What a week has it been for me. It started last Saturday with our Secular Franciscan Regional Chapter. Though the St. Clare Region is the smallest of the SFO Fraternities in the United States, all 11 Fraternities were represented, and a good time was had by all. The day ended with Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Parish: a dynamic church group where you will see a person in a pin-stripe suit and $500 shoes sitting next to a person with a purple Mohawk and 20 pierces on the head hugging each other during the sign of peace. The adult male server had a pony-tail down to his waist. I truly enjoyed the love present at this Mass.
Sunday was my Fraternities (Our Lady of Angels) meeting, and we had a new member come for her first time. I believe she is going to request admission, along with another from last month. This is exciting for our fraternity had been stagnating for quite some time.
Friday was the “Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus” and Yesterday (Saturday) was the “Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” I literally take to heart (excuse the pun) these two days of remembering the love, mercy, and forgiveness present in our Savior Jesus, and in His (and ours) loving Mother, Mary.
Yesterday (Saturday) was my weekly meeting of our parish fellowship group. It always starts with a rosary before the Blessed Sacrament,” Mass, and then the Divine Mercy Chaplet after Mass; again before the Blessed Sacrament. Afterwards we go to our groups “corporate office” (most others know of it as McDonalds) for a couple hours of small talk, religious and parish discussion; and some cholesterol enhancement.
To some this week up in a sentence or two: It has been a peaceful, thought-provoking, and spiritual week for me. God is truly great and magnificent with me; I love Him so!
Today in Catholic History:
† 1525 – Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora, against the celibacy doctrine decreed by the Roman Catholic Church on priests and nuns.
† 1798 – Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is founded.
† 2000 – Italy pardons Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill
† Pope John Paul II in 1981. He has since converted to Catholicism.
† Liturgical feasts: Saint Anthony of Padua, priest, confessor, Doctor of the Church; Saint Agricius, bishop of Sens, confessor; Saint Leo III, pope; Saint Onuphrius, hermit, confessor; Blessed Thomas Woodhouse, martyr
Quote or Joke of the Day:
Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give it anyway ~ Bl. Mother Teresa
Today’s reflection is about the sinful woman washing and kissing Jesus’ feet.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he [Jesus] was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (NAB Luke 7:36-50)
Similar scenes to this Gospel reading can be found in the three other books of the Gospels. In those versions the anointing takes place in the town of Bethany, near Jerusalem, and just before Passover. In the other three Gospels, this anointing is related to Jesus being proclaimed “king” by the crowds when he entered Jerusalem; and is related to his being anointed as a preparation for his burial. In today’s Gospel reading, the anointing takes place in the north, in the town of Galilee, and early in his ministry instead.
In this story of the pardoning of a “sinful” woman responding to God’s gift of forgiveness, we are presented with two different reactions to the “ministry” of Jesus. A Pharisee named Simon, suspecting Jesus to be a prophet, invites Him to a festive banquet at his house; but the Pharisee’s self-righteousness leads to little forgiveness by God and little love shown towards Jesus.
The sinful woman, on the other hand, displays a faith in God that led her to search for forgiveness of her sins. Because so much was forgiven, she now overwhelms Jesus with her display of love. What a powerful lesson on the relation between forgiveness and love!
The normal posture while eating at a banquet was to recline at the table, on the left side. The most honored guest was immediately to the right (front) of the host, with his back near or against the host’s chest. The least honored guest was at the end of the table. Other oriental banquet customs alluded to in this story include the reception by the host with a kiss (Luke 7:45), washing the feet of the guests (Luke 7:44), and the anointing of the guests’ heads (Luke 7:46).
In learning that Jesus was at the house of the Pharisee Simon, she literally “crashed” the party. Though she was “sinful,” there is no evidence of her being a prostitute but possibly guilty of some other sin. What can be alluded to, is that she was “unclean” according to first century Palestine societal norms. In allowing someone deemed unclean by society, Jesus showed that His norms for clean and unclean conflicted with those of the Pharisees.
She brought with her a alabaster flask of ointment. Ointments were typically very expensive, even for the wealthy of that time.
She stood behind him, and at his feet. This position obviously is a position of humility and a sign of submissiveness towards Jesus. Her weeping was a sign of great love for Him, and of her sorrow for her sins that separated Her from Jesus’ grace.
She began to bathe Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair, kissed His feet, and finally anointed the feet with the ointment she had brought with her. The feet were the dirtiest part of any person of that day. Most people walked either bare foot or with a rudimentary type of sandal. With no sewage system, dirt floors in most homes, and all the animals present, one can imagine what people had to tread through in their everyday lives.
To wash one’s feet was the job of the lowliest slave. To fall to her knees and wash Jesus’ feet, and then dry them with her hair, as well as to kiss and anoint them showed an adoration, reverence, and love for Jesus that was beyond reproach. Her actions towards Jesus was, to say the least, generous.
Simon witnessed this event, and said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Simon did not realize that Jesus was greater than a prophet! Jesus responded by telling him the parable about two people owing money, forgiveness, and love. As is typical of Jesus’ style, He doesn’t answer Simon’s question Himself, but draws the correct answer out of Simon; allowing him to learn a moral lesson. Simon is forced to admit that the one who had the bigger debt canceled probably loves the creditor more, when he said, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”
Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Though Simon followed all societal rules of hospitality towards Jesus, he had not shown any special acts of hospitality either. In a sense, the generosity of the sinner is contrasted with that of the stingiest of Jesus’ host: Simon.
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.” Jesus rebuked and challenges Simon for his self-righteousness and inadequate love towards Him. Jesus then commends the woman for her great and unconditional love and self-sacrifice to Him.
This “sinner” performed such acts of love towards Jesus that her sins were forgiveness. What is intriguing for me is that I believe she received the gift of forgiveness before her encounter with Jesus at Simon’s home. The woman’s sins were forgiven by the great love she showed toward Jesus, which had to be immense and strongly evident prior to her physically meeting Jesus. Her humility was only surpassed by her love for the “Messiah.”
Jesus tells the woman, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Jesus in saying this is doing more than healing physical problems as some of the prophets had done. He is forgiving sins! We hear these exact, or very similar, words at the end of the “Sacrament of Reconciliation.” The priest, in “Persona Christi,” forgives our sins in the same way that Christ instituted on this day. To me, this shows a proof that Jesus loves all, the woman of this first century, and the people of this day, with the same intensity. When we show our love, reverence, and humility towards God’s creation; we are showing our love, reverence, and humility towards Jesus. Our “tears,” our “hair,” and our “kissing and anointing” are our actions as a citizen of this earth, and our duties as a Catholic. Do we love Jesus as much as this “sinful” woman?!
“The others at table said to themselves, ’Who is this who even forgives sins?’” The answer is quite simple: a person greater than a prophet did: Jesus, the “Christ” (meaning anointed one), and the “Messiah” (referring to the leader anointed by God. A future King of Israel physically descended from Davidic lineage who will rule the people of a united tribes of Israel and herald in the Messianic Age of global peace), and the second person of the “Trinity” (meaning GOD)!!
Prayer of Wisdom from St. Francis & St. Claire of Assisi
“Jesus, following You is not always easy and carefree. It does require something from me: I must follow your commands.
Often out of pride or convenience, I seek to follow my own will instead. Lead me through the narrow gates. Be merciful and soften my heart when I stubbornly refuse to follow You.
Remind me that life with You is well worth any cost I may incur in following You.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
Franciscan Saint of the Day: St. Anthony of Padua 1195-1231
Anthony was born in the year 1195 at Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, where his father was a captain in the royal army. Already at the age of fifteen years the youth had entered the Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, and was devoting himself with great earnestness to study and to the practice of piety in the monastery at Coimbra, when a significant event, which occurred in the year 1220, changed his entire career.
The relics of St. Berard and companions, the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order, were being brought from Africa to Coimbra. At the sight of them, Anthony was seized with an intense desire to suffer martyrdom as a Franciscan missionary in Africa. In response to his repeated and humble petitions, the permission of his superiors to transfer to the Franciscan Order was reluctantly given. At his departure, one of the canons said to him ironically, “Go, then, perhaps you will become a saint in the new order.” Anthony replied, “Brother, when you hear that I have become a saint, you will praise God for it.”
In the quiet little Franciscan convent at Coimbra he received a friendly reception, and in the very same year his earnest wish to be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled. But God had decreed otherwise. Anthony scarcely set foot on African soil when he was seized with a grievous illness. Even after recovering from it, he was so weak that, resigning himself to the will of God, he boarded a boat back to Portugal. But a storm drove the ship to the coast of Sicily, and Anthony went to Assisi, where the general chapter of the order was held in May, 1221.
As he still looked weak and sickly, and gave no evidence of his scholarship, no one paid any attention to the stranger until Father Gratian, provincial of Romagna, had compassion on him and sent him to the quiet little convent near Forli. There Anthony remained nine months occupied in the lowliest duties of the kitchen and convent, and to his heart’s content he practiced interior as well as exterior mortification.
But the hidden jewel was soon to appear in all its brilliance. Anthony was sent to Forli with some other brethren, to attend the ceremony of ordination. At the convent there the superior wanted somebody to give an address for the occasion. Everybody excused himself, saying that he was not prepared, until Anthony was finally asked to give it. When he, too, excused himself most humbly, his superior ordered him by virtue of the vow of obedience to give the sermon. Anthony began to speak in a very reserved manner; but soon holy animation seized him, and he spoke with such eloquence, learning, and unction that everybody was fairly amazed.
When St. Francis was informed of the event, he gave Anthony the mission to preach all over Italy. At the request of the brethren, Anthony was later commissioned also to teach theology, “but in such a manner, St. Francis distinctly wrote, “that the spirit of prayer be not extinguished either in yourself or in the other brethren.”
St. Anthony himself placed greater value on the salvation of souls than on learning. For that reason he never ceased to exercise his office as preacher along with the work of teaching. The concourse of hearers was sometimes so great that no church was large enough to accommodate the audiences and he had to preach in the open air. He wrought veritable miracles of conversion. Deadly enemies were reconciled with each other. Thieves and usurers made restitution of their ill gotten goods. Calumniators and detractors recanted and apologized. He was so energetic in defending the truths of the Catholic Faith that many heretics re-entered the pale of the Church, so that Pope Gregory IX called him “the ark of the covenant.”
Once he was preaching at Rimini on the seacoast. He noticed that a group of heretics turned their backs to him and started to leave. Promptly the preacher turned to the sea and called out to the fishes: “Since the heretics do not wish to listen to me, do you come and listen to me!” And marvelous to say, shoals of fish came swimming and thrust their heads out of the water as if to hear the preacher. At this the heretics fell at Anthony’s feet and begged to be instructed in the truth.
The blessings of St. Anthony’s preaching were not confined to Italy. St. Francis sent him to France, where for about three years (1225-1227) he labored with blessed results in the convents of his order as well as o]in the pulpit. In all his labors he never forgot the admonition of his spiritual Father, that the spirit of prayer must not be extinguished. If he spent the day in teaching, and heard the confessions of sinners till late in the evening, then many hours of the night were spent in intimate union with God.
Once a man, at whose home Anthony was spending the night, came upon the saint and found him holding in his arms a child of unspeakable beauty surrounded with heavenly light. It was the Child Jesus.
In 1227, Anthony was elected minister provincial of upper Italy; and then he resumed the work of preaching. Due to his taxing labors and his austere practice of penance, he soon felt his strength so spent that he prepared himself for death. After receiving the last sacraments he kept looking upward with a smile on his countenance. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered, “I see my Lord.” Then he breathed forth his soul on June 13, 1231, being only 36 years old. Soon the children in the streets of the city of Padua were crying, “The saint is dead. Anthony is dead.”
Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints in the very next year. At Padua a magnificent basilica was built in his honor, his holy relics were entombed there in 1263. From the time of his death up to the present day, countless miracles have occurred through St. Anthony’s intercession, so that he is known as the Wonder-Worker. In 1946 he was also declared a Doctor of the Church.
from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed.
by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #13:
As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.
A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.