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“If They Sought Advice from Herod, Were the ‘Magi” Truly Wise? I believe the Answer Is ‘Uncertainly Maybe Possible!’” – Matthew 2:1-12†


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“Epiphany of the Lord”

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

Because of the supportive and positive feedback I received concerning my success of explaining the Advent and Christmas symbols used in the Catholic Church, I decided to address occasionally other symbols used throughout the Church year.  Today I will discuss the Liturgical colors of vestments.

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The Church’s liturgical norms do prescribe specific vestment colors for various celebrations.  The purpose of utilizing different colors for vestments is twofold: first, the colors highlight the particular liturgical season and the faithfull’s journey through these seasons.  Second, the colors punctuate the liturgical season by highlighting a particular event or particular mystery of faith.  The following explanation is based on the norms of “The General Instruction on the Roman Missal”.

White or gold, a color symbolizing rejoicing and purity of soul, is worn during the liturgical seasons of Christmas and Easter.  White vestments are also used for certain other feasts throughout the year.  White may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial and Masses for the Dead to signify the Resurrection of our Lord, when He triumphed over sin and death, sorrow and darkness.

Red has a dual imagery: symbolizing the shedding of blood and is therefore used on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, any other commemoration of the Lord’s passion, the votive Mass of the Precious Blood, the days marking the martyrdom of the apostles (except St. John), and the feasts of other martyrs who offered their lives for the faith.

On the other hand, red also signifies the burning fire of God’s love.  Red vestments are won on Pentecost; for the Sacrament of Confirmation; and for the votive Masses of the Holy Spirit.

Green is used during the liturgical season called Ordinary Time.  We focus on the life Jesus shared with mankind during His time on this earth, the life we share now with Him in the community of the Church and through His sacraments, looking forward to sharing an everlasting life with Him perfectly in Heaven.  Green symbolizes this hope and life, just as the hint of green on trees in early spring arouses the hope of new life.

Violet or purple is used during Advent and Lent as a sign of penance, sacrifice and preparation.  At the midpoint of both of these seasons—Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent—rose vestments are traditionally worn as a sign of joy: we rejoice at the midpoint because we are half-way through the preparation and anticipate the coming joy of Christmas or Easter.  Purple vestments may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial or Masses for the Dead.

Although not seen very frequently in the United States today, black vestments may be worn for Masses of Christian Burial as a sign of death and mourning.  Black may also be used on the Feast of All Souls or for any Mass of the Dead, such as on the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

In all, the colors of the vestments awaken us to the sense of sacred time. They are another visible way to make present the sacred mysteries we celebrate.

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/LITCOLOR.HTM

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Kings may be judges of the earth, but wise men are the judges of kings.” ~  Solomon Ibn Gabirol

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Today’s reflection: The “Magi” seek out Jesus and do him homage.  When have YOU last sought out Jesus, giving Him homage as these “Wise Men”?

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(NAB Matthew 2:1-12)  1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the Catholic Church’s Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Mejesus-and-maryssiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to ‘let His face shine upon’ us through the face of the Mother of God.  We ‘serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.’” (G.K. Chesterton)

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  Historically several moments in Jesus Christ’s early life and earthly ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” as “manifestations” of the divine of this newborn, beginning with His birth in Bethlehem, in the visit of the Magi, in His baptism by His cousin, John – the Baptist, and in His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.

There are some fascinating implications about Jesus in the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s “infancy narrative”: Christmas2012

(1)In Luke’s Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit, includes the Census required for Jesus to be “registered” in their father’s hometown (will say more about this later).

(2) Matthew’s Gospel today focuses on the strange event of “learned” non-Jews, the “Magi”, seeking to visit the prophesied “new king” to be born of Jews, “Israel”.

In retrospect, this text and its story anticipates the future of this “king” on one hand, AND, His acceptance by the non-Jewish “Gentiles” on the other.  We have here a veiled image of the future Church composed of non-Jewish believers, and Jewish believers – – a new “Israel” of faith and worship.

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So, let’s take a deep breath and relax – – and consider this: If Jesus is truly “who” He claims to be – – “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, the prophesied “Anointed One” (Messiah), and the ‘Savior’ of the world’” – – then why was He not recognized by everyone who heard His “Word” and saw His works?  Well, John the Evangelist states in his Gospel that when Jesus came into the world:

The world knew Him not and His own people received Him not” (John 1:10-11).

Hmm, my faith has grown to realize that there is NO neutral stance when it comes to Jesus Christ, during His lifetime, and still today.  Once people hear and see who Jesus claims to be, and what the implications of His coming are for them, they either accept or reject Him outright.  

Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only a few lowly Jewish shepherds were graced to recognize this Jewish infant boy (Jesus) –wisemen3 – as “King” – – at His birth in a lowly place and fashion; however, some “Magi” also found their way, over a short period of time, to Bethlehem, in order to pay “homage” to the newborn “King of Israel”.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in the many “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the true “great” Messianic King when He appeared as prophesied and promised. 

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly order.  However, over a period of time, the word became used more so for anyone regarded as having a “more than human knowledge”. mcconnellwisemen For this reason, the term frequently used for them is: “Wise Men”.  We also get our word “magic” from this specific word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (probably around the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were most likely astronomers and/or astrologers, as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others quite apparently and easily overlooked when viewing the VERY SAME stars and constellations.

We know little about the “Magi”.  We know they came “from the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, via “Jerusalem”, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the “star”) which, in itself, was of some type ofth “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them across the vast desert, by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening”, to the little town of Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  (Can you hear the song “Oh, little town of Bethlehem” in your head.)  The “Magi’s” journey had to be a difficult one indeed. Roads were poor, no road signs in the desert, Inns (CamolTels) were not the best – – even for the camels.  And let’s not forget the thieves and the lack of police intervention.  All they had was a “star”- – but the best “star” in the heavens.

In their diligent search, these “three” Kings were led to the source of true knowledge – – to Jesus Christ Himself, the “Light and Wisdom” of God the Father.  When they found the newborn child Jesus, they humbly worshiped Him, and gave Him “gifts” fitting for a “true King”, even for a “divine king”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this specific – – and uniquely special – – “Messianic King”?  I would like to think it was a confident and assured faith in the promise God gave to the Jews, to them and their people – – and to us.  The prophetic promise was to send a Redeemer – – a “King” – – who would establish God’s reign of peace and righteousness for all peoples: 556238_10151178055187903_1249455228_n

Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for David; as king He shall reign and govern wisely, He shall do what is just and right in the land.  In His days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.  This is the name to be given Him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

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My question to you: “Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of ‘strange lands’ to represent the Gentiles’ search for a M11 ADVENTtable_html_m309f20f1essianic Savior?”  I believe so.  In essence, the “Magi” could easily and correctly represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  As such, they are truly representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives and journeys today.

Also, there are a couple of Old Testament verses inferring that the “Magi” were truly “kings” themselves:

May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts.  Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day” (Psalm 72:10, 15).

And,

“Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD” (Isaiah 60:6).

Tarshish and the islands”, in the above verse from Psalm 72, refer to the far western part of the “known world”, and Arabia and Seba [Sheba] in the fProject1ar southern portion.  These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”. 

What did Matthew mean by saying “saw HIS star”?  Well, it was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any significant  ruler’s birth: be it a secular king or religious ruler.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of an Old Testament story in which “Balaam” prophesied:

I see him, though not now; I observe him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, That will crush the brows of Moab, and the skull of all the Sethites” (Numbers 24:17).

The “star” in this case means the physical Messiah King, Jesus Christ Himself; not the astronomical phenomenon in the Middle East the “Mafollow-the-star_t_nvgi” are following all the way to Bethlehem.  In a “Christian” messianic interpretation, the “star”, as also the “scepter” from Israel, would refer to Jesus Christ as “King”:

“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom” (Isaiah 11:1).

In reality, how many “Magi” do you suppose came to give “homage” to the child Jesus?  Where, in Holy Scripture, does it say that “three” Wise Men travelled to Bethlehem?  The answer is NOWHERE!  We actually base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the three “gifts”- – “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” – – but the actual number of “Magi” that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us. 

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the prophesied “Word” being “written” in the heavenly stars.  (They did not connect the twinkling dots in the sky.)  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. until 4 A.D. when he died.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius (a favorite of mine) as:

 “A madman, who murdered his own family, and a great many rabbis.” 

However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects throughout Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the “Second Temple” in Jerusalem (also referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what!” moment upon listening to the “Magi” about what the “heavenly skies” prophesied.  He was confused and also concerned about his lack of knowledge AND for getting NO preemptive warninthCAB77DFPg about this “NEW” king in “his” territory from his own priests, astronomers, and astrologers.  Herod was also worried about his personal future welfare, prestige, and physical life, with a “Messiah” king in “his” territory.  So, Herod immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to an immediate presence before him. (Hmm, first century pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the Temple leaders (the chief priests and Scribes), astrologers, and astronomers of his realm had a very strong similarity to the following “Jewish non-biblical legend” (per a NAB-RE* footnote).  This footnoted story is about a child, later learned to be Moses, in which the “sacred scribes” warn the Pharaoh about an imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt.  In this story, the Pharaoh King makes plans to destroy him.  (WOW!!!!  Moses and Jesus have nearly identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is often called the “New Moses.”) *(NAB-RE is “New American Bible – Roman [Catholic] Edition”)

Herod’s “chief priests and scribes” also reminded Herod of the prophecy found in the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) Book of Micah:

You, Bethlehem-Ephrathaha least among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:1).

The Book of Micah shared with Isaiah the expectation that God the Father will deliver “Israel” through a “king in the line of David”.  “Bethleimage002hem-Ephrathah” is the birthplace of David, and therefore, of his whole “Davidic line”.  Today, it is known to us as simply, “Bethlehem”. 

Herod, and his “chief priests and scribes”, in a somewhat defensive maneuver to what is written in the prophecies found in Jewish Scriptures, asked these “Magi”, these first Gentile believers to be an [unlikely] envoy for King Herod.  So, after meeting with Herod, the “three kings” – – the three “Magi” – – travel to Bethlehem, and away from King Herod’s presence (as his “envoy”):

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:8).

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Continuing to follow the “star”, the “Wise Envoy’s” eventually find the Holy Family still in Bethlehem:  holiness-title-slide

 “On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his motherThey prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

Upon finding Christ, the “Magi prostrate themselves”, an action given ONLY to God.  Thus, Jesus is confirmed to be the true Son of God through their action.  These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home and homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for discovering, and further knowing, this “heavenly” announced “God-King”.  They followed THE “star” in pursuit of a personal quest for finding the desire of their hearts, and their pursuit for a personal relationship with this “new divine king” whose name they learn was – – Jesus Christ.   – – (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it on a Hollywood street corner or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their pilgrimage these “Magi” can serve well as a model for “contemplative listening” today.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, what I mean is that their “actions” flowed directly from their personal – – their focused – – learning and true discernment through divine guidance.  They had set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in a unique “star” announcing:

the newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

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Can you see the three gifts of the “Magi”, given to the Holy Family, as a foreshadowing (prophecy) of Jesus’ role in salvation hichristmasbitters5story?  I believe the meanings of their gifts are “Christological” in nature (representing the spirit, the person, and the actions of Jesus Christ).  “Gold” represents Jesus’ kingship.  “Frankincense” is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And “Myrrh” was used to prepare the dead for burial, and thus, was offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.  Jesus Christ “was”, “is”, and forever “will be”!!

So, “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” are understood to be symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death (for OUR salvation).  In giving these special gifts, the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, to Jesus gold_2Christ Himself (and to us through His nature), the “Magi” – – those unknown “Gentile” men from foreign lands and cultures – – were the first to acknowledge the “who” Jesus was – – FROM BIRTH – – as the Savior KING – – as OUR Savior King!

The journey we take to God is a long one, lasting our entire lives; only ending with our earthly deaths.  Mary, Joseph, and ALL the saints experienced the same long and difficult journey we need to experience. 

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know the Trinitarian Godhead personally.  In today’s story of the “Magi’s” finding and encountering the child Jesus, we see God the Father’s personal plan for salvation to, and for, ALL nations, ALL peoples.  God’s divine plan included giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for ALL mankind (even those from far-away lands).  God gave us His true and full – – both human and divine – – personhood (in the singular), – – not solely for just the Jewish faithful, – – but for ALL people everywhere!! 

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, these three men made a “gift” of their individual, unique, and personal “liveGifts-with-a-Meaning-behind-Them_001-608x456s” with each step taken in the search for the prophesied “Messiah-Savior-King”.  Matthew, by his account of today’s event, eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” searching quest:

They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Matthew2:10).

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires in meeting this “singular” “King of Kings”.

After giving Him “homage” and bestowing “gifts” to the newborn child “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod.  So, they returned to their country by another route:

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way (Matthew 2:12).

Nothing is written or otherwise known about what happened to the “MagiAFTER they left the child-Jesus.  They found Jesus – – so their journey seems to have ended for them.  BUT, their journey actually did NOT end, and neither has ours; it was just a “turning point” for them as it is for us.  Our journeys never end when we finally “find” Christ in our lives; it just puts us on the “proper path” to Him and to everlasting life with Him in paradise..wise01

By their faith, they followed the “star.”  By their faith, they found the true Messiah King of ALL peoples.  And, by their faith, they returned to their “far off” country via a different route.

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F. summarize titleaith is an entirely free gift which God the Father offers to us, and imparts to each of us personally.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – moving in our individual hearts, and opening our individual souls and being – – that we are able to understand, accept, and believe the real divine “truth” which the Trinitarian Godhead reveals to us in personal and unique ways.  With trust, love, and faith, OUR human “will” and “intellect” cooperates with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace” (Thomas Aquinas).

No matter where I am in my personal search of discovery in God’s faith, Christ is present with me – – and within me – – ALWAYS.  I always have the same “star” the “Magi” followed, lighting my way, never leaving me in the dark, distancing me from MY Messiah-Savior-King!!

The visit of the “Magi”, which we celebrate as an “Epiphany”, or manifestation of God’s glory, reveals that the child Jesus whom the “Magi” hailed as the “newborn King of the Jews” (cf., Matthew 2:2), AND who will be crucified under the same title, “King of the Jews” – – is also King of ALL peoples

I sell myself short in my faith-life often.  I don’t always appreciate the power of my faith within me!  I don’t realize my capabilities in knowing God.  Sometimes, I believe my faith is weak, that myencountersThumbnail level of sanctity is low – – in my eyes – – not in His.  To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Trinitarian Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  Jesus Christ came so that both Jew and Gentile might find a true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND with each other. 

We usually do – – and definitely should – – think about God’s goodness to human beings.  Today’s story of the “Magi” has turned such thinking the in the opposite direction, around the goodness of human beings TO God instead.  Three human beings, the Wise Men, the Magi, brought and gave “gifts” to the “Son of God”.  Even though we try to imitate this action in our individual lives, the Son of God is a hard one to shop for.  How does one give gifts to the Son of God, who certainly has everything He needs or wants?  Well, Jesus Christ helped us with this specific inquiry.  He more or less revealed His answer, making it easier for us when He said:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

How can we become a people and nation which defers to God?  We can begin with ourselves. The mysteries of this season invite us to imitate the “Magi”:

They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts” (Luke 2:11).

Let us prostrate ourselves before Christ the true and promised Messiah-Savior-King, worshiping and adoring Him.  Let us offer ALL we have, and listen to His “Word”.  Then we shall be ready to serve Him and His Kingdom in heaven and on earth, here and now!! 

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To. conclusion some people, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed to have been established in remembrance of the gift giving of the “Magi” in today’s Gospel reading.  For this reason, in many cultures even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on “Christmas Day”.  This makes me think: giftofpresence-ckwe should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES” – – our true “Present Self”!!  Our “three” “special” gift offerings should be “praise”, “adoration”, and “thanksgiving” for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do – – in our lives!  Our individual spiritual gifts are much more valuable to Him, and to each other, than the monetary value of ALL the “gold, frankincense, and myrrhin the entire world!!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  How can we offer our very “selves”, our “lives”, more fully to God the Father’s personal and collective love and personal plan He has for each of us?  Hmm, let me know what your thoughts are on HOW YOU can do this task.

Let me please finally pass on a couple of reflection questions to each of you.  “Do you truly bring Jesus Christ to others in your psales-questionsersonal path of life?  Do you actively ‘LOOK’ for Jesus Christ in others you encounter along your path of life; especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?”  God loves it so much when we speak “Words” of love, and perform “acts” of blessing, hope, and encouragement as the norm – – instead of the exception.  He rejoices when our “Words” and “actions” help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes and trees of immense size.  (So, become the “spice” of life; enhance the flavor of God’s working in, with, and through you for and to OTHERS!!)

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift-giving”.  (Yes, I know it just passed a few days aGiftGiving_12-04go for most of us.  But, please, reflect on gift-giving again.)  What was the best gift you have ever received (?), and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special (?), was it the thought that went into it (?), or was it the person who gave it to you which made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress out on the correct answer.)  Do you bring the twinkling “light of Jesus Christ” to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?  Has this specific reflection today been a gift to you?  It has been a gift writing my thoughts on this Gospel reading. gift-keep-giving-13

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impartto others throughout your personal and public route in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of our personal journeys through life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” Wise One’s – – “Camel Jockey’s” – – in OUR search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  So, head towards to the light – – of the “new shining ‘star’”!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

Father,Epiphany 6
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven
by the light of faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen

From:
The Liturgy of the Hours

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“Hey, Let’s Go On Vacation; I Know A Little Quiet Spot For Some R&R. There’s Great Bread And Fish There As Well!” – Mark 6:30-34†


Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the tenth day of my yearly consecration to Jesus through Mary; a special devotion I absolutely look forward to every year, and have purposely scheduled (in my calendar) for the past 6 years.  It is a great devotion of prayer and reflection, created by St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716), which takes 33 days of preparatory devotions.  The “Total Consecration” made on the 34th day.  The day of Total Consecration should always be on a Marian feast day.  (My consecration day is the “Feast of Mary’s Assumption to Heaven”: August 15th.)  Schedules for the preparation and Total Consecration are included in resource materials – – provided at NO cost – – through this website: www.MyConsecation.org.  There are more than twenty start days throughout the calendar year (ending on a Marion Feast Day) for those wishing to make the Total Consecration, so give it a try.

Let me give you a little history about the author of this devotion, St. Louis de Montfort.  He was a French Roman Catholic Priest, Author, and Confessor.  He was known to be a preacher in his time: Pope Clement XI made him a “missionary apostolic”, giving him authority to emphasize the importance of the Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to encourage the practice of frequent praying of the Rosary.  Father de Montfort is particularly known for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and for the practice of consistently praying the Rosary (Reminds me that both St. Padre Pio and Venerable Pope John Paul II daily prayed the Rosary).  Father de Montfort’s most notable work regarding Marian devotions is contained in a two-part book entitled “The Glories of Mary” along with “The Secrets of the Rosary and the True Devotion to Mary”.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   0260 – St Dionysius begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1099 – First Crusade: Godfrey of Bouillon elected first Defender of the Holy Sepulchre of The Kingdom of Jerusalem.
†   1619 – Death of Lawrence of Brindisi, Italian monk (b. 1559)
†   1647 – Birth of Margaretha M Alacoque, French mystic/saint
†   1649 – Birth of Clement XI, [Giovanni F Albani], Italy, Pope (1700-21)
†   1676 – Death of Clement X, [Emilio Altieri], Italian Pope (1670-76), dies at 86
†   1722 – Birth of Jean-Noel/Joannes Natalis Paquot, Belgian priest/historian
†   1902 – Death of Mieczysław Halka Ledóchowski, Polish Catholic Cardinal (b. 1822)

(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: Jesus invites His disciples to rest after their ministry, and is moved with pity for the crowds who pursue them.

 

(NAB Mark 6:30-34) 30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.  31 He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.  32 So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.  33 People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.  They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.  34 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, in Mark’s Gospel, we read of the return of the “Twelve”, who had been sent by Jesus, in pairs, to preach repentance, to heal the sick, and to drive out demons.  When they returned, Jesus invited them to “come away” from the crowds to get some rest with Him.  However, the crowds followed, not giving them any peace.  It seems that, as the Twelve Apostles now shared in Jesus’ ministry, they also now appear to share in Jesus’ popularity as well.

In an effort to get away from the crowds, Jesus and His disciples get into a boat with the hope of finding the “deserted place” familiar to Jesus.  The crowds notice their “escape”, and so follow along the shore line, also arriving at the same “deserted place”.  The crowds find them and continued to draw near Jesus and the Apostles, making contact, and presenting their individual requests.  Mark reports that these Apostles’s, the closest and most intimate disciple’s of Jesus, don’t even have time to eat their food due to the swarm of people surrounding them.  The crowds are so persistent that Jesus and His disciples cannot even find a place to be alone.  (Sounds like me, a parent of four teenagers in a one-bathroom house.)  Remarkably, even with this chaos and pressure,  Jesus “is moved with pity [for the crowds] and begins to teach” them.

Today’s Gospel stops with Jesus’ having “pity” for them and “teaching”.  Mark’s report of the unyielding demands of the crowd continues in the following verses (next week’s Gospel reading).  The work of Jesus, and the work of His disciples (even still today), appears to be a “round-the-clock” job.  (My kids did not know the term, “round-the-clock”.  They have told me to write “24/7” as an alternative.)  OK; so they were busy 24/7.

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For the second week in a row at Mass, Mark uses the term, “Apostle”.  He also used this term earlier, in his Gospel’s third chapter:

“He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14).

Jesus instituted these twelve me as “apostles” in order to extend His messianic mission through them (cf., Mark 6:7–13). Mark correctly and appropriately calls the “Twelve” men, “Apostles”, meaning His emissaries, empowered them to preach, to expel demons, and to cure the sick (“Apostles”: a Greek word meaning, “one who is sent with the delegated authority of the sender”!):

They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6:13).

The earliest use of the special term, “the twelve”, as Jesus’ delegated “apostles” is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

“He [Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:5).

The number (12) is meant to recall the twelve “tribes” of Israel, thus implying Jesus’ authority to call and gather ALL Israel into God the Father’s kingdom.  Mark distinguished between the “Twelve Apostles” and a much larger group called disciples:

“When He [Jesus] was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned Him about the parables.  Without parables He did not speak to them, but to His own disciples He explained everything in private (Mark 4:10, 34).

The “Twelve” also share in Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom:

As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 10:7). 

In the Pauline letters (the New Testament epistles written by Paul) “apostle” has come to mean primarily one who had seen the “risen” Lord, AND had been commissioned to proclaim Jesus’ Resurrection to ALL the peoples of the planet.  Only after the Pentecost event is the title “apostles” used in the technical or precise term for the twelve specific men who became the first bishops of the Catholic (Universal) Church.  (However, don’t forget about Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, made so by divine appointment and Jesus’ appearing, creating the Lord’s baker’s dozen of 13.  – – Don’t forget the Lord’s choice of the first twelve’s replacement “Matthias”, (cf., ACTS 15:17)

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So, these twelve men, sent out in pairs on a divine mission from Jesus Christ, return back to Him at the conclusion of this inaugural mission – – and still in progress without interruption two millennia later.   Mark relates that the small group yearned for a well-deserved rest in a “deserted place” (Mark 6:31).  However, Luke is a little more specific as to where this “deserted place” actually is located:

When the apostles returned, they explained to him what they had done. He took them and withdrew in private to a town called Bethsaida” (Luke 9:10).

Bethsaida translates to “house of fishing”, and is a small village on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, just east of the Jordan River.  The ground in this particular area has ALWAYS been uncultivated, used solely for grazing animals, and as a “fishing village”.  Note that the village of Bethsaida is where the feeding of the 5000 took place (in next week’s Gospel). 

Being mostly worldly fishermen, and ALL being the Kingdom of God’s “fishers of men”, these twelve men, plus Jesus, set off for Bethsaida by their favorite mode of transport:

 “They went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” (Mark 6:32).  

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Just imagine the scene wherein Jesus and the Twelve Apostles are attempting to escape from the huge throngs of excited, spirit-filled, captivated, and strongly affected  people who wanted – – nay, demanded – – MORE!!  Jesus and His small group made good on an egress from the multitudes, placing water between them and the hordes of believers and non-believers desiring to be near them.

Picture this scene from both angles: from the crowds viewpoint on land and Jesus’ Apostles within the boat as it approached the beach?  I am certain the men in the boat felt some great relief, able to take a deep breath, and no longer wondering about their personal safety.  The other group was excited and awe-filled, wanting to see, hear, and experience MORE!!  The withdrawal of Jesus, with His disciples, to a “deserted place”, attracted a great swarm – – a humungous pack of people – – following the group traveling by boat.   This mob followed – – by foot – – along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The sea and shore is fairly flat, thus making it easy to see a great distance across the water, keeping an eye on the boat, even if it is miles out to sea.  In desperation for the unique teaching, preaching, and healing ability of this small group of divinely inspired and full-filled men, the “crowd” wanted to hear and experience more of what was presented to them physically, mentally, and spiritually by Jesus and His Apostles.

I would think Jesus and His most intimate of friends would be used to crowds interrupting their rest and meals by now, since it wasn’t the first time.  Mark mentions at least one other time when crowds gathered around them, interrupting their “down time”:

Again [the] crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat.” (Mark 3:20).

Jesus is moved with “pity” toward these people experiencing such awe, joy, and desire as to pursue them.  Jesus satisfies their spiritual hunger by teaching them many things in Bethesda, before and during the feeding of the 5000 @ Bethsaida (next week’s Gospel at Mass).  In His preaching, teaching, and healing (plus feeding the multitudes), Jesus shows Himself as the true, promised, and faithful “shepherd” of the NEW Israel and of a NEW Exodus, as prophesized by Moses and Ezekiel:

“Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all humanity, set over the community someone who will be their leader in battle and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the LORD’s community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.’” (Numbers 27:15-17);

And,

I [the Lord] myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest—[says] the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 34:15).

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Verse 34 of today’s reading had an interesting and very prophetic statement somewhat openly hidden:

“When He disembarked and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).

What does the image of a shepherd tell us about God’s care for us?  Well, shepherding was one of the oldest of occupations (a true calling) in Israel, even before farming.  Why(?); because the “Chosen People” had to travel from place to place, living in tents, their constant movement required someone to herd and protect the flocks from one pastureland to another “round-the-clock” (“24/7”).  

Taking care of sheep was no easy calling; it required great skill and courage.  Flocks were often quite large, exceeding thousands or even ten thousands of sheep.  The flocks spent a good part of the year in the open country.  So, watching over the animals required a great deal of attention and care.  Sheep who strayed from the flock had to be sought out and brought back, solely, by the shepherd, at his own peril.  

Since hyenas, jackals, wolves, lions, and even bear were common in the biblical lands – – and tried to feed on the animals of the various flocks – – the shepherds often had to be ready to do battle with these wild and extremely dangerous beasts.  A shepherd literally had to put his life on the line in defending his sheep (Remember, the shepherd King David’s encounter with Goliath).  Shepherds took turns watching the sheep, grouped together at night, to ward off any attackers, so that each could get a little rest.  

The sheep and their shepherds continually lived together.  Their life was intimately bound together with the individual sheep, goats, and cattle in their charge, even when their animals mixed with other flocks.  These animals quickly grew to learn and recognize the voice of their own shepherd, coming to him immediately when called by name.  (My dog doesn’t even do this unless I have a treat in hand for her.)

The Old Testament often spoke of God as shepherd of His “chosen people”, Israel:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1);

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!” (Psalm 80:1);

And:

We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3).

The prophesized Savior Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God’s people:

He will feed His flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms(Isaiah 40:11).

Jesus told His disciples that He was the “Good Shepherd” who was willing to lay down His life for His sheep:

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” (Matthew 18:12);

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4);

And:

“I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 15).

When Jesus saw the huge number of people in need of His protection and care, He was moved, responding with a compassionate concern.  His love was a personal and intimate love for each and every person who came to Him in need – – and still comes to Him today!!  In the person of Jesus Christ, we see the unceasing vigilance and patience of God’s love for us as well as for ALL His creatures.  In our battle against sin and evil, Jesus is ever-ready to give us help, strength, and refuge.  Please trust Jesus and in His grace and help at all times!  (I try to!!)

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In summary, by reading between the lines, we can see from today’s Gospel reading the intensity of Jesus’ public ministry and the intensity of the Apostles involvement.  Such was His dedication to those in His care – – those individual and unique souls – – that Mark mentions TWICE in his Gospel that Jesus and His close groups of disciples did not having time to eat.  In doing so, Mark offered to us a precedent, an example to follow.  A true Christian should be ever-ready to give up time, rest, and even meals in the service to others, to the Lord, and to His “Word”.  In doing so, this attitude to openness, availability, and charity, will guide us to change our plans whenever, and wherever, the good of others souls requires our kindness and helping hand: our involvement. 

Jesus gave us another precedent, EQUALLY important to follow as well: He teaches us to have “common sense” – – not to go to such extremes that you lessen your ability to cope without your own pressures, physically, mentally, or spiritually.  Saint Bede (b.672/673 – d.735), an English monk, once wrote the following:

The Lord makes His disciples rest, to show those in charge that people who work or preach cannot do so without breaks” (St Bede, “In Marci Evangelium exposition, in loc.)

St. Josemaria Escriva also wrote about rest, but in a rather unique way:

He who pledges Himself to work for Christ should never have a free moment, because to rest is to not to do nothing; it is to relax in activities which demand less effort” (St. Josemaria Escriva, “The Way”, 357)

I believe what St. Josemaria Escriva meant by this above statement is that, even at rest, the rest “itself” should be in Christ’s work (i.e., prayer, meditation) and even play – – a great source of active relaxation and joy.

Jesus chose twelve men from among His disciples.  He sent them out to share in His ministry of preaching and healing.  We who are Jesus’ disciples TODAY have also been sent out to share His Gospel with others.  Perhaps, at times, our commitment to follow Jesus – – as His disciple – – leaves us feeling tired and overwhelmed.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus establish, encourage, and assert the importance of times of rest and renewal.  Jesus wanted His disciples to “come away” and spend time alone – – with HIM!!  This is what WE seek and find in our life of prayer, in our celebration of the Eucharist, and hopefully, in times of our personal retreats.  When was the last time you “came away”, solely to spend time – – alone with Jesus Christ?  When was the last time you made a retreat for even part of a day, much less a weekend or a week-long period of rejuvenation with, and in, Christ Himself??!!   A great retreat experience is a joy to behold, a time of renewal beyond most other experiences short of the Eucharist itself (which is the SUMMIT of ALL experiences).  Try it some time, “you’ll like it”!!

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In conclusion, family and work life, and its demands on us , can make us feel similar to how Jesus and the Twelve Apostles felt in today’s Gospel: tired, and in need of rest.  We often wish for times of relaxation and renewal, EXCEPT there are projects to complete, errands to do, household chores to keep up with, and commitments to keep.  These all may be great things in themselves, but we are often left feeling drained and tired in trying to keep up, and keep on schedule.   

Perhaps, if possible, take the opportunity this week to give yourself permission to find the rest and relaxation Jesus attempted to seek for His disciples in today’s Gospel.  A gift we ALL can give to another is to assist them in finding some time and space to renew themselves; even, and especially, by saying a simple prayer of intercession.

Review your work and family calendar, spending some time reflecting on your unique and individual activities.  Find ways to get an appropriate amount of time for rest and relaxation this week and in the weeks ahead.  All of us need to keep in mind how Jesus tried to find time and space for His disciples to rest and relax after they returned from their mission, their work life; so should YOU!  Ask God to help find time to renew yourself so that you might be better disciples of Jesus.  (OK guys, when your wife asks you to take out the trash, don’t say, “I can’t do that.  I’m under orders from Jesus to get rest.”)

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Renewal Prayer

 

“Lord, we are Your people, the sheep of Your flock.  Heal the sheep who are wounded, touch the sheep who are in pain, clean the sheep who are soiled, warm the lambs who are cold.  Help us to know the Father’s love through Jesus the Shepherd and through His Spirit.  Help us to lift up that love, and show it all over this land.  Help us to build love on justice and justice on love.  Help us to believe mightily, hope joyfully, love divinely.  Renew us that we may renew the face of the earth.  Amen”

http://www.catholic.org/prayers

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) RSV.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” “(John 1:1) KJV.

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“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) RSV.

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Mary Magdalene

 

Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene.  Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.

Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women.  Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Luke 8:2)—an indication, at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or, possibly, severe illness.

Father W.J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.”  Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not…the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”

Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.”  She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother.  And, of all the “official” witnesses that might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given.  She is known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

Comment:

Mary Magdalene has been a victim of mistaken identity for almost 20 centuries.  Yet she would no doubt insist that it makes no difference.  We are all sinners in need of the saving power of God, whether our sins have been lurid or not.  More importantly, we are all, with her, “unofficial” witnesses of the Resurrection.

She is the Patron Saint of: Penitents, Perfumers.

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 22 & 23 of 26:


22.  The local fraternity is to be established canonically.  It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love.  This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.

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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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“Let’s ‘Gather’ And Get The ‘Flock’ Out Of Here!” – John 10:11-18†


Fourth Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

My third son made his Confirmation in the Catholic Church today.  I am so proud of him.  I pray he, and all my children, find a love, trust, and hope for our faith.

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Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1380 – Death of Catherine of Siena, Italian saint (b. 1347)
†   1429 – Joan of Arc arrives to relieve the Siege of Orléans
†   1670 – Pope Clemens X elected
†   1863 – Birth of Maria Theresa Ledochowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic nun (d. 1922)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Catherine of Siena; Saint Robert (d.1111); Saint Wilfred the Younger; Saint Peter of Verona; Saint Hugh of Cluny

(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: Jesus says that He is the “good shepherd” who knows His sheep.

 

(NAB John 10:11-18) 11 I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  12 A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.  13 This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.  14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.  16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.  17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.  This command I have received from my Father.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The fourth Sunday of Easter is also called “Good Shepherd” Sunday.  Unless we consider this 10th chapter in the greater context of John’s Gospel, we will miss the radical nature of the statement Jesus makes when He declares Himself to be the “Good Shepherd”.  Today’s reading follows Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the rejection of this miracle by the Jewish Pharisees and leaders, who questioned Jesus’ authority to heal.  Jesus responds to this challenge by calling Himself the “Good Shepherd”.  In doing so, He criticized the Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders.  The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders became so angry that they attempt to stone and arrest Jesus (cf., John 10:31,39).  This controversy with the religious leaders will, from this point on, continue and grow in intensity until Jesus’ arrest and public death.

In today’s reading, Jesus describes His relationship with His followers as similar to the relationship between a “good shepherd” and His sheep.  As a good shepherd will risk and lay down his life in order to protect his sheep, Jesus willingly sacrifices Himself for the good and welfare of His sheep.  Jesus contrasts His actions of the “good shepherd” with the actions of the “hired shepherd” who abandons the sheep in the face of danger.  In today’s Gospel reading, we learn the Pharisees and the other religious leaders understand that Jesus is referring to them when He describes the “hired shepherds”. (he, he, he)

The “good shepherd” figure is allegorical (figurative or symbolic) in origin.  Jesus loved parables, and also loved using allegory to explain the unexplainable.  Like a parent trying to teach conceptual ideas to a toddler, He uses simple words to project a picture in our own minds of what He means to convey.  I believe that even with these simple teaching tools and tricks, there is no way we, as sinful human beings, can ever grasp the true meaning of what Jesus knows, and ties to express to His original audience, and to us.  Only after this existence on earth, when our permanent address changes for the last time (how’s that for allegory), will we truly, completely, and fully know what He knows, and wants to impart to us.  I can sum up my eagerness and desire for the true meaning of Jesus’ “Words” as a present sitting under a tree, anticipating the day it can be opened and revealed to me.  All I can do is have faith, have hope, and have trust!  (And, I do!  I believe in the Gospel of Jesus and in the Jesus of the Gospel!)  

There is truly so much hidden – – in the words of today’s reading.  John loves to use what I call “word gems” to get across a meaning so rich, and having so many layers.  Thus, I truly believe he satiates every bible scholars, and every casual reader’s, interest in delving into the Holy Scriptures.  For this purpose, I will be looking at each sentence individually and sometimes even words individually, in order to peel away as many layers as possible for this short Gospel reflection.  So, hang-on – – for it’s going to be a fun ride perusing both Old and New Testaments, and pursuing the meaning and understanding of both Old and New COVENANTS of our magnificent Lord, Creator, and “Good Shepherd”.

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In the very first verse of today’s reading, Jesus says:

I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11).

Jesus, through John, is referring to two “word gems” in the Old Testament book of Isaiah; and at what John would write, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the last book of the Holy Bible, The Revelation of Jesus Christ:

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, Carrying them in his bosom, leading the ewes with care.” (Isaiah 40:11);

And,

For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17).

Jesus Christ is OUR true and loving shepherd, always watching over and caring for us, His flock.  He “laid down His life for us”, and gathers His flock, STILL TODAY, leading ALL to His heavenly pasture.  (The Holy Eucharist Worship??)

The actions of the “good shepherd” are based upon the relationship between the shepherd and each of His sheep.  This IS the core difference between the “good shepherd” and the “hired shepherd”.  The “good shepherd” knows (and cares for) every sheep, every lamb, personally, uniquely, and intimately; therefore he acts out of love.  For Him, this is never simply “part of a job” – – it is “love-in-action”.  This “love-in-action” is truly at the heart of His identity.  Just as the sheep are known by the “Good Shepherd”, so too God the Father knows Jesus, AND, Jesus knows God the Father.  There is an essential unity between the Father and the Son made clearer in John’s understanding of who, and what, Jesus truly was then, and still is today.  The freedom with which Jesus acts when He lays down His life is rooted in the loving unity He shares with His Father.  (That “loving unity” has a title: the Holy Spirit!)

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The first “word gem” verse (John 10:11) reveals the qualities of the “good shepherd”.  Verse 12 reveals the character of a hireling: someone just “doing the job”, without loving or caring for his “flock”.  It also relates to what happens when we trust anyone other than the “good shepherd”: Jesus, the Messiah.  This “bad shepherd” allegory refers to the “Oracle of the Worthless Shepherd” narratives found in the earlier book of Zechariah:

Ah! my worthless shepherd who forsakes the flock!  May the sword fall upon his arm and upon his right eye; His arm will surely wither, and his right eye surely go blind!” (Zechariah 11:17).

Zechariah goes into great detail about the three shepherds and the destruction of Jerusalem.  Please read the entire parable (cf., Zechariah 11:4-17) to learn more.

In our reading today, Jesus is truly the “good shepherd”!  We can be good shepherds as well, by simply following His model of humility and dedication to The “Word”.  Jesus gave us the commandment:

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13);

John reiterates this command in His first epistle:

The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16).

Jesus promised a happy life without end.  Death would not be the end; but instead, the beginning.  We would know the glory of His everlasting life.  Jesus, as the “good shepherd”, promised a life which was secure.  Nothing will snatch us out of His hand, not even sorrow and death, since He is everlasting life itself.  Our lives are forever truly safe in His hands.  (That’s even better than Allstate.)

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So what does Jesus mean by saying the following in today’s reading:

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”? (John 10:16)

I believe His reference to “other sheep” is a reference to both the “Gentiles” and to “God’s dispersed children” of John 11:

He [Caiaphas, the high priest] prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God” (John 11:51-52).

These “dispersed children” were (and still are) destined to be gathered into “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” Church.  These four adjectives are understood to be the four “pillars” of the Catholic (Universal) Church.  It seems these “dispersed children” were at odds with the first century community of the beloved disciple, John – – and may still be, TODAY, at odds with the “eternal” and true “universal” Church – – the Catholic Church.

Jesus is the shepherd gathering all that have strayed back into one flock.  Remember, from a historical view of first-century Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel had split and separated into two distinct “tribes” related to the main “places” of the “Promised Land”.  Jesus came to gather ALL the “tribes”, composed of ten tribes of the north called Israel, and two major tribes of the south called Judah, along with all other Gentiles, thus making a new and glorious “flock”.  This thought of Jesus Christ gathering everyone is foretold by several Old Testament prophets:

Others will I gather to them besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8);

I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.” (Jeremiah 23:3);

I will appoint one shepherd over them to pasture them, my servant David; he shall pasture them and be their shepherd.” (Ezekiel 34:23);

David my servant shall be king over them; they shall all have one shepherd.  They shall walk in my ordinances, observe my statutes, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 37:24);

And,

“I will gather you, Jacob, each and every one, I will assemble all the remnant of Israel; I will group them like a flock in the fold, like a herd in its pasture; the noise of the people will resound.” (Micah 2:12).

In this context of being the “Good Shepherd”, Jesus also refers to others with whom He desires to share a personal, unique, and intimate relationship.  John truly understood the eventual inclusion of the Gentiles into the Christian community.  Our modern ears may hear relate part of today’s Gospel as a reference to Christian unity in today’s world.  The work of ecumenism (a movement promoting unity between different Christian churches and groups) is to restore unity among all Christians so that we form “one flock” under “one shepherd”, as God the Father desires.

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Jesus came to gather His “flock” knowing that, as a “good shepherd”, He would have to put His own human life in harm’s way to gather and to protect each and every one of His charge’s, ALL of God’s creations.  Jesus, however, came not only to give His life for others, but also to show that our life can be sanctified, made Holy – – “taken up again” – – through the “love” of God the “Father”:

By this ‘will,’ we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10).

John , in today’s reading, reports Jesus as saying:

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my ownI have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.” (John 10:18)

Within a short period of time, Jesus again will be saying a similar phrase to Pilate, at His trial on false (but true?) charges:

Jesus answered [Pilate], “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)

In verse 18, the “power to take it up again”, is a statement which contrasts the role of God the Father as THE capable and competent source and cause of Jesus’ (and ours – eventual) resurrection from the dead to a whole NEW form of eternal life.   This power is testified to by Peter, as Luke reports, in Acts:

God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.”  (Acts) 2:24;

And again:

“All of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10).

And, as Paul proclaims to the Roman Christian community that Jesus was:

“…established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:4);

Concerning the power of Jesus’ “free choice” to lay down His life as an act of personal love and obedience, John felt compelled to add Jesus saying:

This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18)

Jesus was truly doing the “will” of His Father.  Hmm, I wonder whether I can follow His “will” to such an end – – and NEW beginning!!

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To conclude, the words Jesus spoke then upset many of the Jewish leaders.  Some asked, “How could He speak with the same authority which God spoke and claim to be equal with God?” The Pharisees probably thought He must either be insane or divine.    We too are faced with the same choice today.  Either Jesus IS who He claims to be – – the divine Son of God and Savior of the world – – or the world’s greatest persuader of untruths!  

We cannot be indifferent to His claim of authority.  For those who accept Him as Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ offers the peace and security of unending, peaceful, life and joy with His (and ours) God the Father.  Do you have and know the peace and security of a life fully submitted to Jesus?  Do you listen attentively to the voice and “Word” of the “Good Shepherd”?  Let’s “gather” and get the “flock” out of here!

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Reflection Prayer:

Prayer for Generosity

St. Ignatius of Loyola

“Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.  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.

Praying to the Saints

“‘And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not God of the dead, but of the living …’” (Mark 12:26-27) RSV.

“And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living …” (Mark 12:26-27) KJV.

**

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely . . .” (Hebrews 12:1) RSV.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us …” (Hebrews 12:1) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ.  What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time.

She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful and intensely religious person.  Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband.  Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation.

She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer and austerity.  Gradually a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious.  An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life.  Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs.  Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ.  She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374.

Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope.  She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope

In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides.  Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Urban VI and the unity of the Church.  She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony.  She died surrounded by her “children.”

Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church.  In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy.  Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970.  Her spiritual testament is found in The Dialogue.

Comment:

Though she lived her life in a faith experience and spirituality far different from that of our own time, Catherine of Siena stands as a companion with us on the Christian journey in her undivided effort to invite the Lord to take flesh in her own life.  Events which might make us wince or chuckle or even yawn fill her biographies: a mystical experience at six, childhood betrothal to Christ, stories of harsh asceticism, her frequent ecstatic visions.  Still, Catherine lived in an age which did not know the rapid change of 21st-century mobile America.  The value of her life for us today lies in her recognition of holiness as a goal to be sought over the course of a lifetime.

Quote:

Catherine’s book Dialogue contains four treatises—her testament of faith to the spiritual world.  She wrote, “No one should judge that he has greater perfection because he performs great penances and gives himself in excess to the staying of the body than he who does less, inasmuch as neither virtue nor merit consists therein; for otherwise he would be an evil case, who for some legitimate reason was unable to do actual penance.  Merit consists in the virtue of love alone, flavored with the light of true discretion without which the soul is worth nothing.”

Patron Saint of Europe & Italy

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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Prologue to the
Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule:


 
Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“FedEx or UPS May Have Been Easier, But Not As Fulfilling!” – Matthew 2:1-12†


 

The “Epiphany” of the Lord

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:

 

Blessing of a Home at Epiphany

 

Leader: Peace be to this house.

All: And to all who live here.

Leader: Bless, O Lord, this household and family, and allow all of us who live in this home to find in it a shelter of peace and health.  Inspire each of us to develop our individual talents and to contribute wisdom and good works for the benefit of the whole family.  Make our house a haven for us all, and a place of warmth and caring for all our friends who come to visit us.  Enlighten us with the brilliance of your Epiphany star, so that, as we go into the world, we might clearly see our way to You and discover You in our work and play.  This we ask to your glory and in the power of your kingship. All: For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory now and forever, Amen.

Then, bless the house with the sign of the cross.

After the blessing, the initials of the Magi (traditional names: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) are written with chalk over the main door way of the house, like this: 20 + C + M + B + 12 (the + is a cross; the “12” stands for 2012; change the year accordingly).

Adapted from commonly used parish prayer

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Today in Catholic History:

†   482 – Death of Severinus, German monastery founder/saint, dies
†   1100 – Death of Antipope Clement III (b. 1029)
†   1198 – Death of Coelestinus III (aka, Pope Celestine III), [Giacinto Bobo], pope (1191-98)
†   1198 – Lotario di Segni elected Pope Innocentius III
†   1456 – Death of St Lawrence Justinian, Italian bishop and first Patriarch of Venice (b. 1381)
†   1635 – Birth of Luis Manuel Fernández de Portocarrero, Spanish Archbishop of Toledo (d. 1709)
†   1735 – Birth of John Carroll, American Roman Catholic archbishop (d. 1815)
†   1892 – Death of John Heykamp, old-catholic archbishop of Utrecht, dies at age 67
†   1894 – Birth of St Maximilian Kolbe, Polish martyr (d. 1941)
†   1904 – Pope Pius X banned low cut dresses in the presence of churchmen
†   1905 – Birth of Franjo Cardinal Seper, Croatian Catholic cardinal (d. 1981)
†   1932 – Death of Eurosia Fabris, Italian Catholic (b. 1866) †   Feasts/Memorials: Our Lady of Prompt Succor in the Roman Catholic 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 or Joke of the Day:

 

 “The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Magi seeking out the child Jesus and doing Him homage

 

(NAB Matthew 2:1-12) 1When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the “official” Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Messiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to ‘let His face shine upon’ us through the face of the Mother of God.  We ‘serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.’” (G.K. Chesterton)

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  Historically several moments in Jesus Christ’s early life and earthly ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including His birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, His baptism by His cousin John, and His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.

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In Matthew’s Gospel, the visit of the “Magi” occurs immediately prior to the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  It is apparent Matthew tells a different version (actually, just a different viewpoint or emphasis) of Jesus’ life than what is written in Luke’s Gospel.  Of the infancy narrative – – covering the actual birth of Jesus Christ, – – Matthew barely tells us little more than:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod.” (Matthew 2:1)

Other differences in covering Jesus Christ’s infancy event, between Matthew and Luke, are found in the:

(1) Census being addressed only in Luke’s Gospel, and
(2) Visit of the “Magi” only being confirmed in Matthew’s Gospel (today’s reading).

The future rejection of Jesus by His own people, “Israel”; AND Jesus’ acceptance by the “Gentiles” (the perceived “heathens” by Jewish faithful) are projected backwards (actually, retrojected) into the scene and circumstances of today’s reading.

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If Jesus truly is who He claims to be, “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, and ‘Savior’ of the world”, then why was He not recognized by everyone who hears His “Word” and sees His works?  John the Evangelist states that when Jesus came into the world:

The world knew him not and His own people received him not.” (John 1:10-11)

 Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only the lowly shepherds recognized Him at His birth.  However, some “Magi” also found their way to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn “King” of Israel.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the “great” Messianic King when He appeared.  

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly social order at one time.  However, over a period of time the word became used generally for anyone regarded as having “more than human knowledge” (Hence, the term the term frequently used for them: “Wise Men”).  We get our word “magic” from this root word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (possibly the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were probably astrologers as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others seemingly – – and apparently – – quite easily overlooked.

We know little about the Magi.  We know they came from “the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the star) which was of some type of “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening” across the desert to the little town, Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  In their diligent search these “three Kings” were led to the source of true knowledge — to Jesus Christ, the Light and Wisdom of God the Father.  When they found the newborn King they humbly worshiped Him and gave Him gifts fitting for a “King”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this Messianic King?  It was a confident and assured faith in the promise God the Father gave to send a Redeemer, a “King” who would establish God the Father’s reign of peace and righteousness:

“Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.  This is the name to be given him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

 

We base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the “three gifts”, but the actual number of magi that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us.  My question: Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of “strange landsto represent the Gentiles’ search for a Messianic Savior?  In essence, the Magi represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  In such, they are representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives.

There is a couple of Old Testament verses which may be used to infer the “Magi” as being “kings”.

May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts.  Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day.” (Psalm 72:10, 15)

And,

Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.” (Isaiah 60:6)

These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”.  It was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any ruler’s birth: be it secular or religious.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of the Old Testament story in which Balaam had prophesied:

A star shall advance from Jacob, & a staff shall rise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17)

However, the “starin this case means the Messiah King Himself [Jesus Christ], and not an astronomical happening in the Middle East.

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the “Word” being written in the heavenly stars.  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, who is an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”  However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what” moment upon listening to the “Magi”.  He was confused and concerned about his lack of knowledge AND getting no preemptive warning about this “NEW” king in “his” territory.  He was also concerned about his future welfare, prestige, and life, with a “Messiah” king, again, in “his” territory.  So, he immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to his personal presence. (Hmm, Biblical pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the Temple leaders (the chief priests and Scribes), astrologers, and scientists of his realm had a very strong similarity to the following “Jewish non-biblical legend” (per NAB footnote).  This story is about a child (later learned to be Moses), in which the “sacred scribes” warn the Pharaoh about an imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt.  In this story, the Pharaoh king makes plans to destroy him.  (WOW!!!!  Moses and Jesus have nearly identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is oft called the “New Moses.”)

The “three kings” travel to Bethlehem, from King Herod’s presence, in response to prophetic Hebrew Scriptures, which the “chief priests and scribes” also shared with these first Gentile believers through an unlikely envoy: Herod:

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the childWhen you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:8).

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Let’s Continue.  Verse 11 from today’s reading offers a huge amount to ponder in itself:

And on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.(Matthew 2:11)

These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home, their homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for knowing this “heavenly” announced “God”.  They “followed a star” in pursuit of their personal quest of discovering and knowing true divinity — Jesus Christ.   (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it in Hollywood or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their activity, the three “Magi” serve as a model for contemplative listening.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, their action flowed directly from their personal – – and focused – – discernment of divine guidance.  The “Magi” set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in the star which announced:

The newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

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Can you see the three gifts the “Magi”, brought to the Holy Family, as being a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation history?  I believe the meanings of their gifts are “Christological” (representing the spirit, character, and actions of Jesus Christ) in character, and as found in nature.  “Gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  “Frankincense is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And “Myrrh was used to prepare the dead for burial, and thus offered in anticipation of Jesus’ deathJesus Christ “was”, “is”, and forever “will be”!!

So, “gold”, “frankincense”, and “myrrh” are understood as symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death (for OUR salvation).  In giving these special gifts, the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, to Jesus Christ Himself (and to us through His nature), the “Magi” (those unknown “Gentile” men from foreign lands and cultures) were the first to acknowledge “who” Jesus was [from birth]: our Savior KING!

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know the Godhead (Divine Trinity) personally.  In the story of the “Magi” encountering the infant Jesus, we see God the Father’s personal plan for salvation to ALL nations and ALL peoples.  This divine plan included giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for ALL mankind (even those from far-away lands).  God gave to us His truly and fully – – both human and divine – – personhood (in the singular), – – not solely for just the Jewish faithful, – – but for ALL people everywhere.  

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, they made a gift of their individual, unique, and personal “lives” with each step of their journey in search for the “Messiah King”.  Matthew’s account of this event eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” search and quest:

They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Matthew2:10).

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires to meet this singular “King of Kings”.

 

And, after giving homage and gifts to the newborn infant “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them, in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod and “they departed for their country by another way“:

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way” (Matthew 2:12).

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Faith is an entirely free gift that God the Father makes and imparts to us.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – who moves the individuals heart and opens the individuals soul and mind – – that we are able to understand, to accept, and to believe the real divine “truth” which the Godhead reveals to us personally, and uniquely.  With “trust”, “love”, and “faith”, OUR human will and intellect cooperate with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace(Thomas Aquinas).

To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  In the encounter of the Magi “Wise Men” “Kings” – – with and towards Jesus Christ – – we see the divine plan of God the Father giving His only-begotten Son as the Messiah King and Savior, – – not just for the Jewish people – – but for ALL the nations and ALL peoples.  Jesus Christ came so both Jew and Gentile might find true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND each other.  

Т

In conclusion, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed by some to have been established in the gift giving of the “Magi”.  For this reason, in many cultures, even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on Christmas Day.  This makes me think, we should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES”!!  Our three “special” gift offerings should be praise, adoration, and thanksgiving for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do in our lives!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  Interiorly (and exteriorly), how can we offer our very “selves” more fully to God the Father’s love and personal plan He has for each of us, personally and collectively?  

My question to each of you: Do you truly bring Jesus Christ to others in your personal path of life?  Do you actively “LOOK” for Jesus Christ in others you encounter along your path of life, especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?  God loves it so dearly when we speak “Words” of love, and perform acts of blessing, hope, and encouragement as the norm instead of the exception.  He rejoices when our “Words” and actions help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes and trees of immense size.  (So, become the “spice” of life; enhance the flavor of God’s working in, with, and through you to OTHERS!)

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift giving”.  What was the best gift you have ever received, and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that making it special, was it the thought that went into it, or even the person who gave it to you making it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress.)  Do you bring the “light of Jesus Christ to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impart” to others throughout your personal and public path in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of their personal journeys path of life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” in search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

“Father,
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven
by the light of faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen”

The Liturgy of the Hours

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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.

 

Faith and Works

 

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James. 2:17). RSV

So faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.(James. 2:17). KJV

*

 “Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? (James. 2:20). RSV

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James. 2:20). KJV

*

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Maximilian Kolbe

OFM Conventional (8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941)
Feastday: August 14

 

Maximilian was born in 1894 in Poland and became a Franciscan.  He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. Before his ordination as a priest, Maximilian founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Our Lady.  After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled “The Knight of the Immaculata” and helped form a community of 800 men, the largest in the world.

Maximilian went to Japan where he built a comparable monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement.  In 1936 he returned home because of ill health.  After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time.  But in 1941 he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

On July 31, 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner’s escape, ten men were chosen to die. Father Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father.  And he was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect.  He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. His feast day is August 14th.

from Wikipedia:

Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity.  He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.  Pope John Paul II declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.

In Italian he is known as “San Massimiliano Maria Kolbe”; his given name in Polish is “Maksymilian”, in French, “Maximilien”.

Due to his efforts to promote Consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.

From “Catholic Online” Website
http://www.catholic.org/saints

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Our Mother Mary

Reflect on the following Franciscan prayer”

Antiphon to Mary

“Holy Virgin Mary, among women there is no one like you born into the world: you are the daughter and the servant of the most high and supreme King and Father of heaven: you are the mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ, you are the spouse of the Holy Spirit.  Pray for us with Saint Michael and the Archangel and all the powers of the heavens and all the saints to your most holy beloved Son, the Lord and Master. Amen”

 

What points of honor does Saint Francis call our attention to in his esteem of Mary? … And, in this antiphon?

Do you know how often this Antiphon to Mary was indicated to be used by the friars?

What does our SFO Rule, article 9 tell us?

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 8 & 9 of 26:

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

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

Т

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

 

“Judge Me Not – – Um, – – Actually, Please Judge Me Lord!” – Matthew 25:31-46†


 

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Last Sunday of Ordinary Time for Liturgical Year

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

  

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

One week to the beginning of the Advent Season.  What are your plans to make this Advent personally special and more faith fulfilling for you?  Let me know.

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   284 – Diocletian was chosen as Roman Emperor.
†   1168 – Giovanni di Struma elected “anti-Pope”
†   1342 – Pope Clemens VI names John IV of Arkel as Bishop of Utrecht
†   1437 – Death of Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, cardinal and lord chancellor; excommunicated, reinstated by anti-pope John XXIII (b. 1363)
†   1529 – Death of Karl von Miltitz, papal nuncio to Germany and envoy of Pope Leo X to Martin Luther
†   1621 – Birth of Avvakum, Russian priest and writer (d. 1682)
†   1761 – Birth of Pope Pius VIII, [Francesco S Castiglioni], Italy, 253rd Pope (1829-30)
†   1778 – Death of Francesco Cetti, Italian Jesuit Jesuit priest, zoologist and mathematician (b. 1726)
†   1890 – Pope Leo XIII publishes encyclical on slavery in missions
†   1934 – Birth of Valentine J Peter, Omaha Nebraska, priest (Boy’s Town 1985- )
†   1942 – Birth of Paulos Faraj Rahho, Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Bishop (d. 2008)
†   1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Mediator Dei”, suggesting new directions and active participation instead of a merely passive role of the faithful in the liturgy, in liturgical ceremonies and in the life of their parish.

(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:

 

“Every time a parent and child ‘express their love and care for one another,’ wherever that may happen, our world has become a little more perfect.” ~ Chris Lowney, “Heroic Living”, Loyola Press

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that when the Son of Man comes in glory, He will judge the nations, separating the sheep from the goats.  (Judgment of Nations)

  

(NAB Matthew 25:31-46) 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’  37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’  40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel passage is the conclusion of Jesus’ teaching discourse with His disciples.  The topic is about the “end of time”, – – the coming of the Son of Man, – – and the Final Judgment: the “Parousia”.  We are hearing today, this description of this “changing” event, at the conclusion of our present liturgical year, “the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King”.  Next week starts a new Liturgical year in the Catholic Church (Cycle “B’, using Mark’s Gospel predominately).  With the ending of Matthew’s Gospel, today’s passage might also be read as a wrapping up of Matthew’s account and testimony on Jesus’ life and ministry as well.  The remaining chapters go on to tell the events of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.

Do you remember last Sunday’s parable of “the Talents”?  It goes along with today’s narrative.  The “Talents” parable, along with today’s reading, teaches us that the gifts and graces we have been given are intended to be used for the service of others, especially the least among us.  Our final judgment before God will be based not only on how we have used these gifts and talents, but also on how we have extended ourselves in service to these least ones of His creations.  In fact, Jesus tells us that whenever we have served “these least ones”, we have served Jesus Christ Himself.  How awesome is that fact!!  (As much as we might like to judge the parables, the parables, nonetheless, judge us as well.) 

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Today’s narrative of Jesus, which is distinctive only to Matthew’s Gospel, portrays the “Final Judgment” that will accompany the “Parousia”.  Although most people call today’s reading a “parable,” it really isn’t a parable, per se.  The only elements of a parable are the 1) depiction of the “Son of Man” as a “shepherd”, and 2) of the “righteous” and the “wicked” as “sheep” and “goats” respectively (Matthew 25:32–33).  

In today’s reading, Jesus describes to His disciples the scene of the Final Judgment of the “Son of Man”, Jesus Christ.  “All the nations” will be assembled before Him, and He will separate them as a shepherd separates sheep and goats upon their return from the pasture.  The “Final Judgments” made by Jesus Christ, will be based upon the acts of mercy shown to the least ones: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned.  Without a doubt, Jesus Himself, – – who suffered through His scourging, and who died a painful death on the Holy Cross, – – identified (and still identifies) Himself with the “least ones” of His flock.  The decisive factor of “judgment” will be the deeds of mercy that have been done for the least of Jesus’ brothers (Matthew 25:40).  

A difficult and important question is how we identify these “least brothers”.  Are they “all people” who have suffered hunger, thirst, etc. (Matthew 25:35-36) or a particular group of such sufferers?  Bible scholars even seem to be divided in their response to this question.  Arguments can be realistically made for either side of the question.  For me, it seems a stronger case can be made for Matthew’s view being that the sufferers are his “Christians”, and probably Christian the missionaries whose sufferings were the result of their preaching of the Gospel.  The measurable criterion of judgment for “all the nations” (verse 32) is revealed by their treatment of those who have heard the message of Jesus Christ, and their ultimate acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ Himself:

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40).

So, I think Jesus meant, by saying, “all the nations will be assembled before him”, a reference to the time before the Parousia event when ALL will hear (and thus be responsible) for God’s message:

This Gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14).

Wow!  This means the “Gentiles and Samaritans” will be judged on their response to His “Word” as well.  The phrase “all the nations” includes the Jewish people AND non-Jewish peoples who will be brought to His throne at the “Final Judgment”:

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

 Т

Goats are animals that will consume ANYTHING.  Jesus states that the “Goats”, will be placed to the left – – not an honorable position.  In verse 41, Jesus says:

Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  (Matthew 25:41) 

The “accursed” (Matthew 25:41) – -the “goats” of today’s reading, will be surprised and dumbfounded that their neglect of “the sufferers” was also – – at the same time – – neglect of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  Furthermore, they will receive – – from Jesus Christ Himself – –  a similar response at the “Final Judgment”:  separation from His kingdom.

 

Jesus’ story about the separation of goats and sheep must have unsettled His audience, nearly everyone either being shepherds or related in some way to shepherds.  In the barren and parched lands of Palestine, goats and sheep often grazed together during the day because green pasture was sparse indeed.  These animals were only separated at night, as goats apparently need shelter.  Goats were also less submissive and meek; more often “on edge” than sheep are.  Goats even came to symbolize evil, and the expression “scapegoat” has become a common expression for someone who is made to take the blame for others. 

There is even an Old Testament passage eluding to this “scapegoat” expression, and of the ritual expulsion of the “sin-bearing” goat on the Jewish “Day of Atonement” (Yom Kippur):

When he has finished purging the inner sanctuary, the tent of meeting and the altar, Aaron shall bring forward the live goat.  Laying both hands on its head, he shall confess over it all the iniquities of the Israelites and their trespasses, including all their sins, and so put them on the goat’s head.  He shall then have it led into the wilderness by an attendant.  The goat will carry off all their iniquities to an isolated region.” (Leviticus 16:20-22)

Jesus is telling us that separation is an inevitable consequence of His judgment.  The Day of “Final Judgment” will reveal who showed true compassion and mercy toward their neighbor (the sheep), and those who have not (the goat).  

Т

At any banquet of Jesus’ time, the preferred place of honor was ALWAYS to the right of the host.  In today’s reading, the “sheep” will be placed in the place of honor at God’s heavenly banquet.  This expression of the “place of honor” can be seen throughout Holy Scripture, and medieval art.  In the famous painting of the last supper, Simon Peter was immediately to the right of Jesus.  St. Dismas, the good thief, is shown crucified to the right of Jesus Christ.  And Jesus’ throne in Heaven is to the right of God the Father:

“From this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” (Luke 22:69)

This right hand “place of honor” is so important of a position that ONLY God the Father can grant such a place hold:

My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left [, this] is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matthew 20:23)

Т

So, what are we to “DO” to gain entrance to His kingdom?  Jesus gives more than a hint in verse 35-36:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36) 

The Church calls the actions that Jesus described in today’s Gospel the “Corporal Works of Mercy”.  These works are:

  1. Feed the hungry
  2. Give drink to the thirsty
  3. Clothe the naked
  4. Shelter the homeless
  5. Visit the sick
  6. Visit those in prison
  7. Bury the dead

The “righteous” will be amazed to know that in caring for the needs of “sufferers”, they were actually ministering to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as well.  We have to remember the famous verse from Matthew 10:

Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42).

 Jesus Christ is going even further in saying:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40)

Not only are we to see Jesus in all who we meet, we also “DO” to Jesus whatever we “DO” to each and every person we see.  Hmm, what does that mean when you curse at someone, “flip the bird” at another, or do something immoral or inappropriate toward a neighbor, friend, or family member? (You know the answer!)

Jesus is teaching us a very important lesson about loving our neighbor and taking responsibility for others as a role we should endeavor in as faithful Catholics.  God will judge us not only for the wrong we have done, but also for what we have failed to do!! 

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Verse 41 of today’s reading has a scary and prophetic message for all of us, especially thegoats” among us.  I personally do not like the hot weather of St. Louis summers, so this image of a “fiery” hell truly scares me.  This image scared the Jewish people as well.  1 Enoch 10:13 (an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally attributed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah) says of the evil angels and their leader:

When their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgment and of their consummation, till the judgment that is forever and ever is consummated.  In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined forever.  And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all.” (1 Enoch 10:12-14)

I highly recommend a book titled, “23 minutes in Hell”, written by Bill Wiese.  It is an extremely eye opening personal account of someone given the “grace” of being placed at the entrance to hell for a very short period.   Not an enjoyable “read”, but well worth the time.  It may literally scare “the hell” out of you!!

Is there an example of how to live this “doing” to others?  Well, when Saint Martin of Tours, a young Roman soldier from the 4th century AD, met an unclothed man begging for alms in the freezing cold, he did an unbelievable thing for that time period.  He stopped at the man, cut his coat in two, and gave half to the stranger.  That night he dreamt he saw the heavenly court with Jesus robed in a torn cloak.  One of the angels asked Jesus, “Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?”  Jesus replied, “My servant ‘Martin’ gave it to me.”  Martin’s disciple and biographer, Sulpicius Severus, states that as a consequence of this vision, Martin “flew to be baptized”. 

 

In the chapters that follow, in Matthew’s Gospel, we learn the great and boundless extent to which Jesus Christ identifies with the least ones; to the point of giving up His life for the least among us.  In accepting a horrible and excruciating death on the cross, Jesus Christ shows Himself to be one of the hungry, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned.  To accept Jesus IS to accept Him – – who suffered and died on the Cross –as one of the least ones.

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To conclude, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that we will be judged on only one thing: one’s acts of mercy, which we have shown to the least among us.  Knowing the answers will not suffice; “DOING” the answers is all that counts!!  Jesus identifies with the least ones; thus we serve Him whenever we serve one of the least ones!!  In these actions, these “Corporal Works of Mercy”, we show God’s compassion and mercy to those “least one’s” in need of faith, hope, and love.

God’s boundless love compels us to treat others with mercy and kindness.  When we do something for one of Christ’s least and marginalized ones, we do it for Christ Himself.  Do you treat your neighbor with mercy and love – – as Jesus Christ has treated you?

Reread the list of the “Corporal Works of Mercy” mentioned earlier.  What are some concrete examples of how you might “DO” these actions in your community?  Why is it important that we “DO” these things, especially for others?  Why does Jesus say we ought to – – need to – – DO these works of mercy?  (The answer is simply because whenever we show mercy to another person, we are also showing mercy to Jesus himself.)  Choose one “Corporal Work of Mercy” to “DO” this week; then add to it each week.  Pray that you will always see, and always serve, Jesus Christ in the least and marginalized ones among us.

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Love

“O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of those whom I have injured.  Amen.”

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The Glory to God (Gloria) has been significantly changed, with more words and many lines rearranged.

The Gloria

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the father,
have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One.
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the Glory of God the Father.
Amen.

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

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Edmund Rich (1175 – 1240)

 

Archbishop of Canterbury England, who battled for discipline and justice, also called Edmund of Abingdon.  Edmund was born in Abingdon, Oxfordshire on November 30, 1180.  He studied at Oxford, England, and also in Paris, France.  He taught art and mathematics at Oxford and was eventually ordained to the priesthood.  

He spent eight years teaching theology and became Canon and treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral.  An eloquent speaker, Edmund preached a crusade for Pope Gregory IX and was named archbishop of Canterbury.  He became an advisor to King Henry III and presided in 1237 at Henry’s ratification of the Great Charter.  When Cardinal Olt became a papal legate with the patronage of King Henry, Edmund protested.  

A long-lasting feud between Edmund, the king, and his legate led him to resigning his See in 1240.  He went to Pontigny, France, where he became a Cistercian Priest.  He died at Soissons, on November 16, 1240.  Edmund was canonized in 1246 or 1247.  A hall in Oxford still bears his name.

Patron of: Abingdon, Oxfordshire; Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth; St Edmund’s College, Cambridge

Information from Wikipedia

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and His Message

 

If Saint Francis were writing a letter to your local SFO Fraternity, what do you think he would include in that letter? – Make a list.

Using this idea, can you make up a letter from Saint Francis to your Fraternity?

What inspiration(s) have you found in the letters of St. Francis?  (If you haven’t. you should.)

  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 20 & 21 of 26:

 

20.  The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international.  Each one has its own moral personality in the Church.  These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

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21.  On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.

“There are Good Sheep, and there are ‘BAAA’-d Sheep!” – John 10:1-10 †


 

“Good Shepherd Sunday”

The fourth Sunday of the Easter

 

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:

Please keep me in your prayers today.  After three years of formation, I am “Professing” in the Franciscan Order of, and for, “Seculars”.  This will be my final “Rite of Commitment to the Gospel Life” in the Secular Franciscan Order.  This Sacramental will be within the Mass; and within, though, for, and with the Holy Spirit in my soul, mind, heart, and body in a very unique covenant with our Almighty and Magnificent Lord Jesus Christ.

After much contemplation, meditation, and prayer, my journey has come to a point of wanting to be fully immersed in the Holy Spirit as our Order’s Seraphic Father, – – St. Francis, – – showed to his brothers and sisters in Christ.  My journey of faith has been fruitful, emotional, exciting, thought-provoking, and divinely inspiring.

I want to thank a few people for assisting me with the special journey I took to get to this point – – and a journey I will continue for the rest of my life.

First, I want to express gratitude to my wife and Sons.  They have put up with a lot of strong emotions and turmoil from me at times over the past couple of years (for which I am truly sorry).  I love them so dearly. Next, I want to thank my SFO Fraternity (Our Lady of Angels), my Regional Fraternity (St. Clare), and all the people that I have come to know as dear friends and a true “family”.  We have had our times of frustrations, short tempers, and concerns.  (I am rather stubborn at times after all – however, I know most people would never believe this [hee, hee]).  As in any family, these sad and distressing periods only highlight and enlighten the love, trust, and respect which emanates when we are together as a group.

It is important for me to give a special thanks to a dear friend, confidant, and journey partner: my “Spiritual Director”, John Hough.  Though his education, philosophy, and theology is Jesuit-based (Sorry St. Francis), no one could have done a better job in walking with me on my formation path, truly holding me up at times (an achievement in itself), and helping me to grow in the love and awe of God’s Word – – Holy Scripture, Church teachings, and traditions.  And, I also want to thank John for helping me to understand my unique role in His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  John, I love our four hour breakfasts/talks at McDonalds each and every Saturday morning.  It is quite interesting to see individual’s reactions when they see two middle-aged Catholic men, with Bibles open on the table (next to the coffee and Egg McMuffin), discussing matters of faith and Scripture.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to unendingly thank, praise, and adore my God in the Holy Trinity: Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I surrender my “self”, – – my “ALL”, – – to You and to Your “will”.  As St. Francis joyously proclaimed throughout his entire earthly life:

“My God and My ALL!”

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter is always Good Shepherd Sunday in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar Sunday.  The name “Good Shepherd” derives from the Gospel reading on this day, which is also always taken from the 10th chapter of John.  In this reading, Christ is described as the “Good Shepherd” who, by dying on the Cross, lays down His life for His sheep.

Recently, today’s Feast Day has also become known as “Vocations Sunday”, a day in which prayers should be said for vocations to the priesthood and religious life by the Catholic faithful.  This also includes praying for me and other Catholic brothers and sisters who seek a more intimate and formally “consecrated” manner of living out our faith, our hope, and our love for the Holy One of Israel, our Lord, Savior, and friend, Jesus Christ.  That’s why I am asking you, my dear readers, and thanking you for praying for me and my brethren in the Secular Order of St. Francis of Assisi.  Thank you ALL!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Shepherd_Sunday

 

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Today in Catholic History:

†   884 – Death of Marinus I, [Martinus II], Pope (882-84)
†   913 – Death of Hatto I, Archbishop of Mainz (present day Germany)
†   1252 – Pope Innocent IV issues the papal bull “ad exstirpanda“, which authorizes the torture of heretics in the Medieval Inquisition.
†   1608 – Birth of René Goupil, French Catholic missionary (Canadian Martyrs) (d. 1642)
†   1665 – Pope Alexander VII proclaims the theology of Fr. Jansen as heretical (called Jansenism).  Jansenism emphasized predestination, denied free will, and maintained that human nature is incapable of good.
†   1773 – Death of Alban Butler, English Catholic priest and writer (b. 1710)
†   1800 – Pope Pius VII calls on French bishops to return to Gospel principles
†   1891 – Pope Leo XIII publishes encyclical “Rerum novarum“, the first document of the Catholic Social Teaching tradition.
†   1912 – Alexis Kagame, Rwanda, priest/writer
†   1931 – Pope Pius XI publishes encyclical “Quadragesimo anno” discusses the ethical implications of the social and economic order.
†   1948 – Death of Edward Flanagan, American priest and founder of Boys Town (b. 1886)
†   1961 – Pope John XXIII publishes encyclical “Mater et Magistra”  (Mother and Teacher) on the topic of “Christianity and Social Progress”.
†   Feast/Memorials: Saint Achillius; Saint Isidore the Labourer; Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle; Saint Reticius; Saint Denise; Saint Dymphna; In the Coptic Church: Athanasius of Alexandria

(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 BEING the gate for His sheep.

(NAB John 10:1-10) 1 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.  2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.  7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  8 All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

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What do you know about sheep and shepherds?  Realize that shepherds and sheep have a very close, unique, and personal relationship with each other.  Still to this day, sheep only follow their own shepherd; they recognize his voice – – his word – – and will not follow a stranger.  The shepherd’s job is to protect his sheep, even with his life if necessary.  In some ways, the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep is like that of a parent and child (God the Father, and His children on earth).  In Jesus Christ, our personal “Good Shepherd”, we find protection from our dangers, and the reward of an abundant and everlasting life with and in Him.

The fourth Sunday of the Easter season is called “Good Shepherd Sunday”.  In each of the three lectionary cycles (A, B, and C), the Gospel reading invites us yearly to reflect on Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”.  In each cycle the reading is from the same tenth chapter of John’s Gospel.  This tenth chapter sets the framework and basis for Jesus’ teaching about Himself as the “Good Shepherd”, leading us, – – His sheep, – – to paradise in His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  Today’s Gospel reading falls between the stories of Jesus’ curing the man born blind (chapter 9), and the resurrection of His dead friend, Lazarus (chapter 11).  Both of these “bookend” Gospel stories were just proclaimed during this year’s Lenten Season.

Following the controversy which ensued when He healed the man born blind, Jesus directs His “figment of speech” about “the sheep and the shepherd” towards the Jewish religious leaders listening to Him: specifically, the Pharisees.

The Pharisees believed in a “divine origin” of creation, found in the Jewish Scriptures known to us as the “Torah.”  The Pharisees also believed in the oral traditions received from Moses, Joshua, and the “Elders”.  Pharisees had a belief in the resurrection of the dead (unlike the Sadducees), and were intensely devoted to the “Mosaic Law”, both written and oral (again, unlike the Sadducees).  Most scholars believe that the other Temple Leadership faction, a group called the “Scribes” and who were considered experts in Mosaic Law, also belonged predominantly to this Pharisaic “party” of Temple leaders.

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Before we  dive into today’s reading, and pull away the layers of meaning hidden yet needing to be exposed with the help of the Holy Spirit, I need to explain the concept (for me, at least) of the repeated words, stressing a particular point.

Whenever Jesus says, “AMEN, AMEN”, I believe He is saying to us:

Yo, LISTEN to me.  I am about to say something very important and profound.  Open those ears and shut those mouths!!”

(Trivia time:  “Amen, amen” is said 13 times in the New Testament, all in John’s Gospel: Chapters 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 21.  The repeated word combination – – “Amen, amen” – – is used three times in the Old Testament: Numbers 5, Nehemiah 8, and Tobit 8).  Each time it is used by the writer or speaker to declare that what follows is a true teaching from God.

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Jesus Christ was not the first to use the metaphor of a “Good Shepherd” in teaching about God’s kingdom.  Jeremiah (a seldom read book of the Old Testament) criticized, and spoke against, the Kings and priests (also described as “shepherds”) who let go, – – or even led – – their “sheep”, astray.  Jeremiah wrote:

“The priests asked not, ‘Where is the LORD?’  Those who dealt with the law knew me not: the shepherds rebelled against me.  The prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after useless idols.”  (Jeremiah 2:8);

But then, God promises:

I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently.” (Jeremiah 3:15).

He then goes on to say, referring to the false shepherd in Jeremiah 2: (above):

“Yes, the shepherds were stupid as cattle, the LORD they sought not; Therefore they had no success, and all their flocks were scattered.” (Jeremiah 10:21);

In God’s name, Jeremiah promised “new shepherds” who would graze their flocks properly so that they will never be harassed or anxious again:

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.  Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.  You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deedsI myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply.  I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.  Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:1-6).

Another prophet, Isaiah, even wrote of the “Good Shepherd”:

Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!  Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!  Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.  Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care. (Isaiah 40:9-11).

And finally, Ezekiel censured false “shepherds” for their misdeeds and laziness, their greed and neglect of their responsibility:

Thus the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, in these words prophesy to them (to the shepherds): Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves!  Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?  You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured.  You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts.  My sheep were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; my sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them.  Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep; because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD.” (Ezekiel 34:1-9)

(WOW!!  What a scene.  Does any of this possibly sound familiar to you recently?)

The motif of a “shepherd” was not only related by the prophets, but also used for “Yahweh” – – God Himself – – throughout the Old Testament:

“Then he blessed them with these words: ‘May the God in whose ways my fathers’ Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day.’”  (Genesis 48:15);

“Each one’s bow remained stiff, as their arms were unsteady, By the power of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel(Genesis 49:24).

The special King of Israel, David, saying this song, remembers his early days shepherding in the hills of Israel.  This is what David sang:

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.”  (Psalm 23:1-4);

Shepherd of Israel, listen, guide of the flock of Joseph! From your throne upon the cherubim reveal yourself.” (Psalm 80:2);

And, a later prophet said this addressing God:

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, that dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.” (Micah 7:14).

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The 23rd Psalm is one of the most beloved Psalms expressing our fundamental and  necessary trust in Jesus Christ, who leads us always from dark and difficult places and into the light of His presence, the majestic peace of rest in His kingdom (our true Easter faith).

The 23rd Psalm is not the only portions in Holy Scripture to talk so eloquently about the Shepherd who will rescue from darkness and bring to restful pastures.  Later, the prophet Ezekiel wrote:

“For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.  I will lead them out from among the peoples and gather them from the foreign lands; I will bring them back to their own country and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel (in the land’s ravines and all its inhabited places).”  (Ezekiel 34:11-13).

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Today, in this Gospel reading, Jesus again presents Himself as THE promised “Shepherd”, who looks after His sheep, seeks out strays, cures the
crippled, and carries the weak on His shoulders:

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in
search of the stray
?  And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not strayIn just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14);

And Luke also writes:

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you; in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).

In addition to the title, “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ attaches to Himself the image of the “gate”, and “door” into the “sheepfold”, we now know as the Catholic Church.  As Vatican II teaches:

The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ (John 10:1-10).  It is a flock of which God Himself foretold He would be the shepherd (Cf., Isaiah 40:11; Exodus 34:11ff.), and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds; are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds (cf., John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:4), who gave His life for the sheep (cf., John 10:11-15).” (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 6, 11/21/1964).

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The “Good Shepherd” discourse is a continuation of the confrontation with the Pharisees described in John 9 (the blind man cured).  Since the image of the “Good Shepherd” is figurative, then the “hired hands” would, in fact, be Pharisees who had just excommunicated the cured blind man (cf., John 9).  Today’s reading serves as a commentary on the “cured blind man” story told in this chapter.

Throughout John’s Gospel, the Pharisees (along with the Scribes and Sadducees) failed to accept Jesus’ ministry and teaching, either out of fear, ignorance, or greed.  They showed themselves to be “thieves and robbers” (verse 1) because they tried to lead the “sheep” without themselves entering through the “gate” – – Jesus Christ.

“Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1)

Through the use of this metaphor, Jesus is telling His listeners that those who follow Him and His “way” will find an abundant and glorious life in paradise.  Jesus Christ identified “Himself” both as the “Good Shepherd”, the “door”, and the “gate” of the single, true “sheepfold”.  Still today, the current shepherds of the current sheepfold (Catholic Bishops and the Pope, making up the “Magisterium”: the teaching authority) who are faithful to Him are the ones whom the sheep (Jesus’ disciples – – US) should follow, as faithful sheep follows their shepherd.

We all have “closed doors” in our lives, places we do not wish to enter.  Places inside ourselves where we do not want to go, out of fear and hurt.  Behind these “doors” are things like old hurts, previous and present addictions and health concerns, strong hatreds, personal fears.

Jesus is telling us that He can lead each of us through His “gate”, as each one of us is a much loved part of His flock.  Jesus Christ can lead each of us, personally and individually, through the “closed doors” in our lives – – those places where there is trouble, – – so we can deal with those issues with His support, help, and love: His grace.  Jesus doesn’t stop at just opening up the “doors” of our lives: He also leads us out again, into His kingdom on earth.

As our true “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ NEVER leaves us.  In today’s Gospel reading, He is telling each if us: Don’t be afraid”!!

Jesus, our loving “Good Shepherd”, will always furnish, through the Holy Spirit indwelling within each and every one of us, all that is necessary to do God’s will:

“May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus our Lord, furnish us with all that is good, so that we may do His will.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

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A “Sheepfold” is a low stone wall opened to the sky.  It is simply a pen for sheep.  Other names for a “sheepfold”, in modern language can be “a folding” or sheepcote.  The image represented in today’s reading for the “sheepfold” is, in reality, God’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ’s metaphor about the relationship between sheep and their shepherd is based on the concept of familiarity.  So familiar was the shepherd and his sheep, that each was called by a distinct name.  Sheep recognized, and loved, their specific shepherd.  They would not follow a stranger shepherd arbitrarily.  At the end of a day grazing in the field, shepherds (still to this day) lead their sheep from pastures to a common gated
area called a “sheepfold”.  One shepherd is chosen to protect all of the community’s sheep until the next morning when each flock’s shepherd would return to lead his designated sheep to pasture again.  As shepherds move among sheep, the sheep follow only their shepherd by recognizing and following his voice – – his words.

In the winter the sheep were usually brought into a communal shelter, locked and kept secure by a guardian shepherd, usually positioned at the “gate”.  He was literally the door through which the sheep had to pass.

Each Shepherd had a distinctive call, which only his sheep would recognize and follow.  Do you believe that you have the potential of becoming this familiar in recognizing Jesus Christ’s voice?  Can you quickly discern His voice, His call, from other voices in the world?  Well, you certainly can: the gift of discernment.  This gift is the ability to make good judgments; it is every disciple’s bequest in and through Jesus Christ; it is developed as we imitate His first followers who:

“… devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42).

Paying close attention to Holy Scripture and Church teachings can help us recognize God’s “voice” and the nature of details He might be telling us:

Be attentive to him and heed his voice.  Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin.  My authority resides in him.” (Exodus 23:21)

Fellowship with other followers of Jesus Christ can build us up, helping us to see and understand whether our thoughts and actions are on target with God’s will, or not.  Fellow disciples of Jesus Christ can listen to your ideas and opinions, and advise us whether they think an idea or opinion is sound or not.

Our personal prayer can become an awesome conversation when we learn to “hear” the voice of God, who loves us above all His creations.  The Eucharist can become an intimate, cherished, and loving encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ, who wants to lead us, Himself, into a deeper understanding of His Father’s “will”.

Do not worry about trying to “find” Jesus Christ’s voice within you.  If you simply allow Him to act in and within you, you WILL follow Jesus Christ Himself, intuitively.  You already know His voice:

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

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A shepherd is the leader of a cluster of sheep, called a flock.  They recognize him as their provider, their protector, and their “ALL”Without the shepherd, the “sheep” would no longer be protected, and would succumb to a horrendous death from the evil that follows them (wolves, dogs, and coyotes – – materialism and/or Satan).  These sheep in today’s story follow their human protector, and no other; we “sheep” follow our Divine protector and no other.  Sheep “recognize his voice”, and go where he goes: we “sheep” recognize Jesus Christ’s voice and follow Him, personally and collectively.  We are a “flock”.

In today’s reading, the Pharisees (sheep not of His flock, nor shepherds) do not recognize Jesus.  They do not recognize His voice, His words, or His authority over them.  However, the people of God, as symbolized in today’s story by the blind man and the sheep, do recognize Jesus’ voice, His words, and His authority over us.

Jesus uses the image of the shepherd’s voice being recognized by the sheep to teach a divine truth: since there are “strange” voices surrounding and constantly calling to us (evil), we need to know and recognize the “voice” of Christ Himself!  His voice is continuing without end, and is addressing us through the “Magisterium” of the Catholic Church.  In following God’s specific voice, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, we are receive all the nourishment and protection our soul needs.

St. Josemaría Escrivá writes eloquently about the flow of grace given to us through the voice of Jesus Christ, in an everlasting way, through the Sacraments:

“Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a flow of grace in the sacraments.  He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way.  There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives a road of faithfulness to God.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ is Passing By, 34).

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We’ve all experienced coming into, and being part of, a group in which we did not know anyone initially.  Perhaps it was simply at a friend’s party, or at a wedding or funeral of a relative or acquaintance.  In such encounters and interactions, we naturally look for a familiar face, and listen for a familiar voice within the group or crowd of individuals.

Jesus Christ came as someone who would be (and still is) with us at every step and turn in our lives.  Even when we feel alone, lost, or confused, He is there.  He wants to be a familiar presence in our lives always; He wants His voice to be the voice which we grow to know well, and hear often.  All we need do is to allow Him to get close, and then listen.

So, listen to Jesus and let His face shine upon you:

Shepherd of Israel, listen, guide of the flock of Joseph!  From your throne upon the cherubim reveal yourself to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.  Stir up your power, come to save us.  O LORD of hosts, restore us; Let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.  May your help be with the man at your right hand, with the one whom you once made strong.  Then we will not withdraw from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.  LORD of hosts, restore us; let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.”  (Psalm 80: 2-4, 18-20)

John says that Jesus used a “Figure of speech” (verse 6) in His teaching of the “Good Shepherd”.  John the Evangelist is simply using a different word or phrase for His descriptive speech than the “parable” of the Synoptic Gospels.  However, the concepts are similar.  In His metaphor, Jesus develops and interprets the image of the “shepherd” and “the flock”, in order to ensure that all who are well-disposed to His teachings can understand the meaning of His discourse.

The Pharisees (and many other Jews) failed to understand Jesus Christ.  Their lack of understanding is nothing new for Jesus.  The same people (Pharisees and other Jews), also failed to understand the Eucharist:

“The Jews murmured about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven,’ and they said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father  and mother?  Then how can he say, “I have come down from heaven”?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Stop murmuring among yourselves. (John 6:41-43);

These same people failed to understand the true meaning of the “living water”:

“Some in the crowd who heard these words said, ‘This is truly the Prophet.’  Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But others said, ‘The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he?  Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’  So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.” (John 7:40-43);

And these same people failed even to understand or believe in the raising of Lazarus from the dead:

 “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:45-46).

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The full power of the “Good Shepherd” image came easily to the first-century Palestine inhabitants.  The Jewish people, most of whom were well acquainted with nomadic shepherds in a country where shepherds were a familiar sight.

The sheep themselves were part of a “nomadic” shepherd’s family.  These animals traveled with the family, from birth to death.  New lambs were continuously being born into the “family” group and flock.  Sights, sounds, and smells of the family, the shepherd, and the flock were familiar to these newborn lambs from the time they are born, bonding them to the shepherd as a baby does to its mother.

From the very beginning of our lives, we come to experience and grow in knowledge of God throughout our lives.  We “see”, “hear”, and “smell” God though our various lessons and interactions of life.  As we grow and age, people “from outside the fold” seem to help us interpret our experiences, and help enhance the “truths” we hold within ourselves.

There is a fine distinction, easily overlooked, in today’s reading.  In John 10:7-8, the figure of Christ is as a “gatefor the shepherd to come to the sheep.  However, in the very next verses, John 10:9-10, the figure is that of a gate for the sheep through which sheep could “come in and go out”.

In verse 7-8, Jesus will readily leave the ninety-nine “sheep” to search for and rescue the “one lost sheep”:

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you; in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).

In verse 9-10, Jesus is also the figure of a “gate” for the sheep to “come in and go out”.  With Jesus Christ as our personal “protector and supplier of all our needs”, we enter into His kingdom, in heaven and on earth.  I see this phrase of “coming and going” as living a proper and morally straight Christian Catholic life in all we do, think, believe, and say.  As a Catholic, we are called to “come” to Him, our shepherd, at His table, to receive Him truly, physically, and spiritually through the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist – – Communion, at every opportunity possible. With Jesus Christ indwelling fully within and though each of us at the dismissal of the Mass, we are told to “go out” to spread the good news, the Word of God:

Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” (St. Francis of Assisi).

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What is the lesson we are to learn in today’s Gospel reading?  I believe it is to “abandon” ourselves to Jesus Christ.  We are taught to say: “Lord, do with me what you will.”  This lesson is emphasized during the Advent Season with Mary saying:

“‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38),

And, continued with Jesus teaching us “how to” pray:

“… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

When one gives oneself to Jesus Christ, that person receives  a “Good Shepherd” who will walk with  them through every rough spot – – and knows he or she is never alone with no  “key” to enter the sheepfold.

What does today’s Gospel  reading mean to me (and to you)?  This is  a question that should be asked any,  and every time one reads Holy Scripture, especially the Gospels.  When reading and meditating on the WORD, one  must keep in mind the history, geography, and society AT THAT TIME, while at  the same time keeping it in perspective with today’s much different world and  society.  We should keep in our minds and  hearts what was meant by the “words” themselves then, and still today.  God’s WORD is truly without end:

The word of the Lord remains forever.”  (1 Peter 1:25)

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Our Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ, promises to go and gather  His sheep, scattered throughout the lands, and bring them back to “good pastures”.   Jesus  Christ is the ONLY source for  forgiveness, redemption, and salvation.   In today’s reading, by referring to the Jewish  teachers and to their traditions, Jesus rejects these “supposedly religious” men  as “thieves and robbers”.

It is so easy to recognize that the “voices” of thieves and  robbers CANNOT bring forgiveness,  redemption, and salvation.  In actuality,  these “thieves and robbers” would be  more than happy to quietly, and sneakily, steal any worthwhile virtues and  divine fortunes you have on your soul.  Please  remember, Jesus is the “Good Shepherd”  who came so that we (His sheep) may have eternal live for eternity in heaven  with Him.  Jesus is the way, truth, and  life!

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I have grown to realize that an individual who belongs to the  “true” Church of Jesus Christ, the Catholic (universal) Church, sometimes seems  to enter into “confinement”, that is, the proverbial “sheepfold”.  Maybe this feeling of confinement is because there  are things one CANNOT do in God’s kingdom.  Maybe one feels their “thinking and beliefs” have been stifled by being  a faithful and pious Catholic Christian.  (Have I peeked your interest in where I am going with this thought  process?)

Jesus Christ’s words are “true” in the Catholic  Church.  One may expect that belonging to  the Catholic Church community means giving up some freedom to think and believe  what one may want.  However, in reality,  the security one can find in the “true” Catholic Church – – founded by Jesus  Christ Himself, – – allows all of us the freedom to dream, to explore, and to  ask questions one possibly could not have ever asked before.  By belonging to a community of Jesus Christ’s  disciples, one can dream even greater dreams and experience a far greater destiny,  regardless of “who” we are in this world.  Jesus Christ has come so that we might have life; He has rescued each of  us; He will nurture each of us; and He will love each of us, as only a “Good Shepherd” can do; and only a “Good Shepherd” does.

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In concluding this reflection, (even though we have less  experience with sheep and shepherds in our fast-paced and modern society, we  can still identify strongly with the image of Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” and the “gate” for us, His sheep.  For me, Psalm 23 remains a popular and  favorite psalm for prayer in my life.  In  Jesus’ role of the “Good Shepherd”,  we know ourselves to be protected and cared for by a loving, compassionate, and  merciful God – – for the Father, by the Son, and through the Holy Spirit.

Holy Scriptures describe God as a “shepherd” who brings  security and peace to His people:

The LORD will guard your coming and  going both now and forever.” (Psalm  121:8).

Even today’s leaders,  the Catholic Priests, Bishops and Pope of Christ’s Church on earth, are called “shepherds”,  with Jesus’ image of “Good Shepherd” in mind:

“May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all  mankind, set over the community a man who shall act as their leader in all  things, to guide them in all their actions; that the LORD’S community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16-17).

Just as a shepherd kept watch over his sheep and protected  them from danger day and night, so too does Jesus stands watch over His people,
becoming the “shepherd” and “guardian” of our souls:

For you had gone  astray like sheep, but you have now  returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter  2:25).

And He has chosen to appoint “shepherds” to watch with Him,  and protect by Him, all His sheep, day and night in each generation.

We are given, in  today’s Gospel, the opportunity to reflect on our Catholic faith’s leadership,  and their role in God’s kingdom.  Jesus’  words suggest to us that those who will lead the Catholic Christian community should  be known by their faithfulness to Jesus.  Church leaders should recognize that Jesus Christ  is the “true gate” for all of His “sheep” (His followers), and that having a  good and proper relationship with Jesus Christ is of primary importance for every  Catholic leader now identified as a “Good  Shepherd”.

Jesus’ metaphor also  suggests that a faithful Catholic leader requires a good and proper relationship  with the community: the “shepherd”  knows “his sheep”, AND they (His  sheep) know him.  Catholic Christian  leaders should “truly”, and “fully”, follow the example of Jesus Christ, the “Good Shepherd”, by being faithful to Him  and being a good and proper “shepherd” themselves. (AMEN, AMEN!!)

Do you know, do you recognize, and do you desire the peace  and security of a life “truly” and “fully” “abandoned” to God as your personal  and communal “Good Shepherd”?  (Sounds hard, doesn’t it?!)  Do you look to Jesus, the “Good Shepherd”,  to receive the strength and courage you need, on a daily basis, to live and  serve Him as His faithful disciple?

Jesus Christ is the GATE.  The only way into His sheepfold, His kingdom, is THROUGH Him.  We must  enter into Him, and allow Him to enter into us (surrender ourselves), thus  filling us with His presence.  Through Jesus  Christ, we not only enter into His kingdom, but in His filling us with  “Himself”, we become the gate for others to enter into His kingdom as  well.  Very powerful; just think about  this last sentence for a while.  – – Read  Ephesians 4:11-16.

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I hope you have guessed by now that I have chosen the 23rd  Psalm as the closing prayer for today’s Gospel reflection.  Written by King David, the 23rd Psalm  is portrayed with figures of a “shepherd”  for the “flock”, and a desire for  generosity toward a guest at His feast.  The  imagery of both sections of the 23rd Psalm is drawn from the  teachings and traditions of the “40 year exodus” in the desert:

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in  his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes  with care.  They shall not hunger or thirst,  nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them; for he who pities  them leads them and guides them beside springs of water.” (Isaiah 40:11; 49:10);

And,

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant coasts, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers  them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock.” (Jeremiah 31:10).

There are five terms or phrases in the 23rd  Psalm’s beautiful song and prayer that I would like to explain prior to your  reading it on your own:

  • The right path” means the “right  way”, the “way of righteousness.”
  • A dark valley” is often translated to  mean the universally well-known, “the  valley of the shadow of death.”
  • You set a table before me” is an  expression occurring in an “exodus” perspective, as found in Psalm 78:19:

They spoke against God, and said, “Can God spread a table in the desert?” (Psalm 78:19)

  • Oil” is a well-known (at least to the  Jewish People) perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at  banquets and in the anointing of Kings: (cf., Psalm 104:15; Matthew 26:7; Luke  7:37, 46; John 12:2).
  • Goodness and love” are the blessings emitting  continuously, and without end, from God’s covenant with Israel, the “chosen”  people.

 “23rd Psalm

“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

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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.

There is  only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we now say, “God of power and might,” with the new liturgical text we will say:

God of hosts”.

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

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Isidore the Farmer (1070-1130)

Isidore has become the patron of farmers and rural communities. In particular he is the patron of Madrid, Spain, and of the United States National Rural Life Conference.

When he was barely old enough to wield a hoe, Isidore entered the service of John de Vergas, a wealthy landowner from Madrid, and worked faithfully on his estate outside the city for the rest of his life. He married a young woman as simple and upright as himself who also became a saint—Maria de la Cabeza. They had one son, who died as a child.

Isidore had deep religious instincts. He rose early in the morning to go to church and spent many a holiday devoutly visiting the churches of Madrid and surrounding areas. All day long, as he walked behind the plow, he communed with God. His devotion, one might say, became a problem, for his fellow workers sometimes complained that he often showed up late because of lingering in church too long.

He was known for his love of the poor, and there are accounts of Isidore’s supplying them miraculously with food. He had a great concern for the proper treatment of animals.

He died May 15, 1130, and was declared a saint in 1622 with Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila and Philip Neri. Together, the group is known in Spain as “the five saints.”

Comment:

Many implications can be found in a simple laborer achieving sainthood: Physical labor has dignity; sainthood does not stem from status; contemplation does not depend on learning; the simple life is conducive to holiness and happiness. Legends about angel helpers and mysterious oxen indicate that his work was not neglected and his duties did not go unfulfilled. Perhaps the truth which emerges is this: If you have your spiritual self in order, your earthly commitments will fall into order also. “[S]eek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,” said the carpenter from Nazareth, “and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33).

Quote:

“God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…. See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food’” (Genesis 1:28a, 29–30a).

Patron Saint of: Farmers, Laborers

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:

Franciscan Spirituality

 

Have I developed and nurtured my Franciscan Spirituality?  Or have I been developing and practicing another style and approach?

What have I been doing recently to develop my Franciscan Spirituality?

Have my religious activities been heavily “routine” and without much “spirit”?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’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.

“Are We There Yet? We Left the Receipts for the Gifts At Home; Hope He Likes ‘Em!” – Matthew 2:1-12 †


 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for
JANUARY 2011

 

General Intention:

That the riches of creation be preserved, valued, and made available to all, as precious gifts from God to mankind.

 

Missionary Intention:

That Christians may achieve full unity, bearing witness of the universal fatherhood of God to the entire human race.

 

 

 

 

 

Epiphany Proclamation 2011

(to be read after the Gospel at Mass today)

 

“Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated between the evening of the twenty-first day of April and the evening of the twenty-third day of April,
Easter Sunday being on the twenty-fourth day of April.

Each Easter — as on each Sunday — the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death.  From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the ninth day of March.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the second day of June.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the twelfth day of June.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the twenty-seventh day of November.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, forever and ever.  Amen.”

 

 

 

“Home Blessing”

 

There is a custom that has developed over time for commemorating the Magi’s visit to Jesus’ birth “home”.  It is to bless one’s home during the week of the Epiphany.

The blessing includes marking the first initials of the three magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) at the top frame of the home door (possibly with holy water), along with the year, plus crosses between the numbers and letters.  This year’s marking would look like this:

20 + C + M + B + 11

Here is an example of a prayer that can be used during the blessing, if you wish:

“Be my shelter, Lord, when I am at home, my companion when I am away, and my welcome guest when I return.  And at last receive me into the dwelling place you have prepared for me in your Father’s house, where you live forever and ever.  Amen”

From the “Little Blue Book”
Diocese of Saginaw, MI

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   533 –
Mercurius becomes Pope John II, the first pope to adopt a new name upon elevation to the papacy.
†   1585 – Spain & Catholic France sign Saint League of Joinville
†   1873 – Birth of Thérèse de Lisieux, French Roman-Catholic nun and saint (d. †1897)

(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:

 

 

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

(Starting with this first reflection of 2011, I will be posting a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html.) 

 

Part 01 of 13 Parts

“The letter of the 6th of May [2010] from His Eminence Card. Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, addressed to the Minister General, Encarnacion del Pozo and to the entire Secular Franciscan Order, is a document of great importance and merits, therefore, the particular attention of each and every member of the SFO.”

“It should be remembered that the SFO is directly dependant on the Holy See, and the Pope in particular, through the CICLSAL.  In Cardinal Rodé’s letter, therefore, it is this same Hierarchical Church which speaks to the Order and does so in consistent continuity with the Magisterium of the Popes for the SFO.”

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

  

 

 

Today’s reflection is about the Magi (the Three Kings) seeking out Jesus, and paying homage to Him.

 

1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.   (NAB Matthew 2:1-12)

 

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the Christmas Season officially.  Though it is true that the magi were led to the “Messiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to “let His face shine upon” us through the face of the Mother of God.  We “serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.”

In Matthew’s Gospel, the visit of the Magi occurs immediately prior to the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  As is not totally unusual or unique, Matthew’s Gospel tells a different version (actually, just a different viewpoint or emphasis) of Jesus’ life than what is written in Luke’s Gospel.  Of the part of the infancy narrative covering the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew barely tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod” (Matthew 2:1).  Other examples of the difference in coverage of the infancy events between these two Gospels are found in (1) the census only being addressed only in Luke’s Gospel, and (2) the visit of the Magi only being confirmed in Matthew’s Gospel.

The future rejection of Jesus by His own people, “Israel”; and Jesus’ acceptance by the Gentiles (the perceived “heathens” by Jewish faithful) are projected backwards (retrojected) into the scene of today’s reading.

King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.  Per Wikipedia, he made have been an “Edomite”, who is an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  He was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”  He was also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Magi” was a designation originally used for the Persian priestly social order at one time.  However, over a period of time the word became used generally for anyone regarded as having “more than human knowledge”.  We get our word “magic” from this root word.  Matthew’s “Magi” from the “east” (possibly the area of Babylon in present day Iraq) were probably astrologers as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others seemingly and quite easily overlooked.

We know little about the Magi. We know they come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following a “heavenly” astrological sign of some type of importance to them.  We base there being “three” Magi solely on the naming of their three gifts, but the actual number of magi that paid “homage” is truly unknown.  My question: Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of strange lands to represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior?  In essence, the Magi represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  In such, they are representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives.

There is a couple of Old Testament verses may be used to infer the “Magi” as being “kings”.

 “May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer giftsLong may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day.”  (Psalm 72:10, 15)

 “Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.”  (Isaiah 60:6)

These Magi from far away foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – saw His star”.  It was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any ruler’s birth: secular or religious.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of the Old Testament story in which Balaam had prophesied:

A star shall advance from Jacob, & a staff shall rise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17)

However, the “starin this case means the king himself [Jesus Christ], and not an astronomical happening in the Middle East.

Herod had a “say what” moment upon listening to the Magi.  He was confused and concerned about his lack of knowledge and getting no preemptive warning about this NEW king in his territory.  He was also concerned about his future welfare and prestige.  So, he calls all his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to his immediate presence.  (Biblical pagers and cell phones were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the chief priests and scribes have a very strong similarity to a Jewish non-biblical legend (per NAB footnote).  This story is about a child (later learned to be Moses), in which the “sacred scribes” warns the Pharaoh about the imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt, and the king makes plans to destroy him.  (Moses and Jesus seem to have identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is oft called the “New Moses.”)

Verse 11 from today’s reading offers a huge amount to ponder in itself:

“And on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

These Magi, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home, their homeland, and their friends and family, in their intense hunger for knowing this “heavenly” announced God.  They “followed a star” in pursuit of their quest of knowing true divinity — Jesus Christ.  (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars” and did not have to buy it in Hollywood!)

We have come to consider the gifts they brought as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation history. We believe the meaning of the gifts to be “Christological” in nature.  Gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  Frankincense is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And myrrh was used to prepare the dead for burial (offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death).

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are understood as symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death.  They are made special to Him (and to us) because in giving them, the Magi (those unknown men from foreign lands and cultures) acknowledged who Jesus was to be: our Savior!  

The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is believed by some to have been established in the gift giving of the Magi.  For this reason, in many cultures still today, gifts are exchanged on the Feast of the Epiphany instead of on Christmas Day.  We can still offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY in the future!  Our three special gift offerings should be praise, adoration, and thanks-giving!

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know God personally.  In the Magi encountering Jesus, we see God’s plan for salvation.  This plan was (and is) to give his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for all mankind.  God gave to us this truly and fully – – both human and divine – – person (in the singular), for not just solely the Jewish faithful, but for all people everywhere.    Do you bring Jesus Christ to others in your path?  Do you actively LOOK for Jesus Christ in others along your path, especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?  God loves it so dearly when we speak words, and performs acts of blessing, hope, and encouragement.  He rejoices when our words and actions help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes of immense size.

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of gift giving.  What was the best gift you have ever received, and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special, or was it the thought that went into it or even the person who gave it to you that made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”)

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “give off” to others.  

We Three Kings

 

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to rein

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Pray’r and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

[Refrain for after each verse]
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen (329-379)

 

Basil was on his way to becoming a famous teacher when he decided to begin a religious life of gospel poverty. After studying various modes of religious life, he founded what was probably the first monastery in Asia Minor. He is to monks of the East what St. Benedict is to the West, and his principles influence Eastern monasticism today.

He was ordained a priest, assisted the archbishop of Caesarea (now southeastern Turkey), and ultimately became archbishop himself, in spite of opposition from some of his suffragan bishops, probably because they foresaw coming reforms.

One of the most damaging heresies in the history of the Church, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, was at its height. Emperor Valens persecuted orthodox believers, and put great pressure on Basil to remain silent and admit the heretics to communion. Basil remained firm, and Valens backed down. But trouble remained. When the great St. Athanasius (May 2) died, the mantle of defender of the faith against Arianism fell upon Basil. He strove mightily to unite and rally his fellow Catholics who were crushed by tyranny and torn by internal dissension. He was misunderstood, misrepresented, accused of heresy and ambition. Even appeals to the pope brought no response. “For my sins I seem to be unsuccessful in everything.”

He was tireless in pastoral care. He preached twice a day to huge crowds, built a hospital that was called a wonder of the world (as a youth he had organized famine relief and worked in a soup kitchen himself) and fought the prostitution business.

Basil was best known as an orator. His writings, though not recognized greatly in his lifetime, rightly place him among the great teachers of the Church. Seventy-two years after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described him as “the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth.”

Comment:

As the French say, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Basil faced the same problems as modern Christians. Sainthood meant trying to preserve the spirit of Christ in such perplexing and painful problems as reform, organization, fighting for the poor, maintaining balance and peace in misunderstanding.

Quote:

St. Basil said: “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

 

Gregory Nazianzen (329-390). After his baptism at 30, Gregory gladly accepted his friend Basil’s invitation to join him in a newly founded monastery. The solitude was broken when Gregory’s father, a bishop, needed help in his diocese and estate. It seems that Gregory was ordained a priest practically by force, and only reluctantly accepted the responsibility. He skillfully avoided a schism that threatened when his own father made compromises with Arianism. At 41, Gregory was chosen as bishop of a diocese near Caesarea and at once came into conflict with Valens, the emperor, who supported the Arians. An unfortunate by-product of the battle was the cooling of the friendship of two saints. Basil, his archbishop, sent him to a miserable and unhealthy town on the border of unjustly created divisions in his diocese. Basil reproached Gregory for not going to his see.

When protection for Arianism ended with the death of Valens, Gregory was called to rebuild the faith in the great see of Constantinople, which had been under Arian teachers for three decades. Retiring and sensitive, he dreaded being drawn into the whirlpool of corruption and violence. He first stayed at a friend’s home, which became the only orthodox church in the city. In such surroundings, he began giving the great sermons on the Trinity for which he is famous. In time, Gregory did rebuild the faith in the city, but at the cost of great suffering, slander, insults and even personal violence. An interloper even tried to take over his archdiocese.

His last days were spent in solitude and austerity. He wrote religious poetry, some of it autobiographical, of great depth and beauty. He was acclaimed simply as “the Theologian.”

COMMENT: It may be small comfort, but turmoil in the Church today is a mild storm compared to the devastation caused by the Arian heresy, a trauma the Church has never forgotten. Christ did not promise the kind of peace we would love to have—no problems, no opposition, no pain. In one way or another, holiness is always the way of the cross.

QUOTE: “God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God’s greatness.”

Patron Saint of: Russia

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 2 & 3 of 26: 

2.     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.

 

 

 

 

3.     The present rule, succeeding “Memoriale Propositi” (1221) and the rules approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times. Its interpretation belongs to the Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions and particular statutes.