The Earth’s land mass is 57,500,000 sq mi (16.3 times larger than U.S. land mass).  With this in mind, each of the 7 billion people living RIGHT NOW can have about 8 acres of possible land, on average.  Eight acres is a plot of land 1670 feet on each side, or about a 1/3 mile, on each side.  That is about 50 football fields for EACH person on earth!!

THE WORLD IS NOT OVERPOPULATED.  From an ecological point of view, there are plenty of resources available for our NEEDS.  We just don’t want to share and/or pay for acquiring them!!  Overpopulation IS NOT the problem.  The real problem is two-fold: personal greed and materialism is!!

Т

I know a “good book” to read.  It is 2000 years old, and has 73 “chapters” [actually, books themselves] (some are missing 7, removed only a few hundred years ago).  It is filled with suspense, murder, love, war, sex, and mystery.  The interesting part is that everyone already knows the ending: the main character (and His followers) finally wins (actually won on day one*), but is still hard to put down.  This book comes in EVERY language spoken (including Braille), and is the most read book EVER (sorry Mark Twain).  (* What do you think about this “fact”?  Tell me what “day one” is for you?)

 

ТТТ

 

            

 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   502 – The Synodus Palmaris, called by Gothic king Theodoric the Great, discharges Pope Symmachus of all charges, thus ending the schism of Antipope Laurentius.
†   1450 – Death of Johannes van Capestrano, Italian saint, at age 70
†   1456 – Death of Giovanni da Capistrano, Italian saint (b. 1386)
†   1550 – Death of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (b. 1480)
†   1870 – Birth of Francis Kelley, Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma (d. 1948)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Giovanni da Capistrano; Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius; Saint Anthony Mary Claret; Saint Ignatius of Constantinople

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

 

ТТТ

 

 Quote of the Day:

 

 

“Love without faith is as bad as faith without love.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

 

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection is about the Pharisees continuing to test Jesus with a different question: about the greatest commandment.

 

(NAB Matthew 22:34-40) 34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking,36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him,“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

ТТТ

 

 Gospel Reflection:

 

This week’s Gospel follows closely behind, and is actually attached to last Sunday’s Gospel reading.  Today’s reading has the last of three questions put to Jesus by Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. 

The Herodians and the Pharisees asked the first question (in the Gospel two Sundays ago), about paying taxes to Caesar.  The Sadducees asked the second question (last Sunday), about the Resurrection (cf., Matthew 22:22-33).  The third question, today’s Gospel, is asked by a “Scholar” (probably by a Scribe and definitely a Pharisee), who asks Jesus which one of the ten is the “greatest” of the commandments.

Now, why do you think these groups are all questioning or testing Jesus Christ? Because these “pious” men are trying – – with all their power and knowledge – – to trick Jesus into saying something that could get Him arrested.  The background and context for today’s reading is one of mounting tension, hostility, and divisiveness between Jesus, the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and the Jewish faithful.

Isn’t it interesting that all three religious factions (the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes), plus a separate Jewish political group (the Herodians), all considered Jesus a threat to their livelihoods and lifestyles.  They all tried to trap Him, and none succeeded.

Т

Both the professional Scribes and the group of Pharisees prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements.  Both made it a life-time practice to study the 616 “precepts” of the Old Testament, along with the many numerous Rabbinic “commentaries” (called the “Mitzvot”, Hebrew for “good deeds and acts of kindness”).  So, they tested Jesus to see whether He correctly understood the law as they did – – (not as they should).  

With this fact in mind, what is meant by Matthew reporting that Jesus was “tested”?  This verb is used often throughout the Gospels when attempts to embarrass Jesus’ occur.  These “tests” can be put into two differing challenges: to DO or to SAY something they believed impossible!   Attempts to challenge Jesus to DO something they believe impossible can be found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven.”  (Matthew 16:1),

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.” (Mark 8:11),

And,

Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.”  (Luke 11:16).

The second challenge, having Jesus SAY something that can be used against Him, can also be found in two of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Mark):

Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, ‘Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?’” (Matthew 22:17-18); 

One of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’” (Matthew 22:35-36); 

“The Pharisees approached and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’  They were testing him.” (Mark 10:2), 

and,

“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?’” (Mark 12:14). 

It is obvious that these “pious” men wanted to trap Jesus in a “catch-22” situation.  He would be “damned” either way – – or so they thought!!

Т

For the devoutly pious Jew, ALL the commandments were to be kept with equal care.   In their questioning of Jesus, there is evidence of an obsession within the Jewish community about which “law” is the greatest:

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36).

Why would any Jewish person even care what “law” is the greatest when they should believe ALL the laws are indeed equal in status?  (Hmm?!)

Today’s question required Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses (the Scribes’ job in the Temple).  Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and over six hundred additional rules, mostly originating in the Torah.  Adherence to the Mosaic Law, for a devoutly pious Jew, is an expression of faithfulness to God’s covenant with “Israel” and there response bu obedience to these rules.  The ranking of the Commandments seemed to have been regularly debated among the teachers of the Law, even though ALL the Commandments were equal in importance, and today’s reading is a good proof of this.

Т

Interestingly, Jesus startled them with His profound simplicity and mastery of the “law of God”, and its true purpose.  In verse 37 of today’s reading, Jesus’ answer is simple and directly from the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, written by Moses through the Holy Spirit.  His answer can be found in the book of Deuteronomy:

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Matthew omitted the first part of the “fuller” quotation, found both in Deuteronomy and Mark’s Gospel:

Hear, O Israel!  The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!  Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.”  (Deuteronomy 6:4-5);

Jesus replied, ‘The first is this: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”’” (Mark 12:29-30).

Matthew may have omitted this first part of the quotation to focus on the fulfillment of the promises of the Holy One of Israel, for his first century Jewish-Catholic Church, rather than emphasizing the monotheistic (ONE God belief) of the Jewish faith.  Jesus Christ is the reality of, and fulfillment of that faith.  For me, what Jesus was declaring with His new, yet old, answer, is the top priority of the love for God to occupy the total person (heart, mind, and soul – – of both the Jew AND the Gentile)!!

Т

Jesus, in His unique quality of expanding the issue, goes beyond the extent of the question put to Him.  He joins to His “greatest and the first commandment” a second, “love of neighbor”, also found in the Torah:

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18)

Here’s a revelation for us – NOW, as well as the Jewish people listening to Jesus – THEN.  This combination of the two commandments, “love your God and Love your neighbor”, was already a part of Judaism.  In reality, Jesus DID NOT pronounce anything new to the Jewish people; He only emphasized what should have been recognized and lived by them ALREADY!!

This “double commandment” in today’s reading is the divine source from which the whole (Mosaic) law, and what the “Prophets” stated and affirmed in the Old Testament, originate.  “The Old lives in the New – – and the New fulfills the Old”!!  Only God has the capabilities, with a true authority, to divinely pronounce the “source” thousands of years after the Mosaic Laws had been well established.  After all, “He was, He is, and He will always BE!!”

Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question with a two-fold summary of faith.  He says that all of the commandments can be summarized in two [supplementary and complementary] commandments: “love God and love your neighbor”. Both of these directives were essential elements of the religious tradition Jesus learned as a youth, from His Jewish community.  Indeed, these two “old and new” commandments, together, still continue to be essential and important aspects of contemporary Jewish religious understanding today.  Jesus’ response to His “questioners” anticipates a vital relationship between these two aspects of the Jewish Law.  “Love of God” finds its expression in our “love for our neighbor”!!

Т

In Summary, we learn about “love” from real, “hard and true” examples witnessed in family life and outside the home by friends and neighbors.  We can “love God and love our neighbors” by showing everyday acts of charity, generosity, and kindness.  (Remember “Mitzvot”?)In doing so, we show (and do) our own expressions of “love for God”.  These acts, small and large, simple and extreme, are the expressions of what Jesus identified as the two greatest commandments: “love God and love neighbor”.

Т

What does God require of us Catholic Christians?  It is simply that we love as He loves! (Note the present tense!)  God IS love, and everything He does flows from His love for us.  God loved us first, and our love for Him is a response to His exceeding grace and kindness towards us.  The “love of God” comes first with the “love of neighbor” firmly anchored in the “love of God”.  They cannot be separated.  The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what he loves and reject what is immoral, hateful, and contrary to His kindness and love.  

What makes our love for God and His commands grow in, through, and out of each of us?  It is our Faith in God and hope in His promises that strengthens us in actual “loving of God.”  Faith, love, and hope are absolutely essential for a proper relationship with the Trinitarian God.  Faith, love, and hope are the links uniting us with Him.  The more we know of God, the more we love Him.  The more we love Him, the greater we believe and hope in His promises.  

The Lord, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new freedom to love as He loves.  Is there anything keeping you from the love of God? – – and the joy of serving others with a generous heart?  – – Let us remember what Saint Paul says of hope and love:

Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5).

Do you know the love which conquers all?  I do!!  I hope you do too!!

 

ТТТ

 Reflection Prayer:

 

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 those whom I have injured.  Amen.”

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

ТТТ

 

 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.

 

There is only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we presently say:

“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest”,

with the new liturgical text we will say:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.

While this may make many people think of round Communion wafers, the meaning here is “armies,” and it refers to the armies of angels who serve God.

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

 

ТТТ

 

 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Hilarion (c. 291-371)

 

Despite his best efforts to live in prayer and solitude, today’s saint found it difficult to achieve his deepest desire.  People were naturally drawn to Hilarion as a source of spiritual wisdom and peace.  He had reached such fame by the time of his death that his body had to be secretly removed so that a shrine would not be built in his honor.  Instead, he was buried in his home village.

St. Hilarion the Great, as he is sometimes called, was born in Palestine.  After his conversion to Christianity he spent some time with St. Anthony of Egypt, another holy man drawn to solitude.  Hilarion lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert, where he also experienced spiritual dryness that included temptations to despair.  At the same time, miracles were attributed to him.

As his fame grew, a small group of disciples wanted to follow Hilarion.  He began a series of journeys to find a place where he could live away from the world.  He finally settled on Cyprus, where he died in 371 at about age 80.

Hilarion is celebrated as the founder of monasticism in Palestine.  Much of his fame flows from the biography of him written by St. Jerome.

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)

 

ТТТ

 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

 

What is the meaning of “penance”?

What is the meaning of “worthy fruits of penance”?

What can God’s parental love mean in your life?

What is the greatest quality of a loving parent?

 

ТТТ

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 23 & 24 of 26:

 

23.  Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule.  The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living.  The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue.  Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

Т

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

Advertisements

“With Water, You CAN Catch On Fire!” – Matthew 3:1-12†


 

 

The Second Sunday of Advent

Twenty days till the Birth of Jesus Christ.
Let us all remember the “Reason for the Season.”
Please, Please, keep “CHRIST” in CHRIST-mas!!

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday, the “Dr. Oz Show” will be about Genetically Modified Foods (GMO’s)

 

Jeffrey Smith will be on the show to discuss the health dangers of genetically modified foods.  Also on the show will be Dr. Michael Hansen, a scientist from Consumers Union who has been an avid critic of GMOs for two decades, and Dr. Pamela Ronald, a pro-GMO scientist who has been proposing that organic foods include GMOs. This is a rare national coverage on this extremely important topic – that truly influences everyone.  GMOs will be discussed during the first 15 minute segment.

Show times for Missouri are below.  Please refer to your local directory for other areas:

Missouri: 

ST. LOUIS:  NBC 5 KSDK  11:00 AM
SPRINGFIELD: ABC 33 KSPR @ 3:00 PM
JOPLIN  FOX: 14 KFJX @ 5:00 PM
ST. JOSEPH: NBC 41 KSHB @ 3:00 PM
KC AREA: NBC 41 KSHB @ 3:00 PM; & IND 38 KMCI
COLUMBIA, MO  NBC 8 KOMU @ 1:00 PM and 12:00 PM

Thanks go to Gale Thackrey, who is the “Justice Ministry Coordinator” for the Franciscan Sisters of Mary in st. Louis Missouri. (www.fsmonline.org)

 

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

        
†   663 – Fourth Council of Toledo takes place.
†   749 – Death Saint John of Damascus, theologian
†   1301 – Pope Boniface VIII’s degree Ausculta fili (only nominee)
†   1443 – Birth of Pope Julius II (d. 1513)
†   1484 – Pope Innocent VIII issues the Summis desiderantes, a papal bull that deputizes Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger as inquisitors to root out alleged witchcraft in Germany and leads to one of the severest witch hunts in European history.
†   1492 – Christopher Columbus, a Secular Franciscan, becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola.
†   1590 – Niccolo Sfondrati chosen Pope Gregory XIV
†   2008 – Death of Patriarch Alexy II of Russia, head of the Russian Orthodox Church (b. 1929)
†   Feast Day: Saint Abercius

(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:

 

Franciscans emphasize the dignity of the human person, especially in its social nature.

 

Although all creation is the “footprint of God,” the Franciscan tradition understands that human beings are also created in the very image and likeness of God. Humans represent in a special way God who is Trinity, and therefore we achieve our personal fulfillment in relationship to God and in community rather than in the isolation of individualism. 

“Her life was an instruction and a lesson to others: in this book of life some learned the rule of living, in this mirror of life others learned to behold the paths of life.”  Papal Decree of the Canonization of St. Clare

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

 

 

Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist, the last prophet before Jesus Christ’s appearing in Judea; and his preaching of a message for repentance.

 

1 In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea 2 (and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  3 It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'”  4 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  5 At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him 6 and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.  9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  10 Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  11 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.  12 His winnowing fan is in his hand.  He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  (NAB Matthew 3:1-12)

 

This week’s Gospel (and next’s) bids all of us to think about John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus.  Today, Matthew describes the work and preaching of this “forerunner” to the Messiah, called “John the Baptist.”  Unlike Luke in his Gospel, Matthew does not impart on us any details of John the Baptist’s origins, and does not declare John as a relative of Jesus.  Matthew brings forward the sequence of Jesus’ ministry found in the Gospel of Mark with the preliminary preaching, teachings, and actions of “John the Baptist”.

John’s life was fueled by an intense, burning, and all-consuming passion — to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of His kingdom.  John was led by the Holy Spirit into an austere life in the “wilderness” well before to his “ministry.”  The “desert of Judea” was (and still is) a barren area west of the Dead Sea extending up and into the Jordan valley.  As Jesus (John’s cousin) will be tested in the desert, John was also tested by Satan.  John matured in the “Law”, the “Word”, and the “Presence” of God in his life, and he completed the cycle of holy prophets begun by Elijah.   

John makes absolutely obvious and plainly clear that his relationship to the “Messiah yet to come” (Jesus) was one of service and submissiveness. This was made evident in his declaring that “the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals”.   

Holy Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41).  When Mary visited Elizabeth, John leapt in her womb, filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).  The fire of the “Holy Spirit” lived and “burned brightly, intensely, and fully” in John the Baptist, and made him the prophesized “forerunner” of the coming Messiah as described in Isaiah 40:3:

“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”

I have a problem with the translation of the above verse, which is not uncommon in using the “NAB” Catholic Bible for me recently.  In this instance, I have chosen to go back to the origin Greek.  The Interlinear Greek Bible actually translates Isaiah 40:3 directly as:

utoV  gar  FOR THIS estin IS o HE WHO rhqeiV WAS SPOKEN upo BY hsaiou ISAIAH tou THE profhtou PROPHET legontoV SAYING fwnh THE VOICE bowntoV OF ONE CRYING en IN th THE erhmw WILDERNESS etoimasate PREPARE thn THE odon WAY kuriou OF THE LORD euqeiaV STRAIGHT poieite  taV MAKE tribouV  autou HIS PATHS taV MAKE tribouV WITH PATHS tou THE qeou OF GOD hmwn US.” 

(The bold is not Greek.  Apparently, it does not convert from word to WordPress.)

(Pretty cool and poetic though, isn’t it!!  The original Greek gives me a whole new meaning.  I love learning new “old” thinks.)

John the Baptist’s preaching is not meant to be a type of “finger-pointing” ultimatum, in an attempt to “scare” the “unholy hell” out of us.  He is simply calling for a change of heart and behavior through repentance.  John preaches of a turning from a life of rebellion to one of absolute and complete obedience to God.  He characterizes the conversion of those – – who sought him out in that enormous barren desert of Judea, – – with a “baptism” of repentance.  John’s baptism should be understood by us as a belief, hope, and anticipation of baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In today’s Gospel, John himself even alludes to the difference between his baptism and the “one yet to come” in saying:

I am baptizing you with water, for repentance . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who scolded the Jewish people for their lack of faith.  Living among a “proud” people who seemed to be unconcerned with the “things of God” (secularization), it was John’s mission to awaken them, unsettle them, and arouse in them enough willingness to recognize and receive the “Messiah” when He arrived!   

John declares that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  For John, this word “heaven,” was a proxy for the name of “God”, a name always avoided (still even today) by devout Jews out of reverence and respect.  Interestingly, the expression “the kingdom of heaven” occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew, and points to the actual and authentic power and reign of God over His people.  

In its fullness and completeness, the “kingdom of heaven” not only includes one’s obedience to God’s word but the joy and victory of God over earthly, human, and physical evils – – particularly over death of the body and soul.  John shared the Jewish belief that the “kingdom” was to be ushered in by a judgment from God, in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  Catholics have modified this belief somewhat, wherein the “kingdom” is seen as being established in a form or type of stages, ending with the Parousia (Second Coming) of Jesus.

John the Baptist was one of, and the last of, the great holy prophets of Israel.  He preached “repentance” of sins to the people of Israel.  The description of John’s being, spirituality, and presence found in this reading is reminiscent of the description of the great prophet, Elijah.  The “hairy” garment of John was considered by the Jewish people as a sign of an ascetical (somebody who is self-denying and lives with minimal material comforts) and prophetic calling, similar to Elijah’s demeanor, physical being, and calling.  It recalls the austere garment of Elijah, as found in 2 Kings 1:8:

’Wearing a hairy garment,’ they replied, ‘with a leather girdle about his loins.’ ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite!’ he exclaimed.”

The belief, hope, and anticipation of the return of “Elijah” from heaven in order to prepare the Jewish people for the final manifestation of God’s “kingdom” was prevalent and well-known among John’s audience,the first century Jewish people.  According to Matthew, this expectation was fulfilled in John the Baptist’s ministry.  In Matthew 11:14, it is written:

And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.” 

Also, in Matthew 17:11-13, it goes on to say:

He said in reply, ‘Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.  So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.’  Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”

“Ritual washing” was practiced by various groups in Palestine for at least 400 years (around 150 B.C. to 250 A.D.).  John’s acts of baptism very well may have been related to the purifying washings of the ascetic Jewish community called the “Essenes” who lived in an area called “Qumran” (about a mile from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea).

The “Pharisees and Sadducees” that John the Baptist saw and talked to were Jewish temple leaders, who also had responsibilities outside the religious aspects of their jobs, giving them responsibilities very similar to our present day political leaders in their society.  The Pharisees were intensely devoted to the “Mosaic Law”, both written and oral.  Most scholars believe that another group called the “Scribes”, who were considered the experts in the Mosaic Law, also belonged predominantly to this “party” of Temple leaders.  

The Sadducees were a priestly “aristocratic” party, well entrenched in Jerusalem.  This group or party only accepted as “Scripture” the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah or Pentateuch).  The Sadducees followed the “letter of the law”, and rejected any oral traditions (the main way of teaching the Jewish and historical faith).  Most interesting for me is that they were defiantly opposed to any teachings NOT found in the Torah such as “resurrection of the dead.”  For me, no hope in a resurrection definitely would make one “Sad-You-See!”

Matthew links all three of these religious/political groups together as “enemies” of Jesus.  The threatening words of John in verses 7 through 12 are addressed to these Temple Leaders who were present, rather than to “the crowds” as is found and reported in Luke 3:7.  “The coming wrath,” that John is declaring in verse 7, is the “final judgment” that will bring about the eternal destruction for non-repentant and non-remorseful sinners. 

So, go to confession, and go often.  It’s an awesome experience!  Every time we turn to God in reconciliation, He RUNS to us, and allows us to see a small glimpse of heaven – His kingdom – thus filling us completely with hope and joy.

Fire in the Bible, is regularly connected with God, with His acts in the world, and in the lives of His people.  God manifested His actual presence with the use of fire, such as with the non-consuming “burning bush” when God spoke to Moses, as written in Exodus 3:2.  The image of fire is also used to symbolize God’s glory in Ezekiel 1:4 and 1:13, His protective presence in 2 Kings 6:17, His holiness in Deuteronomy 4:24, His righteous judgment in Zechariah 13:9, and even His wrath against sin as in Isaiah 66:15-16. 

The baptism via water from John was be followed by a washing away of the persons sins via a cleansing power of the Holy Spirit of God.  Some believers of that period saw the Holy Spirit and fire as synonymous.  Jesus was said to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.   The first Catholic communities believed the “Holy Spirit and fire” was to be understood, in actuality, in the context of what happened at Pentecost, as described in Acts 2:1-4:

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim

In John the Baptist’s preaching though, the “Spirit and fire” was in regards to their purifying and refining characteristics as found in Old Testament books of Ezekiel 36:25-27 and  Malachi 3:2-3.

“I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.  I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.”

and

“But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears?  For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

Our baptism in Jesus Christ, “by water and Spirit”, results in a new birth and entry into God’s kingdom as his beloved sons and daughters (see John 3:5).  Do you want to experience that feeling of being on fire for God?   Do you want to be on fire for God and for the return of the Lord Jesus when he comes in His magnificence and glory?  Hell Yes!! (Wait; actually it should be “Hell NO!! – I think.  Hey, you know what I mean.)

The judgment between the “good” and “bad” is compared to a procedure in which a farmer separates wheat and chaff.  The “winnowing fan” was a farming tool, a forklike shovel with which the threshed wheat was thrown into the air. The kernels fell to the ground; the light chaff, which was blown clear by the wind, was then gathered and burned up.  My sons do the same activity every fall with our brightly colored and browned fallen leaves, but only after I have meticulously created neat and tidy piles in preparation of picking them up.

Today’s Gospel will be followed next Sunday by Jesus’ baptism celebrated and witnessed by this Holy prophet, John; an event that is attested to in ALL of the Gospels, and acknowledged by all as the start of Jesus’ “public ministry.”  

God wants to do much more than pardoning our sins.  He wants to open up heaven and give us His unrelenting love, healing, and peace.  John’s preaching of the “coming of the Lord” is an essential theme for the Advent season.  John’s message prepared the way for Jesus in the early first century.  Today, we are also “called” to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming.  We must respond in repenting our iniquities, and in re-forming our lives into the mold of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We are also called “to be prophets of Christ”, loudly and publically announcing the coming of the Lord.

It seems that “Messianic” prophesies are never vague in nature.  They always point to a hope that can be fulfilled in the human heart and soul.  Wars, terrorism, poverty, and useless death through the pitiful actions of abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty smothers hope.  As Catholics, our hope is for peace, healing, and generosity in ourselves, and in others.  In essence, – what we pray for, we must also work for!  For me, this is exactly how we must approach preparing for the “advent” of our personal and intimate relationship with God in His “kingdom”!

We do an enormous amount of chores in order to get ourselves ready for the “secular” Christmas.  We purchase gifts, prepare Christmas cards, decorate our homes, and so on.  John the Baptist’s call for repentance in preparation for Jesus’ Parousia, should remind us that “our repentance” is another essential way to prepare for the “Lord’s coming” and our celebration of the Actual and True Christmas experience.  

Are you eager to hear God’s word and to be changed by it through the power of the Holy Spirit?  Do you point others to Christ in the way you live, work, and speak?

Parish communities usually offer a “communal” celebration of the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” during the Advent season.  Participate in this communal celebration – – it is such a beautiful Sacrament.  If you cannot attend a communal celebration, please seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation on an individual basis.

 

 

Act of Contrition

 

“My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.  I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.  Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.  In his name, my God, have mercy.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Sabas (b. 439)

 

Born in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), Sabas is one of the most highly regarded patriarchs among the monks of Palestine and is considered one of the founders of Eastern monasticism.

After an unhappy childhood in which he was abused and ran away several times, Sabas finally sought refuge in a monastery. While family members tried to persuade him to return home, the young boy felt drawn to monastic life. Although the youngest monk in the house, he excelled in virtue.

At age 18 he traveled to Jerusalem, seeking to learn more about living in solitude. Soon he asked to be accepted as a disciple of a well-known local solitary, though initially he was regarded as too young to live completely as a hermit. Initially, Sabas lived in a monastery, where he worked during the day and spent much of the night in prayer. At the age of 30 he was given permission to spend five days each week in a nearby remote cave, engaging in prayer and manual labor in the form of weaving baskets. Following the death of his mentor, St. Euthymius, Sabas moved farther into the desert near Jericho. There he lived for several years in a cave near the brook Cedron. A rope was his means of access. Wild herbs among the rocks were his food. Occasionally men brought him other food and items, while he had to go a distance for his water.

Some of these men came to him desiring to join him in his solitude. At first he refused. But not long after relenting, his followers swelled to more than 150, all of them living in individual huts grouped around a church, called a laura.

The bishop persuaded a reluctant Sabas, then in his early 50s, to prepare for the priesthood so that he could better serve his monastic community in leadership. While functioning as abbot among a large community of monks, he felt ever called to live the life of a hermit. Throughout each year —consistently in Lent—he left his monks for long periods of time, often to their distress. A group of 60 men left the monastery, settling at a nearby ruined facility. When Sabas learned of the difficulties they were facing, he generously gave them supplies and assisted in the repair of their church.

Over the years Sabas traveled throughout Palestine, preaching the true faith and successfully bringing back many to the Church. At the age of 91, in response to a plea from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sabas undertook a journey to Constantinople in conjunction with the Samaritan revolt and its violent repression. He fell ill and, soon after his return, died at the monastery at Mar Saba. Today the monastery is still inhabited by monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and St. Sabas is regarded as one of the most noteworthy figures of early monasticism.

Comment:

Few of us share Sabas’s yearning for a cave in the desert, but most of us sometimes resent the demands others place on our time. Sabas understands that. When at last he gained the solitude for which he yearned, a community immediately began to gather around him and he was forced into a leadership role. He stands as a model of patient generosity for anyone whose time and energy are required by others—that is, for all of us.

 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 5 & 6 of 26:

 

5.     Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.

 

 

 

 

6.     They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

 

 

“Having No Belief In Resurrection Is So SAD-U-CEE!” – Luke 20:27-38†


 

Good Morning People of Christ.  Is everyone refreshed from their EXTRA hour of sleep today?  You know God has a sense of humor:  We will find this out next spring when we LOSE that hour of sleep.

 

 

 

Today is the first Sunday of the Month, and the day of my Secular Franciscan Fraternity to meet in prayer and mirth.  I so love being in the Secular Franciscans.  St. Francis and St. Clare were so down to earth, and humble, that it is hard to even come close to their holiness towards God and His earthly creations.  I pray everyone has a great day.  Pax et Bonum.

 

Today in Catholic History:

       
†   1225 – Death of Engelbert II of Berg, Archbishop of Cologne
†   1550 – Jon Arason (b. 1484), the last Roman Catholic bishop of Iceland prior to the reformation, is beheaded in Skalholt with his two sons Are and Bjorn.
†   Feast Days: Saint Willibrord; Prosdocimus; Herculanus of Perugia; Vicente Liem de la Paz

(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:

 

Teachers are those who use themselves as bridges, over which they invite their students to cross; then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own. — Nikos Kazantzakis

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus answering a question about the resurrection of the dead directed to Him from some Sadducees.  Jesus teaches that His Father is the God who gives and sustains life beyond the grave.

 

27 Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, 28 saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’  29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless.  30 Then the second 31 and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless.  32 Finally the woman also died.  33 Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?  For all seven had been married to her.”  34 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.  36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.  37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”  (NAB Luke 20:27-38)

 

The Sadducees in today’s Gospel reading are shown as opponents to a belief in resurrection.  In the dialogue between Jesus and the Sadducees, we witness a method of dispute used toward Jesus and His teachings that was common during His time of ministry.  This method was an attempt to trap Jesus with clear reasoning based on scriptures and its interpretations. 

Most Catholics know very little about the three different types of Temple leaders of Jesus’ time: the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees.  The Pharisees believed in divine origin of the scriptures called the “Torah.”  They also believed in the oral tradition received from Moses, Joshua, and the Elders.  Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead. 

The Scribes were a Temple faction believed to be the “experts” in Mosaic Law and were responsible for copying the sacred texts and the variety of interpretations of these Laws.  In doing so, the Scribes developed volumes of regulations, traditions, and rituals, thus making a true devotion to Mosaic Law nearly impossible (sounds like our countries current IRS and fiscal regulations).  For the most part, Scribes were almost always believed to be closely aligned with the Pharisees.  

The Sadducees, on the other hand, were a priestly faction of very aristocratic men who were found exclusively in Jerusalem during Jesus’ time.  The Sadducees historically and religiously descended from the priestly family of Zadok, a “High Priest” in the time period of King David (2 Sam. 20:25), and King Solomon (1 Kings 4: 2, 4).  Zadok took part, with King David, at Hebron; fighting for David’s reign over Judah (1 Chr. 12:27, 28). 

The Sadducees accepted as authoritative scripture only the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah or Pentateuch), and followed only the literal, written letter, of Mosaic Law.  They rejected any oral legal traditions, and were close-mindedly opposed to any religious teachings not found in the Pentateuch, such as the teachings on “resurrection of the dead.” 

The Sadducees believed only in an “earthly” image of heaven.  The Sadducees had no belief in immortality, angels, or anything else NOT found in the Torah (as they interpreted the Torah).   Once you died – well, you essentially became “worm food” – with NO hope for another life in heaven.  I guess that is how they got their name: their beliefs made them “Sad – You – See!”  (I could not resist this one; a Big thanks goes to Jeff Cavins.)  The pitiful thing is that many people today, including some probably reading this reflection, with their minds focused on this “earthly” existence, are just like them!

Though the Sadducees often disagreed with the other Temple leaders and were often at odds with the Pharisees and Scribes, all three of these temple factions considered themselves adversaries of Jesus and His teachings for different reasons.  The Temple Leadership had forgotten the real reason for Holy Scripture: to foster and grow a trust in a personal and loving relationship with God.  All three temple leadership factions became followers of laws and traditions – – instead of followers of God!  

The Sadducees’ question to Jesus: “whose wife will that woman be?” is based on the law of levirate marriage recorded in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.  The Sadducees purpose in asking this question was solely for ridiculing the notion of a “resurrection” after bodily death.  Deuteronomy 25:5-10 relates a law that requires a woman – that has not given birth to a son prior to her husband’s death – to marry her brother-in-law for the purpose of bearing a son to carry on the family line.  Jesus rejected their naive understanding of death and resurrection, and then taught about life after resurrection.

The true reason for this unusual law in Deuteronomy was strictly for the purpose of property holdings.  Relatives of the same clan, who lived together, held their property in a communal form of what we would consider a “trust”.  It was only in this specific instance that this unique law was to be observed, since the law’s purpose was to keep the property of the deceased within the same family or clan.  Marriage of a widow to her brother-in-law was known as a “levirate” marriage from the Latin word “levir,” meaning “a husband’s brother.”  (Some resources spell levirate as “levirite.”  Each spelling appears interchangeable.)

Jesus understood the true meaning for this scripture verse; and He also knew the reason for the Sadducees’ asking this particular question.  In answering their question, Jesus teaches them and us that sexual relationships of this world will be transcended in the next.  We will rise above the need, or want, for sexual relationships with each other in heaven.  The gloriously risen body will be a work of the creative power of God for which marriage will no longer be needed.  (As Jesus revealed, they will be like the angels.)

Jesus argued with authority in interpreting Mosaic Law.  He used the EXACT same method and Scriptures the Sadducees used in order to show that there truly is a resurrection.  Using passages from the Book of Exodus (Exodus 3:2, 5-6) relating Moses’ encounter with God – – in the burning bush, – – Jesus showed God is a God of the living, and not of the dead!  Jesus showed that the “Patriarchs”, who died in body hundreds of years prior to Jesus and the Sadducees, are STILL alive – and, in God’ grace and presence!  All are alive to Him and in Him!  Jesus demonstrated His faith and confidence in the life-giving power of the God He proclaimed in the Temple. 

As this Gospel passage revealed, Jesus beats them at their own game!  Don’t you just love it when a plan back fires!  I wonder if the Scribes and Pharisees present, who maintained a belief in the resurrection of the body, were pleased with Jesus’ arguments towards the Sadducees?!  (I bet they were!) 

Jesus shows to the Sadducees (and us) the miniscule limits of our beliefs, thoughts, and imaginations when it comes to eternal life.  The Sadducees argued against resurrection because of their minds focus on this world only, their mental limits, and their experiences.  They could not appreciate, nor imagine, another possibility for existence and relationship with God.  It either had to be this or that, black or white, and with no gray areas for the Sadducees.  God is not confined by space, time, or other “earthly” restrictions and limitations!   Jesus suggests in today’s reading that a resurrected life is greatly beyond our limited imaginations and abilities of thought.  (Maybe that is why it is a matter of FAITH!)

When a tree is alive it needs water, soil, and sunlight.  When the tree is used to make a table, a toy, or something else – it has a whole new purpose.  The tree, as a table, no longer has a need for water, soil, or sunlight.  Jesus tells us that after we die, we will not have the same needs as when we were alive, except for our continuation, want, and need to have a personal relationship with God.  

Change is inevitable.  How we handle change is what marks us as Catholics.  We must be ready to step outside the “box” – our comfort zone – without fear.  We can only step outside our comfort zone through a firm trust in God’s providence.  With this in mind, please remember God’s presence when your parish is assigned a new priest.  Accept him with a loving and warming attitude, and thank God for His gift.  Pray for the health of a young woman experiencing an unexpected pregnancy, and welcome her, and her new creation of God, with open arms.  Praise the Lord for His magnificence, and ask for His help, when suddenly unemployed due to circumstances beyond your control.  The Gist: Do you see Jesus in all faces and situations you encounter daily?  (I hope so, for He is actually there to be seen – – by FAITH!)

Humans in general, and especially children, often know and/or experience very little in regards to death and dying.  I believe we, as a whole, know very little about the concept of “eternal life” as well.  What are your thoughts, beliefs, and even “fears” about death and dying?  Are you ready for any “tests” you may have to encounter to reach eternal paradise with God?  Do you truly TRUST God?

Food for thought: Decisive evidence of eternal life was shown to us with the resurrection of Jesus Christ on that first Easter morning.  His victory over “death” was literally for all of us when He arose from that borrowed hewed tomb.  As Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he exclaimed:  “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25).  This He said prior to His own scourging, crucifixion, and death.

With a hope and faith in the resurrection of the body and eternal life with God, we need to pray for those we love, and even for those we do not yet know.  They may have died in body; however, we know by faith they are experiencing eternal life with God while their souls are being cleansed and perfected in Purgatory. 

A relationship with God CANNOT cease with bodily death.  We need to remember that God identifies Himself in relationship to us.  Because of our relationship with Him — the living God — we too are alive!  God will be with us – to guide and teach us – no matter what we do, or what circumstances we experience.  As Psalm 73:23-24 states: “I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.”   The real question today is: “Are you taking aim for heaven?”

 

“The Glory Be”

  

“Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Didacus (1400-1463)

 

Didacus is living proof that God “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

As a young man in Spain, Didacus joined the Secular Franciscan Order and lived for some time as a hermit. After Didacus became a Franciscan brother, he developed a reputation for great insight into God’s ways. His penances were heroic. He was so generous with the poor that the friars sometimes grew uneasy about his charity.

Didacus volunteered for the missions in the Canary Islands and labored there energetically and profitably. He was also the superior of a friary there.

In 1450 he was sent to Rome to attend the canonization of St. Bernardine of Siena. When many friars gathered for that celebration fell sick, Didacus stayed in Rome for three months to nurse them. After he returned to Spain, he pursued a life of contemplation full-time. He showed the friars the wisdom of God’s ways.

As he was dying, Didacus looked at a crucifix and said: “O faithful wood, O precious nails! You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you have been judged worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven” (Marion A. Habig, O.F.M., The Franciscan Book of Saints, p. 834).

San Diego, California, is named for this Franciscan, who was canonized in 1588.

Comment:

We cannot be neutral about genuinely holy people. We either admire them or we consider them foolish. Didacus is a saint because he used his life to serve God and God’s people. Can we say the same for ourselves?

Quote:

“He was born in Spain with no outstanding reputation for learning, but like our first teachers and leaders unlettered as men count wisdom, an unschooled person, a humble lay brother in religious life. [God chose Didacus] to show in him the abundant riches of his grace to lead many on the way of salvation by the holiness of his life and by his example and to prove over and over to a weary old world almost decrepit with age that God’s folly is wiser than men, and his weakness is more powerful than men” (Bull of Canonization).

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 7 & 8 of 26:

7.     United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

 

 

 

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

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

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



“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.