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“Jesus IS the ‘Word’ – – And His ‘Word’ – – IS!!” – Mark 10:46-52†


30thSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Last Sunday, October 21st, Pope Benedict XVI added seven more saints onto the roster of Catholic role models, saying their example would strengthen the Church as it tries to rekindle the faith in places where it’s lagging.  Two of the seven were Americans:

Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint from the United States.  Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” Kateri was born in 1656 to a pagan Iroquois father and an Algonquin Christian mother. Her parents and only brother died when she was 4 years old, during a smallpox epidemic that left her badly scarred and with impaired eyesight.  She went to live with her uncle, a Mohawk, and was baptized as a Catholic by Jesuit missionaries.  However, she was ostracized and persecuted by other Native Americans because her Christian faith.  She died in what is now Canada at 24 years of age;

And,

Mother Marianne Cope, a 19th century Franciscan nun who cared for leprosy patients in Hawaii.  Mother Cope led a band of Franciscan nuns to the peninsula to care for the patients, just as Saint Damien did in 1873.  

The other new saints are:

Pedro Calungsod, a Filipino teenager who helped Jesuit priests convert natives in Guam in the 17th century, and was killed by spear-wielding villagers who opposed the missionaries’ efforts to baptize their children;

Jacques Berthieu, a 19th century French Jesuit who was killed by rebels in Madagascar where he had worked as a missionary;

Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian who founded a religious order in 1900 and established a Catholic printing and publishing house in his native Brescia;

Carmen Salles Y Barangueras, a Spanish nun who founded a religious order to educate children in 1892;

And finally,

Anna Schaeffer, a 19th century German lay woman who became a model for the sick and suffering after she fell into a boiler, badly burned her legs.  These wounds never healed, causing her constant pain and suffering.

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Today’s reflection blog is my 450th to be posted.  I started blogging in late September, 2009.  During these three years, my writing style and format has grown and matured significantly. (So, please don’t read the early blog entries as they are embarrassing to me.)  My blog has been discovered, and read, by Catholics and non-Catholics (and even a few atheists) throughout the world, which for me is a marvelous grace from God.  I truly do have a deep and humbling gratitude to our magnificent Lord for imparting to me this spiritual grace. 

I wish to thank you, my readers, for looking at my thoughts and reflections on God’s “Way” to His kingdom.  I finally wish to thank a dear friend, a special confidant, and my “Spiritual Director”, all rolled into one dynamic individual, John Hough.  Without his help, my knowledge in biblical history, theology, and philosophy would still be at an undeveloped level.  He has earned a place in heaven solely for dealing with me on a weekly basis.

Some of you may ask how this blog is doing in “getting the ‘Word’ out” to others.  Well, in my first month of posting this blog (09/2009), I had 71 views or hits on my site, and only 500 views that entire first year.  As of this date, only three years later, I am averaging 314 views or hits DAILY, and I am on schedule to have over 66,000 views or hits for this year alone.  On my busiest day, 728 people visited my site (April 7th, 2012), and I have had over 108,000 total views of my site as of Friday, October 26th, 2012.  WOW!!  Thank all of you again for travelling with me – – and Christ – – on a magnificent journey in – – and to – – His kingdom.

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 Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus restores sight to the blind man, Bartimaeus.  How well do you see Jesus?

(NAB Mark 10:46-52) 46 They came to Jericho.  And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.  47 On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.  But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”  49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, he is calling you.”  50 He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.  51 Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”  52 Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”  Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today we continue to read from Mark’s Gospel.  In this reading, we find evidence of Jesus’ growing recognition, reputation, and celebrity by the “sizable crowd” accompanying Him as He continues His traveling to Jerusalem for Passover.  Jesus’ reputation as a healer has obviously preceded Him to Jericho, for a “blind man” was anxiously waiting for Jesus to pass by him on the road.  When the “blind man”, named “Bartimaeus”, hears of Jesus passing by, he calls out to Jesus, asking for His “pity”.

When Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus, the crowd around him tries to silence him.  However, this “blind man” is persistent, calling out even louder and with greater urgency in his voice.  He is strongly determined to NOT be silenced or deterred from getting Jesus’ attention.  Interestingly, the crowd’s reaction quickly changes to that of encouragement AFTER Jesus calls for Bartimaeus to come to Him.

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Jesus meets this poor “blind man” on the road to Jerusalem, but He is NOW going through Jericho.  My question: “Why did Jesus travel to Jericho?”  Let’s look at Jericho, from a geographical, biblical, and historical basis, in order to hopefully find the answer.

Jericho is about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem.  This city is believed to be the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world.  In ancient times, long before Jesus’ birth, Joshua sent two “spies” into the walled city (Jericho), where they were aided by “Rahab, the harlot” (a prostitute).  Because of her assistance, she and her family were spared from injury and death when the Israelites attacked the city.  The Israelite army first surrounded the walled city, Jericho, and after seven days of circling the city continuously, with the Ark in tow, the entire Israelite army shouted and the great and strong walls of the city came crumbling down (cf., Joshua 2:1-22).  

Jericho was the first major conquest by the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan and entered into the promised-land.  However, by Jesus’ time, the “ancient” city of Jericho from Joshua’s time – – was largely abandoned.  However, there was a newer, more modern, metropolis called “Jericho”, just to the south of the old city, planned and built by King Herod.

There is a multitude of history, significance, and biblical references to the city of Jericho.  The representation of this city being a possible sign of Jesus’ “way” – – being one of “breaking down walls” so that we can “abandon” our old ways – – is an interesting concept to explore at a later date.  However, in reality, the reason Jesus traveled through this city with a “sizeable crowd” following Him, is that it was simply the path – – the way – – of getting to Jerusalem.

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On the “way” through Jericho, Jesus came into contact with a “blind man”, “Bartimaeus”, who yells out something very startling for ANY Jew to yell out:

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me” (Mark 10:47).

Bartimaeus was determined to get near the ONE person who could meet his need.  He knew who Jesus truly was – – the true “Messiah”.  He had heard of His fame for spiritual and physical healings.  Until now, he had no means of making contact with the “son of David”, a clear reference and title for this prophesized “Messiah”.  

How could Jesus be the “son of David”?  King David lived approximately 1000 years before Jesus?  Hmm, the answer is that Bartimaeus knew Jesus, the “Christ”, and the “Messiah”, is the fulfillment of the prophecy of “David’s seed”:

When your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom.  He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne foreverI will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.  If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments; but I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from Saul who was before you.  Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

Jesus IS TRULY the promised “Messiah”; He was OF the David’s seed.  The genealogy in Luke, chapter 3, gives Jesus’ lineage through His mother, Mary.  This form of lineage is uniquely unusual as genealogies of this type were ALWAYS from the father’s side.

However, along with His blood-line through Mary, Jesus is also a descendant of David, by adoption, through Joseph, (a double whammy).  Above all though, when Jesus Christ is referred to as the “son of David”, it is referencing to His Messianic title in regard to Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) prophesies.  When this “blind man” cried out desperately to the “son of David” for help, the title of honor given to Jesus by this “blind man” declared Bartimaeus’ faith in Jesus truly being the true “Messiah” and healer prophesized in Jewish Scripture.  

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At the same time Bartimaeus is calling jesus the “son of David”, the crowd was annoyed with the blind man’s persistent shouts for Jesus’ “pity”.  Bartimaeus was disturbing their peace, and possibly interrupting Jesus as He talked while walking along the road through Jericho.  We need to realize that it was common for a “rabbi” to teach as he walked with others.  When the crowd tried to silence the blind man, Bartimaeus overwhelmed them with his emotional and enthusiastic outbursts, thus catching the attention of Jesus in the process.

Others covertly following Jesus, especially the Pharisees and Scribes, also understood what the implications of Jesus’ “way” were when they heard Bartimaeus calling out to Jesus as the “son of David”.  Unlike Bartimaeus, who cried out in faith, these people were so “blinded” by their own pride and lack of understanding of Jewish Scriptures, they couldn’t see what the “blind man” could see.  In front of them, in physical form, was the promised “Messiah-Savior” they ALL had been waiting for, to come in glory, their entire lives.  These “seeing” – – yet still “blind” – – people loathed Jesus, probably because He wouldn’t give the Temple Leaders the honor and worship they believed the Temple leaders deserved; Jesus wasn’t a “YES” man.  So, when they heard Bartimaeus hailing Jesus as the Messiah-Savior, they became angry:

Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (Mark 10:48). 

Jesus called this begging and “blind man” with His command to be “courageous” in coming to Him.  WOW!!  How often have I NOT been courageous in my life, when I was “called” by Jesus to do something?  How often have I been the one “rebuking” another, not being the humble and begging man asking for Jesus to intercede in my own life?

This poor “blind man” not only responded “courageously”, he “sprang up” in his response to Jesus’ “calling”!  Again, how often are the times when my “springs” are tied closed and unable to “spring open” when called upon.  I need to remember – – at these times in my life – – that Jesus Christ has the “Midas touch”, and can heal me as well, if I just ask Him:

Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’  The blind man replied to him, ‘Master, I want to see’” (Mark 10:51). 

And, Jesus’ guarantee is not for a lifetime, it is for ETERNITY!!

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In the last verse of today’s reading, I found a hidden message for me; something I had never seen before:

“Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.’  Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way” (Mark 10:52).

This once blind and now seeing Jewish man, Bartimaeus, was told to follow his “way” upon leaving Jesus’ presence.  However, this man decided to follow the “way” of Jesus (verse 52), instead.  Now, for me, what is so awesome about this particular word – – “WAY” – – is that Saint Paul later noted that followers of “Christianity” were called “followers of ‘the Way’” as an identity to their Christian faith (cf., Acts 19:1,9,23; 24:22)!  All I can say is, “WAY to go Paul!”

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Today’s Gospel event reveals something important and significantly relevant about how God interacts with us.  Bartimaeus was determined to get Jesus’ attention, and was persistent in the face of opposition.  Jesus could have easily ignored or rebuffed him, walking past him instead of stopping FOR him.  After all, Bartimaeus was certainly disturbing Jesus’ discourse with His followers.  However, Jesus showed that “acting” was more important than “talking”.  Jesus “walked the talk”!!  

Bartimaeus was in desperate need, AND Jesus was ready (He always IS), not only to empathize with Bartimaeus’ suffering, but also to relieve his torment of blindness as well.  You know, a great speaker can command attention and respect, but an individual with a helping hand and a big heart is loved so much more than anyone who talks, but does not follow-up with actions.  Saints Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa are prime examples for these great virtues of loving surrender and “servant leadership”. 

Jesus speaks well of Bartimaeus for recognizing Him with “eyes of faith”, granting him with physical sight in response to his faith-filled sight.  I believe we ALL need to recognize our need for God’s healing grace, and to seek out Jesus Christ, just as Bartimaeus did – – with a persistent faith and trust in Jesus’ goodness and mercy!

When Jesus restored Bartimaeus’ sight, no elaborate action was required on Bartimaeus’ part.  Let’s remember that in other “healing stories” from Mark’s Gospel, action was always accompanied with Jesus’ “Words”.  Jesus spoke the “Word”, and it happened.  Today’s reading is NOT the first time this has happened in Holy Scripture.  With His “Word”, water became wine, demons left people, and bread and wine became His true body, blood, soul, and divinity!!  Jesus Christ IS the “Word”, and His “Word” IS!!  John said it the best:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GodHe was in the beginning WITH God.  All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be.  What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race” (John 1:1-4).

Jesus Christ – – IS – – the “Word” made flesh!!

It is worthy to note that the success of Jesus’ healing power is usually associated with the faith of the person requesting His help. As an example, it is because of her faith that the woman with the hemorrhage is healed (cf., Mark 5:24-34).  When faith is absent, Jesus is “unable” to heal, as seen with His rejection in His home-town of Nazareth (cf., Mark 6:1-6).  However, in this single instance in today’s reading, Jesus simply says that Bartimaeus’ “faith” had saved him from the darkness he had lived in for probably years, if not his entire lifetime.  Jesus’ “Word” becomes the “IS”:

“’Go your way; your faith has saved you.’  Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:52). 

Once his sight had been restored, Bartimaeus followed Jesus on His way to Jerusalem, probably witnessing first-hand the Passover, Passion, and Crucifixion events of His “Messiah”.  

(Here is a little trivial fact: In Mark’s Gospel, Bartimaeus is the last disciple called by Jesus before He enters Jerusalem.)  

Bartimaeus’ words to Jesus prepare us for the final episodes of Mark’s Gospel, which begins with Jesus’ preparation for the Passover and His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  As Mark’s Gospel has shown us over the past few Sundays, Jesus will be (and IS) the “Messiah” – – the “Word” – – in a way that will be difficult for many to accept, even today.  Why and how?  Jesus will show Himself to be the true “Messiah” through His suffering and death.

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Today’s Gospel offers us a powerful example of faith and persistence in prayer.  Those in the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus for his efforts to attract Jesus’ attention.  When silencing him was attempted by the crowd, Bartimaeus called out louder and all the more.  He was persistent and bold in his confidence, and Jesus showed mercy on him, doing what Bartimaeus asked of Him.  His persistence – – and trusting confidence – – in Jesus’ helping intercession, reminds me of the confidence and trust with which my four children brought me their wants and needs.  In this “childlike” faith and trust, we truly can find the proper example of attitude towards God when approaching Him in prayer.

When we pray, Jesus wants us to be courageous, trusting, and confident, knowing He will help us, and, also knowing that we will not allow anyone to keep us from taking our needs to Him in prayer, as in the example of Bartimaeus.  So, identify the things you need most from God.  Pray a prayer of petition with the confidence that Jesus will hear AND answer your prayer.  (He does!!)  When praying your prayer of petition, respond to each petition with “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on us.”   With confidence and trust, you will get an answer!!

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Reflection Prayer

Lord, I Am Not Worthy Prayer

(based on Matthew 8:8)

“Lord, I am not worthy
to have you enter
under my roof;
only say the word
and I will be healed.

Amen.”

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“Is There Anything To Eat?; This Past Weekend Has Been A Trying One For Me!” – Luke 24:35-48†


 

Third Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I wish to extend a SUPER happy birthday Pope Benedict XVI and Mother Angelica.  To Octogenarians who are still young in heart ans faith.

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Today in Catholic History:     

 

†   296 – Death of Pope Caius (or Gaius)
†   536 – Death of Agapitus I, Italian Pope (535-36),
†   536 – Death of Pope Agapetus I
†   1073 – Pope Alexander II buried/Ildebrando chosen as Pope Gregory VII
†   1164 – Raynald of Dassel names Guido di Crema as anti-pope Paschalis III
†   1610 – Birth of Alexander VIII, [Pietro Ottoboni], Italy, lawyer/Pope (1689-91)
†   1994 – Death of D. Nauta, theologist/church historian/lawyer, at age 96

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus appears to His disciples [again] and shares a meal with them.

 

(NAB Luke 24:35-48) 35 Then the two [men on the road to Emmaus] recounted [to the disciples hiding in Jerusalem] what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  36 While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  37 But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  38 Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”  40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  41 While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  42 They gave him a piece of baked fish;43 he took it and ate it in front of them.  44 He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On the third Sunday of Easter, we continue to hear Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances to His disciples following His Resurrection.  Luke’s Gospel, like each of the other Gospels (cf., Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–15; John 20:19–23), focuses on Jesus appearing to His disciples in Jerusalem and their commissioning for their future ministry.  Luke goes further in having the risen Jesus appear to two men traveling back to their home, probably in or near Emmaus.  These two men, no longer blinded to the risen Christ hurried back to Jerusalem, sought out Jesus’ disciples, and told them of their experience.

Jesus then (as in any good mystery story) miraculously and suddenly appears before all those assembled in this “faith-filled” hiding space.  Standing amongst them, Jesus lovingly states:

Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36).

Their response to Jesus, per today’s reading, was one of “startling terror”, thinking “they were seeing a ghost”!  These are the VERY FIRST words Jesus says to His disciples AFTER they had abandoned Him to His accusers, torturers, and crucifiers.  His first words were one of “peace” and not “What happened to you?” or “Where were you?” or “You abandoned me, why?”

I am sure Jesus’ disciples felt like they had betrayed Him, and knew and felt that they should have had a royal “chewing out” from Jesus, at a minimum.  However, Jesus is God, who is pure love, and responded with a pure love for His disciples.  How relieved and gratified were these startled, terrified men to know Jesus Christ not only DID rise from the dead, but also wished only “peace” for them personally – – AND for all that believed in Him.

Peace be with you.” was a most appropriate greeting for a loving Jesus Christ.  The disciples truly had the experience and shock of the death of someone they loved, and feared for their own safety and lives as well.  “Peace” is what they needed more than anything else.  Along with this greeting of “Peace”, Jesus gave another grace, another gift: “forgiveness”. The inherent linking of “peace” and “forgiveness” is quietly made in the final verses of today’s reading.

They thought they were seeing a “ghost”; yet the figure before them is not a “ghost”.  Jesus invites them to experience His resurrected body with their senses, to look and to touch.  The figure standing before them is truly flesh and bone, still bearing the marks of His crucifixion.  Although the disciples cannot forget His suffering and death, “peace” begins to take root in their hearts, with their fears and turmoil turning to feelings of joy and amazement instead.

Jesus was NO “ghost”!!  He is STILL as human NOWTODAY – as He was on that day, and on the day he was crucified.  He is the physical (and scriptural) proof that there truly is a “life after death” (physical death anyhow).  He IS NOT just a divine memory; AND we are disciples of the LIVING Jesus, not just disciples of our memory of Him!

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The disciples last saw Jesus as a weak and beaten man, who died – – as a human – – on the cross in a most humiliating and torturous way.  Jesus seemed to be “powerless” over the events leading to His ultimate death.  He certainly did not meet the expectations of who the Messiah was to be per Jewish tradition.  If He WAS the Messiah, why did He allow this to happen to Him?  Why would He allow Himself to be as humiliated and embarrassed as He was?

As further proof of His identity and of His resurrected body, Jesus eats with His disciples.  The disciples have known Jesus best through the meals which He has shared with them.  Descriptions of these meals are a defining element of Luke’s Gospel.  By eating with his disciples after his Resurrection, Jesus recalls all these meals, and most importantly, he recalls the Last Supper.

Luke’s report of this Last Supper and the meals which Jesus shared with them after His Resurrection unveils for us the uniquely important significance of the Holy Eucharist.  Having shared a meal with His disciples, Jesus Christ now uncovers for them the significance of what was written about Him in the Scriptures.  Our celebration of the Mass is ALSO an encounter with Jesus – – in fact, the same uniquely important encounter as the disciples!!  So, we encounter Him, this same Jesus, through the Liturgy of the Word and the Sacrament of the Eucharist which is literally the Sacrament of Thanksgiving.  As Jesus commissioned His disciples to be witnesses to what Holy Scriptures foretold, OUR celebration of the Eucharist ALSO commissions US today.  Like the first disciples, we too are sent to announce the “good news” of Jesus Christ, truly risen from the grave.

With His appearance to them, and eating with them, the disciples were given a grace and gift of a revelation in their individual and communal faiths.  They were now able to believe more fully because they had seen the proof of Jesus’ new resurrected life, which they came to understand Jesus’ victory, thus overcoming sin, Satan, and death!

Luke is the only evangelist to mention Jesus’ eating with His disciples.  Jesus didn’t come solely to be seen, to be touched, or to be heard; He came and ate with His disciples just as He did the night of His arrest.  Jesus, still today, does not wish to be simply seen and heard, He wants to converse with each of us; He wants to share a meal with each of us – – personally, uniquely, and intimately – – ALWAYS!!

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We are like the Apostles, especially Matthew; we don’t usually believe unless we see with our own eyes.  The Gospels attest to the true reality of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.  Jesus goes to great lengths to prove to His disciples that He is no mere ghost or illusion – – no trick of the eye.  He shows them the marks of His crucifixion, explaining how Holy Scripture foretold His suffering death AND rising.  (Please read 1 Peter 1:10-12.  It has a “glorious” connection to this last sentence.)  

Jerome, an early church bible scholar, comments:

As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them … Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (From a letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)

Jesus, on the Holy Cross, is one of the central aspects of the Gospels, but it DOESN’T JUST STOP there!  Through His death on the cross, Jesus truly defeated our enemies – death, sin, and Satan; and won mercy & pardon for our sin.  Jesus’ cross then, is the bridge to heaven and the way to paradise.  So, the way to glory IS through the cross.

When the disciples saw the “Risen” Lord, they did not react to Him with “joy”; they reacted with “startle” and “fear”!  After all, how can a death lead to life?  How can a cross lead to glory?  Well, only Jesus Christ could reveal to us the “joy” and “glory” of enduring suffering with faith to a new life.  He gives each of us the power to overcome the fear, worry, and even despair caused by sin, Satan, and death.  Just as the first disciples were commissioned to bring the “good news” of salvation to ALL the peoples of ALL the nations, both Jew and Gentile alike, so we too are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to all among whom we live – – EVERYWHERE and at ALL times.  

Have you truly witnessed to the “joy” of the Gospels personally?  Do you truly witness to the “joy” of the Gospels to those around you?  As the Franciscans say, do you take the:

“Gospel to life and the life to Gospel”?

Hmm, is this something to think about for you?

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To conclude, Catholic Christian life is sustained by God’s “Word” in Holy Scripture and by Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.  We are especially sustained in our faith through our attendance and PARTICIPATION at our weekly (and hopefully daily) celebration of Mass.  Today’s Gospel should remind us that Holy Scripture and the Eucharist are given to us so that OUR words and deeds of bearing witness to Christ might be strengthened.

Jesus came to His followers, not the inverse (other way around) – – AND He Still does today and will in the future!!  Jesus took (and still takes) the initiative in overcoming sin, Satan, and death with us!  Jesus provided (and still provides) His reassurance and promise of everlasting life!  Jesus comes to us in the Holy Eucharist and through the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through each of us personally, intimately, and uniquely.  All we have to do is to receive Him, to allow Him to dwell in us, and to let Him work through us each and every day.  Really, all we have to do is simply to BELIEVE and to be His WITNESS in today’s society!!  How?  Well, as Saint Francis said to his brother friars:

“Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

This week, think about the importance of memories and the importance of the meals you have shared together with family and friends, and will share in the future.  Both, these memories and the anticipation of future meals, will strengthen the love you share for ALL involved.  In a similar way, our Catholic Christian life is also strengthened by sharing God’s Word (memories) and the Eucharist (meal) at Mass.  Recall the “mission” which Jesus gave to His disciples after their shared meal in today’s reading.  The Holy Eucharist also sends us to be Christ’s witnesses in the world today.  Pray that you, and each of us, will be strengthened by God’s “Word”, and by Jesus’ “presence” in the Holy Eucharist in order to be more faithful “witnesses” to our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Tantum Ergo 

Saint Thomas Aquinas

“With heads bowed let us now worship a sacrament so great;
And let the old teaching give way to the new;
Let faith reinforce our belief where the senses cannot.

To the Father and the Son let there be praise and jubilation,
Salvation, honor, virtue, and also blessing;
To the Holy Spirit let there be equal praise.  Amen.”

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Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Honor Due to the Virgin Mary

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

***

“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.  For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name’” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’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.

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

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“Dying Is The Easy Part. The “New Life” Is the Hard Part!” – John 12:20-33†


Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

We are already in the fifth week of Lent already.  Just a little bit longer till Easter Sunday and celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Birth.  Easter doesn’t end on April 8th.  Easter Sunday is followed by a fifty-day period called Eastertide or the Easter Season, ending with Pentecost Sunday, May 27th

Easter Sunday follows Holy Week.  Easter also follows the third and final day of the “Paschal Triduum”.  The Paschal Triduum is also called the Holy Triduum or Easter Triduum, and begins the evening of Holy Thursday, and ends the evening of Easter Day. It commemorates the heart of our faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

More about the Paschal Triduum will be discussed in next week’s blog.

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Today in Catholic History:

    708 – Constantine begins his reign as Catholic Pope
    
752 – Death of Pope-elect Stephen (died before taking office)
    
1297 – Birth of Arnost of Pardubice, Archbishop of Prague (d. 1364)
    
1347 – Birth of Catherine of Siena, Italian saint (d. 1380)
    
1409 – The Council of Pisa opens.
    
1571 – Catholic Italian businessman Roberto Ridolfi leaves England
    
1593 – Birth of Jean de Brébeuf, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
    
1634 – Lord Baltimore founded Catholic colony of Maryland
    
1655 – Protestants take control of the Catholic colony of Maryland at the Battle of the Severn.
    
1847 – Pope Pius IX publishes encyclical “On aid for Ireland”
    
1917 – The Georgian Orthodox Church restores its autocephaly abolished by Imperial Russia in 1811.
    
1939 – Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli becomes Pope Pius XII.
    
1954 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Sacra virginitas” (On consecrated virginity)
    
1991 – Death of Marcel Lefebvre, French Catholic prelate (b. 1905)
    
1995 – Death of Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest, dies at 73
    Feasts/Memorials: March 25th is typically celebrated as the day of the Annunciation so long as it does not fall on a Sunday, during Holy Week, or Easter Week; Saint Dysmas, the ‘Good Thief’; Saint Humbert  

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching His disciples about the way in which He will be glorified by God, and a voice from heaven is heard to affirm this teaching.

(NAB John 12:20-33) 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast.  21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.  25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.  26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.  The Father will honor whoever serves me.  27 “I am troublednow.  Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”  29 The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.  31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world  will be driven out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from John (Probably my most favorite of the Gospel writers).  Chapter 12 of John’s Gospel is a preparation for the “Passion” narrative to soon follow.  Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), a truly important “sign” (and miracle) in John’s Gospel.  The miracle involving Lazarus inspired many Jews and Gentiles alike to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  

The “Lazarus” event also marks the turning point in Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish authorities.  John’s Gospel relates to us how the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish judicial, ecclesiastical, and administrative council in ancient Jerusalem) met after Lazarus’ resurrection, creating plans to kill Jesus, whom threatens their materialistic way of life.  This 12th chapter of John has Jesus previously being “anointed” at Bethany, and then entering Jerusalem “in triumph”.  We also see allegorical evidence of the significance of the raising of Lazarus in today’s incident.  Keep in mind, John reported crowds gathering to “see” Lazarus in Chapter 11:

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother” (John 11:19).

These “many Jews” became witnesses to the “glory” of Jesus’ divine being though Lazarus’ being resurrected.

Today’s Gospel Reading is about the coming of Jesus’ hour.  This announcement of “glorification” by death is a revelation of “the whole world” going after Jesus Christ.

So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after Him.” (John 12:19)

There is much hidden, and needing to be explained and discussed, in today’s reading, so grab a cup of coffee and find a comfortable seat.

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In verse 20, the word “Greeks” was not used in a nationalistic sense, those who came from Greece itself.  They were probably simple Gentile proselytes (new converts) to Judaism;

So the Jews said to one another, ‘Where is He going that we will not find Him?  Surely He is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks to teach the Greeks, is He?” (John 7:35).

In the next two verses (12:21–22), “Philip went and told Andrew …”, we see an approach made through Jesus’ Disciples who had distinctly Greek names.  Could this suggest that access to Jesus was mediated to the Greek world through His disciples?  Philip and Andrew were from Bethsaida (which means “house of fishing”) in the most northern part of Galilee:

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.” (John 1:44);

(Trivia time: Galileans were mostly bilingual.)

These men who were “new” to the Jewish religion asked Philip:

  “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” (John 12:21)

The word “see” seems to mean “have an interview with Jesus”, and not just merely observing Him.  Why?

Well, it may be that following His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus predicted His suffering, death, and Resurrection.  He also prepared His disciples to believe in the “salvation” that His death would accomplish, allowing them (and us) entry into God’s Kingdom, the paradise of heaven.  

Using the image of “the grain of wheat”, Jesus presented the idea that His dying would be beneficial for those believing in Him.  He also taught disciples that they must follow His example of personal sacrifice.  This theme of “personal sacrifice” will be repeated in John’s account of the “Last Supper” when Jesus washes the feet of His disciples (John 13) as an example of how they must serve one another:

Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” (John 13:8).

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Jesus’ response to these new converts to Judaism (verse 23) suggests that only after His Crucifixion could the Gospel – – His WORD – – encompass Jew and Gentile alike; ALL nations and ALL peoples.

Jesus described His approaching death on the cross as His “hour of glory”:

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (John 12:23).

He would then be “lifted up from the earth” and would “draw all men to himself”:

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32).

Jesus saw His death on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation as a triumph over the powers of sin and darkness: Satan, Sin, and Evil.  Jesus illustrated an image of the “grain of wheat” to those hearing in order to show how this principle of dying to live truly works in God’s kingdom.  Seeds cannot produce new life by themselves.  They must first be planted in the soil, and DIE, before they can grow, then “producing much fruit”.  

Some may still ask: what is the spiritual comparison Jesus is conveying to His audience (then and now)?  Is this simply a veiled reference to His own impending death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead? … Or, is Jesus imparting to us another kind of “death and rebirth” for His disciples?  I believe Jesus had BOTH meanings in mind.  Jesus’ obedience to God’s plan for OUR salvation by His death on the cross obtains for each of us – – individually and intimately – – a freedom and “new” life in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ death on the Holy Cross truly frees us from the tyranny and destruction of sin and death (both physical and spiritual), and shows us the way of (and to) perfect love for God, each other, and ourselves.

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You know, I have come to learn that when Jesus says “Amen, Amen” (Verse 24), He is going to say something profound and usually mind (and soul) bending.  In today’s Gospel, He says:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24)

This verse reveals a profound truth: through His death, Jesus Christ will be accessible to ALL who seek Him and believe in Him.  (I cannot repeat this enough!)

But what does Jesus mean by His saying, “it remains just a grain of wheat” (verse 24).  I believe this particular saying is found all through Synoptic Scripture.  The wheat dying and then “producing much fruit” symbolizes that through His death, Jesus will be accessible to all:

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39);

“ For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25);

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35);

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”  (Luke 9:24);

And finally,

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” (Luke 17:33).

John however adds the phrases “in this world and for eternal life”.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (John 12:25).

I love John’s Poetic nature of writing.  His additions truly make Holy Scripture JUMP to life in my mind, heart, and soul.

In these multiple verses from the Synoptic and John’s Gospels, “His life” (verse 25) is a translation of the Greek word “psyche”, referring to a person’s natural life; and not meaning “soul”.  Hebrew anthropology (the study of humankind culture and development) did not imagine a “body versus soul” dualism (two distinct parts or aspects, which are often opposites) in the way familiar to us.  For first century Hebrew, the Body and soul were intertwined.

With this little fact in mind, what does it mean to “die” to oneself?  For me, it means that what is in opposition to God’s will and plan for each of us must be crucified, put to death.  God gives us an extraordinary gift, a grace to say “YES” to His will and plan; to reject whatever is in opposition to His loving plan for our lives.  

Jesus also promises we will “produce much fruit” for Him, IF we choose to deny ourselves for His sake.  In today’s reading, Jesus used powerful words to describe the kind of self-denial He wanted from His disciples.  

Using this powerful speech I just mentioned, what did He mean when by saying one must “hate” himself?  (I hate the word hate!)  Jesus says nothing should get in the way of our preferring Him or with the will and plan of our “glorious” Father in heaven.  Our hope is not in an earth-based, materialistic world, but rather one of a heaven-bound hope.  St. Paul reminds us that:

What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 15:42) RSV.

Do you hope and trust in the Lord, and follow joyfully on the path He has chosen for you to follow?  Are you truly following in Jesus’ example in ALL you do and say?  I, at least, try!!  I hope and pray that you do as well!   

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Let us continue on with John’s Gospel reading.  In verse 27, Jesus states, “I am troubled”!  Jesus is perhaps giving a foretelling of what He will endure later: agony at Gethsemane:

I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” (John 6:38);

Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its scabbard.  Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (John 18:11).

Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews of Jesus’ troubles in a very direct way:

“In the days when he was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.  Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered” (Hebrew 5:7–8).

This final section of today’s Gospel should be read as John’s parallel to the “agony in the garden”.  Unlike the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John does not record Jesus’ anguished prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, prior to His arrest.  It is interesting and comforting that Jesus gives a confident response to the question He raises when asking God to save Him from His impending death.

What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27-28)

After announcing His conviction of “glorifying” His (and our) Father’s name IS the reason, the purpose that He came, a voice from heaven speaks, as if in answer to Jesus’ prayer:

Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again.’” (John 12:28).

This “voice”, like the one heard at Jesus’ baptism and at Jesus’ Transfiguration – – both reported in the Synoptic Gospels, but not in John’s Gospel – – affirms that God the Father welcomes the sacrifice Jesus will make on behalf of each of US – – PERSONALLY!!  In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches this “voice” was sent for the sake of those who would believe in Him.

At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the “Ruler of this world”.  Surprising for some, it is not God; it is instead Satan.  Remember, though God is everywhere, He is not “OF” this world, but is IN this world to save us.  Remember, there are no worldly items in paradise.  You can either be of this world, or of His kingdom, but not both:

My [Jesus’] kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”(John 18:36)

Satan and his angels (a “third of the stars”), were “thrown to earth”:

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon (Satan).  The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels (the “third of the stars” – – the “fallen” angels) were thrown down with it.” (Revelations 4:7-9)

They had “free will”, as we do, and chose to turn their back on God.  For such a choice, they were barred from everlasting paradise.

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In today’s Gospel, we “hear” Jesus speak about the “worldly” framework against which we are to understand His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Through His death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ conquered Satan, “the ruler of this world” (verse 31).  In this way the “world” is judged, yet, the judgment is NOT necessarily one of condemnation.  Instead, through Jesus’ dying and rising from the dead on third day, “salvation” is lovingly and “gloriously” brought to the world for OUR sake.

If we want to experience the “new” life Jesus offers, then the outer shell of our old, sinful nature must be broken, rejected, and put to death.  In Baptism our “old nature”, enslaved by the darkness of sin, is buried with Jesus Christ.  We then rise as a “new creation”, also in Jesus Christ.  This process of death to the “old sinful self” is both a one-time event such as in our personal baptism, and a continuous – – daily and on-going – – cycle in which God buries us more deeply into Jesus’ death to sin, so we might rise anew and bear more fruit for God.  This concept is my impression of the Franciscan notion of “Daily Conversion”.  WOW, have you realized yet that there is a great, and on-going, paradox presented to us today: “death leads to life”.  When we “die” to OUR – – individual, sinful, and “worldly” – – selves, we “rise”, with Christ through the Holy Spirit, to brand new and more fulfilling life in Jesus Christ.  Again, WOW!!

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To conclude, our lives are often balancing acts in which we “prioritize” and attend to a variety of sometimes overwhelming and competing needs.  In time, most of us learn the value of putting others’ needs ahead of our own when necessary.  We also learn that when we make personal sacrifices to serve others, we gain so much more than we may have lost.  In these times, we are living up to what Jesus asks of us: to follow His example of personal sacrifice.  

Reflect on how important it is to you to gladly serve one another, especially those you do not know or personally like.  Consider the last time someone asked for help.  What was your response?  Did you “cheerfully” try to honor their request, or, did you ask, “Why me?”  How do you think Jesus would want us to respond when someone asks for help?  Realize “the help” may not be the “help” the requester wanted; it may be helping in a way they NEED instead.  Make a commitment for the next week (or more) to try to respond cheerfully to requests for help.  Ask for God’s help with this commitment; He WILL respond in a way which may surprise you!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

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

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The “Papacy”

“‘Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32) RSV.

“’Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) KJV.

***

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (John 1:42) RSV.

He brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone. (John 1:42) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The feast of the Annunciation, now recognized as a solemnity, goes back to the fourth or fifth century.  Its central focus is the Incarnation: God has become one of us.  From all eternity God had decided that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity should become human.  Now, as Luke 1:26-38 tells us, the decision is being realized.  The God-Man embraces all humanity, indeed all creation, to bring it to God in one great act of love.  Because human beings have rejected God, Jesus will accept a life of suffering and an agonizing death: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Mary has an important role to play in God’s plan.  From all eternity God destined her to be the mother of Jesus and closely related to him in the creation and redemption of the world.  We could say that God’s decrees of creation and redemption are joined in the decree of Incarnation.  Because Mary is God’s instrument in the Incarnation, she has a role to play with Jesus in creation and redemption.  It is a God-given role.  It is God’s grace from beginning to end.  Mary becomes the eminent figure she is only by God’s grace.  She is the empty space where God could act. Everything she is she owes to the Trinity.

She is the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined.  She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38).

Together with Jesus, the privileged and graced Mary is the link between heaven and earth.  She is the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the possibilities of human existence.  She received into her lowliness the infinite love of God.  She shows how an ordinary human being can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life.  She exemplifies what the Church and every member of the Church is meant to become.  She is the ultimate product of the creative and redemptive power of God.  She manifests what the Incarnation is meant to accomplish for all of us.

Comment:

Sometimes spiritual writers are accused of putting Mary on a pedestal and thereby discouraging ordinary humans from imitating her.  Perhaps such an observation is misguided.  God did put Mary on a pedestal and has put all human beings on a pedestal.  We have scarcely begun to realize the magnificence of divine grace, the wonder of God’s freely given love.  The marvel of Mary—even in the midst of her very ordinary life—is God’s shout to us to wake up to the marvelous creatures that we all are by divine design.

Quote:

“Enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendor of an entirely unique holiness, the virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28).  To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38).  Thus the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly and impeded by no sin to God’s saving will, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

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

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

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

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26.  As a concrete sign of communion and co- responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.

“Pass the Lamb, and Grace Me with a Little Mint Jesus!” – John 1:35–42†


 

Second Sunday of Ordinary

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • Catholic Apologetics
  • 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:

 

Congrats to Cardinal-Elect Timothy Dolan, a St. Louis Native.  I knew him when he was in St. Louis, and believed then he was destined for this position and honor.  Maybe, with God’s grace, he could become the first American-born Pope.

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I received this from a Facebook friend, Ray Sullivan, and simply had to pass it on to you.

We are the Cup:

The “empty cup is our “soul” before baptism; lacking Sanctifying Grace.  “Water” represents God’s “Sanctifying Grace”.

The act of pouring water into cup is the infusion of Sanctifying Grace through the “act of baptizing” the person.

 Commission of a “Venial Sin” causes the waterin our cupto become “dirty”.

 Commission of “Mortal Sin” causes the water to be poured out of our cup.

The “Act” of True Repentance via the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” allows pure water to be poured back into our cup.

In “Purgatory”, our water is poured through a heavenly-divine “filter” and “cleansed” (purified).

Finally, our “purpose” in life is to let Jesus’ water be in our cup.  If there is no water in our cup”, there is NOSALVATION”.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   570 – Death of Saint Ita, Irish nun (b. 475)
†   708 – Sisinnius begins his reign as Pope (dies 20 days later)
†   1535 – Henry VIII declares himself head of English Church
†   1844 – University of Notre Dame receives its charter from the state of Indiana.
†   1909 – Death of St. Arnold Janssen, S.V.D., missionary (b. 1837).  He is best known for founding the Society of the Divine Word.
†   1918 – Birth of Édouard Gagnon, Canadian Roman Catholic Cardinal (d. 2007)
†   1920 – Birth of John J “Cardinal” O’Connor, Philadelphia, Roman Catholic Archbishop of NY
†   1973 – Pope Paul VI has an audience with Golda Meir at the Vatican
†   2000 – Death of Georges-Henri Lévesque, Canadian Dominican priest and sociologist (b. 1903)
†   Feast/Memorials: St. Abeluzius in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

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

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Quote of the Day:

 

“Remember that God, under the Law, ordained a Lamb to be offered up to Him every Morning and Evening.” ~ Thomas Ken

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Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist recognizing Jesus as “the Lamb of God”.  Jesus also receives His first followers (Apostles).

(NAB John 1:35–42) 35 The next day John [the Baptist] was there again [Bethany across the Jordan] with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  37 The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.  38 Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”  They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”  So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.  It was about four in the afternoon.  40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).  42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from John’s Gospel immediately follows John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus and his identification of Jesus as the “Lamb of God”.  Having been baptized by John [the Baptist], Jesus begins to gather His followers.  The first followers actually “sought out” Jesus because of the testimony and witness of John the Baptist.

In today’s Gospel we also learn about a “sibling” relationship appearing among Jesus’ first disciples.   Andrew was the brother of Simon, whom Jesus renamed “Cephas” (meaning “Rock” or “Peter”).  In next Sunday’s Gospel, we will learn about another sibling relationship between the brothers “James” and “John”, the sons of Zebedee.  We know from the letters of Paul (and other sources) that it was a common occurrence for an entire household to be “baptized” together.  From the very beginning of the Christian Catholic Church, families helped one another to know and follow Jesus Christ.  WOW, I hope and pray that this virtue of helping others to find Christ in their lives continues to be true in your personal life, personal mission, and personal avocation.

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We are familiar with the “title” John the Baptist used for Jesus Christ – – the “Lamb of God” (verse 36).  We hear it weekly at the “breaking of the bread” at Mass, just after the “sign of peace”.  The title, “Lamb of God”, recalls key themes from Old Testament Scripture.  It alludes to the “paschal lamb” offered as a sacrifice when God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the event commemorated at, and by, the Jewish Passover celebration.  The designation, “Lamb of God”, also recalls the prophet Isaiah’s description of the “suffering servant” of Israel (cf., Iasaih 52:13 – 53:12):

“… It was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured.  We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted …” (Isaiah 53:4).

Let’s put this into perspective.  The blood of the “Passover Lamb” rescued the Israelites – – in Egypt – – from death (cf., Exodus 12).  Today, the blood of Jesus, the “true Passover Lamb” rescues US from everlasting death and destruction:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’” (John 1:29). 

In using this “title” for Jesus, John the Baptist predicted Jesus’ “Passion” and death on the Cross.  John the Baptist also foretold a new interpretation and understanding of “Passover”, beginning with Jesus’ “Last Supper”.

John the Baptist was eager to point beyond himself – – to Jesus Christ.  He did not hesitate to direct his disciples to follow our Lord, Jesus Christ, the true “Messiah”.  When two of John’s disciples began to seek Jesus out, Jesus took the initiative to invite them into His personal company and fellowship.  Jesus did not wait for “Andrew” and “the other disciple” to come to HIM; Jesus actually met them halfway. 

It is significant that John the Baptist was the son of a priest, “Zachariah”, who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the temple for the sins of the people (cf., Exodus 29).  In Jesus Christ, John the Baptist saw the “true” and “only” sacrifice delivering us from the death of sin. 

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Who were The two disciples” referred to in verse 37 of today’s reading:

The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.” (John1:37) 

We know the one disciple was “Andrew” (John 1:40).  Traditionally, the other disciple was “John”, son of Zebedee.  “John” (the other disciple) is also the disciple believed to be the one whom “Jesus loved” throughout John’s Gospel:

One of His disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side.” (John 13:23).

This same person, “John”, is mentioned through the Gospel of John as “the other disciple” or “another disciple”:

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.” (John 18:15);

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’” (John 19:26);

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’” (John 20:2);

And,

So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’  When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.” (John 21:7).

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Jesus asked Andrew and John the fundamental question concerning themselves and everlasting life: “What are you looking for?”  What were they looking for – – in Jesus Christ, and, what were they aiming to get out of their (and His) personal life?  Do you realize Jesus asks each of us the very same question: “What are you looking for?”  So, what are you aiming for in your personal life; and what are you trying to get out of life?

Besides the statement, “What are you looking for?”, why did John stress “the time” in today’s reading:

Four in the afternoon” (John 1:39).

Well, “four in the afternoon” is literally the “tenth hour” of the “day”, when daytime starts at 6 am.  Sunset was considered the start of a new day – – the common way of determining when a day started and ended during Jesus’ time period.  So, with this in mind, the next day – – Saturday beginning at sunset (at 6 pm) – – was the Jewish “Sabbath day”, making travel impossible for the devout and pious Jew.  Thus, Andrew and John would have stayed with Jesus in order to avoid breaking Jewish law by travelling on “the Sabbath”.

Jesus invites each of us to “come and see” (verse 39) for ourselves that His word is true and everlasting.  “Come and see” is God’s personal invitation to each of us, for coming together and being in communion with the “One” who created us – – in love – – for love itself!!  It is God the Father who initiates contact with us, regardless of our disposition to His invite.  It is God the Father who wishes to draw us to Himself.  Without His grace, mercy, love, and help, we cannot find Him!

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When we discover something very important and valuable, it is natural to want to share it with those closest to us.  Andrew immediately went to his brother, “Simon”, telling him the “good news” of his discovery, Jesus, the true “Messiah”.  It didn’t take much to get Simon to “come and see” who Jesus was.  Jesus reached out to Simon in the same way he did to Andrew earlier.  He not only addressed Simon by his personal name, but also gave Simon a “new” name which signified the “call” and “covenant” God the Father had for Simon himself. 

Andrew, in today’s reading, tells his brother, “Simon Peter”, that he had found the “Messiah” (John 1:41).  What was he actually saying by this “word”?  “Messiah” is the Hebrew word for the “anointed one” promised in Holy Scripture:

For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:11),

Among some first-century Palestinian Jewish and Christian factions, the title “Messiah” was applied to an expected royal leader from the line of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel:

When they had gathered together they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” (see Acts 1:6).

In John’s Gospel, the word “Messiah” appears only here and in John 4:25:

The woman said to him, ‘I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” (John 4:25).

Elsewhere, John uses the Greek translation “Christos” (Christ) instead.

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“John” is Hebrew for “God is Gracious”.  However, Jesus changes “Simon’s” name to the Aramaic, “Cephas” (Peter), which translates to “the Rock”:

So I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

Interesting for me is that neither the Greek equivalent “Petros” (Peter), nor “Cephas”, is used as a personal name prior to Jesus Christ’s time.

Cephas” or “Peter” literally means “rock”.  To call someone a “rock” was one of the greatest compliments in Jesus’ earthly time period.  An ancient rabbinic saying declares that when God saw Abraham, He exclaimed: “I discovered a rock to found the world upon“.  Through Abraham, God the Father established a “chosen nation” for Himself.  Through faith, love, and hope “Cephas” understood who Jesus truly was – – the “Anointed One” (Messiah and Christ) AND the Only-Begotten “Son of God the Father”. 

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How did John know the true identity of Jesus as the “Messiah”?  The Holy Spirit revealed to John Jesus’ “true nature” as being the literal “Son of God”.  How can we be certain that Jesus is truly the “Christ”, the “Son of the God”?  The Holy Spirit makes Him known to us through the same gift of faith, hope, and love which He gave to John, Andrew, and the other “Apostles”.  God the Father gives His Holy Spirit freely to us, so that we may know and understand the “great mystery” and plan of God the Father in uniting ALL His creations in, with, and through His Only-Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The New Testament describes the Catholic (Universal) Church as a spiritual house or temple with each member joined together as “living stones”:

Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into “living” rocks or spiritual stones.  The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith, love, and hope to know, understand, and realize Jesus uniquely, personally, and intimately.  The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live the “Good News” of Jesus Christ – – the Gospel – – faithfully.  The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to witness to others the joy and truth of the Jesus’ “Good News”. The Lord Jesus Christ is ever and always ready to draw us near to Himself.  Do you seek to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus OUR Lord?  I know “I DO”!!!  I believe YOU do as well!!

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In conclusion, we learn in today’s reading how Jesus’ first followers were gathered.  The first two, “Andrew” and “another man” (Simon Peter), were initially followers of John the Baptist; but after hearing John’s [the Baptist] testimony, they became disciples of Jesus Christ.  

If you heard Jesus cal your name today, would you respond, “Here I am“?  Would you say, “I’m listening“?  Would you be able to answer clearly and readily if Jesus asked you: “What are you looking for?”  Would you try to pretend you didn’t hear Him?, or respond: “I’ll get back to you later!”?

The two disciples (Andrew and John) in today’s reading did not respond directly to Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?”:

 “Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’  They said to him, ‘”Rabbi”, where are you staying?’”  (John 1:38).

However, they did accept Jesus’ personal invitation to “Come and you will see“:

He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’  So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.” (John 1:39).

They were so attracted by what they saw and heard, Andrew hastened to his blood-brother, “Simon”, declaring he had found the true “Messiah”.  He took Simon directly to Jesus, who recognizing Simon as a leader, changed his name to “Cephas” (Peter).  This was a life-changing event for these disciples who listened, who responded to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see”, and who found what their hearts, minds, and souls were looking for.

During their time with Jesus, “Andrew” and “the other follower” realized and truly believed that Jesus was the prophesied “Messiah”.  Andrew then brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus.  This makes three disciple followers: Andrew, John, and Simon).  Immediately upon meeting Simon face-to-face, Jesus gave him a new name, “Cephas”.  This renaming of “Simon” to “Cephas” (Rock, or Peter) is reported in all four Gospels (A true rarity indeed!).

In the dialogue between the first two “Apostles” (“Andrew” and “the other disciple” [John]) AND Jesus Christ, the “Messiah”, we see an example of the usual “pattern” for first-century Jewish Rabbinical schools.  In this pattern, Jews sought out Rabbis they “connected with”, and established themselves as disciples of this particular Rabbi.  Jesus appears to have been truly “unique, noticeable, and distinctive, for He “sought out” individuals as well, inviting them to be His followers – – again, another “opposite” to the established “tradition”.  In the passage following today’s reading, John’s Gospel tells us how Jesus took the initiative in calling Philip and Nathanael (Apostles to be: five and six).

In verse 3 of today’s Gospel Jesus asks Andrew and the other disciple, “What are you looking for?”  I have already written that this is a “fundamental” question.  I now also see it is also a significant and revealing question: one which we might often ask of ourselves.  John the Baptist testified to Jesus’ identity, the “Lamb of God”, using the framework of the Old Testament to do so.  Andrew, Simon, and the other four disciples were looking for the true “Messiah”, whom they also came to know as the “Son of God the Father”.  What do you look for and what do you find in Jesus Christ, the true “Son of God”, OURMessiah”?

Look around your house and gather some items reminding you of your faith.  Perhaps you have a cross or crucifix displayed in your home, a statue of Mary, other statues, or other art depicting saints.  In today’s Gospel we learn about how Andrew led his brother, Simon, to Jesus.  In a true Catholic family life, we also help to lead one another to find and keep Jesus Christ in our hearts, minds, and souls continuously.  Look at the items you have just gathered.  What do these items mean to you?  How might you use them in your personal prayer life?  Pray that you will continue to help all you meet to grow in hope, love, and faith, in and for Jesus Himself!

Since we are human, therefore imperfect and sinful, it may take us some time to get the right message into our “closed” minds.  However, as Paul reminds each of us:

Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Both our body and soul are magnificent gifts from God the Father.  Saint Francis is accredited with the following:

Consider, O man, how great the excellence in which the Lord has placed you because He has created and formed you to the image of His beloved Son according to the body and to His own likeness according to the spirit.” (Saint Francis of Assisi, “The Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi” [1906], Admonition #5)

As we reflect on today’s readings, we ought to use our “ears” for listening to God’s voice present in our hearts.  We should hear His “voice” in the cries of the poor and marginalized.  We should use our eyes for seeing Jesus in the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry, the violated, and the oppressed.  May the Holy Spirit – – present within us – – inspire us to cry out loudly, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will, and to serve you always!!”  May our hearts continue to grow to learn, to understand, and to know the following:

We have already found – – what we seek!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Lamb of God

Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Grant us Peace.

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The Trinity:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness ...’” (Genesis 1:26). RSV

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … (Genesis 1:26). KJV

*

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

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19). KJV

*

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians. 13:14). RSV

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.” (2 Corinthians. 13:14) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Paul the Hermit (c. 233-345)

It is unclear what we really know of Paul’s life, how much is fable, how much fact.

Paul was reportedly born in Egypt, where he was orphaned by age 15.  He was also a learned and devout young man.  During the persecution of Decius in Egypt in the year 250, Paul was forced to hide in the home of a friend.  Fearing a brother-in-law would betray him, he fled in a cave in the desert.  His plan was to return once the persecution ended, but the sweetness of solitude and heavenly contemplation convinced him to stay.

He went on to live in that cave for the next 90 years.  A nearby spring gave him drink, a palm tree furnished him clothing and nourishment.  After 21 years of solitude a bird began bringing him half of a loaf of bread each day.  Without knowing what was happening in the world, Paul prayed that the world would become a better place.

St. Anthony of Egypt [January 17] attests to his holy life and death.  Tempted by the thought that no one had served God in the wilderness longer than he, Anthony was led by God to find Paul and acknowledge him as a man more perfect than himself.  The raven that day brought a whole loaf of bread instead of the usual half.  As Paul predicted, Anthony would return to bury his new friend.

Thought to have been about 112 when he died, Paul is known as the “First Hermit.”  His feast day is celebrated in the East; he is also commemorated in the Coptic and Armenian rites of the Mass.

Comment: The will and direction of God are seen in the circumstances of our lives.  Led by the grace of God, we are free to respond with choices that bring us closer to and make us more dependent upon the God who created us.  Those choices might at times seem to lead us away from our neighbor.  But ultimately they lead us back both in prayer and in fellowship to one another.

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:

 

Preaching

 

What topics did Saint Francis tell his “friars” to preach about?

(Poverty, Obedience, the Gospel, Love, etc.)

Are these topics foundational for the “universal call to holiness”?

Is our generation in need of such “Words”?  WHY?

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

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

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

 

 

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


 

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Today in Catholic History:

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

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, then from Mark:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew says:

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

Now, Mark says:

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

And, Luke says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

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

Consider John’s following statement:

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

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

“… and the Word was God.”  (John 1:1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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 “Act of Faith

 
“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Amen.”

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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New Translation of the Mass

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Daily Conversion II

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

Was Francis a Christian “fundamentalist”?

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

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

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

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

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

“John, Don’t Lose Your Head Over My Divinity! You Are Great In Your Own Right!” – Matthew 11:2-11†


  

We are Half-Way though the Advent Season today; only thirteen (13) days till the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Green Bay’s Bishop David Ricken becomes first in US to approve local Marian apparitions from 1859

 

CHAMPION, Wis. (CNS) — Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has approved the Marian apparitions seen by Adele Brise in 1859, making the apparitions of Mary that occurred some 18 miles northeast of Green Bay the first in the United States to receive approval of a diocesan bishop.

Brise, a Belgian immigrant, was 28 when Mary appeared to her three times in October 1859. The first appearance took place while Brise was carrying a sack of wheat to a grist mill about four miles from Robinsonville, now known as Champion.

Brise devoted the rest of her life to teaching children. She began a community of Third Order Franciscan sisters and built a school next to the shrine. Brise’s father, Lambert, built a small chapel near the spot of the apparitions. When a brick chapel was built in 1880, the trees where Mary appeared were cut down and the chapel’s altar was placed over the spot.

Apparitions have taken place throughout history “as a sign of God’s providence, to remind us of what God has already revealed,” said Father Doerfler. “As a loving mother would remind her children about things that are important, so our Blessed Mother Mary has appeared throughout history to remind us of things that are important for our salvation and to draw us closer to her Son.”

Read the full story at:
http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1005014.htm

 

 

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.”  This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:4,5:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”

Some people mark this Sunday on their Advent wreath with a pink candle instead of a purple candle.  This day is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near.

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1098 – First Crusade: Massacre of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breach the town’s walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants. After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism. [A sad and lowly part of Church history]
†   1212 – Death of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York
†   1524 – Pope Clement VII approves Organization of Jewish Community of Rome
†   1610 – Birth of Saint Vasilije (St. Basil of Ostrog), Bishop of Zahumlje in Herzegovina (d. 1671)
†   1769 – Pope Clement XIV proclaims a universal jubilee
†   1779 – Birth of Madeleine Sophie Barat, French saint (d. 1865)
†   2003 – Death of Joseph Anthony Ferrario, American Catholic prelate (b. 1926)
†   2008 – Death of Avery Dulles, Roman Catholic Cardinal, Theologian (b. 1918)
†   Feast Day: Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe Day

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans witness to a genuine love and respect for the poor and vulnerable.

“For Francis, poverty involved not only serving the poor but being poor and connected to those who were poor and outcast.  This service to and identification with the poor was at the heart of the lives of Francis and Clare, it is there that they discovered Christ as “the poor Son of the poor Mother.”  Following the example of these saints, members of the Franciscan family today are called to be with and identify with the poor and vulnerable and with all who face discrimination of one form or another.  We are called to be in solidarity with them in their struggle to have their God-given rights honored by others.  We are called to develop a lifestyle that brings us close to the poor and makes us sensitive to those who are most vulnerable.” 

“Francis went around the cities and villages, proclaiming the kingdom of God and preaching peace.”  Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis, 36

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

You Might be a Roman Catholic…

…if you think God’s presence is always strongest in the back three pews.
…if you judge the quality of the Mass by the length of the Homily.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling John the Baptist of the signs of the kingdom that are being worked through him; and praises John as more than a prophet.

 

2When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him 3 with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  4 Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  6 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”  7 As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  8 Then what did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in fine clothing?  Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.  9 Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’  11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  (NAB Matthew 11:2-11)

 

This week’s Gospel continues a reflection on the personhood, ministry, and message of John the Baptist.  Last week at Mass, John spoke about his relationship to Jesus, the coming “one” prophesized in the Old Testament.  This week, we have Jesus’ message to John, who is imprisoned (and a message to us as well).  Jesus’ message is about the signs of the kingdom found in John’s ministry.  Jesus’ examines, and praises John’s “role” in salvation history and in the Kingdom of God.

Have you noticed the perceived undertone present in today’s Gospel reading?  There seems to be a subdued, yet noticeable and growing opposition to Jesus, if you “read between the lines.” From this point on, there will be more disputes, challenges, and attacks relating to “faith” and “discipleship” in reference (and preference) to Jesus in the future readings.

John the Baptist is now “in prison”.   Upon finding out of John’s capture and imprisonment, Jesus withdrew to Galilee (Matthew 4:12).  According to Josephus (Antiquities 18, 5, 2 #116-19), Herod imprisoned – – and then executed – – John because he feared that John the Baptist’s influence over the people could possibly enable him to lead a rebellion.  The murder of John (see Matthew 14: 1-2) by Herod Antipas foreshadows the death of Jesus (see Matthew 17:12).  

John stood in the doorway between the Old and New Testaments.  He stood in the doorway between the Old and New Covenants of God.  For me, John the Baptist was the bright “light stream” in the vast desert pointing vividly to the safe and lovingly calm harbor of Jesus, similar to the light stream of a lonely lighthouse pointing the lost in the vast seas to a safe, calm, and loving harbor of safety.  John points to the “door” of Jesus moving inwardly from the “Old” – – towards the “New” – – kingdom of God.

John foretold and prepared the way for the Messiah – Jesus Christ.  At the Jordan River, He also pointed his own followers to Jesus when he extolled, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  John knew early on in His ministerial life what Jesus the “Messiah” would accomplish through His death on that Holy Tree of crucifixion.

Nearing the end of His life, today’s Gospel shows us how John queried whether Jesus was truly the “promised Messiah”.  Jesus retorted to John’s uncertainties by recounting the firm proof of facts about his ministry.

While in prison, why did John send his followers to question Jesus as he was sitting in prison knowing was going to die soon, at the hands of King Herod.  In verse 3, the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another” expressed a doubt from John the Baptist.  He wanted to know if Jesus was truly “the one who is to come”.  The reason: because Jesus’ mission had NOT been one of a “fiery judgment” as John (and almost all Jewish people) had expected, but rather one of simple repentance.  John knew prophesies of the Old Testament.  In Malachi 3:1, it read:

“Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.  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.”

Jesus responds by pointing to the miracles that He has worked.  He says that His miracles, actions, and words about the kingdom of God is proof enough in recognizing the realization of Isaiah’s prophecy foretelling the signs and wonders which the Messiah would perform  (see Isaiah 35).  

In his rabbinic teaching style, Jesus also returned one question with another to Him and his followers: What do you see in John the Baptist?  His response to John’s question was also rabbinic in nature as it was taken from the Old Testament.   He took passages from Isaiah that pictures the time of salvation as being marked by deeds and acts, such as those that Jesus is doing. These passages were a caveat and warning to John the Baptist to NOT disbelieve solely because he believes his own expectations have not been met.

“But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.  For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.”  (Isaiah 26:19)

“On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.  The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”  (Isaiah 29:18-19)

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.”  (Isaiah 35:5-6)

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”  (Isaiah 61:1)

Jesus’ rebuke of John for questioning His divinity is offset by His reminder to the crowd of the greatness of John the Baptist’s role and function in salvation history (verses 7-11).  Jesus praises John for his role in preparing the way for Jesus – – the “MESSIAH!”

Why does Jesus contrast John with a “reed”?  Unlike a reed, which is spineless and easily bruised, John the Baptist stands as a truth of faith because his heart, soul, and body – his entire being – was surrendered to God.  John the Baptist burns brightly, warmly, and intensely with the fire of God’s truth and love for all mankind.

There was a common belief among the Jewish faithful that there had been no prophets in Israel since Malachi.  The coming of a new prophet was eagerly awaited among all Jewish people.  Jesus basically sanctions that John was that prophet, sent to foretell the coming of the Messiah that all was waiting.  John was the precursor of the “one” who would bring in the new and final age.  John was the last of the prophets to announce Jesus’ coming.  In leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb, John was also the first witness to Jesus’ divinity(along with Mary and Joseph)!

John’s preeminent greatness lies in his purpose of announcing the nearness of the “kingdom”.  Jesus is telling all hearing that the “kingdom” of God is so great a privilege, pleasure, and joy, – – that the least in God’s kingdom – – is greater than the last and greatest prophet: John the Baptist.  All who work for the Kingdom of God will be as great as John – and even greater!

Jesus’ message to John about the signs of the kingdom being performed recalls the salvation described by the prophet Isaiah. This Gospel reading is a reminder that the beginning of salvation is already present to us, but also yet to be fully fulfilled.

Someone who is “tepid” – careless, half-hearted, and lukewarm – can be easily influenced and converted by others.  If we want to be like John the Baptist, we must surrender our heart, soul, and body to Jesus Christ and his kingdom of everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.  There is absolutely NO room for compromise on this matter of faith and fact.  We are either for Jesus and His kingdom or against Jesus and His kingdom – no fence walkers are allowed.  

Salvation is already in our midst as apparent in the miracles demonstrated by Jesus so many years ago, and in the Church today.  But salvation is also to be fulfilled in the coming reign of God.  

Look at our society and the societies around us.  Look at what is happening around the world today.  Though we can find glimpses of God’s work among us, it would so very easy to become disheartened and depressed by the apparent and obvious secularization of society.  The “absence” of God and His salvation is prevalent in today’s families and societies (even so-called Catholic ones).  Jesus’ excruciatingly painful death on the “Holy Tree” captured our hearts and souls, and opened the doorway to heaven.  We cannot truly know why there is so much pain and suffering in this world.  But, we do know that Jesus walked that same path during His time of humanity on earth.  And He is accompanying us on our path still today, especially close to us in times of pain and suffering.  That is why He is called Emmanuel: “God is with us!!”

 Advent is a season of “hope.  We should acknowledge that salvation is both mysteriously present in our world, and yet to be fully and truly fulfilled in the unknown future.  We are also expected to help prepare the way for God’s kingdom by our own actions, words, and prayers.

Reflect on John’s question to Jesus: “Are you the One?”  Jesus does not answer his question directly (he was a great therapist – without a couch though), but points to the signs of the kingdom present around Him.  Try looking through your local newspaper for signs of hope that God is at work in your world and neighborhood.  

Each of us has times when we questioned God’s love, mercy, and attention to us.  There are times when we feel ambiguous or unsure about following Jesus on His path.  At these times, Jesus gives us the exact same answer he gave to John the Baptist: “Review your life.”  Try to remember the beautiful, wonderful, and awe inspiring things you have seen the Lord do in your life, in others, and in nature.  Keep hold of your trust, faith, and love for God – even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you at that time.  Eventually, you too will be vindicated by God’s love for you!!

 

Our Father

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the sixteenth century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego.  He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City.  On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds.  A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess.  The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga.  The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan Diego to have the lady give him a sign.  About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill.  This led poor Diego to try to avoid the lady.  The lady found Diego, nevertheless, assured him that his uncle would recover and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees.  On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac.  It was December 12, 1531.

Comment:

Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary and the God who sent her accept all peoples.  In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for Native Americans.  While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves.  According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time.  In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.

Quote:

Mary to Juan Diego: “My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth…and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me…”  (from an ancient chronicle).

Patron Saint of: Americas; Mexico

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 12 & 13 of 26:

 

Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Wine First; Now Bread: Am I a Brewer, Baker, or a Healer?!” – Matthew 15:29-37†


 

Holy Father’s (Popes) Monthly Prayer Intentions for December, 2010

    

The Experience of Personal Suffering as a Help to Others who Suffer, and Opening Our Doors to Christ

 

General: That our personal experience of suffering may be an occasion for better understanding the situation of unease and pain which is the lot of many people who are alone, sick or aged, and stir us all to give them generous help.

 

Missionary: That the peoples of the earth may open their doors to Christ and to His Gospel of peace, brotherhood and justice.

 

 

 

Today is my (and my wife’s) twentieth wedding anniversary.  Though I jokingly say to all who will listen that “twenty years with her is like twenty minutes – – underwater”, I literally cannot remember a time without her.  The two of us are truly of ONE nature.  I love her so much, and that grows exponentially each and every day STILL.  When will the honeymoon be over?!

  

Today in Catholic History:


†   660 – Death of Eligius/Eloy, French bishop of Tournay-Noyon; saint
†   772 – Pope Adrian I elected to Papacy
†   800 – Charlemagne judges the accusations against Pope Leo III in the Vatican.
†   1521 – Death of Pope Leo X, [Giovanni de’ Medici], Italian Pope (1513-21), at age 45 (b. 1475)
†   1580 – Death of Giovanni Morone, Italian cardinal (b. 1509)
†   1581 – Death of Edmund Campion, English Jesuit (martyred) (b. 1540)
†   1581 – Death of Ralph Sherwin, English Catholic saint (b. 1550)
†   1581 – Death of Alexander Briant, English saint (b. around 1556)
†   1830 – Death of Pope Pius VIII (b. 1761)
†   1989 – USSR Pres Mikhail S Gorbachev meets Pope John Paul II at the Vatican
†   Feast Day: St Eligius

(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 are dedicated to the care of creation, seeing all creatures as brothers and sisters.

   

“Saints Francis and Clare had a relational understanding of creation. All creatures, from the smallest to “our Sister, Mother Earth,” were sisters and brothers, part of the very family of God.  Because of this, Francis was named the patron saint of ecology by Pope John Paul II.  Following this tradition, St. Bonaventure developed a theological and spiritual vision that acknowledged all creation as emanating from the goodness of God, existing as a “footprint” of God, and leading us back to God if we are able to “read” nature properly. He spoke of creation as the first book that God wrote.”

“This is the royal dignity which the Lord Jesus assumed when he became poor for us that he might enrich us by his want and would make us truly poor in spirit, as heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven. I do not wish to relinquish this royal dignity.”  St. Bonaventure, Major Legend, Chapter VII

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

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus feeding and healing many on a mountain.

 

29 Moving on from there Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there.  30 Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.  They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.  31 The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.  32 Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.”  33 The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?”  34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”  “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.”  35 He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.  36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  37 They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.  (NAB Matthew 15:29-37)

 

The mountain is a “classic” place for encounters with God throughout both the Old and New Testaments.  Many centuries prior to this event encountered in today’s Gospel, Isaiah prophesized in Chapter 25:6-9 that on a mountain the Lord “will provide for ALL peoples.”  He will feed, heal, and destroy death.  On this mountain, Jesus Christ gives love, joy, hope, peace, a purpose, and freedom; to heal and energize all of us – – with LEFTOVERS!! 

This is not the story of the feeding of the five thousand as found in Matthew 14:13-21.  What makes this one different from the former is that Jesus is taking the initiative by summoning the disciples.  Also different is the numbers of the crowd: 4000 men versus 5000 men in the former story.  Finally, the crowd was with Jesus for three days, seven loaves were multiplied, and seven baskets of fragments remained after all had eaten to satisfaction. 

Here is another example in support of Jesus’ healing ministry.  Our divine physician made many house calls by travelling to those in need.  Many people who were in good physical shape, who were maimed, and who were sick and/or injured sought out Jesus.  He not only healed the physical body, He healed the spiritual soul as well.

Many of the healed people in this Gospel reading are possibly Gentiles.  Through Jesus’ ministry they became part of a reassembled Israel.  Jesus came for ALL, not just two of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Jew, Gentile, Samaritan, Pagan, etc.; does not matter to God.  They are all His creation and equally allowed the opportunity to gain entrance to God’s almighty kingdom.

In verse 31, the people “glorified the God of Israel.”  In writing this Matthew was obviously influenced by Isaiah 29:23:

“When his children see the work of my hands in his midst, they shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel.”

How prophetic is this verse from centuries before Jesus.  I love how the Old Testament is in the New, and the New Testament fulfills the Old.

Jesus had “pity for the crowd”  Can you possibly picture someone being so mesmerized, enthralled, and captivated in someone’s speech, abilities, and presence that they are with Him “for three days and have nothing to eat.”  I picture heaven just this way.  Motivated by a strong and loving compassion for all the people with Him, Jesus took the initiative to care for them: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

They were in a desert!  There were no 7-Elevens, Quick Trips, or grocery stores in the area.  Where could they get bread and fish?  This part of the story is reminiscent of the feeding of the Israelites with manna during the Exodus (Exodus 16:4-12):

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.  Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not.  On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in, let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”  So Moses and Aaron told all the Israelites, “At evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, as he heeds your grumbling against him.  But what are we that you should grumble against us?  When the LORD gives you flesh to eat in the evening,” continued Moses, “and in the morning your fill of bread, as he heeds the grumbling you utter against him, what then are we? Your grumbling is not against us, but against the LORD.”  Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole Israelite community: Present yourselves before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.”  When Aaron announced this to the whole Israelite community, they turned toward the desert, and lo, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!  The LORD spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.  Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.” 

The provision of manna in the wilderness is a precursor to this event in the New Testament.  Jesus is now providing HIS “bread” in abundance for the hungry to those who seek Him.

Why “seven” loaves of bread?  It is a very interesting number for the “Bread of Life” that Jesus gives to all in His presence.  In the Hebrew, seven is “shevah.  It is from the root “savah, to be full or satisfied, have enough of.  So, the meaning of the word “seven” is referring to a fullness and completeness; a goodness and perfection.  Nothing can be added to Jesus’ life sustaining gift to us, or taken from it, without damaging it.

In verse 36, Jesus “Gave thanks.”  He said a blessing, probably similar to the blessing found in Matthew 14:19: 

“… and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.” 

Eucharist is a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving.”  This “thanksgiving” was a blessing of God for His benefits and graces.

The taking of the bread, – – “Jesus’ bread of life,” – – saying a blessing, and finally breaking and sharing His bread of life with His disciples to further share with the crowds matches up with the actions of Jesus’ praying over the bread at the Last Supper found in Matthew 26:26.  

What I think is more interesting is Matthew’s not mentioning Jesus dividing the fish.  I wonder if this was done on purpose, as “fish” is not part of the Eucharistic meal.  I believe what Matthew DID NOT say in this respect is perhaps more significant than the breaking of the bread.

“They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over – – seven baskets full.”    That number of fullness and completion – – seven – – again, and in the same reading.  There is apparently a special message that Mathew is trying to get across to His readers.  The number seven in this context may recall the nations of Canaan (Acts 13:19):

“When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance”

 and the first seven Deacons (Acts 6:5):

“The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.”

The leftovers from this profound event were greater than “seven” times the amount food they started with.  God’s promises and graces are immeasurable.  When He gives, He gives in great abundance!!  You will be “satisfied” to “fullness and completeness” (that #7) in Jesus’ Eucharistic meal!!

Earlier, I proposed that many Gentiles were present, and were healed in these three days in Jesus’ presence.  Thus, they have been included and integrated into the fullness and completeness of Israel – – God’s chosen kingdom.  In other words, all are invited into God’s Kingdom!

Jesus fulfilled all their profound hungers and human weaknesses.  Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise to give what is needed to live.  Jesus’ reveals a sign of God’s kingdom, an expression of His power, and His divine and intense mercy and love for all His creation.  When God gives, he gives in abundance!!  He gives us more than we deserve!  Have you thanked Him?  NEVER underestimate the love, power, and graces of God in your lives.  He is always very generous!!

 

Psalms 23:1-6

“A psalm of David”

 

“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength.  You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.  You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.  Amen”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed John of Vercelli (c. 1205-1283)

 

John was born near Vercelli in northwest Italy in the early 13th century. Little is known of his early life. He entered the Dominican Order in the 1240s and served in various leadership capacities over the years. Elected sixth master general of the Dominicans in 1264, he served for almost two decades.

Known for his tireless energy and his commitment to simplicity, John made personal visits—typically on foot—to almost all the Dominican houses, urging his fellow friars to strictly observe the rules and constitutions of the Order.

He was tapped by two popes for special tasks. Pope Gregory X enlisted the help of John and his fellow Dominicans in helping to pacify the States of Italy that were quarreling with one another. John was also called upon to draw up a framework for the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. It was at that council that he met Jerome of Ascoli (the man who would later become Pope Nicholas IV), then serving as minister general of the Franciscans. Some time later the two men were sent by Rome to mediate a dispute involving King Philip III of France. Once again, John was able to draw on his negotiating and peacemaking skills.

Following the Second Council of Lyons, Pope Gregory selected John to spread devotion to the name of Jesus. John took the task to heart, requiring that every Dominican church contain an altar of the Holy Name; groups were also formed to combat blasphemy and profanity.

Toward the end of his life John was offered the role of patriarch of Jerusalem, but declined. He remained Dominican master general until his death.

Comment:

The need for peacemakers is certainly as keen today as in the 10th century! As followers of Jesus, John’s role falls to us. Each of us can do something to ease the tensions in our families, in the workplace, among people of different races and creeds.

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 1 & 2 of 26:

 

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.

 

 

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