Tag Archives: spirit

“The Advent Wreath; Our Lady of Guadalupe; Christ’s Divinity; Creating though Purity, Love, and Spirit, a Worthwhile Community!” –†


 

2ndWednesday of Advent

 

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

Today, I will bring to you the origins of, traditions of, and reasons for using the:

The Advent Wreath

The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition.  However, the actual origins are uncertain.  There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during 800px-adventkranz_andreathe cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future for the warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring.  In Scandinavia, during winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light so this god would  turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun in order to lengthen the days and restore warmth.

In the “Middle Ages”, Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas.  After all, Christ is “the light come into the world” (John 3:19), dispelling the darkness of sin and radiating the truth and love of God to all.  By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath at Christmas time.

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is indeed spiritually beautiful.  The wreath is made of various evergreens, themselves signifying continuous life.  These various evergreens have a traditional meaning Advent-wreath-wk2-mwhich can be adapted in our faith: The laurels signify victory over persecution and suffering, with pine, holly, and yew, pointing toward immortality; and cedar aimed at strength and healing.

Holly, in addition, has a unique Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of Christ’s crown of thorns.  One English legend even tells us of the cross being made of holly wood (not from California).  The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ.  Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also reinforce the symbolization of life and resurrection.

So, all together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul AND the new, everlasting life promised to us through Jesus Christ, the eternal living “Word” of God the Father, who entered our world becoming true man, and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.

The ring of the Advent wreath – – decorated with candles – – was a symbol in northern Europe long before the arrival of Christianity to its shores.  Though some sources suggest the wreath was in common use in the Middle Ages, others say that it was established in Germany as a Christian custom only in the 16th century.  Regardless of the origin, Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America among the German immigrants.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. I personally know of three separate traditions advent_wreath_sm_wk4involving the lighting of these candles to represent eras of our faith, and the individual meanings of each candle.  If you know of others, please let me know.

One tradition is that each week (and its candle) represents one thousand years, the sum of years – – 4,000 – – from Adam and Eve until the Birth of our Savior.  

Another similar type of tradition has each candle representing a separate era of Christianity: the first being the era before Christ; the second candle being the 33 year era of Christ’s physical human/divine presence on earth; the third “rose” colored candle representing Christ’s continual loving and merciful presence with each of us until the end of time, which is itself represented by the fourth candle signifying the awaiting of the Parousia.

Finally, in this third separate tradition:

    • The first purple candle lit (1st week) is called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets – – primarily Isaiah – – who foretold the birth of Christ; thus representing hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.  
    • The second purple candle represents “love”, and is called the “Bethlehem Candle”, symbolizing Christ’s manger
    • The third rose-colored candle is customarily called the “Shepherds Candle” and it represents joy
    • The fourth and last purple candle, called the “Angels Candle,” represents “peace”.

In the Catholic Church, the most popular colors for the Advent candle theme are undeniably the colors “purple” and “rose”, corresponding with the colors of the liturgical vestments for the four Sundays of Advent. Thus, three candles are purple, and one is rose.  

Purple is the traditional color of penitential seasons, with the purple candles symbolizing the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken during the Advent Season.  

Rose is the color for the third Sunday of Advent, known as “Gaudete Sunday”, a Latin word meaning “to rejoice” – – and is taken from the first line of the traditional entrance prayer (called the Introit) for the Mass of the third Sunday of Advent.  Rose-colored vestments, worn by the priest at Mass on this day, are a symbol of rejoicing because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and we are ever-so-much closer to Christmas. 

A variation of the Advent wreath adds a white candle in the center to symbolize the “Christ Candle“.  White is the traditional color of “purity” in the Western church.  Jesus Christ is the sinless, spotless, and advent%20wreaththe pure Messiah Savior.  In addition, those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, are washed clean of their sins and made whiter than snow.

The progressive lighting of the candles from week to week symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world AND the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.  This “light” from the candles, as a whole, signifies Christ, the “Light of the world”.  

Since Advent is a time to stir our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the wreath and its associated prayers provide us a great way to augment our special preparations for Christmas.  Moreover, this good symbolic tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our preparations, not losing sight of the TRUE meaning of Christmas (CHRISTinMASS).

Information taken from the following sites:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent_wreath;
http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0132.html;
http://christianity.about.com/od/christmas/qt/adventwreath.htm

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. history colorToday in Catholic History:

†   1098 – First Crusade: Massacre of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breach the town’s walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants.  After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism.

†   1212 – Death of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York

†   1524 – Pope Clement VII approves Organization of Jewish Community of Rome

†   1610 – Birth of Saint Vasilije (d. 1671), AKA:Saint Basil of Ostrog, a Serbian Saint venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

†   1769 – Pope Clement XIV proclaims a universal jubilee

†   1779 – Birth of Madeleine Sophie Barat, French saint (d. 1865)

†   2003 – Death of Joseph Anthony Ferrario, American Catholic prelate (b. 1926), the third bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.

†   2008 – Death of Avery Dulles, Roman Catholic Cardinal, Theologian (b. 1918)

†   Feasts/Memorials: Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe Day

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

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. Catholic ApolgeticsCatholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity, Part 2:

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

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

*

I and the Father are one (John 10:30). RSV

I and my Father are one.”(John 10:30). KJV

*

For in Him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). RSV

“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). KJV

 

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

 

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the 16th century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego.  He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City.  On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he Our%20Lady%20of%20Guadalupe%208_1422was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of: Americas, Mexico, Phillipnes

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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. sfo rule tauSecular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 12 & 13 of 26:

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

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13.  As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

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“Do You Say ‘Yes’ To Your Faith, Or, Do You Say ‘Possibly’?!” – John 6:60-69†


21st 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:

Two years ago FAN (Franciscan Action Network) introduced the “F.R.A.N.C.I.S. Commitment to Civility in Discourse”.  I encourage each of you to take this commitment.  Send it to all your friends and ask them to take it.  Also, along with yourself, ask your friends to send it to candidates for local, state, and federal offices, and consider sending it to the media as well.

The F.R.A.N.C.I.S Commitment to Civility in Discourse

Take a quiet moment in prayer and then recite the following out loud or to yourself.  Each verb begins with a letter which, when taken together, spells out the name FRANCIS:

Commit to:

    • FACILITATE a forum for difficult discourse and acknowledge that all dialogue can lead to new insight and mutual understanding.
    • RESPECT the dignity of all people, especially the dignity of those who hold an opposing view.
    • AUDIT one’s self and utilize terms or a vocabulary of faith to unite or reconcile rather than divide conflicting positions.
    • NEUTRALIZE inflamed conversations by presuming that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith.
    • COLLABORATE with others and recognize that all human engagement is an opportunity to promote peace.
    • IDENTIFY common ground such as similar values or concerns and utilize this as a foundation to build upon.
    • SUPPORT efforts to clean up the provocative language by calling policymakers to their sense of personal integrity.

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There will be no reflection blog next Sunday September 2nd.  Sorry, but I will be actively involved in some family business which I cannot reschedule.

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Quote of the Day:

I am not moved by what I see. I am moved only by what I believe.” ~ Smith Wigglesworth, “Ever Increasing Faith”, Pentecostal Classics

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Today’s reflection: Simon Peter confesses his faith by saying Jesus alone has the “Words” of the eternal life.  What do you TRULY say about your faith?  Is it hot, cold, or lukewarm?

(NAB John 6:60-69) 60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”  61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?  62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  64 But there are some of you who do not believe.”  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.  65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”  66 As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.  67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

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Gospel Reflection:

For our Gospel today we hear the conclusion of John’s sixth chapter, known as the “Bread of Life” discourse.  In the preceding verses proclaimed in the Mass over the past few weeks, we have heard Jesus explain that He is “the Bread of Life”, given so that those who believe may come to share His eternal life (cf., John 6:47-48).  Today’s reading follows the miracle in which Jesus feeds more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish (cf., John 6:11-13).  This particular reading is about how “hard” it is to be a disciple of Christ.  My question: What is SO hard about following Christ?  Well, possibly because the “hard” in today’s reading is the audience “hearing” Jesus talking about what they perceive as cannibalism, the most serious heresy for any Jewish person.  Many in the “crowd” consider His “Words” as blasphemy.  Thus, John’s Gospel describes the crowd as “murmuring”, unable to accept Jesus’ “Words” as literally true.  Influenced by the crowd’s response, Jesus turns to His disciples, asking a question:

Does this shock you?” (John 6:61)

Jesus’ “Words” certainly shocked a good portion of His followers.  This leads to the challenge for the usually outspoken Simon Peter to declare his faith and understanding of “who” Jesus truly is: the Holy Son of God! 

Why do many of us (including some Catholics) find it easy to accept the claims which Jesus made in today’s Gospel, and others find it so “hard” to accept?  Some accept Jesus when it was (is) easy to see Him doing great works, but not when it was (is) difficult to accept His “Word” that HE is the true Son of God sent down from God the Father as Moses had prophesized.  Many are attracted to Jesus solely because He offers something irresistible: a visible sign of God the Father’s mercy and love which Jesus demonstrated (and still demonstrates today) through His supernatural works of healing and freeing us from evil through the mystery of the Eucharistic grace. 

After witnessing everything transpired during Jesus’ public ministry, I cannot believe that some of Jesus’ disciples – – His devoted followers – – were still not convinced about His divinity and true nature.  Decades later, there STILL were some in his own faith community finding it difficult to accept Jesus.  This is the reason John zeroed-in on this portion of his Gospel.  The issue here is the importance of faith as a divine gift which enables us to see and believe Jesus as what He says He truly is!

Just as the larger crowd (the 5000) struggled with Jesus’ teaching, many “disciples” present in today’s story somehow also cannot accept Jesus’ “Words”.  Jesus knows about their murmuring and responds by acknowledging their unbelief.  At the same time, Jesus reveals that only those drawn by God the Father will choose to believe in and follow Jesus to the end.  John’s Gospel reports here that many of those who had been Jesus’ disciples “murmured” and ceased to follow Him at this point in His public ministry.  The number of people following Jesus then dwindled from a crowd of more than 5,000 to possibly only 12 men and a few women and children.   It is to these Twelve men (Apostles) to whom Jesus now turns His attention; asking:

Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67).

Jesus saying this provided John the opportunity, through Simon Peter, the central, essential statement of faith, the core essence of our Catholic faith.  In essence, Jesus was asking if their faith was full and true, or if their faith had conditions attached to it.  Like most politicians today, some of whom are members of the Christian religion, and even the Catholic faith, they (and we) are siding with the majority are favorite stance instead of the morally correct position on serious issues, especially “life” issues: i.e., abortion, euthanasia, health and medical care, immigration, and so on.    So, you can see I believe Jesus’ question is being asked of ALL Catholics and other Christians – – universally.  (That means you, dear readers – – and me as well!)

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The question, “Do you also want to leave?”, is meant to inspire our declaration of faith in Jesus then, as the Holy “One” now, as His supernatural real presence in the Holy Eucharist. 

To me, this text makes me think that Jesus could be giving us an insight to His supernatural AND natural true union in the Holy Eucharist today.  My question: Is Jesus not only giving us His dual-nature union of body and blood (plus His soul and divinity) in the Holy Eucharist, but also the path we are to take on our journey to His kingdom?  I am drawn to what was written by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.  So, too, it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being,’ the last Adam[Jesus Christ] a life-giving spirit.  But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritualThe first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.  As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.  Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one (1 Corinthians 15:44–49).

The last Adam, Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:21–22) has become a life-giving spirit, a life-principle transcendent, spiritually different from the natural soul of the first Adam.  Furthermore, the “last Adam”, “Jesus the Christ”, is not just alive, but, life-giving – – a truly divine source of a real, everlasting life for others indeed.

So, in today’s reading, Jesus states:

The words I have spoken to you are spirit AND life” (John 6:63). 

By saying, “spirit and life”, Jesus is declaring that HIS “bread of life” – – the “RISEN HIMSELF” – – IS the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  WOW indeed!!!

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Many stumbled on their spiritual path when Jesus made claims which only God can make.  Jesus claimed to be “the bread of heaven” – – the very life of God – – given to us freely as the spiritual food to sustain us on our journey to the promised land of heaven.  Jesus’ discourse on “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” (cf., John 6:51-59) not only caused many of His followers to feel offended, but also pointed to – – pre-figured – – the “Last Supper”.  

Jesus did not leave any middle ground for those listening to Him.  They could either accept, that is believe His “Word” as divine and fully true, or they could reject it as the claim of an imposter.  It seems there is no “in-between”; forcing one to be either “hot” in faith, or “cold”.  A “lukewarm” faith is as unacceptable and as deadly as a “cold” faith:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelations 3:15-16).

Even the “Twelve” of His closest disciples (the Apostles) admitted His “Words” on “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” was a “hard saying” to understand (but not to believe).  Jesus promises His disciples (then and still now) nothing less than the full and complete blessing of eternal life along with a fully complete union with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus assures His disciples (then and now) that it is His (and our) heavenly Father who invites and gives the grace to follow Him – – even when it comes to the “hard sayings”.  

Jesus knew some would not only reject Him and His “Word”, but would also be offended.  Through this offended “spirit”, these people would eventually betray Jesus to His enemies.  After all, Jesus always knew that there would be those who would not believe Him, plotting to destroy Him as agents of evil:

“‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray Him” (John 6:64).

 Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus would again reiterate His prior knowledge of betrayal by others:

For he [Jesus] knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, ‘Not all of you are clean’” (John 13:11).

I cannot even fathom how someone who witnessed Jesus’ public ministry, and believed in Him at one time, could now NOT believe any longer.  Everything Jesus had promised had been fulfilled (so far), yet some still could not believe.  They saw, yet they were still blinded.  Humans can be a stupid bunch at times!!

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Jesus warned all who could hear Him:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:44).

Even with this stern yet loving warning, many of Jesus’ disciples had lost heart and returned to their former ways of life:

As a result of this, many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66). 

Was this abandonment because they could not comprehend what Jesus was truly saying when He talked about eating the true body and blood of Christ?  Or, did they leave due to an underling fear of their families and other Jews shunning them for following a man going against Jewish food laws?

Thankfully, those who stayed (and us), know a few things, however.  We know that the Holy Eucharist is a gift – – a grace – – from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  We know the Holy Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ – – transubstantiated.  And, from today’s reading, we know Jesus did not chase after anyone who left Him; giving further proof the Holy Eucharist IS the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, to be shared with all who believe!!

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Simon Peter responds to Jesus’ question about whether those “Twelve” closest to Him will also leave:

Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Simon Peter’s response reminds me of the reports of Peter’s confession of faith in the Synoptic Gospels (cf., Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20).  Peter announces, on behalf of all the Twelve, that they have come to believe all Jesus has taught about Himself:

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

Jesus is truly the “One” sent from God the Father, and in whom they (and we) have found the true path to eternal life.  Each of the four Gospels has declared this statement of faith:

Simon Peter said, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” (Matthew 16:16);

“[A man with an unclean spirit] cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’” (Mark 1:24);

Ha!  What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34);

“She [Martha] said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.  I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’” (John 11:27).

Sometimes, you definitely CAN believe what you read!!

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Today’s conclusion of John’s “Bread of Life” discourse focuses on a intimately personal faith in a life of Christian discipleship.  Each person must make his or her own judgment about who Jesus is in their own life.  In doing so, we determine the way of our life, our personal path, which we will follow to eternity.  God’s grace invites each of us – – personally – – to be a disciple of Jesus.  However, each of us must also respond to the grace of God by confessing a full and true belief in Jesus Christ being truly the “One” sent from God the Father for our redemption and salvation.   This absolute, non-conditional, faith then commits us to the righteous path of life, leading us to eternal life in a heavenly paradise.

Real faith is not blind or uninformed; faith seeks understanding and is ACTIVE – – always at work in our lives.  This is why God the Father imparts to us the help and comfort of the Holy Paraclete – – the Holy Spirit – – to enlighten the eyes of our mind and soul to understand His truth and wisdom:

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him.  May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones” (Ephesians 1:17-18).

Jesus offers His life-giving “Word” and “spirit” to those who truly and fully believe in Him, obeying His “Word” without ANY conditions.  Simon Peter’s profession of faith and loyalty was based on a personal relationship with Jesus!  His belief was not simply based on what he knew about Jesus, but in knowing that when Jesus spoke, God spoke(!); when Jesus acted, God acted!  (PERIOD!!!) . . .

Through the personal grace (gift) of faith, Simon Peter came to understand Jesus as the true Messiah Savior, the Holy “One” of God the Father.  Simon Peter believed in the “Words” Jesus spoke, because he accepted Jesus as the Son of God and therefore Savior of the world.  “Faith” is a personal response to God’s revelation of Himself to each of us.  “Faith” is the key to understanding and experiencing God’s action and work in our own personal lives.  Ask the Lord to increase your faith so you may grow in your relationship with Him and in the knowledge of His unlimited love for you.

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At baptism, we (or our parents) promised to believe (or teach) all articles of the faith.  In the example of Simon Peter, we learn each person must also make his or her own profession of faith in Jesus as the one sent by God the Father to save us.  As we matured in the faith, we learned, accepted, and believed (and still believe) Jesus Christ IS the “Word” of eternal life.  We also chose to follow the way of Christian discipleship at some point in our adult life, and hopefully still choose the same today.

Think about the promises made at your baptism (even if by someone else on your behalf).  What is the importance of this promise made by you then and now?  How are you trying to honor this commitment in your daily lives?  Please pray that you continue to grow in your faith, always remembering Jesus is the true “One” sent by God the Father – – who alone – – has the “Words” of eternal life.  

Promises are decisions; and we make numerous small decisions every day (and a few significantly important ones) which determine the course of our (and others) lives.  Being a parent, I have recently been reminded (with brutal honesty) that young people can hardly wait to be free of their parent’s – – to make their own choices.  We, as adults, learn (sometimes painfully) that certain decisions have consequences so serious that they should not be made lightly.  Just as some disciples in today’s reading did then, some people still today find it easier to give their decision-making responsibilities over to another: i.e., someone in the household, a politician, a religious leader, and so on.  In today’s first reading at Mass (from Joshua’s 24th chapter), Joshua doesn’t mince words:

“… decide today whom you will serve …” (Joshua 24:15).

Do NOT put off to another day, but decide now, today, about your faith.  Remember, Joshua’s people, reminded of all God had done for them, decided to:

 … serve the Lord, for He is our God (Joshua 24:18b).

Today’s Gospel account opened with Jesus’ disciples murmuring:

This saying is hard …” (John. 6:60).

Hard”, without a doubt – – and Jesus knew it is “hard”.   His “good news” – – the “Word” – – is not for lukewarm, fair-weather, or timid followers.  Because of this “hard saying” in today’s reading, many of Jesus’ followers became disillusioned and left Him.  The decision of the “Twelve” to stay with Jesus was NOT made because they had no other choice – – all of them had homes and families to whom they could have returned – – but was made because Jesus had “the words of eternal life“.  They were convinced and knew without any conditions that Jesus was truly the “Holy ‘One’ sent from God the Father.”

Many of Jesus’ “Words” are not easy to hear; they actually are quite challenging to one’s faith-life.  It is difficult to “love your enemies”, “lose your life for His sake”, and so on.  Like Simon Peter, those who follow Jesus Christ today, do so out of love for this Holy “One” who has the “Words” of eternal life, even though some “Words” are very “hard” and challenging indeed: yet, they are all trustworthy and BELIEVEABLE!

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Reflection Prayer: 

“O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.  Amen”

(Collect Prayer for the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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♫ “Oh Johnny Boy, The Christ, The Christ Is Com-um-ing!”♫ – Luke 1:57-66, 80†


 

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

           

Many churches of both the Eastern and Western faiths celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on this day. The Nativity of St John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, being listed by the Council of Agde [Southern France] in 506 as one of that region’s principal festivals, where it was a day of rest and, like Christmas, was celebrated with three Masses: a vigil, at dawn, and at midday.

 The Nativity of St John the Baptist on June 24 comes three months after the celebration on March 25 of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told Our Lady that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus.  The purpose of these festivals is not to celebrate the exact dates of these events, but simply to commemorate them in an interlinking way.

(per Wikipedia)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1386 – Birth of Giovanni da Capistrano, Italian saint (d. 1456)
†   1519 – Death of Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander, dies at 39
†   1529 – Zurich & catholic kantons sign Peace of Kappel, ending an armed conflict in 1531 between the Protestant and the Catholic cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy during the Reformation in Switzerland.
†   1542 – St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet (d. 1591)
†   1546 – Birth of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (d. 1610)
†   1572 – Death of Joannes van Naarden, OFM priest, hanged
†   1572 – Death of Ludovicus Voets, priest, hanged
†   1923 – Pope Pius XI speaks against allies occupying Ruhrgebied
†   1967 – Pope Paul VI publishes encyclical Sacerdotalis coelibatus, an encyclical on the celibacy of the priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of the birth of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Québec, brush makers and knife sharpeners; also Festival of San Juan observed in Bolivia and Peru, Jaaniõhtu in Estonia.

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

Why did John the Baptist take his shoes off before going into the water?

Why?

He wanted to save soles!

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist is born.  All wonder what he will grow to become.

 

(NAB Luke 1:57-66, 80) 57 When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.  58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.  59 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”  61 But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”  62 So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.  63 He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.  64 Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.  65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.  66 All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”  For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.  80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  He opens with Jesus’ infancy narrative, a collection of stories about the birth and childhood of Jesus.  However, Luke also presents the parallel scenes (diptychs) of angelic announcements of the birth of John the Baptist AND of Jesus.  Luke’s account shows the parallelism of their births, circumcisions, and presentations in the Temple.  With his parallel stories, the ascendency of Jesus over John is stressed in Luke’s Gospel:

John is the “prophet” of the Most High:

“You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways (Luke 1:76);

And Jesus is the “Son” of the Most High:

“He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). 

Then, John is said to be “great in the sight” of the Lord:

He will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15);

And Jesus “will be ‘Great’”:

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). 

Finally, John “will go before” the Lord:

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16–17);

And Jesus “will be” Lord:

“How does this happen to me [Elizabeth], that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord (Luke 1:43; 2:11).

In the verses before those read today at Mass, the birth of John the Baptist had been announced by the angel Gabriel to an elderly man, Zechariah, performing his duties as a priest in the Jerusalem Temple.  The Archangel Gabriel would then go on to announce the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth.  Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth never had children.  And, Mary is engaged to Joseph, but they have not yet come to live together. So, two women physically impossible to get pregnant are graced by God to give birth nonetheless.  The story of John (the Baptist) is placed in the center of the Jewish environment into which he and Jesus were born.  In the next chapter (Luke 2), Jesus’ annunciation and birth begins a movement of the Gospel into the environment of the occupying Roman Empire of Jesus’ adulthood, setting the stage for His Passion. 

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The birth and circumcision of John contained within the Gospel today emphasizes John’s incorporation into the people of Israel by the sign of the covenant, as promised in Genesis:

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said: I am God the Almighty.  Walk in my presence and be blameless.  Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.  Abram fell face down and God said to him: For my part, here is my covenant with you: you are to become the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you.  I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now residing as aliens, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.  God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the agesThis is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.  Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.  That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including houseborn slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:1–12).

And, again in the book of Leviticus (a great and easy read for first-time bible readers – NOT!!), circumcision is again alluded to as the sign of the covenant:

“The LORD said to Moses: the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised (Leviticus 12:1,3).

Did you know circumcision was actually widely practiced in the entire ancient world, usually as an initiation rite for males at puberty well before Abraham and Moses’ time?  However, with the Jewish nation shifting the time of circumcision to “the eighth day after birth”, the Jewish religion made it no longer a “rite of passage”, but THE sign of an eternal covenant between God and the community of, and descending from, Abraham.

The narrative of John’s circumcision also prepared the way for the subsequent description of the circumcision of Jesus in Luke’s next chapter:

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21).

So, at the beginning Luke’s books of Holy Scripture (His Gospel and the Book of ACTS), he shows those who play crucial roles in the inauguration of Christianity to be – – as a whole – – a part of the people of Israel.  On top of this acclamation of faith, at the end of the Acts of the Apostles (cf., Acts 21:20; 22:3; 23:6–9; 24:14–16; 26:2–8, 22–23), Luke makes a case for Christianity being a direct descendant of Pharisaic Judaism which accepted the supernatural origin of the universe, and of Abraham’s family, believing of a life after death, angels, and so on.  Our Jewish friends and brethren are truly our brothers in, and through, Christ – – their Messiah and OUR Savior!!

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The practice of Judaism at this time in Jesus’ time in human form in this world was to name the child at birth.  Furthermore, though naming a male child after the father is not completely unknown, the usual practice was to name the child actually after the grandfather, per biblical footnotes:

There is no one among your relatives who has this name” (see Luke 1:61).

In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation for this verse states:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patriautou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

patri is a male ancestor.  This male could be the nearest ancestor, a father of the corporeal nature, such as a male parent.  Or, the male ancestor could be a more remote ancestor, the founder of a family or tribe, a forefather such as a Grandfather.

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Zechariah was a godly man who was tuned to God’s voice.  He was born into a priestly family and it was his privilege to be chosen to enter the inner court of the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God in the “Holy of Holies”.  

The naming of the infant John, and Zechariah’s recovery from his loss of speech, should be understood as fulfilling the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement, given to Zechariah in the Holy of Holies:

“The angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.  But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”  (Luke 1:13, 20).

Luke records that the people wondered at Zechariah’s delay from emerging from the Holy of Holies, and were amazed that he was speechless when he withdrew from the inner sanctuary:

“When he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.  He was gesturing to them but remained mute.” (Luke 1:22).

I believe Zechariah also lost his hearing too.  WHAT did I say?!  How can I presume this “strange” fact?  You might even say, “I have NEVER been told this before!”  Well, my evidence comes directly from what is written ALSO in Luke’s Gospel:

“So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called” (Luke 1:62).

Why did they need to make “signs” to ask him a question if Zechariah was able to hear?  Zechariah himself would have had to make the signs to answer questions, since he was unable to speak.  Thus, I believe Zechariah was, in actuality, a “deaf – mute”, and not just deaf.

Well, actually, that is what I believed for some time.  I allowed my understanding of American English trapping me into believing what is NOT really there in the original word and meaning.  In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation proves my error in fact:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patri  autou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

eneneuon actually translates to mean “signifying or expressing ‘by a nod or a sign’”.  So, in reality, Luke 1:62 simply says, “They ‘nodded’ at Zechariah, asking him what he wished for the infant to be called”.

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The last verse from today’s Gospel jumps fourteen verses to this next verse:

The child [John] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel (Luke 1:80).

Interestingly, Luke uses very similar words to describe Jesus’ growing into manhood as well:

The child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40).

Jesus too, goes into the desert, starting His public Ministry by attending John the Baptist preaching and observing him baptizing in the Jordan River.  Jesus presented Himself to be baptized by John in the Jordan River – – two more parallels between John and Jesus indeed.

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To summarize, in today’s reading Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoice with her because God had shown her mercy in the birth of a son – – an heir.  However, they were confused when Elizabeth told them her infant’s name was to be “John”, which means “God has been gracious”.  Zechariah had been unable to speak since the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel’s word.  When Zechariah writes “John is his name” all are amazed.  Then, a great fear comes upon everyone; and this event is spread and heard throughout all Judea:

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:65). 

Fear – – Awe – – along with joy and praise – – is the appropriate response to God’s mercy, per Luke.  I am sure people present and/or hearing of this event wondered what this infant would become, but this question was already answered by Gabriel:

He will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (Luke 1:15-16).

Zechariah responds with praise in his famous hymn of prayer, the “Benedictus” or “Canticle of Zechariah”:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.  He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79).

This canticle (a true song of praise) is not part of today’s Gospel reading at Mass.  Instead we jump to the last verse of this chapter (Luke 1:80), which explains that John will become strong in spirit, living in the desert until it is time to show himself to the people of Israel.  When John appears again at the beginning of Chapter 3, after the stories of the birth and childhood of Jesus, he will prepare those people for the ministry of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance for the acceptance of God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins.

John lived as a “Nazarite” (cf., Numbers 6) – – a person set apart for the Lord (The Old Testament “Samson” is another example of a Nazarite).  Filled with the Holy Spirit, even within his mother’s womb, he was sent to the people of God – – in the spirit and power of Elijah – – to turn hearts to God and one another, by turning the “disobedient to the wisdom of the just” (Luke 1:17).  When God acts to save us, He graciously fills us with His Holy Spirit, making our faith “alive and active” to, and through, God’s promises (cf., 2 Peter 1:3-4).  

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To conclude, names have special meanings.  Some people are named after parents or other relatives and ancestors.  Sometimes peoples’ names are symbolic, suggesting something unique about the person or recalling an event or experience related to that person’s birth.  Sometimes, names are even randomly bizarre and of their own in origin.  In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth gives her son the name John, meaning “God has been gracious”.  This name truly sets John apart – – in a special way – – for it was normally the father’s responsibility to name a child, and the name was usually a family name.  The unusual nature of John’s naming suggested (and still suggests) to everyone that he is truly a special child with a special purpose in God’s kingdom.

Spend some time focusing on your name – – and others’ names.  What is the significance of each of these names (?), and how did the naming take place?  Review the parts of today’s reading describing how John received his name.  

How important are names?  How are we as Catholics called to honor the name of God?  How can we emphasize and honor God’s name in our daily lives?  How can we promise to live “our lives” in and with God’s name?

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I would like to end with my favorite verse from today’s reading:

“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth (Luke 1:14).

Both John’s birth (June 24th) and Jesus’ birth (December 25th) are not only celebrated once a year, but are celebrated with each and every Baptism, Confirmation, and Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Their “births” are remembered by, and Jesus’ birth is renewed in me (and in you) each time I receive Him:  Resurrected body, blood, soul, and divinity during the Eucharist.  So, we can celebrate His (and our) birthday EVERY day if we wish.  In doing so, we will live by another verse (my all-time favorite verse, the bible verse I take as my personal motto):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17).

When God draws us into His presence, He wants us to be still and quiet – – before Him – – so we can listen to His voice as He speaks to our consciences and our hearts.  In doing so, He reveals His Word, Will, and Plan to us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  Do you listen attentively to the Lord (?) and do you ponder his Word in your heart with a certain trust and confidence in Him? I will finish with the prayer I say continually throughout the day:

My Lord and my God; I love You and I trust You”.

 What else is there to say!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Sign of the Cross

 

“In the name
of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Faith and Works

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’  Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith….Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?” (James 2:18-20) RSV.

“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18-20) KJV.

***

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….”  But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).   

John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic.  He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.

His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus.  His Baptism, he said, was for repentance.  But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b).  But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b).  Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew.  John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah.  But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus.  John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah.  But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus.  For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah.  Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53).  John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

Comment: John challenges us Christians to the fundamental attitude of Christianity—total dependence on the Father, in Christ.  Except for the Mother of God, no one had a higher function in the unfolding of salvation.  Yet the least in the kingdom, Jesus said, is greater than he, for the pure gift that the Father gives.  The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil—all stem from his fundamental and total placing of his life within the will of God.

Quote: “And this is not something which was only true once, long ago in the past.  It is always true, because the repentance which he preached always remains the way into the kingdom which he announced.  He is not a figure that we can forget now that Jesus, the true light, has appeared.  John is always relevant because he calls for a preparation which all men need to make.  Hence every year there are four weeks in the life of the Church in which it listens to the voice of the Baptist.  These are the weeks of Advent” (A New Catechism).

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 24 & 25 of 26:

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

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

 

 

“Go, Go, Go, – – And Don’t Forget Your Passports OR What I Have Taught You!!” – Matthew 28:16-20 †


The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

This week we return to the liturgical season of Ordinary Time.  This Sunday and next Sunday, however, are designated as solemnities, special days which call our attention to the central mysteries of our faith.  Today, on the first Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  This feast invites us to consider what we believe about God, who has revealed Himself to us as the Holy Trinity, three Persons in one God.  

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Today in Catholic History:

†   545 – Birth of Chlotilde, wife of French king Clovis/saint, dies at about age 70
†   1098 – First Crusade: Antioch falls to the crusaders after an eight-month siege
†   1140 – French scholar Peter Abelard is found guilty of heresy
†   1548 – Birth of Juan de Zumárraga, Spanish Catholic bishop of Mexico (b. 1468)
†   1594 – Birth of Michel Renichon, priest, executed
†   1620 – Construction of the oldest stone church in French North America, Notre-Dame-des-Anges, begins at Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
†   1658 – Pope Alexander VII appoints François de Laval vicar apostolic in New France
†   1770 – Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is founded in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
†   1819 – Birth of Anton Anderledy, Swiss Superior General of the Society of Jesus (d. 1892)
†   1925 – Birth of Thomas Winning, Roman Catholic archbishop (Glasgow)
†   1933 – Pope Pius XI encyclical “On oppression of the Church in Spain”
†   1936 – Birth of David Nicholls, priest/theologian/political theorist
†   1963 – Birth of John XXIII, [Angelo G Roncalli], Pope (1958-63), dies at age 81
†   1981 – Pope John Paul II released from hospital after assassination attempt
†   1992 – Patrick Peyton, Rosary Priest, dies of kidney failure at age 83
†   Feast/Memorials: Vladimirskaya (in Russia); Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs of Uganda; Saint Kevin of Glendalough; Saint Clothilde (d. 545); Blessed Pope John XXIII; Saint Paula (d. 273); Saint Ovidius; Saint Gorg Preca

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

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 Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection:  Sending His disciples to make disciples of all nations.

 

(NAB Matthew 28:16-20) 16 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.  17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.  18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel is the conclusion of the Matthew’s Gospel.  His Gospel seems to move rapidly from the disciples’ discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb, to Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and finally to the commission which Jesus gives His disciples in today’s Gospel Reading.

The Final Commission”, as this Gospel is sometimes called, is given on a mountaintop.  Throughout Holy Scripture, it appears to me that the most important and climactic events usually happened on a mountaintop.  Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus transfigured while He was praying on the mountaintop:

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’ And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.” (Matthew 17:1-8).

In this Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also taught the crowds from the mountaintop the “Sermon on the Mount” (cf., Matthew, chapters 5-7).

Wow!  Jesus Christ is now again on a mountain doing big things.  He had already been “Risen” from the dead, and is about to show all present there (and to us now) the ultimate gift to following on His path: going to God the Father, and eternal happiness and joy in heaven.  This climactic event, I have read, has been called a “proleptic Parousia”.  I had no clue what “Proleptic” meant.  Well, according to the dictionary, it means, “the assignment of something as ‘existing or occurring’ before it could have done so”.  Jesus’ “Ascension” is a “proleptic Parousia” because it gives a foretaste of the final glorious coming of the Son of Man:

From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Matthew 26:64).

At the Parousia, His victory will be manifest to all.  However, for now, it is revealed only to the eleven disciples [Apostles], who are commissioned by Jesus Christ to announce it to “all nations” and bring all to believe in Jesus as the true Savior of all nations in obedience to His commandments.

Weren’t there “Twelve” “chosen” disciples: Apostles?  There are “eleven” disciples in this reading, recalling the sad and tragic defection of Judas Iscariot.  For whatever unknown reason, this man who spent three years closely bonded to the human, yet divine Jesus Christ, sold Jesus to a certain death for thirty pieces of silver.

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 “To the mountain to which Jesus ordered them” is a slight deviation from Jesus’ initial message to the disciples, which was simply to go to Galilee:

Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10)

Some bible scholars believe the “mountain” comes from a tradition known to Matthew, and referred to, in today’s Gospel.  The significance of a “mountain” may have a theological rather than geographical meaning.  Matthew possibly may be recalling the revelation to Moses and Elijah on Mount Sinai:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and, while you are there, I will give you the stone tablets on which I have written the commandments intended for their instruction.’ So Moses set out with Joshua, his aide, and went up to the mountain of God. The elders, however, had been told by him, ‘Wait here for us until we return to you. Aaron and Hur are staying with you. If anyone has a complaint, let him refer the matter to them.’ After Moses had gone up, a cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled upon Mount Sinai. The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop. But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights.” (Exodus 24:12-18);

And,

He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. There he came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the LORD came to him, ‘Why are you here, Elijah?’ He answered: ‘I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.’ Then the LORD said, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.’ A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind.” (1 Kings 19:8-12; Horeb = Sinai).

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When His disciples see Jesus, they both worship and doubt at the same time! Verse 17 states that the disciples “doubted”.  The original Greek transcript of Matthew’s Gospel can also be translated, “but some doubted”.  This particular Greek verb occurs again only in the New Testament, earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (14:31), where it is associated with Peter’s being of “little faith”.

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).

Is Jesus telling His “Apostles” they had “little faith”?  Matthew may have said “they doubted” in reference to those disciples of Jesus whose faith in Him was not as deep or full as it should have been by this time.

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Jesus approaches His disciples, and then commissions them to “baptize and teach”, “to make disciples of all nations” (verse 19).  Baptizing and teaching the “Word” are tasks Jesus had previously prepared His disciples to accomplish.  Recall that Jesus had sent the twelve apostles to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal (cf. Matthew 10:1-15). However, in this earlier event, the Twelve were sent only to “the House of Israel”.  In this “Final Commission”, the “Eleven” are told to go to “all nations.” Thus, the mission of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry is now to be taken to all people by His disciples with their (and our) mission to baptize and to teach.

Jesus commissions His disciples to baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity; this text is one of the earliest and clearest attestations for Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity found in Scripture.  Other New Testament references to Baptism describe it as being celebrated in the name of Jesus.  With today’s Gospel reading, we are reminded that this central mystery of faith is meant to be believed and to be lived.  As baptized Catholic Christians, we share in the life of the blessed Holy Trinity and seek to invite others to share in God’s love.

The Risen Jesus Christ is declaring a universal “power” in heaven and on earth:

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

The Greek word translated as “power” in today’s reading is the same as that found in Daniel 7:13-14 wherein one “like a son of man” is given power and an everlasting kingdom by God:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14).

Since the Risen Jesus has a “universal power”, He gives the “Eleven” a mission which is “universal”.  They are to “make disciples of all nations”.  While “all nations” is understood by most readers as referring to including all Gentiles, we should keep in mind that He also includes the Jewish nation as well.

Baptism is the way of entrance into the community of the “Risen one”, the Catholic (Universal) Church.  Jesus goes on to say exactly HOW to baptize each new disciple: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. This formula of baptism is perhaps the clearest expression of a “Trinitarian” belief found in the New Testament.  Though it may have been the baptismal formula of Matthew’s church, it designates the effect of baptism – – the union of the person baptized with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  (It is also the expression of a Trinitarian belief which the Catholic Church still uses today.)

Finally, Jesus Christ tells His disciple to go and “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you”.  Jesus wants His Apostles to pronounce and to teach the spiritual and moral teachings of His “universal” (Catholic) Church, especially His teachings of the Sermon on the Mount (cf., Matthew 5-7).  These commandments from the Sermon on the Mount are the newly highlighted standard of Christian conduct in this world.  With the “Sermon on the Mount”, the Mosaic Law is both fulfilled and surpassed – – in His new covenant – – with new and expanded commandments, even though some of the Mosaic commandments had been invested with the authority of Jesus.  Remember, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus Christ repeatedly said, “It was (then) … Now I say do this ….”

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With great joy, hope, and faith, I believe that Jesus is truly, “with me always”, as He stated in verse 20 of today’s reading.  The promise of Jesus’ real, though invisible, presence echoes the name “Emmanuel” (God is with us), given to Him in the infancy narratives.  God’s promise of deliverance to Judah in Isaiah’s time was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, in whom God is truly and fully with His people.

Jesus is not only with us NOW; He will be with us also until the “end of the age” (Verse 20).  Along with today’s reading, this particular phrase is found in only two other places 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);

And,

 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).

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To summarize, the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity invites us to remember that God has revealed Himself to us as one God in three separate, yet united, “Persons”.  As Jesus departed from His disciples, He shared with them the power to make disciples of all nations; He taught His disciples to invite others to share in the life of the blessed Holy Trinity by sharing with others the gift of Baptism, which continues to be the mission of the Church today.  Each of us who have been baptized shares in the life of the blessed Holy Trinity, and also shares in the Church’s mission of inviting others to share in God’s love.

Jesus taught His disciples to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Doesn’t this remind you of the Sign of the Cross?  Recall that whenever we pray the “Sign of the Cross”, we are reminding ourselves that we are united with God through our Baptism and share in the eternal life of the blessed Holy Trinity. 

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In conclusion, the ending of Matthew’s Gospel can be understood as the beginning of the Catholic (universal) Church.  Jesus Christ “commissions” His disciples to continue to teach in His name and to bring others into the Church Community of disciples through baptism.  The Gospel ends, as it began, – – with the promise that Jesus will continue to be Emmanuel, “God with us”, throughout all time, and for all eternity.

What does this Gospel reading mean for us as His disciples?  Just as Jesus sent His disciples to make disciples, our family, the domestic Catholic Church (the Church Militant), is called to bear witness to the life of discipleship – – living in the way of Jesus.  That act of witnessing can take many forms.  First and foremost, we should “call” people to discipleship by the example of our love for one another.  However, that example is only the beginning!!  Our love must extend beyond our family and friends, purposely reaching out to others, and to the world and its creations.

Identify one or more ways in which you live the life of a Catholic disciple.  Identify a few ways in which you would like to do a better job bearing witness to your life of discipleship.  Choose one, and make it happen.  Then choose another, and so on.  Pray for the grace to be witnesses to the world by a life of discipleship through your personal faith, hope, and love for God and all His creations.

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Reflection Prayer:

Glory Be to the Father

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Faith and Works

“For he will render every man according to his works …” (Romans 2:6-8) RSV.

“Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life …” (Romans 2:6-8) KJV

***

“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13) KJV.

“For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13) RSV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed John XXIII (1881-1963)

 

Although few people had as great an impact on the 20th century as Pope John XXIII, he avoided the limelight as much as possible.  Indeed, one writer has noted that his “ordinariness” seems one of his most remarkable qualities.

The firstborn son of a farming family in Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo in northern Italy, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was always proud of his down-to-earth roots.  In Bergamo’s diocesan seminary, he joined the Secular Franciscan Order.

After his ordination in 1904, Angelo returned to Rome for canon law studies.  He soon worked as his bishop’s secretary, Church history teacher in the seminary and as publisher of the diocesan paper.

His service as a stretcher-bearer for the Italian army during World War I gave him a firsthand knowledge of war.  In 1921 he was made national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith; he found time to teach patristics at a seminary in the Eternal City.

In 1925 he became a papal diplomat, serving first in Bulgaria, then in Turkey and finally in France (1944-53).  During World War II, he became well acquainted with Orthodox Church leaders.  With the help of Germany’s ambassador to Turkey, Archbishop Roncalli helped save an estimated 24,000 Jewish people.

Named a cardinal and appointed patriarch of Venice in 1953, he was finally a residential bishop.  A month short of entering his 78th year, he was elected pope, taking the name John, his father’s name and the two patrons of Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran.  He took his work very seriously but not himself.  His wit soon became proverbial, and he began meeting with political and religious leaders from around the world.  In 1962 he was deeply involved in efforts to resolve the Cuban missile crisis.

His most famous encyclicals were Mother and Teacher (1961) and Peace on Earth (1963).  Pope John XXIII enlarged the membership in the College of Cardinals and made it more international.  At his address at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, he criticized the “prophets of doom” who “in these modern times see nothing but prevarication and ruin.”  Pope John XXIII set a tone for the Council when he said, “The Church has always opposed… errors. Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.”

On his deathbed he said: “It is not that the gospel has changed; it is that we have begun to understand it better.  Those who have lived as long as I have…were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.”

He died on June 3, 1963. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 2000.

Comment:

Throughout his life, Angelo Roncalli cooperated with God’s grace, believing that the job at hand was worthy of his best efforts.  His sense of God’s providence made him the ideal person to promote a new dialogue with Protestant and Orthodox Christians, as well as with Jews and Muslims.  In the sometimes noisy crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, many people became silent on seeing the simple tomb of Pope John XXIII, grateful for the gift of his life and holiness.  After the beatification, his tomb was moved into the basilica itself.

Quote:

In 1903, young Angelo wrote in his spiritual journal: “From the saints I must take the substance, not the accidents of their virtues. I am not St. Aloysius, nor must I seek holiness in his particular way, but according to the requirements of my own nature, my own character and the different conditions of my life. I must not be the dry, bloodless reproduction of a model, however perfect. God desires us to follow the examples of the saints by absorbing the vital sap of their virtues and turning it into our own life-blood, adapting it to our own individual capacities and particular circumstances.  If St. Aloysius had been as I am, he would have become holy in a different way” (Journal of a Soul).

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 3 & 4 of 26:

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

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04.  The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

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“First Century Headline: ‘Jesus Goes Into the Exorcize Business – AND Cleans Up!’” – Mark 1:21-28†


Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Last week was the annual “March for Life” in Washington D.C.  The purpose was to mark the 39th anniversary of the ominous ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Roe vs. Wade.  This ruling legalized the murder of 54 million babies in these few years.  This number equates to 17 percent of America’s current 312 million-plus population – – “17 PERCENT”!!!  Only the “Black Plague” has cost more lives … Not even ALL our countries WARs “combined” can claim this sad distinction!   Let us all pray for those lost lives, for those about to have abortions, and especially for the overturning of this barbaric violation of Natural – and GOD’s – Laws.  Here is a prayer I say daily:

Prayer to St. Gerard

(Patron Saint for Mothers)

“St. Gerard, you worshiped Jesus as the Lord of Life.  I ask you today to pray for my special intentions: For all those about to have abortions, all pregnant women, their husbands, all new parents, & especially _________.  Lift up to Jesus all those who seek to conceive a child, all those having difficult pregnancies, all who have suffered the loss of a child, and all who lovingly lift up their children to God.

Pray that all of us, by caring for mothers, fathers, and children born and unborn may build a Culture of Life, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

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Today in Catholic History:

 

†   904 – Sergius III comes out of retirement to take over the papacy from the deposed antipope Christopher.
†   1119 – Death of Pope Gelasius II
†   1732 – Paris churchyard Saint-Medard closed after Jansenistic ritual
†   1860 – American College established in Rome by Pope Pius IX
†   Feast/Memorials: Valerius of Trèves; Saint Juniper

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus healing a man with an unclean spirit.  Jesus’ fame spreads throughout Galilee.

 

(NAB Mark 1:21-28) 21 Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.  22The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.  23 In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24 he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are — the Holy One of God!”  25 Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet!  Come out of him!”  26 The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.  27 All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this?  A new teaching with authority.  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey Him.”  28 His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

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Gospel Reflection:

Do you believe that God’s “Word” has power to set you free and to transform your life permanently?  Today’s Gospel describes what was likely to have been a typical day in Jesus’ earthly public ministry.  Jesus, and the disciples who chose to follow him in last week’s Gospel, arrive at Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee.  There, Jesus teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  The people responded to Jesus’ teaching with “astonishment”, noting Jesus’ “authority”, contrasting His message and teachings with the “Scribes’”.  We are only in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel and we already are finding evidence of tension which will manifest itself fully in Jerusalem on a future Passover Sabbath.

Today’s reading happens, as I said, during a Sabbath, and both inside and outside the synagogue of Capernaum.  His ministry on this day combined teachings and the “miracles” of exorcism and healing.  There is no mention made of Jesus’ words of the teaching in the synagogue in Mark’s Gospel; however, today’s reading DOES cover the “effect” of their astonishment and His authority on the people hearing His “Word” and seeing His actions.  

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The witnesses declare that Jesus “teaches with authority” to ALL the people – – in AND out – – of the synagogue; and witnesses are still declaring His “authority” now, today, as it was then!  Jesus’ authoritive “teaching” provides evidence and witness as to His definite claim over those hearing and believing His “Words”, and over the “unseen spirits” influencing individual listeners.  His “Word” was offered to those present listening to Him in the best tradition of the Old Testament prophets.  His method of teaching was different; not like the “Scribes” who taught and spoke the “Word” (as they believed it to be), yet did not LIVE the “Word” in their daily actions and lives.  

When Jesus taught, He always spoke with “authority”.  He spoke the “Word” of God the Father as NO ONE had spoken before!!  When the Rabbis taught, they supported their statements with quotes from other authorities or from their personal interpretations of the Mosaic Law.  The prophets spoke with God-given, delegated, “authority”, i.e., “Thus says the Lord.”  When Jesus spoke, He needed no authorities, no Temple leaders, or no Rabbis needed to back His “Word” or statements.  He WAS and IS THE “authority” personified (incarnated); Jesus Christ WAS and IS THE “Word” of God the Father made flesh.  When He spoke, God the Father spoke.  Jesus Himself declared:

I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life.  So what I say, I say as the Father told me.” (John 12:49-50)

Even the demons and “unclean spirits” obeyed when He commanded.  After Jesus’ preaching, an even more astonishing thing happened; a man with an “unclean spirit” approached Jesus and calls out to Him while in the synagogue.  Demons know Jesus.  Demons are not afraid to enter His holy temple.  They have a personal, yet unfriendly, relationship with Him.  So, when someone asks you, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus, do you know Him?”, just remember, so does Satan and all the other fallen angels, and the “unclean spirits”!!

What IS an “unclean spirit”?  Well, it is a spirit who is resistant to, and continues to resist vehemently, the holiness of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  This “unclean spirit” is fearful of the Holy Trinitarian Godhead because he (or they) know and fear the absolute power of Jesus Christ to destroy their influence on the people who also attempt to resist the holiness of the Trinitarian God:

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to Him all who were ill or possessed by demons. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and He drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew Him.” (Mark 1:32, 34);

Whenever unclean spirits saw Him they would fall down before Him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God.’” (Mark3:11).

Plus, they, every “unclean spirit”, know Jesus’ divine power is granted to others doing His will:  

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

As we see in this example (and throughout Mark’s Gospel), the various spirits and demons know Jesus for who He truly is, and are fearful of Him and the overwhelming power He possesses over them.  In fact, they understand Jesus’ identity better than His disciples at this time.  Jesus orders the “unclean spirit” to be quiet, and then drives the “unclean spirit” out of the possessed man.  Jesus’ ability to heal those possessed by demons is a true indication of His physical and divine power over ALL evil, and over ALL reality.

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In reality, and in the less scientific era of Jesus’ time, all illnesses were understood to be manifestations of evil and sinfulness on the person’s part.  Thank the Lord (literally) that our modern understanding of illness is very different and more beneficial for a “sick” individual.  Possession by “unclean spirits” may have been a way to describe what we call mental illness in today’s world.  It may also have even been a way of describing certain kinds of physical conditions easily correctable today.  

There is evidence that there were many kinds of exorcists and healers in first-century Palestine.  Jesus appears to be similar to these healers; but He heals with a unique authority and connects His healing activities with the “Word” of His preaching and teaching.  However, we are missing the point that Mark is making in this Gospel if we try to explain away the healing work and power of Jesus Christ as simply an act that can be “accomplished” today scientifically.  

This man processed with an “unclean spirit” calls Jesus “the Holy One of God”.  This was not a confession as such, but an attempt by the “demon” to hopelessly defend himself against Jesus’ power over him.  The demon is trying to counter Jesus’ “authority” by declaring that he knows Jesus to be the “Holy One of God”.  By using “Holy One of God” (Jesus Christ), the demon thought and tried to establish control over Jesus, and to impress the congregation.  How wrong and misguided could this “unclean spirit” be in this belief!!  Jesus silenced the bellowing words of the “unclean spirit”, driving him out of the afflicted man, by His authoritive “Word”.  By doing so, the congregation was definitely “stunned” and “impressed”.

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It is clear that the crowds see in Jesus’ deliverance of the possessed man a “declaration”, a “revelation”, and a “affirmation” of His divine “authority” over every authority, those who resist God’s “Word”, those who comply with God’s “Word”, and those who do not know God’s “Word”.  Jesus’ power to deliver and heal gives clear credibility, authority, and support to His teachings as coming from God – – (unlike the Scribes).  Because of the kind of authority with which He healed, Jesus’ fame spread throughout all of Galilee like a divine wildfire illuminating the world. 

So awesomely compelling were Jesus’ “Words” and actions that the news about Him and His abilities could not be contained any more than the sun can be contained with the emerging dawn.  Thus, His reputation spread quickly throughout all of Galilee, and spread throughout Israel, even to the High Priests in the very center of Jerusalem.  Today, some two thousand years later, the “good news” of and about Jesus Christ is STILL continuing to spread.  This “illuminating fire” has not been quenched; rather, it is instead growing brighter throughout ALL nations of the world.  We are called to participate – – to be active, not passive – – in sharing the “Good News” of Jesus Christ with others in our personal and public words, and in our personal and public deeds, even here and now.  We must have, and deepen our faith in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, – – and His “Word”.  A true and fully complete “faith, love, and hope” in Him is the key to knowing Him better, loving Him more deeply, and seeing Him more fully.

Remember, faith is powerful; but without love it profits nothing:

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1, 13). 

Scripture continues to tell us that true faith works through love:

For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6).

As faith thrives, so flourishes hope:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). 

Our faith is made perfect in love because love orients us to both the supreme good who is God the Father Himself, as well as the good of our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God:

“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. … God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27). 

Notice: “Hope” anchors our faith in the promises of God the Father and cleanses our desires for the things which will last for ALL eternity.  This is why the “Word” of Jesus Christ has power to set us free from all that would keep us bound in sin, deception, and despair.  

Finally, faith is both a free gift of God the Father AND the free submission of OUR individual wills to the whole truth which God reveals to us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  To live, grow, and persevere in the perpetual and complete faith of God the Father, we must nourish and support our faith with His “Word”.  Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds so that we may grow in His “truth” and in our knowledge of His great love for each of us, as I just wrote: personally, uniquely, and intimately.  Thank you Jesus Christ for revealing the power of Your “Word”.

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How does today’s reflection affect you personally, uniquely, and intimately?  Try to name some awesome and amazing things, events, and/or people in your lives which or who bring you closer to the “Holy One of God” now revealed by His “Word”, to be the “Most Holy Trinity”.  

In today’s Gospel, the people who “heard” Jesus were “astonished” and “amazed” in their personal experience with Jesus.  What did these people, who saw and heard Jesus, find so “amazing”?  Per the Gospel reading, the people heard and saw the “power” and “authority” of God actively at work in their personal and public lives, in and through Jesus Christ Himself!!  

We should see the same “power” and “authority” of Jesus at work in OUR personal and public lives.  Can you name any modern examples of people in whom you have seen the “power” and “authority” of God at work?  It could be a priest, a friend, or even a “marginalized” individual.  PLEASE pray that we ALL will experience an awe-inspiring wonder at the work of God in our lives and in OUR world today – – MANY, MANY times.

If we approach God the Father – – and His “Word” – – humbly, with an eagerness to do everything He desires, we are in a much better position to continue seeing God’s presence in our daily lives.  We will be able to learn what the Trinitarian God wants to teach us, personally, uniquely, and intimately, through His personal, unique, and intimate “Word”.  Are you eager to be taught by Jesus Christ as the people “hearing” Him in today’s reading?  Are you willing to mold and model YOUR life according to His “Word”?  We already know the end of the book; so, let’s be on the “winning” side.  AMEN!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord,
by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

Christ’s Divinity, Part 2:

 

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

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

*

I and the Father are one (John 10:30). RSV

I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30). KJV

*

For in Him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). RSV

“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Roger of Todi

 

Blessed Roger of Todi

Blessed Roger (b. 1216) died at Todi in the Italian province of Umbria, Italy, died on January 5, 1237; cultus (adoration of) approved by Pope Benedict XIV.

Blessed Roger was one of the early Franciscans who was admitted to the Order by the founder himself.  Because of his earnest efforts at perfection, the Seraphic Founder greatly esteemed him, and often chose him as his companion when he set out to preach or to direct souls.  St. Francis appointed him spiritual director of the convent of Poor Clares at Rieti.

Pope Gregory IX, who knew him personally, and who had called him a saint even during his lifetime, at once sanctioned the celebration of his feast at Todi.  Pope Benedict XIV extended his veneration to the entire Franciscan Order.

(Based on info from http://www.franciscan-sfo.org &
http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com websites)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Prayer” – – “Question”

(Answers next week)

How does prayer capture the “double miracle” occurring at each and every Mass?

How does imaging St. Francis’ appeal to each “Person of the Holy Trinity”, AND, the “whole” communion of Saints, in giving blessings to his friars affect you personally, and as a Franciscan?

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & 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).

 

♫”Oh, Johnny Boy, the Holy Spirit Is Calling You!”♫ – Mark 1:1-8†


    

 

Second Week of Advent

 

 Today’s Content: 

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

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 Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations: 

Do not forget that “St. Nick’s day” is this week (Tuesday, December 6th).  In many places of the world, it is St. Nicholas (and not Santa) who is the main gift giver.  Put out your children’s shoes and they find treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special Nicholas candies and cookies. Remember though, St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself.

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My wife’s surgery (foot surgery) went well, and she is cooperating.  Hopefully, she will be back at work within a few weeks.  Thank you for all the prayers.

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 Today in Catholic History:

†   1075 – Death of Archbishop Anno II of Cologne
†   1110 – First Crusade: The Crusaders conquer Sidon.
†   1259 – Kings Louis IX of France (A Third Order Fransican and Patron Saint of the SFO Order) and Henry III of England agree to the Treaty of Paris, in which Henry renounces his claims to French-controlled territory on continental Europe (including Normandy) in exchange for Louis withdrawing his support for English rebels.
†   1334 – Death of Pope John XXII (b. 1249)
†   1443 – Birth of Pope Julius II, (1503-13), patron of Michelangelo, Bramante, and Raphael
†   1563 – The final session of the Council of Trent is held (it opened on December 13, 1545).
†   1674 – Father Jacques Marquette founds a mission on the shores of Lake Michigan to minister to the Illiniwek (the mission would later grow into the city of Chicago, Illinois).
†   1786 – Birth of John LA Luyten, Catholic Member of Dutch 2nd parliament [or 12/14]
†   1963 – Pope Paul VI closes 2nd session of 2nd Vatican Council †   1997 – Death of David Abell Wood, priest, at age 72 Memorials Feasts: Saint John of Damascus; the Great Martyr Saint Barbara, St. Ada (feast day)

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“’Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ is an action of the risen Savior.  The Holy Spirit reveals to the spirit of the believer the true reality, majesty and saving power of the Son of God.  We are enabled to surrender our lives in a deeper way to God’s saving work.  We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to die to sin and live to God.” ~ Fr. Francis Martin, “The Life Changer”, St. Bede’s Publications

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Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist preaching repentance and baptizing people, in preparation for the “One” who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

 

(NAB Mark 1:1-8) 1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].  2a As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.  3 A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’”  4 John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  5 People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  6 John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey.  7 And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  8 I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last Sunday’s Gospel was taken from the end of Mark.  Today’s Gospel is taken from the beginning of Mark.  Unlike Luke and Matthew, Mark does not include any details of Jesus’ birth.  Instead, he begins with Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry, and with the appearance of John the Baptist in the desert wilderness.  We are invited today to reflect upon the role of this last great prophet, John the Baptist, who ‘prepared the way’ for Jesus and for the Salvation that Jesus Christ would bring to us then, now, and in the future.

Many scholars believe that the Gospels reflect the personal and group tensions that likely existed between the followers of John the Baptist and the disciples of Jesus Christ.  Each of the four Evangelists report on John’s preaching and baptizing, and each also emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ baptism by John.  The four Gospels go on explain that John the Baptist was sent to preach in preparation for another.  

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Holy Scripture tells us that John (the Baptist) was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb:

He [John the Baptist] will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”  (Luke 1:15).

When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, the son in her womb, John, leapt in her womb as they were both “filled” with the Holy Spirit:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:41).

The passion and fervor of the Holy Spirit dwelt in John, and made him the forerunner of the coming Messiah and Savior.  John was divinely led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness – – prior to his “prophetic” ministry, – – where he himself was tested and grew in the “Word” of God.  

Т

Although Mark attributes Jesus’ prophecy to Isaiah, the text is a combination of several passages from several books of Holy Scripture:

See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20);

 “A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3);

 “Now I am sending my messengerhe will prepare the way before me; and the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire — see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1);

“This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’” (Matthew 11:10);

And,

“This is the one about whom scripture says: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.’” (Luke 7:27).  

John the Baptist’s ministry is seen, and presented in this reading as God’s prelude to the saving mission of God the Fathers “Son”.  John the Baptist’s life was fueled by one burning passion — to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of His kingdom.

Т

John broke the prophetic silence of several centuries when he began to speak the “Word” of God to the people of Israel.  His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who also reproached the “chosen people” of God for their unfaithfulness and who also tried to awaken true repentance in them.  

Among the Jewish people – – who became unconcerned with the things of God, – – it was John’s work and mission to awaken their interest, to unsettle them from their complacency, and to arouse in them enough “good will” to recognize and receive Christ when He came.  

Why did Jesus say John the Baptist was more than a prophet as reported in Luke’s Gospel:

Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” (Luke 7:26)?

He was more than a prophet; he was the “voice” making straight the “way of the Lord”.  John the Baptist became “the voice” who is coming:

 “He [John the Baptist] said: ‘I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (John 1:23).

 And what exactly did the prophet Isaiah say about this “voice” of the “one crying out in the desert”:

“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.  Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service has ended, that her guilt is expiated, that she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.  A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:1-3).

Т

Can you picture a man “clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist” (verse 6).  Was he thought of as a “wild” man, with “crazy” ideas, OR, was he looked at as the prophesized “prophet”?  Remember, he did have a large following, and was watched, with “some concern”, from religious and political figures of the area.  They all knew the Old Testament prophesies of Isaiah.  John the Baptist’s clothes and dietary habits recalled that of the prophet “Elijah” from the Old Testament:

They replied, ‘He wore a hairy garment with a leather belt around his waist.’  ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite!’ he exclaimed.” (2 Kings 1:8).

Jesus Christ Himself even speaks of John the Baptist as the “Elijah” who has already come:

 “Then the disciples asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’  He said in reply, ‘Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.  So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.’” (Matthew 17:1012);

Then they [Peter, James, and John] asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’  He told them, ‘Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?  But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.’” (Mark 9:1113);

And,

He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17).

 

John the Baptist truly completed the cycle of great prophets begun by Elijah:

“All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.” (Matt. 11:13-14).

John’s baptismal ministry was for repentance, for turning away from sin, and for taking on a “new way” of life according to God’s “Word”.  Our baptism in, with, and through Jesus Christ – – by flowing water and the Holy Spirit – – results in a “new birth” and a glorious entry into God’s kingdom, as His beloved children:

 “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (John 3:5).

Т

Jesus will create a “new” people of God through the life-giving baptism with the Holy Spirit:

I [John the Baptist] have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1-8).

However, first Jesus will identify Himself with the “chosen people of Israel” in submitting to John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance:

John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4),

AND, in bearing on their (and our) behalf the burden of God the Father’s decisive judgment, was baptized for the “chosen people of Israel”:

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.” (Mark 1:9).

As in the desert of Sinai at the Exodus, so here, in the wilderness of Judea (at the Jordan River also associated with Elijah and Elisha), Israel’s Son-ship with God the Father is to be “renewed” through the living waters AND Holy Spirit of Jesus’ baptism.

Т

In conclusion, Mark’s description of John the Baptist’s appearance highlights John’s connection and permanence with Jewish prophetic tradition.  Mark, in today’s reading, combines quotations from the Old Testament books of Exodus, Isaiah, and Malachi.  Mark’s description of John the Baptist as an “ascetic”, living in the desert and “clothed in camel hair”, eating “locusts and wild honey”, is reminiscent of the description of the prophet “Elijah” found in the book, “Second Kings”.  The people of Judea and Jerusalem flocked to John the Baptist, longing for and listening to his message of repentance and forgiveness.  Many came to John to be baptized in the Jordan.  Mark’s Gospel is direct and clear; John the Baptist’s role is onlyto prepare the way” for another to come, “one who is greater” than John the Baptist.

In today’s Gospel we hear John the Baptist contrast his baptism of repentance with the baptism that Jesus will inaugurate.  John says that he has baptized with water, but that the “one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit” as well.  John the Baptist’s baptism was not yet a Catholic Christian baptism.  It was a “preparation” for the Sacrament of Baptism through which sins are forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit is received.

John the Baptist is presented to us as a model for preparation during Advent.  We, too, in this day and time – – some two millennia later, – – are still called upon to “prepare a way for the Lord”.  Like John the Baptist, we ARE messengers in service to the “One” who is greater than any on earth.  Our Baptism commissions us to call others to life as disciples of Jesus.

Think about ways in which the example of others around you have “called” you to be a follower of Jesus Christ; who have been examples to you of Christian discipleship.  What are the characteristics they posses that you have tried to (or can) emulate?

Jesus is ready to give us the “fire” of His Holy Spirit so that we may “glow with” the light, joy, and truth of His Gospel to a materialistic and secular world, so desperately in need of God’s light, joy, and truth.  Jesus Christ’s “Word” has power to change and transform our lives so that we may be lights pointing others to Him.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light, the truth, and the way of Jesus Christ.  The question is: “Are you eager to hear God’s word and to be changed by it through the power of the Holy Spirit”?  Do you point others to Christ in the way you live, work, and communicate? 

As John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ, the Sacrament of Baptism “commissions” us to also prepare the way of the Lord.  The grace of the Holy Spirit leads us to continually renew our lives so that we might lead others to Jesus.  Can you identify at least one action that you will take this week to try to be a more faithful follower, a more faithful disciple, of Jesus?  Pray that God will receive this action you have just identified, and use it to lead others to his Son.

The season of Advent invites us to renew our lives in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.  Some of the first-century people who heard the message of John the Baptist repented for their sins and were then baptized.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, our sins are truly forgiven, and we also receive the grace (the gift) of the Holy Spirit who helps us in our life of discipleship.  Led by the Holy Spirit, we should use this Advent season time to renew our lives in “preparing the way” for Jesus.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.” 

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

The Roman Catholic Church bases her teaching upon one source: The “WORD” of God.  This revelation is communicated to us in two divine ways: Holy Scripture and apostolic “Tradition”.  Many people (including most Protestants) believe in only the writings found in the bible are the word of God.  However, Oral transmission of the faith is also the word of God as Peter reported:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (cf., 1 Thessalonians. 2:13) RSV

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (cf., 1 Thessalonians. 2:13) KJV

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

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

 

Tradition Found in Holy Scripture, Part 1

 

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you (1 Corinthians. 11:2).  RSV

“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. (1 Corinthians. 11:2).  KJV

 

“Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us(2 Timothy. 1:13-14).  RSV

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” (2 Timothy. 1:13-14).  KJV

 

“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians. 2:15)  RSV

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians. 2:15)  KJV

Information from
“Catholic Answers” Website
www.catholic.com

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Vices

Where can you find the virtues in the SFO Rule?

How would you paraphrase what Saint Francis thought about each of the virtues? (Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

How have you been living the virtues?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 4 & 5 of 26:

04.  The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

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

“Happy Birthday to the ‘Boo-Man’!”


 

Pentecost Sunday

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

Т

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is a Feast day marking the birth of the Catholic Church through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated fifty days after Easter.  Red is the liturgical color worn by the priest at mass today.  The color red recalls the tongues of flame in which the Holy Spirit descended to the disciples of Jesus on that first Pentecost.  The color red also reminds us of the blood of martyrs; those believers who [by the power of the Holy Spirit] held firm to their faith, even at the cost of their lives.

 

Т

I, and the whole family, had a great time on vacation.  We spent the week in Mississippi.  Went to the beach several days, saw some military and historical “stuff” (Mine and two of my four sons favorite parts of our trips), and ended our vacation with a trip to New Orleans.

The kid’s exposure to the eclectic personalities of New Orleans was a rather humorous event.  Their eyes sometimes looked as those of deer in headlights.  It led to some fairly deep discussions on the car ride home.

I am presenting a short reflection today, for lack of time to go into as much detail as I have been.  Hopefully, next week I will be able to go into more detail of the Gospel reading than here.  I pray you still enjoy what I have written. 

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

Sainthood is not reserved for monks living cloistered lives of private prayer, or for martyrs who gave up their bodies to the cruelest forms of brutality. Sainthood is a state of grace for all who avail themselves of God’s holy fire of heart, allowing it to burn, burn, burn, right through to the core.” – Liz Kelly May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, Loyola Press

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Today’s reflection is about the Holy Spirit entering our lives as Jesus’ Advocate

 

The Easter season concludes with today’s liturgical celebration.  Today is the “Birth” of the Catholic Church.  As a seed dies to be reborn as a tree or flower, so to did Jesus Christ die to be reborn in each of us.

Pentecost was the beginning of the Church: its birthday.  When I was little, and saw all those different famous paintings and icons of the Holy Spirit coming down on the Apostles as flames (tongues of fire), I thought, “Why would God do this?  It would burn their heads!”  I now know that the Apostles, – – with those tongues of fire on top of their heads, – – represent the candles at the Church’s birthday party.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Seriously, what is Pentecost all about; what is all the fuss?  For me, the answer is simple.  Pentecost allows us to see Jesus in an entirely new and exciting way.  When we pray, or when we are together at Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and any other liturgical event, the Holy Spirit – -His Advocate – – wants to reveal Jesus in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit wants to show us Jesus’ love, majesty, divinity, mercy, and power.  Through the power of fire that represents the Holy Spirit, sins and iniquities keeping us from Jesus’ embrace are burned away.

Jesus defeated sin and death.  He was (and sill is) declared “Lord over heaven and earth!”  By sending the Holy Spirit, He fulfilled His promise to send an “Advocate”, (a helper also known as the “Paraclete”) who would enable Christ’s believers to be witnesses to His “good news”, and to be a reconciling presence in the world.  There is an important connection between the gifts of peace and forgiveness, and the actions of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through you.

In today’s reading, it is written, “… there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind …” (Acts 2:2).  The words “wind and spirit” are also mentioned in John:

“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

The word “wind” is translated from the Greek word “pneuma” (and the Hebrew word “ruah”) meaning both “windandspirit.”  Could it be that the sound of a great rush of wind is a sign of a new action from God in regards to salvation history?  With this in mind, I may look at spring storms a little different in the future.

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The tongues of fire have always been a curiosity of mine.  This type of “fire” is also mentioned in Exodus:

“Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the LORD came down upon it in fire …” (Exodus 19:18).

Fire symbolized the presence of God initiating the “covenant” on Mount Sinai.  The Holy Spirit, the third “person” of the Trinitarian God, acted upon the Apostles and disciples by preparing them to proclaim the “new covenant”.  Jesus previously commissioned His disciples to continue the work that He had begun: to teach, to forgive sins, and to baptize.  The Holy Spirit gives them the power to complete His work. 

Jesus wants all His followers to be instruments and means of peace and harmony among all peoples, and in all places of the world.  So, He gave us the same tool to do His work as well – – the Holy Spirit working through us, in us, and with us.

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To speak in different tongues (languages) is a form of ecstatic prayer.  This type of prayer is sometimes also called “charismatic” prayer.  Interpreted in the book of Acts as speaking in foreign languages:

“… both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” (Acts 2:11).

This speaking in “tongues” symbolizes the worldwide mission of the church.  Everyone speaking differently wasn’t to confuse the masses of people.  Instead, “speaking in tongues” actually helps bring all peoples of the world together under one large umbrella: the Catholic, or universal Church.

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To live as a disciple of God – – through, with, and in the Holy Spirit, – – is a gigantic privilege.  The Advocate (or Paraclete) brings us peace and works through us to teach Christ’s message.  Along with this privilege comes a huge responsibility.  As the Apostles and early disciples had done centuries ago, we are still expected to spread the “good news” of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and of His coming again soon.  Are we willing to surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit?  Are we eager and willing to bring His “good news” to this oft-times violent and secularist world?

Today is the perfect day to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, and to share the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation with others in your life.  Reflect on your need to forgive, and upon concerns you may have with giving and accepting forgiveness.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to help bring you peace through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Ask the Holy Spirit to burn away everything that keeps you from Jesus.  After all, in this case, heart burn is a good thing!

The following prayer may help in finding the Holy Spirit, and in kindling that fire inside you.

 

“Prayer for the Help of the Holy Spirit”

“O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive; into my mind, that I may remember; and into my soul, that I may meditate. Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy.  Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end.  May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy.  Amen.”

Saint Anthony of Padua

 

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Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO