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♫“Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign, Blockin’ Out the Devil, Freein’ My Mind. Do This, Don’t Do That, Can’t You Read the Sign?!”♫ – Mark 13:24-32†


33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

A friend wrote something he believes the Holy Spirit told him to write down.  I found it very moving, and would love to share this beautiful piece of work with you:

A Conversation with God

By Gene Eller

One day I started to pray, “Please Lord, can you help me, I’m so angry?”

The Lord said, “What do you have to be angry about?”

I alleged, “Lord, this guy over there has an important job.  He’s in charge of a lot of people.”

The Lord come back with, “Did I not provide you a job?”

I said, “Yes, but Lord, he owns a big house with a lot of rooms and I rent this tiny house with very few rooms.”

The Lord said back to me, “Did I not provide you with a roof over your head and a place to sleep, for you AND your family?”

Again, I replied, “Yes, you did.”  I then said to the Lord, “He has lots of money and I have so little.”

The Lord answered, “Did I not provide him with enough money so that he can help the poor?”

Again, I could only answer, “Yes, I suppose so; but Lord I and my family barely have enough food to eat.”

The Lord then asked, “Didn’t I provide you with enough food so you would NOT go hungry?”

I said, “Yes, you did.”  Then the Lord asked me, “With all that I have provided you, how can you be so angry?”

I sheepishly whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”  He countered with, “I did, but you did not listen to me!”

We all need to stop, ask the Lord if we have not heard Him, and then, LISTEN!!

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Next week, I will be discussing the “five stages of religious persecution” which I learned from an on-line article written by Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdioceses of Washington.  The subject matter is directly related to the importance of our Catholic Faith TODAY!!  The author highlights the direct effect of the HHS mandate on religious freedom, specifically impacting the Catholic faithful and the Church itself.  He also highlighted his perception of a greater degree of indifference on the part of many Catholics, in particular, those serving in public office.    

With this not so subtle – – in fact, overt – – inconsistency and public deviation from foundational Catholic Doctrine concerning life, marriage, and religious liberty, I am inspired to recommend to you, all my readers, the following three prayers given to us from the “Guardian Angel of Portugal” who appeared to the three children of Fatima in October 1916.  The angel prayed and taught these prayers to the children who learned to pray them daily:

The Pardon Prayer:

“My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love you!  I ask forgiveness for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love you.”

The Angel’s Prayer:

“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly.  I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended.  By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

The Eucharistic Prayer:

“Most Holy Trinity, I adore you!  My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

Please say these Prayers on a daily basis.

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  Quote of the Day:

“The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.  They simply are the ones who care the most.” ~ Charlie Schulz (is alledged author, but Scopes says author is unknown)

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches about the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.  Hey, what’s YOUR sign?

(NAB Mark 13:24-32)  24 “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, 27 and then he will send out the angels and gather [his] elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.  28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.  When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.  29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.  30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

We are nearing the end of this liturgical year in the Catholic Church.  Today is the second to last Sunday prior to the start of the new Church year which is the beginning of the Advent Season, that of expectation and preparation for the coming infant “Messiah”.  So, as we approach the end of the Church year, our Gospel is inviting each of us to consider Jesus’ foretelling “predictions” and teachings about the end of the world – – as we know it.  Jesus’ “Words” about the “end times” are spoken to prepare His disciples for His passion and death in Jerusalem at the time of Passover (but they do not know the time of His passion and death yet).

Before we consider Jesus’ “Words”, it is important to note the reason Mark writes his Gospel, the political backdrop in which it is written.  It is strongly believed that Mark wrote his Gospel for Christians living in or near Rome about 30 to 40 years after the death of Jesus on the Holy Cross (circa, 60-75 A.D.).  This was a time of political turmoil in Rome and throughout the Middle-east.  At this time Christians in the area were experiencing persecution by the Romans.  Jewish revolutionaries, in response to this persecution on their people and their religious beliefs, rebelled against the Romans.  In response to their attacks, the Romans completely destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., murdering a major portion of the Jewish leaders and populace.  Many in Mark’s community of believers, during this time of political turmoil and persecution, most certainly wondered if the “end times” envisioned by Jesus were quite near to coming to fruition.

Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ observation about the contributions being made to the Temple treasury.  Jesus commented on the example of sacrificial giving, inspired by her total trust that God would protect and provide, which He saw in the poor widow’s offering (cf., Mark 12:38-44).  Placed between last week’s reading at Mass and this week’s reading at Mass is Jesus’ prophesy of the destruction of the Jewish Temple, His teaching about the costs of discipleship, and the “woes” that will accompany the “end times”.  In a warning to His followers, and to balance the potential despair implied in His prophecy, both then and now today, Jesus offers hope by instructing His disciples for the need of watchfulness so that they will not be caught unprepared for this final day of judgment – – the Parousia – – His Second Appearing.

In this rather abstractly-bizarre discourse about the coming of the “Son of Man”, Jesus is referring to specific “Words” (and images connecting words) found in their most sacred of Jewish religious Scriptures, the “Torah”, the first five books of today’s Old Testament:

The stars of the heavens and their constellations will send forth no light; The sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:10);

When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken all its stars” (Ezekiel 32:7);

Before them the earth trembles; the heavens shake; Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness (Joel 2:10).

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The people of Jesus’ time expected that the coming of the Messiah – – “the Son of God” – – would be accompanied by extraordinary signs and wonders which can be anticipated if we watch for the signs.  Signs of wonder and mystery have always revolved around Jesus.  Let’s remember that Jesus’ first coming was “clouded” in mystery and wonderment:

  • A “son of David” was born in a cave at Bethlehem as was prophesied;
  • Magi from “the East”, guided by a star, travelled to worship the newborn king of Israel;
  • He was a miracle-worker who gave sight to the blind and raised the dead,
  • He was a “Suffering Servant” who bore the sins of many upon the Holy Cross, and
  • He IS the Risen Jesus Christ who stormed the gates of Sheol to release its captives.

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied He would return again at the “end of time” (the Parousia) to finish the work He came to accomplish through His death and resurrection.  

Jesus’ image of the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” is taken from a foretelling vision of the prophet Daniel:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man.  When He reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, His kingship, one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

(Remember now, Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”!).

Daniel’s vision is a foretelling of a royal appointment of a “human” king before God’s throne.  This “human” king, whose authority comes from God the Father, is given world-wide and everlasting kingship, authority, and power.  The faithful Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression.  Jesus, however, tells His disciples that when He returns He will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for ALL – – not just the Jewish “chosen” people.

Jesus goes on, in verse 13:26, saying the following of His return:

The ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory”:

In saying this, Jesus is citing verses from Deuteronomy:

“There is none like the God of Jeshurun*, who rides the heavens in his power, who rides the clouds in his majesty;” (Deuteronomy 33:26).

(* “Jeshuran” is a poetic name for “the people of Israel”, used as a token of affection by the author.  It translates to, “the dear upright people“.  This word is used four times in Holy Scripture: (cf., Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 33:26; and Isaiah 44:2.)

Jesus repeats this text again later, referring to the “Son of Man and riding in the clouds of heaven”, in His response to the question from the high priest, “Are you the Messiah?”:

Again the high priest asked him and said to him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?’  Then Jesus answered, ‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”’” (Mark 14:61-62).

The word “clouds”, in Jewish Holy Scripture, indicates the presence of the divinity.  Thus, in His nature as the “Son of Man”, Jesus is truly a “heavenly being” who will come in power and glory (as well as being the “human” king).  The image of the “cloud” being “the presence of divinity” is significantly found throughout the story of Moses interaction with “the Lord” during the Jewish exodus in the desert:

The LORD came down in a cloud and stood with him [Moses] there and proclaimed the name, ‘LORD’” (Exodus 34:5);

“[The Lord] said to him [Moses]: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the inner sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the cover on the ark, lest he die, for I reveal myself in a cloud above the ark’s cover (Leviticus 16:2);

and,

The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him.  Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied but did not continue” (Numbers 11:25).

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Jesus continues His teaching by offering His disciples “signs” to look for, indicating that the “coming of the Son of Man” is near.  His “Words” and its images draw upon similes found in the Torah and other Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament).  

Next, Jesus offers the lesson of the “fig tree”, a parable which teaches that if one knows how to read the “signs”, one can be prepared for the “end times”.  However, Jesus also makes exceedingly clear to His disciples that NO ONE knows when the “end time” will come, EXCEPT God the Father.  

The last verse from today’s Gospel reading is very revelational and significant for me:

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 12:32).

This statement seems to counterbalance today’s reading by declaring that the exact time of the Parousia is known only to God the Father; and God the Father IS PURE LOVE!!  The Father IS the architect, designer, and the ultimate cause and effect intended in the Parousia!  This last verse is a warning for the disciples to be ALWAYS (i.e., daily) ready for the Lord’s return, at the Parousia – – the promised Second Coming of Christ.  It is also an acknowledgement of the Final Judgment, the ultimate acknowledgement of God the Father’s love and active participation in this awesome event, the fullest revelation of God sharing His eternal love for each of us. 

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As Catholic Christians, we need to start living as if the Parousia is here now – – as if you see Jesus Christ descending on a “cloud” with the “12 Legions of Angels” surrounding Him NOW!!  How do we prepare for His return?  Here is a set of “To Do’s” taken from a website I found, cited at the end: so,

  • Live holy lives abiding in Christ (1 John2:28) and perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).
  • Rejoice in hope knowing that we have a Savior who will certainly appear and all our work for Christ will not be in vain, but abundantly rewarded ( 1 Corinthians 15:58).
  • Be alert to the various deceptions that Satan will launch against the Church in those days (2 Thessalonians 2:8,9; Matthew 24:11).  (These Days!!)
  • Engage in radical simplicity knowing that all our material possessions will be just fuel for the fire on that day (1 John 2:15-17; 2 Peter 3:10-14).
  • Be awake to God, and not “asleep in the light” (Matthew 25:1-13).  This means we are to have a sense of perpetual readiness and anticipation, and being in constant personal spiritual growth.  The attitude that “I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back” is “foolishness”, imperiling the joy the believer can enter into with Christ.
  • Wait patiently for the coming of the Lord without giving in to skepticism about an apparent delay (James 5:7-8, 2Peter 3:3-4) or alarmist panic (2 Thessalonians 2:1,2), or concluding that He has already returned.
  • Hasten the day of His return by engaging in the world mission and and other activities of His Kingdom here on earth (Matthew 6:33, 24:14, 2 Peter3:12).
From http://www.globalchristians.org/articles/parousia.htm

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Jesus’ prophetic description of the Parousia, the “end time” and the “day of judgment”, was not new to the people of Israel.  The prophets had foretold these events for many centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Please look up these references (cf., Isaiah 13:9-13; Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; and Zephaniah 1:14-18).  Jesus speaks of the “Second Coming” as a well-known fact among the pious Jews, an expected event which was certain to take place.  This “Second Coming” will be marked by “signs” ALL will be able to recognize, signs which will strike terror in those unprepared, and wonder and awe in those who are ready to meet Jesus Christ face-to-face.  When Jesus Christ returns He will establish “justice and righteousness” and He will justify all who have been faithful to Him.  His return and judgment is a sign of hope for those who TRUST IN HIM!!

Jesus wants each of us to learn a lesson from the fig tree.  Fig trees were common in the area, and an important source of food for the Jews and others living in the area.  A fig tree produces fruit twice a year, once in the early spring and again in the autumn.  The prophet Joel mentions it’s fruit-bearing ability as a “sign” of favor from “the Lord”:

“Do not fear, you animals in the wild, for the wilderness pastures sprout green grass.  The trees bear fruit, the fig tree and the vine produce their harvest” (Joel 2:22).

Jewish Scripture says that the “first fruit” came the day after Passover:  

“When you come into the land which I am giving you, and reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest, who shall elevate the sheaf before the LORD that it may be acceptable on your behalf.  On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall do this.  On this day, when your sheaf is elevated, you shall offer to the LORD for a burnt offering an unblemished yearling lamb” (Leviticus 23:10-12)

For faithful Jews, it was widely believed that when the “Messiah” came, He would shepherd in the kingdom of God at Passover time.  This story foretells the joy of God’s kingdom, the joy of new life, and the promise of a new age of peace and blessing.  WOW – – this is absolutely AWESOME!!   

The “budding” of God’s kingdom begins first “in the hearts of those who are willing and receptive to God’s “Word”.  Those who trust in God’s “Word” will bear the fruits of His kingdom: righteousness, peace, and joy – – in and through the Holy Spirit:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

We do not know the day or hour when the Lord will return again in glory.  But Jesus does give us “signs”, not only to warn us, but also to “rouse our spirits”, readying and inspiring our individual eagerness to see His kingdom come in all its “power and glory”.  Our Lord God wants us to be filled with joyful anticipation for Jesus’ coming again (His Second Advent).  As He promised, Jesus Christ will surely “come again in all His glory”.

Jesus referenced the Book of Daniel in offering “Words” of warning and encouragement.  The warning to us is o LIVE TODAY as if it were your LAST DAY on earth: IT COULD BE!!  However, Jesus reminds us that our God in Heaven – – our heavenly Father – – is a loving God who sent Himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – – Jesus Christ – – to save us!  Through Daniel, our Lord God proclaims that:

those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Daniel 12:3).

Jesus’ words are not spoken to frighten His disciples, nor should they frighten US!  Rather, they are offered to prepare us for the changes we will experience during our lifetimes and at the end times – – the Parousia “event”.  Our consolation and hope is found in the lasting nature of Jesus’ “Words” and God the Father’s ever-lasting, ever-enduring love for each of us.  Hey, what’s HIS sign?!

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The storm “of the century” this past October is not the “end-time” prophesied by Jesus; but it may have seemed so to the multi-thousands of people beaten down by the wind, water, flying objects, and even lack of heat, light, and gas.  The Atlantic coastline is changed forever.  Gas is being rationed for the short-term.  Recovery will be a monumental task, both physically and emotionally.  And, on top of this, the autumn “super-storm” on the East coast followed a summer inundation of drought in the Midwest and massive forest fires in the Western states. 

Many things in our lives and our world are subject to change.  However, each and every one of us obtains personal security and refuge in our personal relationships and values which endure over time.  Chief among these are our family and extended family relationships.  We can accept change if we know that we will continue to be loved by our family, by our friends, and by our Trinitarian God.  We also help impart this sense of trust, confidence, and love in our children, spouses, and others with our daily assurances to them that nothing can change our love for them.

So, grab a soda or cup of coffee, sit down, and look through several family photo albums.  Observe the things that have changed in your family life and other relationships over the years (like hair styles).  Think about the things that have stayed the same.  We do not need to fear changes in our personal lives because we know the most important aspects of our family life and strong friendships do not change, such as our love for one another.  Well, guess what; the same is true with God and His love for each and every single one of us.  Jesus is teaching us that things in our world will change and that the world itself will one day end!!  We don’t need to be “fearful” of the Parousia because God’s love for us will never end – – EVER!!  Pray to God, thanking Him for His ever-lasting and ever-enduring love for us.  Praise be to God!!

Our challenges of becoming aware and preparing for the Parousia are both dauntingly comprehensive and strikingly universal.  If we are inattentive or remiss in regard to the “end time”, we may miss our opportunity to be “ready” for Christ’s return.  If we remain alert and aware, if we take action and prepare, we “shall be like the stars forever“.  Doesn’t everyone want to be a “STAR“?!  (Oh, by the way, see what Jesus says about His “star-self” in Revelation 22:16 – – you will be surprised.)

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Luke 23:42

“Jesus, remember me when
you come into your kingdom.
Amen.”

 

 

 

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“A Parable a Day Will Keep Satan Away!” – Matthew 13:24-43†


 

Sixteenth Sunday
of Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

Deliberation:

I hope you are enjoying the “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary” that I am posting each day.  Today is day 5 of 34.  It is still not too late to start if you which.  Just catch up with what was missed.

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Discovery:

 

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like our cell phone?  What if we carried it around in our purses/pockets at all times?  What if we opened it several times per day – – for fun?  What if we turned back to retrieve, if we forgot it?  What if we used it to receive “text messages”?  What if we treated the Bible like we couldn’t live without it?  What if we gave a bible to Kids as gifts – – and they were excited at this gift?  What if we used it when we traveled?  And, what if we used it in case of emergencies?

 

Declaration:

 

Are these thoughts making you wonder, “Where is my Bible?”  Oh, one more thought.  Unlike our cell phones, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected; Jesus already paid the bill!  And, there are no dropped calls on his plan!  

 

Makes me (and hopefully you) stop & think “Where are my priorities?”  When Jesus died on the cross, He was thinking of US!

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   180 – Twelve inhabitants of Scillium in North Africa executed for being Christians. This is the earliest record of Christianity in that part of the world.
†   521 – Magnus Felix Ennodius, Bishop of Pavia and Latin poet (b. 474)
†   561 – John III begins his reign as Catholic Pope succeeding Pelagius I
†   855 – St Leo IV ends his reign as Catholic Pope by his death
†   1203 – Fourth Crusade captures Constantinople by assault; the Byzantine emperor Alexius III Angelus flees from his capital into exile.
†   1245 – Pope bans emperor Frederik II Hohenstaufen for 3rd (of 4) times for disagreements with Rome
†   1686 – A meeting takes place at Lüneburg between several Protestant powers in order to discuss the formation of an ‘evangelical’ league of defence, called the ‘Confederatio Militiae Evangelicae’, against the Catholic League.
†   1740 – Prospero Lambertini is elected Pope Benedictus XIV
†   1794 – The sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne are executed (guillotined) 10 days prior to the end of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror (July 17, 1794).

(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:

 

 

A disciple once complained, “You tell us stories, but you never reveal their meaning to us.” The master replied, “How would you like it if someone offered you a piece of fruit and chewed on it before giving it to you?” ~ Anonymous

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus offering parables about the Kingdom of Heaven, and then explains them to His disciples.

 

 

Today’s Gospel Reading:

 

(NAB Matthew 13:24-43) 24 He proposed another parable to them.  “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  25 While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.  26 When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.  27 The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?  Where have the weeds come from?’  28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’  His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  29 He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.  30 Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”  31 He proposed another parable to them.  “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.  32 It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.  It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'”  33 He spoke to them another parable.  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”  34 All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.  He spoke to them only in parables, 35 to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation (of the world).”  36 Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”  37 He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, 38 the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.  The weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  40 Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.  42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading is a continuation of Jesus’ discourse which began last Sunday, and will finish next Sunday.  Today, Jesus offers three parables which allow His “listeners” able to gain an image describing His Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus also explains why He spoke to the crowds in parables.  Finally, He interprets the parable of “the Sower” and “the Yeast” for His followers.  

All of Jesus’ parables contain everyday occurrences and encounters to describe various aspects and components of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The first set of parables (from last Sunday) alerted us to the two-fold reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.  In reality, for us, the actual beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven can be found in this world – – NOW!  The completion of the Kingdom of Heaven, however, will not be truly and fully realized until His final judgment at the “end of the age”.  In the meantime, as Jesus warns His followers that any effort in attempting to judge the progress of the Kingdom of Heaven is premature.  Only God, at the time of the final judgment, will distinguish the “good fruit” of the Kingdom of Heaven, and offer its reward to those who kept His love for us as a priority.

Today’s parables (and next weeks as well) will call our attention to the abundance of His “harvest” resulting from the tiny beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  Just as a mustard seed – – the smallest of all known seeds – – will become a large bush or tree, so too God the Father will bring His Kingdom to full bloom through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  As a small amount of “yeast” will “leaven” an entire batch of bread (I can smell it now – – and it smells “heavenly”!), so too will God bring about the expansion of His Kingdom.  In each case submitted in Jesus’ parables, the image of an immensely great quantity to harvest for His Kingdom comes from even the smallest “mustard seed” amount of faith rooted in our lives.  Our faith grows as we nourish it with His “Word” and sacramental presence.

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(Oh, oh!)  Malicious weed-sowing!!  What does this have to do with God’s kingdom?  The imagery Jesus chooses to use is an example of planting, harvesting, and sorting the good fruit from the bad (even today).  Weeds have the capability to spoil and kill a good harvest if they are not separated and destroyed at the proper time.  Uprooting “weeds” too early can destroy good plants in the process of tearing the weeds out of the ground.

 

Today’s parable of “weeds” being sowed with the “wheat” is found only in Matthew’s Gospel.  We need to remember that the comparison conveyed in Matthew 13:24, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field”, is not that the kingdom of heaven is about the “sower”; instead, it is about the time of the situation narrated in the whole story (Matthew 13:28-30):

“He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’  His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’   He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with themLet them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”  .” (Matthew 13:28-30) 

The refusal of the “householder” to allow his slaves to separate the good and true wheat from the bad weeds while they are still growing is actually a warning from Jesus, to His disciples, not to attempt to anticipate the final judgment of God.  (Paraphrase: “Don’t Anticipate; Participate!”)

In the present period (today) of God the Father’s eternal plan, His kingdom on earth is composed of both “good” and “bad” “seeds and fruits”.  Only through God the Father’s judgment “at the end of the age” will the sinful, “bad weeds from bad seeds”, be eliminated.  Until then, Jesus’ disciples must be patient and preach true repentance on the part of  all His disciples and on the part of all “who have ears” and “ought to hear.

 

Just as nature teaches us patience (so Franciscan of a principle), so too does God the Father’s patience teach us to guard His “Word” which “seed” He Himself planted in our hearts, minds, and souls.  We must be cautious of the devastating power of sin and evil destroying our “harvest”.  God’s “Word” brings life; but Satan’s evil, at the same time, searches to destroy the “good seed” planted in those hearts and souls who have heard God’s “Word” with “thin” roots.

 

God’s judgment is not hasty; but it does (and will) come.  In the end, God will reward each of us, individually and personally, according to what was sown and reaped in our earthly life.  On that day, God will separate the evil “weeds” from the good “wheat”.  Do you allow God’s “Word” to take (and keep) a deep and well-nourished “root” in you?

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Can you picture someone coming in the night, sneakily and purposefully planting a poisonous weed in a field, a weed which in its first stage of growth resembles wheat?  For me, the image presented here, is of evil being directed and governed by Satan himself.  The image of those “asleep” (verse 25) is representative of those disciples of Jesus Christ not keeping ever-vigilant to His good message and works, and at the same time, becoming oblivious to the devils’ cunning and deceptions.

This weed that resembles wheat is called “cockle”.  It looks very much like wheat, but if harvested and ground up with the wheat, it would contaminate the flour.  Any bread made from this contaminated flour would cause severe nausea when consumed.  In first-century Palestine, vengeance sometimes took the form of sowing “cockle” among enemies wheat.  Roman law even prescribed penalties for this specific crime.

With today’s polarized political environment, I think back to a passage I read in a book by the founder of the Opus Dei’s:

The situation is clear — the field is fertile and the seed is good; the Lord of the field has scattered the seed at the right moment and with great skill. He even has watchmen to make sure that the field is protected. If, afterwards, there are weeds among the wheat, it is because men have failed to respond, because they — and Christians in particular — have fallen asleep and allowed the enemy to approach.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 123)

 

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The word “harvest” is a common biblical metaphor for the time of God’s judgment.  Other references can be found in the following Old Testament verses:

“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Daughter Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time it is trodden; Yet a little while, and the harvest time will come for her.” (Jeremiah 51:33);

“Apply the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; Come and tread, for the wine press is full; The vats overflow, for great is their malice.” (Joel 4:13);

And,

“For you also, O Judah, a harvest has been appointed.” (Hosea 6:11);

 

The parables of the “mustard seed” and the “yeast” (verses 31 – 33) illustrate the amazing contrast between the small beginnings of the kingdom and its marvelous expansion – – through the abilities of the Holy Spirit – – working in each of us personally and individually.  Similar parables can be found in Marks and Luke’s Gospels:

“He said, ‘To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.  But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.’”  (Mark 4:30-32);

And

“Then he said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like?  To what can I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden.  When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and “the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.”’  Again he said, ‘To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.’”  (Luke 13:18-21).

 

What does the image represented by “birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches” (verse 32)?  Well, we can read in the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel for a possible answer:

“On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.  It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar.  Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.”  (Ezekiel 17:23);

In its boughs nested all the birds of the air, under its branches all beasts of the field gave birth, in its shade dwelt numerous peoples of every race.”  (Ezekiel 31:6);

“These were the visions I saw while in bed: I saw a tree of great height at the center of the world.  It was large and strong, with its top touching the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of the earth.  Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, providing food for all. Under it the wild beasts found shade, in its branches the birds of the air nested; all men ate of it.” (Daniel 4:7-9);

 And,

“’My lord,’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘this dream should be for your enemies, and its meaning for your foes.  The large, strong tree that you saw, with its top touching the heavens, that could be seen by the whole earth, which had beautiful foliage and abundant fruit, providing food for all, under which the wild beasts lived, and in whose branches the birds of the air dwelt — you are that tree, O king, large and strong!  Your majesty has become so great as to touch the heavens, and your rule extends over the whole earth.’” (Daniel 4:17-19). 

I believe the “birds” are God’s creations – – US!  And the tree rooted on earth and touching heaven is Jesus Christ.  If we choose to live in His branches, under His outstretched “wings” which shelter us, we will gain a way to eternal paradise with Him.

 

The tiny mustard seed in today’s parable literally grew to be a tree which attracted numerous birds because they love the little black mustard seeds the tree produce.  I speculate God’s kingdom works in a similar fashion.  It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts, minds, and souls of those who listen to God’s “Word”, growing and outstretching for others to rest and feed upon.  

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God’s kingdom works unseen, causing a transformation – – a conversion – – from within.  The action of “yeast” is a powerful agent of change.  A basic lump of dough, by itself, remains just what it is, – – a lump of soft, gooey, dough.  But when a tiny amount “yeast” (and heat of the oven)  is added to this gooey, sticky, mess, a transformation takes place which produces a sweet smelling, delicious, and wholesome bread – – a staple of life for humans long before the use of “manna”.

The kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive His message, and then wish to take on the “new” life Jesus Christ offers.  When we believe in, and submit to Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed by the power of His Holy Spirit who dwells in us.  Paul the Apostle says:

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

In the above verse, “earthen vessels” is a reference to the fragile instruments God uses: US!!  When I hear “earthen vessels”, besides the song made popular by the St. Louis Jesuits of the 1970’s, I also imagine the small terracotta lamps mentioned in the bible, from which light is emitted to open the darkness.  Just imagine!  When we submit to Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into the lamp which holds the light of God’s kingdom piercing through the darkness of spiritual death.  Jesus even goes so far as to say elsewhere:

You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14).

Previously, Jesus also said:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

With both “light” verses in mind, it makes me think about a part of the Nicene Creed:

Light from light, true God from true God” (Nicene Creed)

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Verse 33 talks of “the kingdom of heaven is like yeast”.  This parable is also found elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel:

Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:12).

Yeast” (and “leaven“) is used in the New Testament as a symbol of corruption and false teaching.  Other sources for this image can be found in all three Synoptic Gospels, the first letter to the Corinthians, and the letter to the Galatians:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread?  Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’  Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6, 11-12);

“He enjoined them, ‘Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.’” (Mark 8:15);

“Meanwhile, so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot.  He began to speak, first to his disciples, ‘Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.’” (Luke 12:1);

Your boasting is not appropriate.  Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?  Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened.  For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthian 5:6-8);

And,  

A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.” (Galatians 5:9).

 

My mom used to make bread weekly.  We had bowls of bread “rising”, literally, all over the house on baking day.  However, she used nowhere close to the amount of flour talked about in today’s reading.  “Three measures” of flour is an enormous amount of flour, enough to feed a hundred people easily (or my four teenagers for one afternoon).  The exaggeration of this amount of flour directs us to the immense “greatness” and “Joy” God’s kingdom’s has on our soul.

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Today’s reading states that Jesus “spoke to them only in parables”.  Let us all remember what Jesus said in last Sundays Gospel:

“The disciples approached him and said, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’  He said to them in reply, ‘Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.‘  Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’” (Matthew 13:10-15).

 

Some biblical texts have verse 34 reading “Isaiah the prophet” instead of “the prophet”.  This particular quote originates in Psalm 78:

 “I will open my mouth in story, drawing lessons from of old.” (Psalm 78:2).

 

Psalm 78 can be considered a “historical” psalm, attributed to “Asaph”, a founder of one of the “guilds” of Temple musicians.  He was called “the prophet” (“the seer” in the NAB version) in the Epistle, 2 Chronicles:

“King Hezekiah and the princes then commanded the Levites to sing the praises of the LORD in the words of David and of Asaph the seer.  They sang praises till their joy was full, then fell down and prostrated themselves.” (2 Chronicles 29:30).

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From today’s reading, Jesus “dismissing the crowds” and returning to “the house” (verse 36) indicate a change from Jesus’ focus from the crowds, who represent unbelieving Israel.  From this point on, His attention will be directed increasingly toward His disciples – – and to their needed instruction in the faith and the mysteries of the kingdom.  The remainder of today’s discourse from Jesus is addressed solely to His followers.

 

The direct story of “the parable of the weeds” emphasizes the fearful and dreaded end of the “children of the evil one”, whereas the parable’s reflective meaning concentrates on patience with the “children of the evil one” until judgment time at the “end of the age” (the Parousia), the fullness of Jesus’ personal presence.

 

Components and Meanings of
“The Parable of the Weeds”

1)  “He who sows good seed”                   The Son of Man – – Jesus Christ
2)  “The field”                                              The world
3)  “The good seed”                                 The children of the kingdom
4)  “The weeds”                                       The children of the evil one
5)  “The enemy who sows”                       The devil
6)  “The harvest”                                     The end of the age – –  the Parousia
7)  “The harvester”                                  The heavenly Angels
8)  “The Son of Man will                           They will collect out of His kingdom
send his angels”                                    all who cause others to sin and
all evildoers (the Separation)
9)  “Just as weeds are collected                The end of the age of deception
and burned (up) with fire”                     and corruption

 

The “field” is an image or symbol for the world being transformed by His power of restorative life flowing from His personal Resurrection after His death on the Holy Cross, as a sacrifice not only for all His followers, but also for the world itself.  Thus, this image reveals Jesus as the Son of God having “all power in heaven and on earth“:

“Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” (Matthew 28:18).

 

I love the poetic beauty in the phrase, “the end of the age”.  This phrase can only be found in Matthew’s Gospel:

“Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous.” (Matthew 13:40, 49);

“As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3);

And,

Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

You may also know this phrase by the other name I have been using throughout many previous reflections: Parousia.  As a review, “Parousia” is the coming of Christ on Judgment Day.   One may also hear it being called: the Second Advent, or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

 

Verse 41 of today’s reading states that His angels “will collect out of His kingdom – -”.  “His kingdom” is the kingdom of Jesus Christ as distinguished from that of God the Father (verse43):

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”  Matthew 13:43)

Jesus, at the Parousia, will hand over His kingdom on earth to His heavenly Father:

At His coming, those who belong to Christ then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to His God and Father, when He has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. (1 Corinthians 15:23-25).

 

I believe the Catholic Church is the place where Jesus’ kingdom is manifested.  However, His royal authority embraces the entire world:

“He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.” (Matthew 13:38).

 

The last verse (verse 43) in today’s Gospel reading reminds me of a verse from the Old Testament’s Daniel:

“But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” (Daniel 12:3)

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In conclusion, contained within these parables found in Matthew’s 13th chapter, are words of warning as well as words of comfort.  In the parable of “the Sower”, we are warned against judging others.  Remember, to judge and uproot the “weeds” prematurely will produce harm to the “wheat”.  We need to remember that the final judgment rests solely with God.

In the parables of the “mustard seed” and the “yeast”, we are comforted by God’s message that He will work wonders and produce abundance from even the smallest beginnings of His Kingdom of Heaven – – from our smallest amount of faith, hope, and love.

Taken together, the three parables found in today’s Gospel (“Weeds”, “Mustard Seeds”, and “Yeast”) offer both a serious reminder about the reality of the Kingdom of God now, while, at the same time, words of encouragement for His followers.  As the “wheat” and the “weeds” must grow together until the harvest, so too is it that we will discover how our actions have truly contributed to bringing about God’s Kingdom when the time of God’s complete fulfillment under Jesus’ presence occurs.  With Jesus’ word of warning made apparent to us, we should live our lives always in a prayerful awareness that our actions may be consistent with God’s plans.  Thus, we should often ask God the Father and Jesus Christ to work through us by way of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of making His Kingdom of Heaven expand to all earthly creatures.

Good and evil are “sown” in our hearts like tiny, germinating, seeds by what we hear and believe.  In due time, there will be a harvest of either “good” or “bad” fruits.  At the “end of the age” each of us will reap what has been sown in our life.  Those who sowed good fruits will shine in the kingdom of their Father.  They will shine with the beauty, joy, and fullness of God’s love.  However, at the same time, the “bad” fruits will burn in an un-quenching fire of pain, misery, and “gnashing of teeth”.  Please allow the love of Christ to rule in your heart and in your actions!

Set aside a little time this week to reflect on what Jesus Christ meant when He taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a “mustard seed” and “yeast”.  In today’s three parables, Jesus teaches that God the Father can work wonders with even the smallest amounts of faith, hope, and love.  This means that even the little things will make a big difference in the lives of others.  What are some of the little things that you can do to help make things better for others?  Decide on one action to take, and then pray that God the Father will use your action to make a difference in the world.  DON’T ANTICIPATE; PARTICIPATE!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 86

 

“Lord, you are kind and forgiving, most loving to all who call on you.
LORD, hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help.
All the nations you have made shall come to bow before you, Lord, and give honor to your name.
For you are great and do wondrous deeds; and you alone are God.
But you, Lord, are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, most loving and true.
Turn to me, have pity on me; give your strength to your servant; save this child of your handmaid.  Amen
” (Psalm 86:5-6,9-10,15-16)

 

 

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.

 

A big change occurs in the text of the “Creed” (Our “Profession of Faith”).  The first obvious change is with the very first word.  Currently we begin with “We believe.” The new, revised text has “I believe” instead of “We”.

Another noticeable change comes in the tenth line, regarding the Son’s divinity.  We currently say Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  The new text will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.”  

Consubstantial is not really a translation.  In reality, It is a transliteration—the same Latin word, spelled in English— of the Latin “consubstantialis”, which literally means “one in being.”  Translation versus transliteration is not the point.  The point is that Jesus is God, one with the Father, co-equal and co-eternal.

A third noticeable change occurs in how we speak of Christ’s human nature.  We currently say, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” The new text will now say, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

Incarnate means “made flesh.” So, using the term here reminds us that he was human from the moment of His conception and not just at His birth. 

There are several other minor changes in the text of the “Creed” (new version is shown below).  It will certainly take us some time to commit the new version to memory, and to be able to profess it together easily.  

The new missal also allows the option of using the “Apostles’ Creed” instead of this version of the “Nicene Creed”, especially during Lent and Easter.  The “Apostles’ Creed” is another ancient Christian creed, long in used by Roman Catholics in our baptismal promises and at the beginning of the Rosary. 

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

(Based on the original Latin versions from the Councils of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (AD 381).

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Servant of God Francis Garcés and Companions (c. 1781)

 

Government interference in the missions and land grabbing sparked the Indian uprising which cost these friars their lives.

A contemporary of the American Revolution and of Blessed Junipero Serra, Francisco Garcés was born in 1738 in Spain, where he joined the Franciscans.  After ordination in 1763, he was sent to Mexico.  Five years later he was assigned to San Xavier del Bac near Tucson, one of several missions the Jesuits had founded in Arizona and New Mexico before being expelled in 1767 from all territories controlled by the Catholic king of Spain.  In Arizona, Francisco worked among the Papago, Yuma, Pima and Apache Native Americans.  His missionary travels took him to the Grand Canyon and to California.

Friar Francisco Palou, a contemporary, writes that Father Garcés was greatly loved by the indigenous peoples, among whom he lived unharmed for a long time.  They regularly gave him food and referred to him as “Viva Jesus,” which was the greeting he taught them to use.

For the sake of their indigenous converts, the Spanish missionaries wanted to organize settlements away from the Spanish soldiers and colonists.  But the commandant in Mexico insisted that two new missions on the Colorado River, Misión San Pedro y San Pablo and Misión La Purísima Concepción, be mixed settlements.

A revolt among the Yumas against the Spanish left Friars Juan Diaz and Matias Moreno dead at Misión San Pedro y San Pablo.  Friars Francisco Garcés and Juan Barreneche were killed at Misión La Purísima Concepción (the site of Fort Yuma).

Comment:

In the 18th century the indigenous peoples of the American Southwest saw Catholicism and Spanish rule as a package deal.  When they wanted to throw off the latter, the new religion had to go also.  Do we appreciate sufficiently the acceptable adjustment our faith can make among various peoples?  Are we offended by the customs of Catholics in other cultures?  Do we see our good example as a contribution to missionary evangelization?

Quote:

On a visit to Africa in 1969, Pope Paul VI told 22 young Ugandan converts that “being a Christian is a fine thing but not always an easy one.”

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:

 

 

Creation and St. Francis

 

How do human beings compare to animate and inanimate creatures?   How do they differ fundamentally?

Saint Francis is called the “seraphic saint”.  What is the special characteristic associated with the angels called “seraphs”?

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

 

Day 5  Sun, 7/17

 

Imitation: Cont.: Book 3, Chap. 40

Wherefore, but I did know well, how to cast from me all human comfort, either for the sake of devotion, or through the necessity by which I am compelled to seek Thee, because there is no man that can comfort me. Then might I deservedly hope in Thy favor, and rejoice in the gift of a new consolation. Thanks be to Thee from Whom all things proceed, as often as it happens to me, I, indeed, am but vanity and nothing in Thy sight, an inconstant and weak man. Where, therefore, can I glory, or for what do I desire to be thought of highly?

Forsooth of my very nothingness; and this is most vain. Truly vainglory is an evil plague, because it draws away from true glory, and robs us of heavenly grace. For, while a man takes complacency in himself, he displeases Thee; while he looks for human applause, he is deprived of true virtues. But true, glory and holy exultation is to glory in Thee, and not in one’s self; to rejoice in Thy Name, but not in one’s own strength. To find pleasure in no creature, save only for Thy sake. Let Thy Name be praised, not mine; let Thy work be magnified, not mine; let Thy Holy Name be blessed, but let nothing be attributed to me of the praise of men. Thou art my glory; Thou art the exultation of my heart; in Thee, will I glory and rejoice all the day; but for myself, I will glory in nothing but in my infirmities.

 

Now recite the daily prayers for Part 1

 

Prayers to be recited during these first twelve days          7/13-7/24

 

Veni Creator

 

Come, 0 Creator Spirit blest!
And in our souls take up thy rest;
Come with Thy grace and heavenly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
Great Paraclete! To Thee we cry,
O highest gift of God most high!
O font of life! 0 fire of love!
And sweet anointing from above.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts art known,
The finger of God’s hand we own;
The promise of the Father, Thou!
Who dost the tongue with power endow.
Kindle our senses ‘from above,
And make our hearts o’erflow with love;
With patience firm and virtue high
The weakness of our flesh supply.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
And grant us Thy true peace instead;
So shall we not, with Thee for guide,
Turn from the path of life aside.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
The Father and the Son to know,
And Thee through endless times confessed
Of both the eternal Spirit blest.
All glory while the ages run
Be to the Father and the Son
Who rose from death; the same to Thee,
O Holy Ghost, eternally. Amen.

 

Ave Maris Stella

 

Hail, bright star of ocean,
God’s own Mother blest,
Ever sinless Virgin,
Gate of heavenly rest.
Taking that sweet Ave
Which from Gabriel came,
Peace confirm within us,
Changing Eva’s name.
Break the captives’ fetters,
Light on blindness pour,
All our ills expelling,
Every bliss implore.
Show thyself a Mother;
May the Word Divine,
Born for us thy Infant,
Hear our prayers through thine.
Virgin all excelling,
Mildest of the mild,
Freed from guilt, preserve us,
Pure and undefiled.
Keep our life all spotless,
Make our way secure,
Till we find in Jesus
Joy forevermore.
Through the highest heaven
To the Almighty Three,
Father, Son and Spirit,
One same glory be. Amen.

 

Magnificat

 

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid; for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is His name.
And His mercy is from generation to generations, to them that fear Him.
He hath showed might in His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat; and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy.
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

 

“Enough Already, ENOUGH! Worry About It Tomorrow – Or, Maybe Not At All!” – Matthew 6:24–34†


 

Why is this Sunday called “Septuagesima”?  How did Lent come to be 40 days in length?

Because in accordance with the words of the First Council of Orleans, some pious Christian congregations in the earliest ages of the Church, especially the clergy, began to fast seventy days before Easter, on this Sunday, which was therefore called Septuagesima” – the seventieth day. The same is the case with the Sundays following, which are called Sexagesima, Quinquagesima , Quadragesima, because some Christians commenced to fast sixty days, others fifty, others forty days before Easter, until finally, to make it properly uniform, Popes Gregory and Gelasius arranged that all Christians should fast forty days before Easter, commencing with Ash-Wednesday.

http://calefactory.org/books/goffine/septuagesima.htm

 

 

 

With this blog reflection, I have added a new “temporary’ section titled,”New Translation of the Mass”.  I will rotate and repeat 11 changes in the congregation’s part of the Mass, until the beginning of Advent this year.

Hopefully it will be interesting and educational.  Please let me know.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1862 – Saint Gabriele dell’ Addolorata, patron of Italian Catholic youth, dies at age 23
†   1891 – Birth of Anne Samson, oldest-ever nun documented (d. 2004)
†   1973 – Pope Paul VI publishes constitution “motu proprio Quo aptius”
†   1994 – Maronite church near Beirut bombed, 10 killed
†   1995 – Death of Philip Sherrington, opus Dei Priest, at age 51
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows; Saint Leander; Saint Honorine

(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:

 

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.”  – Blaise Pascal 

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

On February 6, the Church celebrates the memory of the first Christian martyrs of Japan (protomartyrs), all 26 of whom were crucified on a hill just outside Nagasaki on February 5, 1597. This group consisted of 6 Friars Minors, seventeen Japanese Franciscan Tertiaries, three other Japanese, Jesuit priest Paul Miki, and his two catechists. Among the friars, the most known was Pietro Battista, a Spanish priest who had been sent to evangelize Japan along with other Franciscans from the Philippines in 1593.

They worked tirelessly proclaiming the gospel, and building churches and a hospital in Meako. In November 1596, more Franciscans had arrived in Japan when their ship ran aground because of a sea storm. Among them was Felipe de Jesus who was traveling from the Philippines to his native Mexico to be ordained as a priest. Since he began collaborating in the mission, he was also condemned to die when emperor Taycosama, who had initially accepted Christian missionaries, imposed an edict condemning to death these friars coming from the Philippines and their companions.

The group was forced to walk from Kyoto to Nagasaki, a distance of over 800 km, enduring cold weather conditions, and suffering imprisonment, torture and public scorn. Once they were crucified, their executioners pierced them on both sides with two spears crossing each other inside the chest and coming out of their bodies by the shoulders, causing them to die almost immediately.

Felipe de Jesus was the first one to be executed and became the first Mexican saint. In one of the letters Peter Baptist wrote during his final days, he stated: The sentence pronounced against us was written on a sign and carried before us. The sign read that we were condemned to death because we preached the law of Nauan (i.e., the law of Christ) contrary to the command of Taycosama and would be crucified when we reached Nagasaki. For this we were happy and consoled in the Lord since we had forfeited our lives to preach his law.

These martyrs provide us with the opportunity to reflect on our Christian commitment to proclaim the gospel in our present world not only with our words, but also with our lives. They were courageous and faithful in witnessing Christ through evangelization, service, and accepting persecution gladly and with relentless hope.

Their witness also helps to illustrate the content of Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Day of Peace 2011 (numbers 6-10), especially regarding the public dimension of faith. This dimension should be acknowledged and respected by all societies as a path for true peace and integral human development.

http://www.ciofs.org/ratio/2010/EN201102.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching about the meaning of “Enough”.  His message is: “Don’t worry about tomorrow”.  Jesus tells all to not look at the past too long; rather, let tomorrow take care of itself.  Pay attention to today.

 

24 “No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.  25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are not you more important than they?  27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  28 Why are you anxious about clothes?  Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.  They do not work or spin.  29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.  30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  31 So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  32 All these things the pagans seek.  Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  33 But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.  Sufficient for a day is its own evil.  (NAB Matthew 6:24–34)

 

Our ultimate goal is God; and to attain this goal, one needs to commit oneself – – fully, totally, and entirely to God. (Could I stress the complete surrender one needs any better?!)  One cannot have two supreme and opposing goals. 

Today’s Gospel reading is the final (third) part of the instructions from the “Sermon on the Mount” by Jesus.  Today, He is teaching on the way of life in the kingdom of Heaven on earth.  This reading, and its associated reflection, is about trusting God and performing “acts of loving service” to our neighbor’s on a daily basis. 

(The first two parts of the “Sermon on the Mount” and its associated reflections can be found at):

Part one: “Blessed are the …. AH, You Know ‘em! So, start LIVING ‘EM!” – Matthew 5:1-12a:

https://sfodan.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/%e2%80%9cblessed-are-the-%e2%80%a6-ah-you-know-%e2%80%98em-so-start-living-%e2%80%98em%e2%80%9d-matthew-51-12a%e2%80%a0/

Part two: ♫“All We Need Is Love; Dah, – Dah, Dah Dah, Dah!”♫ – Matthew 5:38–48:

https://sfodan.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/%e2%99%ab%e2%80%9call-we-need-is-love-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah%e2%80%9d%e2%99%ab-matthew-538%e2%80%9348%e2%80%a0/

 

What do the phrases “serving two masters” and “being anxious” have in common?  They each have the same internal source: a division within oneself.   The word “anxiety” literally means “being of two minds”. 

“But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8)

(It sounds a little schizophrenic to me.)  “Anxiety”, as used in today’s Gospel reading, is when someone tries to live in two “kingdoms”: God’s kingdom, and a materialistic (some may say Satanic) “kingdom.”  Anxiety and God’s kingdom are in conflict with each other; yet, we find ourselves apparently needing to do both.

However, Jesus is telling us “NOT TO WORRY”!  Anxiety and worry can pull us away from our relying on God just as assuredly as deliberate acts of evil!  We know we chose to follow God’s principles and values, His path; OR, we find ourselves following the world’s principles and values, which, at the moment, may appear to be the right thing to do.  That, which we choose to do, becomes our “master”.   Jesus is informing us that there are some true absolutes; He reveals that we come to a point of choosing between God, OR, “mammon”.

“Mammon”?  What is “Mammon”?  (Hint: It is NOT a pagan God of old.)  It is an Aramaic word (Jesus’ native language) meaning “wealth” or “property”.  Jesus is stating that we can have only one “FIRST” priority in life; either God or earthly processions (without God). 

The word “mammon”, in reality, does not have a negative connotation.  Jesus is NOT saying we must forgo earthly material processions and wealth.  He is only saying that God needs to be our preeminent and foremost priority in life.  One can have both God and “mammon”; but can only “serve” one or the other.  We human beings are not self-sufficient; we are dependent on something outside ourselves.  Jesus, in no way, denies the reality of our human needs.  In fact, Jesus teaches us that our first or top-most priority, that of seeking God and His kingdom, assures us He will provide all material “wealth” and “property” needed (all our human material needs).  For Jesus reveals an awesome fact:

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:32)

Jesus goes on to say:

“But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33) 

However, He forbids us from making earthly material processions an object of worry, fret, and restless care.  In doing so, we would in effect, become a slave to materialism instead of a “slave” to God and His divine will and providence.  In a sense, we would be practicing a form of idolatry in placing earthly material objects “first”, over God’s love and providence.  We have to keep God first in all we do, all we say, all we see, and all we think.

As for me, I believe I am in the palm of His hands, and He will work for my “good”:

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I just pray every single day that I don’t “spit” into His hands, which are holding me!

Since we DO need material “goods”; we do know God works “good” in all we do, therefore, that is why Jesus tells us NOT TO WORRY, no less than four times in today’s Gospel reading!  So, Jesus is simply reminding us NOT to be anxious or “worry” over our needs and wants.  

Look at the beauty of nature.  The birds “do not sow or reap”.  The flowers “do not work or spin” cloth.  Yet they are still provided for by God.  Human beings are worth much more than any other creations of God – we are given a soul, and the graces of free-will and reasoning.  So, how could God not provide for us, as He does for all other creation?  If what we place first in our lives is God and His kingdom, along with His providence and justice, we will have what we need. PERIOD!

I think Jesus is really awesome when He shows us the value of the very ordinary things in life: eating, drinking (of course, only milk and diet Mt. Dew), and our choice of clothes.  He is teaching us, even still to this day, to put our entire trust and love in the providence of God, our heavenly Father; and simply to surrender ourselves into the arms of our Father, God.

Jesus asks:

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” (Matthew 6:27)

Jesus is actually asking His disciples if worry can add anything to one’s physical size, length of life, or quality of one’s actions and beliefs.  Compared to eternity in heaven or hell, Worry is an emptyconcept; it has no value when God is a priority in one’s life.

We need to realize that to do the job of “self-reliance”, we need one positive help (God’s grace/truth), and one negative strategy (Don’t worry).  For example, we can’t prevent all sickness and injury in ours and others lives, not to mention death.  So, just stop worrying!  It actually should be liberating for us to know that our well-being and that of others as well, does not depend SOLELY on us!  God is at work in our lives individually, and continuously – – oftentimes invisibly, in the background (if not around the corner) – – to provide for us and others, and to make up for what is lacking in our lives.

 

The words “of little faith” (verse 30) are found in five places in Matthew’s Gospel, but only once in one parallel verse from Luke’s Gospel:

“If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?”  Luke 12:28)

It is used by the Gospel writer, Matthew, for those who are Jesus’ disciples; yet, whose faith in Him is not as deep as it should be (sounds like a lot of people I know, even today, within the Catholic faith.).

“He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.” (Matthew 8:26)

“Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

“When Jesus became aware of this he said, ‘You of little faith, why do you conclude among yourselves that it is because you have no bread?’” (Matthew 16:8)

“He[Jesus] said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17:20)

Matthew quotes Jesus as saying:

“But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33)

What does Jesus mean by seeking the “righteousness” of the kingdom?  Righteousness is an awareness of orderliness in relationship to God; it is also an awareness of Jesus’ sovereignty.  Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, proclaims Jesus to be the “mightier” one (cf., Matthew 3:11) who was to come, and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  For us, as disordered, sinful humans, righteousness given to us is in the saving ability and activities of God in our lives.  Righteousness comes to us in our willingness to submit to God’s plan for our salvation.  Our seeking and receiving sets us apart onto God’s property, making us holy.  (Holiness means being set apart for a specific purpose.)

 

I found it inspiring that Pope Paul VI specifically commented on today’s reading with relationship to the idea of poverty, when he said,

“Why poverty?  Is it to give God, the kingdom of God, the first place in the values which are the object of human aspirations.  Jesus says: ‘Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.’  And He says this with regard to all the other temporal goods, even necessary and legitimate ones, with which human desires are usually concerned.  Christ’s poverty makes possible that detachment from earthly things which allows us to place the relationship with God at the peak of human aspirations.” (Pope Paul VI, General Audience, January 5, 1977)

I began to realize that His relationship with God was the peak of Jesus’ human aspirations.  That priority set Him apart from all His brethren.  Jesus’ seeking first the kingdom set Him apart as the ONE “master”, who alone, has the power to set us free from slavery of the disorder of sin, fear, pride, and all those other bad things, vices, and disordered desires.  That “master”, the Lord Jesus Christ is saving us daily from all that would keep us constrained in such fears, anxieties, and sins by our worrying.  God provides for his creatures in the natural order of His creation, as well as in the order of grace.  So, how much more can we expect our heavenly Father – – our creator – – to do in order to sustain not only our physical bodies, but also our spiritual minds, hearts, and souls as well?  It is His nature to love, heal, forgive, renew, and to make whole again His image of Himself in us.  His way, saves us when we choose to place Him and His kingdom of righteousness FIRST in our lives.  

So, by not worrying, we are freed to address each day’s problems as they come.  Therefore, do not harbor worries and frustrations; they consume the mind, heart, and soul!  Instead, be confident that we are each individually, in God’s loving and magnificently merciful care.  He will most certainly care for us, if we allow Him!  Do not worry then about what happened yesterday or may happen tomorrow. 

One who pays heed to the wind will not sow, and one who watches the clouds will never reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

“Do your duty ‘now’, without looking back on ‘yesterday’, which has already passed, or worrying over ‘to-morrow’, which may never come for you.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 253)

In foregoing worry, we are given a grace of wisdom based on God’s Fatherly providence, as well as on our own life experiences.

 

In our life-span, we learn to care for our own needs, and the needs of others.  As we grow, we learn to take responsibility for ours and others’ needs.  Sometimes, caring for one’s need means being unable to do other tasks which we would much rather enjoy.  At times, I am certain we are all enticed, coaxed, and/or tempted to NOT take responsibility for our given obligations.  We are tempted to put our own needs ahead of others.  

What are the consequences of making such a choice in our life?  Food for thought: How you spend your time, your money, and your THOUGHTS, will reveal to you what is MOST important in your life – – and what “god” you truly follow: God Himself, OR god the idol of things! 

The previous sentence highlights “your Thoughts”; it was a revelational doozy for me!  I could understand, and diligently support, the concepts of spending one’s time, talents, and treasures to show one’s love for God.  But our “thoughts” as proof of our dedication to God?!  Yep; one’s preoccupations, one’s consuming interests, and even one’s daydreams are truly and definitely important indicators of what one worships in life! – WOW!

Can you think of a time in which you have experienced God’s care for yourself and your family and friends?  God cares for us, on an individual and communal basis, every single day (every single moment) of our lives and the lives of others!  He will never, ever, forget us!  God looks after the birds in the sky and the flowers in the field.  Please remember, and thank God daily, that we are worth much more than ALL the other things within His creation.  

 

Prayer of St. Francis

 

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

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (1838-1862 )

 

Born in Italy into a large family and baptized Francis, he lost his mother when he was only four years old. He was educated by the Jesuits and, having been cured twice of serious illnesses, came to believe that God was calling him to the religious life. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, probably because of his age, not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger and he was accepted by the Passionists. Upon entering the novitiate he was given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Ever popular and cheerful, Gabriel quickly was successful in his effort to be faithful in little things. His spirit of prayer, love for the poor, consideration of the feelings of others, exact observance of the Passionist Rule as well as his bodily penances—always subject to the will of his wise superiors— made a deep impression on everyone.

His superiors had great expectations of Gabriel as he prepared for the priesthood, but after only four years of religious life symptoms of tuberculosis appeared. Ever obedient, he patiently bore the painful effects of the disease and the restrictions it required, seeking no special notice. He died peacefully on February 27, 1862, at age 24, having been an example to both young and old.

Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was canonized in 1920.

Comment:

When we think of achieving great holiness by doing little things with love and grace, Therese of Lisieux comes first to mind. Like her, Gabriel died painfully from tuberculosis. Together they urge us to tend to the small details of daily life, to be considerate of others’ feelings every day. Our path to sanctity, like theirs, probably lies not in heroic doings but in performing small acts of kindness every day.

Patron Saint of: Clergy and Bitterness

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)

 

 

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.

Currently, the priest says, “The Lord be with you” five times: at the Entrance Rite, before the Gospel, when the Eucharistic Prayer starts, at “the sign of peace”, and finally at the dismissal. The new response from the congregation will be “And with your spirit”, instead of “And also with you”.

This is a more direct translation of the Latin and matches what many other language groups have been using for years.  It will obviously take some adjustment, since we have been used to saying, “And also with you,” for so long.

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the 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).

“Jesus Is the ‘Lamb of God’! Did He Like Mint Jelly?” John 1:29-34†


            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†  308 – Death of Marcellus I, Catholic Pope
†  429 or 430 – Death of Honoratius of Arles, bishop/saint
†  1120 – The Council of Nablus is held, establishing the earliest surviving written laws of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
†  1412 – The Medici family is appointed official banker of the Papacy.
†  1581 – The English Parliament outlaws Roman Catholicism.
†  1914 – Birth of Roger Aubert, Belgium, church historian (Le Pontificat de Pie IX)
†  1966 – Harold R Perry becomes 2nd black Roman Catholic bishop in US.
†  Feasts and Memorials: Berard of Carbio; Saint Fursey; Honoratus of Arles.

(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:

 

This is 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

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 05 of 13 Parts

 

The key points are the following:

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRULY FRATERNAL LIFE

You are called upon to offer your personal contribution, inspired by the person and the message of Saint Francis of Assisi, to hasten the coming of a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, mutual responsibility and love are truly alive (Cf. Gaudium et Spes 33 ff). You must deepen the true foundations of universal fraternity and create everywhere a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of brotherliness (John Paul II, Message to the Chapter, 2002).

  • THE REDISCOVERY  AND CONSOLIDATION OF ONE’S OWN IDENTITY AND MISSION  IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD

The Rule and the General Constitutions must, by virtue of your Profession, represent for each of you a model of daily experience, based on a specific vocation and a precise identity.

Stand firm against all forms of exploitation, discrimination and exclusion and all attitudes of indifference towards others (John Paul II).

As secular Franciscans, you live, by vocation, as members of the Church and of society, inseparable realities. You are asked first of all, therefore, to bear personal witness in the environment in which you live: among people; in family life; in work; in joys and sufferings; in dealings with people, all brothers and sisters with the same Father; in your presence and participation in the life of society; in fraternal relationship with all creatures” (SFO General Constitutions 12.1). (John Paul II)

 

(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 John the Baptist’s testimony that Jesus is the Lamb of God, God’s own Son.

 

29 The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  30 He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’  31 I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”  32 John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.  33 I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  34 Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”  (NAB John 1:29-34)

 

Today it is John’s Gospel.  What happened to Marks’s Gospel?  Isn’t this Cycle “A” of the Liturgical year, when we are suppose to use Mark’s Gospel?

Well, last Sunday, we actually read and heard (at least I hope you either read or heard) Matthew’s account (again, not Mark’s) of Jesus’ baptism, on the “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.”  Today, we hear and learn about John the Baptist’s “testimony” with regard to Jesus, which is found in John’s the Evangelist’s Gospel.  Please be very careful in reading this reflection and Gospel reading.  There are two John’s: John the Gospel writer and John the Baptist.

The Gospel according to John is quite different in character from the three synoptic Gospels. It is extremely literary and symbolic in nature. I consider John’s Gospel as being more spiritual, and conceptual, and more of a personal journal than that of a historical book.  It does not follow the same sequence or duplicate the same stories as the synoptic Gospels. John’s Gospel is a work of a growing and maturing theological reflection about John’s personal remembrances of Jesus.  His Gospel grows out of a different time, environment, and tradition than the other three (3) Gospel writers.

John’s Gospel differs from the other (Synoptic) Gospels today because he does not actually describe Jesus’ baptism.  Instead, John’s emphasis is on John the Baptist’s announcement that Jesus is the Son of God by declaring Him to be the Lamb of God.

When John the Baptist sees Jesus approaching, he cries out to Him in such a way as to give witness to whom Jesus actually is: “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  John declares he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon, and rest upon Jesus.  Because of this personal and public revelation, John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the one who is to come after him and fulfill the age of the prophets, completing John’s role as the last prophet.

John the Baptist uses two familiar titles for Jesus in today’s reading.  He calls Jesus the “Lamb of God” and the “Son of God.”  John the Baptist identifies Jesus’ ultimate purpose of redeeming a sinful humanity by using these prophetic titles.

 “The Lamb of God” was and still is a most important, powerful, and personal description of the Holy Messiah to come.  This image of God’s lamb is first promised to Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:8 (“God will provide Himself the lamb.”).  Secondly, He is the paschal lamb, whose blood is smeared on the door frames of the Jewish faithful and saved Israel, as found in the stories of the book of Exodus, Chapter 12.  Thirdly, Jesus is the prophetic suffering servant who is led “like a lamb” to slaughter as a sin-offering:

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers; he was silent and opened not his mouth.  (But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.) If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.”  (Isaiah 53: 7,10).

Finally, Jesus is the victorious apocalyptic lamb that destroys evil in the world, as is found in Revelations, Chapters 5-7.   

It is noteworthy in these references to the “lamb” that the Baptizer John was the son of a Temple priest, Zachariah, who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the Temple for the sins of the people (see Luke Chapter 1, and Exodus Chapter 29).  In Jesus, John the Baptist saw the true and only sacrifice which can deliver us from sin, and the one who will bring us to salvation.  (See references Genesis 22 through Revelations 7.)

John refers to Jesus as “He existed before me” even though John is actually six months older than his cousin, Jesus.  John (the Baptist) was linking Jesus to Elijah for himself, his followers, and his audience.  John believed Jesus’ pre-existence was implied through Holy Scripture.  John the Baptist obviously thought of Jesus as a higher and mightier person and soul than he himself; and probably he even thought of Jesus as the true Messiah. Evidence is found in an earlier Gospel verse:

The one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:27)

John’s Gospel starts with Jesus’ Baptism story.  He does not have an infancy narrative like the ones found in the synoptic Gospels.  Thus, there is no genealogy recorded in John’s Gospel.  The “Gospel writer” named John, has John “the Baptist” saying, “I did not know him”.  Without the other three Gospels (the synoptics), the kinship between Jesus, and John the Baptist would be unknown.  When John says he “did not know” Jesus he was actually and truly referring to the hidden reality of Jesus’ Messiahship and divinity.  But the Holy Spirit, in this event, revealed to John the Baptist Jesus’ true nature (human and divine).  John bore witness that Jesus was the Son of God.  

I am still curious, though, as to why John the Evangelist decided to leave all of Jesus’ life prior to this event out of his Gospel!  Why and what was his purpose in excluding this part of Jesus’ life?  (Sorry, I don’t have an answer for this one yet! – – Maybe later.)

 

 

Also different from the Synoptic Gospels is that Jesus’ baptism is NOT connected with the “forgiveness of sins” of others.  Instead, its purpose in John’s Gospel is revelatory in nature, making Jesus known to Israel.  John the Baptist’s testimony clearly distinguishes the difference between his mission, and his Baptisms with water, from the mission and Baptism with the Holy Spirit that Jesus will inaugurate. 

John refers to the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus “like a dove”.  This spiritual dove is a symbol of a NEW being created through the “dove” of the Holy Spirit and the living, flowing waters of Baptism.  It also represents the human and divine nature of Jesus’ becoming part of a NEW restoration of the community of Israel, brought together again in a NEW covenant by John the Baptist’s final testimony: “Behold the Lamb of God.”.  Two Old Testament verses come to mind to support this belief:

Then he sent out a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.” (Genesis 8:8)

“Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like sparrows, from the land of Assyria, like doves; And I will resettle them in their homes, says the LORD.”  (Hosea 11:11).

 

 

John’s use of the word “remain” in verse 33, if you peruse his Gospel, is the first time he uses a verb he obviously favors.  John uses this particular word thirty-seven (37) times throughout this single book of the Holy Bible (NAB-CE edition).  I believe he uses the word, remain”, to emphasize and cement the permanent relationship held between the Father (God) and Son (Jesus), and between the Son (Jesus) and His disciples, His followers, and His believers.  In such a relationship and role, Jesus is the permanent possessor of, and Baptizer with the Holy Spirit.

The phrase “the Son of God” is another example of John exhibiting a different approach, or a different wording structure, from that of the Synoptic Gospels.  The three other Gospels, instead, use the phrase “This is my beloved Son“:

And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”  (Matthew 3:17)

And a voice came from the heavens, ’You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  (Mark 1:11)

And the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  (Luke 3:22).

Again, why did he deviate so much from the other Gospel writers in this aspect?  (I am still working on this one!)

 

 

When John writes, “God’s chosen One,” he is probably referring to the “Servant” found in the book of Isaiah (42:1).

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.  (Isaiah 42:1)

John baptized in order to prepare for, and to make known, the ministry of the “One” who was to follow after him.  John the Baptist’s witness is an excellent example of what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ, and for us today.  By our own Baptism, we are called to make Jesus known to the entire world in our words, attitudes, deeds, and actions; and by the witness of our lives as Catholics.

Our lives are to offer testimony, not only for ourselves, but also to the whole world, of Him who we know: Jesus, the Lamb of God, and the Son of God.  Remember, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  How does the example and witness of your life give testimony to the loving and reconciling presence of Christ?  What might others come to know and embrace about Jesus in observing your personal and family life?  (You tell me!  Please write!)

As a form of meditation and reflection, look for as many phrases, terms, and “titles” for Jesus as possible in your bible and prayer books.  Examples include Lamb of God, Son of God, Messiah, Savior, Prince of Peace, and so on.  What do these different phrases, terms, and titles mean to you?  What do they tell you about Jesus?  Let me know your favorite, or most interpersonal titles for our Lord; I truly would like to know.

 

Communion Invocation from the Holy Mass

 

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Berard and Companions (d. 1220)

 

Preaching the gospel is often dangerous work. Leaving one’s homeland and adjusting to new cultures, governments and languages is difficult enough; but martyrdom sometimes caps all the other sacrifices.

In 1219 with the blessing of St. Francis, Berard left Italy with Peter, Adjute, Accurs, Odo and Vitalis to preach in Morocco. En route in Spain Vitalis became sick and commanded the other friars to continue their mission without him.

They tried preaching in Seville, then in Muslim hands, but made no converts. They went on to Morocco where they preached in the marketplace. The friars were immediately apprehended and ordered to leave the country; they refused. When they began preaching again, an exasperated sultan ordered them executed. After enduring severe beatings and declining various bribes to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, the friars were beheaded by the sultan himself on January 16, 1220.

These were the first Franciscan martyrs. When Francis heard of their deaths, he exclaimed, “Now I can truly say that I have five Friars Minor!” Their relics were brought to Portugal where they prompted a young Augustinian canon to join the Franciscans and set off for Morocco the next year. That young man was Anthony of Padua. These five martyrs were canonized in 1481.

Comment:

The deaths of Berard and his companions sparked a missionary vocation in Anthony of Padua and others. There have been many, many Franciscans who have responded to Francis’ challenge. Proclaiming the gospel can be fatal, but that has not stopped the Franciscan men and women who even today risk their lives in many countries throughout the world.

Quote:

Before St. Francis, the Rules of religious orders made no mention of preaching to the Muslims. In the Rule of 1223, Francis wrote: “Those brothers who, by divine inspiration, desire to go among the Saracens and other nonbelievers should ask permission from their ministers provincial. But the ministers should not grant permission except to those whom they consider fit to be sent” (Chapter 12).

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 16 & 17 of 26:

 

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

 

 

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

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

“Persecution; What an ‘Optimistic’ Marketing Plan For Salvation History!!” – Luke 21:5-19†


 

I started this reflection with no real expectations.  I read the Gospel reading and initially thought of it as a purely “historical” document, without much relevance to today’s living in faith.  Boy was I WRONG!! 

I began reflecting and praying, and the Holy Spirit “broke the dam totally open!”  I could not keep up with my thoughts, and had to write notions and thoughts on a napkin as I was typing, in order to keep up with my thoughts and inadequate typing skills.  My reflections went down so many paths, that I literally needed to “map” out this reflection today.

The Holy Spirit wrote this blog – – NOT ME!!  I only allowed the use of my body.  This is, I believe, the longest of any of my reflection: about 2500 words in the reflection alone (twice as long as normal for me).  Make sure you grab a big cup of coffee and get relaxed.  You may also want to grab your Catholic Bible (Do you have one?) for I will be referencing it extensively today.

I hope you enjoy this reflection as much as I enjoyed reflecting on, and writing about this particular Gospel reading.

            

  

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   1359 – Death of Gregorius Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, Byzantine mystic/archbishop/saint (b. 1296)
†   1391 – Death of Nikola Tavelić, First Croatian saint (b. 1340)

†   1601 – Birth of Saint Jean Eudes, French missionary  and founder of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary and of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, and author of the Propers for Mass and Divine Office of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. (d. 1680)
†   1550 – Pope Julius III proclaims new seat on Council of Trente
†   1675 – Pope Clemens X declares Gorcumse martyrs divine

†   1746 – Birth of Giulio Gabrielli the Younger, Italian Cardinal
†   1971 – His Holiness Shenouda III is consecrated (Enthroned)as the 117th Patriarch of Alexandria and the See of St. Mark, the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church. (Pope Shenouda III as Pope of Alexandria)
†   Feast Days: St. Josaphat Kuncevyc on the General Roman Calendar as in 1954; Barlaam of Kiev; Saint Philip, celebrated in Eastern Orthodox Church

(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:

 

Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ insights and knowledge regarding the future of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and His warning to His followers that persecution will come before the end time (the Parousia).

 

5 While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, 6 “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”  7 Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen?  And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”  8 He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’  Do not follow them!  9 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”  10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  11 There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.  12 “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  13 It will lead to your giving testimony.  14 Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15 for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.  16 You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  17 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18 but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives.  (NAB Luke 21:5-19)

 

Jesus foretold many signs of God’s action and judgment in the coming future.  The Jewish people took great pride in the Temple in Jerusalem and in the site where that Temple rested.  It was a true wonder of architectural achievement for the world as a whole.  Jesus cautioned His followers to not seek “signs” but rather to seek God’s kingdom in their everyday lives and prayers.  There will be plenty of signs – such as wars, famines, diseases, tidal waves, and earthquakes (and maybe even some spouses) – pointing to God’s ultimate judgment at the “Parousia”: the fullness of God’s personal presence at the coming of the Messiah.

While the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple had been prophesized and fulfilled (it was razed by the Romans in 70 A.D., one to two decades prior to this Gospel).  So it was past history for Luke’s community.  There still remained for Jesus’ followers a narrow open door of opportunity showing the way to salvation.   Remember, from the Mass readings some weeks ago that Jesus said: “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9).   The statement of Jesus is being experienced by the Lucan community!  Are you?!

In His life, Jesus frequently travelled to Jerusalem, home of the Jewish center of faith – – the Temple.  Jesus knew that he would meet betrayal, rejection, humiliation, pain, and death on the Holy Cross on a hill just outside the gates of the holy city.  However, Jesus’ death on the Holy “Tree” brought about victory over the power of evil and won salvation for all of us, not only for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, – but for both Jews and Gentiles – who would followed Jesus’ path in faith.

Jesus’ prophecy of the Temple destruction is a two-sided coin.  One side shows God’s judgment; the other side of that same coin shows His love, mercy, and protection.  In realizing that there are these two sides, those who first heard Luke’s Gospel may have actually taken these words as encouraging instead of disparaging.  

Luke’s community was most certainly composed of some of the first “non-Jewish” or “Gentile” Catholics.  He tries to make clear the destruction of Jerusalem by locating it in God’s salvation plans for mankind.   However, at the same time, Luke is suggesting to his community that there will probably be a substantial passing of time before Jesus’ final coming, the “Parousia.”  Luke’s community of believers experienced a lot of turmoil and mayhem with both the Roman government’s religious persecution of them, as well as some serious pressure from their Jewish leaders.  These earliest followers of Jesus were in desperate need of encouragement at this time in history.  They were anxious to know whether these past events were truly signs of Jesus’ coming, as well as what was in store for them in the near future.   Luke, in his writings, urged for a greater patience in their waiting for the coming of the end of the age.  (He was encouraging them to wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord.)

At this period in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is nearing the completion of His teaching time in Jerusalem, which takes place immediately before the events which will ultimately lead to His betrayal, arrest, scourging, and crucifixion.  Luke seems to be warning Jesus’ followers, and is also predicting ominous events in the future; but can Luke’s writings be interpreted other ways?

Luke’s reporting of Jesus’ insights and knowledge concerning the human soul in relationship to death, judgment, heaven and hell are probably inspired by Mark 13 which was written prior to Luke’s Gospel.  However, Luke made some noteworthy changes to Jesus’ actual words reported in Mark’s Gospel.   Luke maintains the early Christians’ belief in the imminent anticipation of Jesus’ return to earth which would end the current “age” and usher in the final age of the Messiah’s rein on earth.  (“Secula Seculorum”: Age of Ages).  By focusing attention throughout his writings on the importance of the day-to-day following of Jesus (a daily conversion experience), and by reinterpreting the meaning of some of the signs from the end of Mark 13, Luke had come to terms with this delay in the Parousia (the second coming of Christ).  In verse 8, Jesus warns of false teachings and false theologies.  Luke understood the destruction of the Temple some ten to twenty years prior, that the “coming” is without knowledge of the “time,” and to live each day in the present in faith and joyful expectation without worry of “signs”.

For Luke to say “Before all this happens . . . “(verse 12), he is saying that some of the signs of the Parousia described in today’s reading still remains for the future.  In dealing with the persecution of the disciples and the destruction of Jerusalem, Luke is simply pointing to signs that have already been fulfilled.  There are still others that must be fulfilled prior to the Parousia event.  We all need to realize that the Parousia will not be a one day event; it will last for eternity.  We are on God’s time, not “earthly” time.

Jesus warns that His followers, His disciples, will most certainly face persecution for their beliefs.  The battle between good and evil, light and dark, has been going on since the beginning of time. (Even longer than the conflicts in the middle-east, or between the Democrats and Republicans.)  Luke optimistically portrays “persecution” as an opportunity for Jesus’ followers  to truly be known as believers – – as Sons of God – – because  (as in verse 13) “It will lead to your giving testimony” – – to the truth.  In suffering persecution, or any pain and inconvenience for that matter, – – especially suffering because of our  faith – – there is a vast potential to manifest God’s wisdom, power, and graces as an example of the love, adoration, and trust a follower has in the Holy Trinity – –  and the trust God has in us!  Perseverance in the face of harassment, maltreatment, and persecution is an opportunity to lead one’s soul, body, and humanity to salvation in God’s unending paradise: eternal life.

Luke is imparting to all of us Jesus’ followers an assurance that God is truly with all believers, even, and especially in times of trial and distress.  Jesus ultimately witnessed to this with His own horrific torture and death.  As disciples of Jesus, we need to follow in His footsteps, on His path, and by His example.  It is much too easy to love and follow in His path when it is favorable; but what about in the rough times?!  We must trust in God’s love, mercy, and protection, even when we are facing trials and tribulations. 

Why are so many opposed to the “good news”, the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  The real enemy of the Gospel is a fallen angel, and he is not alone.  Jesus identifies him as Satan or “Adversary” – – who uses trickery, fear, and hatred to incite and inflame hostile attitudes and behaviors in others towards Jesus, the Gospel, and Jesus’ followers.  What is Jesus’ answer to any hostility and opposition?  Love, compassion, and truth!  Only love can defeat prejudice, intolerance, and hatred.  God’s love purifies our hearts, souls, and minds from all evil that Satan uses to drive a wedge between people to tear them apart.  

Truth through God’s loving providence is also essential for overcoming Satan’s evil and misery in the world.  Satan deceives and lies!  Sin blinds the heart, soul, and mind.  Only God’s truth can liberate us from sin and spiritual exile.  Today’s Gospel is God’s word of truth and salvation.  I believe this is why Jesus instructs His disciples to proclaim the “living Word”, the Gospel, throughout the whole world, and to do so even if it entails sacrifice, opposition, and persecution.  (See 2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Jesus tells His followers that, if they endure, they will obtain eternal paradise and happiness with God.  “Endurance” is so much more than just human effort and perseverance.  Endurance, in this case, is a grace from the Holy Spirit which enables us to endure the trials, temptations, and persecutions in a spirit and attitude of trust, hope, and love. 

Spiritual endurance develops and strengthens the souls “muscle” to trust, relax, and be courageous and patient when we need them most.  And with this trust, hope, and prayer we experience God’s kingdom and become heir to all the promises He has made.  (2 Peter 1:3-5)

The word “martyr” in Greek means “a witness” (as in a trial).  True martyrs (witnesses) live, and also die, as bearing testimony (verse 13) to the Holy Gospel of Jesus – – the WORD of God (verse 13).  These witnesses overcome their enemies through persevering trust, hope, courage, love, patience, self-control, kindness, and compassion.  Christian martyrs witness to the truth, joy, and freedom of God in and by their life, testimony, and shedding of their own blood.  

Misguided, Ill-advised, and confused “zealots” who will sacrifice their lives in an attempt to kill others out of hatred, revenge, and prejudice are not true martyrs because their sacrifice is not motivated by God’s merciful love, forgiveness, truth, and righteousness.  True martyrs pray for their persecutors.  They truly love their enemies because of Jesus’ courage.  In their acceptance of suffering and death they witness to the hope and truth of God’s WORD that “He (the Father) so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him (Jesus of Nazareth) might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16).   

I believe that I am, as most caring people are, receptive and responsive to the worries and pain experienced by others.  We understand their worries and apprehensions as we share information in an appropriate and thoughtful way. We can also illuminate these worries, concerns, and apprehensions in the light of God’s grace, kingdom, hope, and plan for salvation; we share the assurance of God’s caring, love and wisdom for us.  Jesus Christ, the “Messiah”, calls us to believe with all seriousness His providential care for all of us.  In verse 18, it says, “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”  Remember, Jesus said that even when his disciples are persecuted, God would be with them.  He will never abandon the world, or His creations, to Satan.  Remember also, He knows His specific plan for each of us, and He is faithful to be with us always.

God will never allow us to completely destroy each other.  He does not wish anyone harm, and He does not want anyone to perish or suffer eternally.  “The Lord does not delay his promise as some regard ‘delay’; but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  Jesus died on the cross for Jews, Greeks, Christians, Muslims, AND EVEN for agnostics and atheists.  In fact, He died for ANY human being who ever has been, and for those still to come.

In what ways has God brought good out of the difficult events you have experienced?  What actions can you take to endure more gracefully the difficult and challenging situations you may be experiencing now?  Place your difficult situations and times into God’s hands (Psalm 37:5).  As a truly loving Father, He is even closer to you at these times; and He is active on your behalf.

For most of us, our “calling” is to be “non-martyrs” who bear testimony to the joy and power of Jesus’ salvation while performing our daily chores and challenges, and by reacting as a Catholic should to the trials, temptations, and hardships we experience and endure.  

When others observe Catholics “loving” their enemies, being “joyful” in suffering, “patient” in difficulties, “pardoning” those who injure us, and “comforting” the hopeless and helpless, they are naturally drawn to God’s magnificent love and mercy as well.  Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our enemies for God will give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any persecution and to answer any challenge to our faith that is asked of us.  The ability to speak with the wisdom of the Holy Trinity, and that we do not have to prepare prior to speaking these words of wisdom, is a gift from Jesus Himself.  It will leave our adversaries powerless to refute or resist (verses 14-15).  Are you eager to bear witness to God’s love, joy, and mercy?

 

“Prayer In Time of Danger”

 

 

“O God, Who know us to be set in the midst of such great perils, that, by reason of the weakness of our nature, we cannot stand upright, grant us such health of mind and body, that those evils which we suffer for our sins we may overcome through Your assistance.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Gertrude (1256?-1302)

 

Gertrude, a Benedictine nun in Helfta (Saxony), was one of the great mystics of the 13th century. Together with her friend and teacher St. Mechtild, she practiced a spirituality called “nuptial mysticism,” that is, she came to see herself as the bride of Christ. Her spiritual life was a deeply personal union with Jesus and his Sacred Heart, leading her into the very life of the Trinity.

But this was no individualistic piety. Gertrude lived the rhythm of the liturgy, where she found Christ. In the liturgy and Scripture, she found the themes and images to enrich and express her piety. There was no clash between her personal prayer life and the liturgy.

Comment:

Gertrude’s life is another reminder that the heart of the Christian life is prayer: private and liturgical, ordinary or mystical, always personal.

Quote:

“Lord, you have granted me your secret friendship by opening the sacred ark of your divinity, your deified heart, to me in so many ways as to be the source of all my happiness; sometimes imparting it freely, sometimes as a special mark of our mutual friendship. You have so often melted my soul with your loving caresses that, if I did not know the abyss of your overflowing condescensions, I should be amazed were I told that even your Blessed Mother had been chosen to receive such extraordinary marks of tenderness and affection” (Adapted from The Life and Revelations of Saint Gertrude).

Patron Saint of the West Indies

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 14 & 15 of 26:

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

 

 

 

 

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.

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


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

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

Today in Catholic History:
   

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

Quote or Joke of the Day:
    

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

Today’s Meditation:
    

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #16:
  

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

“♬ I CAN’T See Clearly Now ♬, or Can I?!” – Acts 9:1-9†


It has been 100 days since the terrible earthquake in Haiti.  1.3 million dollars has been sent to “Haiti” from the United States.  Let’s still keep them in our prayers.
 

Today in Catholic History:
† 303 – Death of Saint George, Roman soldier and Christian martyr
† 997 – Death of Saint Adalbert of Prague, bishop (b. ca. 956)
† 1725 – Birth of Saint Gerard Majella, Catholic saint (d. 1755)
† 1813 – Birth of Frédéric Ozanam, French scholar (Founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul) (d. 1853)
† Liturgical feasts: Feast Day of Saint George: [Patron saint and National Day of England, and of Aragon, Celebrated as St. Jordi’s Day in Catalonia, presents of books and roses.]  Jurgi festival, in ancient Latvia, Saint Adalbert of Prague, Saint Gerard (d. 1138)

 

Today’s reflection is about Saul’s encounter with the risen Lord, on the road to Damascus.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

From error to error, one discovers the entire truth. ~ Sigmund Freud
   

Today’s Meditation:
   

Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.  On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”  The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.  (NAB Acts 9:1-9)
  

This is the first of three accounts of Paul’s conversion (with Acts 22:3-16 and Acts 26:2-18).   This first account occurs when the “Word” is first spread to the Gentiles.  The conversion of this hero of the Gentile mission is presented with an emphasis, in this reading, on Paul as a divinely chosen instrument.

Saul was one angry individual.  He wanted blood and revenge for the degradation “those people” were doing to his Temple.  He had made “murderous threats” against any of the disciples of Jesus Christ.  Saul “went to the high priest of the Temple and asked him for letters” of his authority to the synagogues in Damascus.  This would allow him to arrest any member of “the Way,” and gave him permission to bring them back to Jerusalem in chains

The Way” was a name used by the early Christian community for itself (see Acts 18:26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).  The Essene community at Qumran (known for the Dead Sea Scrolls) used the same designation to describe its mode of life.  Reminds me of another song: ♬ “Do You Know the WAY to Je・e・sus, ?” ♬ (OK, not a great pun of a song, but at least I tried.)

While Saul was nearing Damascus, (one tradition says on a horse), with a couple of other men, he was startled by a light from the sky that suddenly flashed, causing Saul to fall to the ground.  There was no such thing as paparazzi way back then, so Saul was truly “Freaked out!”

The words of Jesus projecting at Saul saying, “… why are you persecuting me?” exerted a profound and lasting influence on Paul.  Under the influence of this experience, and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, he gradually developed his understanding of justification by faith in Jesus as the Messiah sent from God to redeem the world (see the letters to the Galatians and Romans), and of the identification of the Christian community with Jesus Christ as Lord and God (see 1 Cor 12:27).   Saul had his first round of conversion: one that he repeated daily for the rest of his life.  This conversion also must be renewed daily by us in order to grow in our love of Christ.

Startled, and probably having difficulty with his bodily functions such as standing and talking, he was able to gain enough strength to utter, “Who are you, sir?”.  The response, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting!” probably put a lump in Saul’s throat the size on Mount Tabor!  Can you picture this strong man, totally scared out of his wits, thinking “Oh, Oh, I made a big boo-boo!”?  Even the men traveling with Saul, and witnessed this entire event, stood speechless’

Jesus tells him to get up and go to Damascus where he will be told what he must do.  Saul was made blind, just as Jeremiah was blinded for not believing in the miracles of God.  For three days, Saul was unable to see, eat, or drink.  This temporary blindness symbolized the religious blindness of Saul as persecutor.  ♬“He Was Blind, and Now He Sees”♬ would make a great title for a song about conversion and opening ourselves up to the beauty and light of the Holy Trinity. (Oh, it is already? Oh well.)

“Lord, put a song in my heart, and your words on my tongue.  I want to sing your praises always.  Amen.”
   

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Blessed Giles of Assisi d.1262
     

Two companions from Assisi had already joined St. Francis when Giles, a well-to-do young man of the town, heard about it. He repaired to the poor hermitage yard by Assisi, which the three occupied, and prostrate upon his knees, he begged St. Francis to accept him into his company. Francis presented him to the other two, saying: “See here a good brother whom almighty God has sent us.” This was on April 23, 1209. On the same day, both went to Assisi, where Giles begged in God’s name for a bit of cloth to make a habit. Giles divided his entire fortune among the poor. He was plain and simple in mind, of a mild temperament, but also full of power and energy when it served to accomplish anything good.

Recognizing humility as the necessary foundation for perfection, Giles sought humiliation and contempt, but fled from honors. Once when he was passing through the March of Ancona with the holy Founder and at some places special honor was shown to them, he said, “O my Father, I fear we shall lose the true honor if we are honored by men.”

Giles entertained a great desire to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Places, and since Francis knew that he did much good everywhere by his holy example, he gladly granted his desire. The Apostle James at Compostela in Spain, then to the Holy Places of the Passion of Christ in Jerusalem. He also visited the sanctuary of the holy Archangel Michael on Mt. Gargano in Italy, and the town of Bari, there to honor St. Nicholas.

His whole appearance preached poverty, humility, and piety. He also utilized every opportunity to encourage penance and love of God. He endeavored to earn his livelihood mainly through manual work; whatever he obtained over and above his immediate needs, he at once gave to the poor; if he lacked necessities, he begged them for God’s sake. Once a poor woman who was dressed in the barest necessaries asked Brother Giles for an alms. As he had nothing to offer her, he compassionately took off his capuche and gave it to her.

In the year 1219, at the great chapter of 5,000 brothers, St. Francis commissioned Giles to go to Africa with several companions, to preach the gospel to the Mohammedans. But they did not achieve their purpose. As soon as they landed in Africa, the Christians there, who feared a general persecution, led them by force to another ship which brought them back to Italy.

At this time Brother Giles was sent to the quiet convent of Perugia, which remained his abode until his death. He lived practically only for God. Even at his work, thoughts of the last judgment, of eternity, and of the glory of heaven constantly occupied his mind. Once when two distinguished gentlemen asked him to pray for them, he said: “Oh you do not need my prayers.” “Why not?” they asked. Giles answered, “You live among all the comforts of the world and still believe that you will get to heaven; but I, a poor human being, spend my days in labor and penance, and yet I fear I will be damned.” When he reflected on the joys of heaven, he was beside himself with longing. Often when the children in the street called out to him the mere word “paradise,” he was rapt in ecstasy.

Pope Gregory IX had heard of the contemplative gift of Brother Giles, and being just then in the neighborhood of Perugia, he sent for him. When the pope began to speak to Giles about divine and heavenly matters, Giles at once went into an ecstasy. When he came to again, he humbly begged the Holy Father’s forgiveness — it was his weakness, he said, that he was immediately beside himself. The pope required that he give him some good advice for the administration of his burdensome duties. Quite confounded, Giles excused himself saying that he could not advise the head of the Church. But when the pope commanded him in obedience, he said, “Holy Father, you must have two eyes in your soul. The right eye must be kept on heavenly things; the left one, on the things of this earth, which you must regulate.”

St. Bonaventure considered himself fortunate to have lived at the time when he could still see and speak with Brother Giles. When he came to Perugia as provincial of the order, Giles said to him one day,” My Father, God has accorded you great kindness, since you are so learned and can, therefore, serve God so perfectly; but we unlearned ones, how shall we correspond to the goodness of God and arrive at heaven?” The learned general of the order answered him: “My brother, in order to get to heaven, it suffices that one love God, and a poor unlearned woman can love God as well as, maybe even better than, a great theologian.” Thereupon Giles ran out into the garden that led to the street, and filled with joy, cried aloud, “Come, ye simple and unlearned men, and ye poor women! You can love God as well as, and perhaps even more than, Brother Bonaventure and the greatest theologians.”

A religious of great learning, who, however, was much troubled with doubts concerning the virginity of Mary, came to Brother Giles for advise. The holy brother cried out, as he struck the earth with a stick, “Yes! yes! She was a virgin before the birth of Jesus!” and immediately a beautiful lily sprouted forth. Giles struck anew and said, “She was a virgin during the birth,” and again a lily sprouted forth. Then he beat a third time upon the earth, saying the words, “She was a virgin after the birth,” and the third lily sprouted forth.

Finally, pure as a lily, the soul of Brother Giles went to the vision of things divine, which he had so often contemplated. He died on April 22, 1262, on the anniversary of his entrance into the order, to which he had belonged for 53 years. His grave in the Franciscan church at Perugia is highly venerated. Pope Pius VI sanctioned the veneration accorded him from time immemorial.

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 #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.