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“It’s a Bird; It’s a Plane; No, It’s Christ! Oh, Oh, I’m NOT Ready Yet!!” – Luke 21:25-28,34-36†


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First Sunday of Advent

 

 . table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For December, 2012

 

General Intention: that all migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity andPope Benedict illustration authentic love, especially by Christian communities.

Missionary Intention: that Christ may reveal Himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of His Church.

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Today, and next Wednesday, I am going to share information on two holiday objects used by all people in a secular way, the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and the “Candy Cane”.  However, these items started out as ways to catechize Catholics during times of suppression from governments of the day.  I hope you enjoy the history and meaning behind these items.

 

The Real Meaning of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

by Father Edward T. Dowling, S. J | Source: Catholic.net

 

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written by the English Jesuits during the 16th century, though its precise author is unknown.  The carol used obscure symbols to hide its true meaning from the enemy in time of persecution, Henry VIII.  When Henry VIII was rebuffed by Rome in his request to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, he declared himself head of the Church in England.  With replacing the Pope, the King demanded all to swear an oath of allegiance to him as head of the Church.  St. Thomas More, the “Chancellor of the Realm”, (the equivalent of the Prime Minister today), refused the oath, and Henry VIII had him publicly beheaded.  During this time, Catholic convents and monasteries were closed and looted.  

The situation was made worse under his son, Edward VI, and better during the short reign of Catherine’s daughter, Mary Tudor. However, she was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I, an ardent Protestant and the daughter of Anne Boleyn.  The practice of the Catholic faith was banned.  Priests were exiled and forbidden under pain of Twelve Days of Christmasdeath from returning or performing the sacraments.  It was a desperate, dreadful time.

With this as a background we can see the need for secrecy and deception.  “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written to educate the faithful in the doctrines of the faith and, at the same time, not be obvious to persecutors in the area.  The numbers are simply a mnemonic to help Catholics remember some basic facts. Recall the words of the song: 

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: twelve lords a leaping, eleven pipers piping, ten ladies dancing, nine drummers drumming, Twelve_days_Wordleeight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

The song celebrates the liturgical Christmas season, starting on Christmas Day and ending twelve days later on the “Feast of the Epiphany”.  

·        My true love” refers to God, and “me” is the individual Catholic.

·        The “twelve lords a leaping” are the twelve basic beliefs of the Catholic Church as outlined in the Apostles Creed. 

·        The “eleven pipers piping” are the eleven Apostles who remained faithful after the treachery of Judas. 

·        The “ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments. 

·        The “nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels which in those days of class distinction were thought important. 

·        The “eight maids a milking” are the Eight Beatitudes. 

·        The “seven swans a swimming” are the Seven Sacraments. 

·        The “six geese a laying” are for both the Six Commandments of the Church and the six days of creation. 

·        The “five golden rings” are the first five books of the Old Testament called the Torah which are generally considered the most sacred and important of all the Old Testament. 

·        The “four calling birds” are the Four Gospels. 

·        The “three French hens” are the Three Persons in God and the three gifts of the Wise Men. 

·        The “two turtle doves” represent the two natures in Jesus: human and divine and the two Testaments, Old and New. 

·        The “partridge” is the piece de resistance, Jesus himself,

And,

·        The “pear tree” is the Holy Cross.

http://catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=3465

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bag_of_moneyBy the way, all the items mentioned in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” would cost $107, 300 (US) in today’s costs.  This is a 6.1% increase from last year.

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

Luke21v25to36_2003

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches His disciples to be vigilant and ready for when the “Son of Man” comes in glory.  Are you “vigilantly ready”?

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(NAB Luke 21:25-28,34-36)  25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.   27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”  34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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. Reflection Gospel Reflection:

 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, also called the first Sunday of a new liturgical year.  The Advent sAdvent1eason includes the four Sundays proceeding Christmas Day and is a time of preparation for the “coming of the Lord”.  During the Advent season, we recall two essential and foundational elements of our faith:

  • ·        The final coming of the Lord “in glory”;

And,

  • ·        the “incarnation” of the Lord – – through the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

The key themes of the Advent season are watchful waiting, spiritual preparation, and realizing God’s loving justice.

In this new liturgical year, the Gospel of Luke will be the primary Gospel proclaimed (for you techno-missal-geeks, we will be using Lectionary Cycle C).  Today’s Gospel is taken from the chapter just luke-gospel-bannerbefore Luke’s “passion narrative” in which Jesus teaches in the Holy Temple.  Jesus knows what is going to happen to Him soon!  He is preparing, and giving hope and good counsel, and fair warning, to His disciples.  Today’s reading has Jesus speaking to His disciples about the need for “vigilance and prayer” as they wait for the coming of the “Son of Man in glory”.  

Jesus has already predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, warned about the persecution and tribulations to follow, and is now identifying the “signs” signaling the “coming of the Son of Man in glory” to come.

From a historical viewpoint, the community – – the audience and readers – – for whom Luke wrote his GosStLukepel may have believed that they were already experiencing some of the events Jesus described – – and they would be RIGHT!  Luke, a Syrian from Antioch, wrote his Gospel and the Book of the “Acts of the Apostles” as a two-volume work in the late 90’s.  At that time of Luke’s Gospel, many Catholic Christians interpreted the Temple’s destruction as an indication that Jesus’ “second coming” was very close at hand.

Luke, through his writings, shifts the early Christian emphasis away from an expectation of an imminent, about to happen – – NOW – – “Parousia” event, to that of a day-to-day concern of the Catholic Christian community – – in “waiting” – – individually, and as a Church.  Luke is more concerned with presenting the “Words” and deeds of Jesus as instructions for the conduct of His Christian disciples during the intervening period between His Ascension and the His Second Coming, the Parousia – – whenever it is to happen.  He also presents Jesus Christ Himself, as the model for a proper Catholic Christian life of goodness, faithfulness, and holiness. 

Jesus’ eschatological discourse concerns doctrines (truths) about the human soul in its relation to death, personal judgment, heaven, and hell.  Jesus is urging His disciples – – and at the same time, the eschatology-kidsCatholic Church as a whole – – inspiring them to be to be faithful and obedient through the trials and tribulations which WILL confront them – – and ALL OF US! (Sounds just like what is happening today!  Please re-read my “Five stages of Persecution” in last Sunday’s blog for more on this subject.)  

Jesus, through Luke, is urging a necessity to be constantly “vigilant” (literally meaning “watchful”) and not to have a misguided “Messianic hope” of deliverance from our trials and tribulations.  We need to remember that no one but the Father knows the precise time of the Parousia:

Of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).

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Jesus’ “Second Coming” WILL be preceded by signs.  Could Jesus’ “sign” be the presence of the bleak outrages and scandals coming from the Roman power profaning the Temple then(?) and the direct attacks on the Catholic Church from without and within today(?) – – NOW(?) – -!  It certainly seems reasonable to me, so I’m definitely preparing!

So, what are these signs to be?  Luke, being very astute at researching issues, looked for answers throTraffic-signs-theme-vector-material2ughout Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) and John’s prophetic book, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ”:

From a sling, wrathful hailstones shall be hurled.  The waters of the sea will be enraged and flooding rivers will overwhelm them” (Wisdom 5:22);

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

“When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken all its starsThe sun I will cover with clouds; the moon will not give light (Ezekiel 32:7);

Before them the earth trembles; the heavens shake; Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness … I will set signs in the heavens and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke; The sun will darken, the moon turn blood-red, Before the day of the LORD arrives, that great and terrible day … Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness (Joel 2:10; 3:3–4; 4:15);

“Then I watched while he broke open the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; the sun turned as black as dark sackcloth and the whole moon became like blood.  The stars in the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs shaken loose from the tree in a strong wind.  Then the sky was divided like a torn scroll curling up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place” (Revelation 6:12–14).

Luke relates that the “powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:26).  Is this a reference to the “cosmic angelic armies” – – Satan’s armies – – manifesting themselves?  Or, is it a reference to the physical celestial properties we know in our sphere of earthly human knowledge?  I believe it is “Both/And”.  That our physical environment is under the authority of God and the responsibility and authority which God delegated to the angels before they “fell from grace”.

The Lord continually forewarned His “chosen” family that there will be a periodic “shaking” and other “signs” we should pay attention to.  In the Old Testament, Haggai warns Zerubbabel:

“For thus says the LORD of hosts: In just a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land … Speak to Zerubbabel*, the governor of Judah: I will shake the heavens and the earth(Haggai 2:6, 21).

*(Zerubbabel was a descendant of King David and was a governor of the Persian Province of Judah (cf., Haggai 1:1).  He led the first group of Jews who returned from the Babylonian Captivity around 538 BC.  Zerubbabel also laid the foundation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem soon after their return.  Per Haggai, Zerubbabel will also have a “servant” role in God’s future Israelite kingdom – – to be established – – when God intervenes to overthrow the nations.  )

Now, in the New Testament era, God counsels the Judeo-Christian family in the Letter to the Hebrews:

See that you do not reject the one who speaks.  For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much more in our case if we turn away from the one who warns from heaven.  His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, ‘I will once more shake not only earth but heaven.’  That phrase, ‘once more,’ points to [the] removal of shaken, created things, so that what is unshaken may remain.  Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe.  For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:25-29).

Since this is the case when the Parousia happens, I can see why many will be so frightened.  Hoz202092960wever, though I will always have apprehension and some “fear” of this incomprehensible event.  God’s revelation and promise in Jesus helped to be prepared and constantly vigilant.  In my spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, I am eagerly awaiting His return daily, – – or whenever it shall occur.  We do this at every Mass when the Priest right after the “Our Father” prayer, when the Priest prays:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

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Another “sign” prophesied in today’s reading is:

“They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). 

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied He would return again at the “end of time” (the Parousia) to finCross_Globeish the work He came to accomplish through His death and resurrection.  Jesus’ image of the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” is taken from a foretelling vision of the prophet Daniel:

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

Remember, Jesus always referred to Himself as “the Son of Man” and never as “the Son of God”!  Why do you think Jesus chose this specific title?  Hmm, He had a great reason, as you will soon find out.

Daniel’s vision [above] is a foretelling of a royal appointment of a “human” king before God’s throne.  This “human” king, whose authority comes directly from God the Father, is given world-wide and everlasting kingship, authority, and power.  

The faithful Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression.  Jesus, however, tells His disciples that when He returns, He will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for ALL – – not just the Jewish “chosen” people.

Jesus goes on to reveal that He will be:

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

In saying this, Jesus is citing specific Scriptural words.  He is referencing Jewish Scripture from the book of Deuteronomy:SecondComingOfChrist

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

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

The word “clouds”, in Jewish Holy Scripture, indicates the presence of divinity. The image of the ATT00001cloud” being “the presence of divinity” is found extensively throughout the story of Moses interaction with “the Lord” during the Jewish exodus in the desert:

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

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

and,

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

Thus, in His nature as the “Son of Man”, Jesus is truly a “divine person” (as well as being the “human” king) who will come “in power and glory”.

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The last half of today’s reading is a collection of “sayings” relating to Luke’s understanding of the “end time” and the return of Jesus – – the Parousia event. Luke emphasizes – – for his readers – – the importance of being faithful to the instructions of Jesus in the period before the Parousia event Bible%2520-%2520Instruction%2520Manualoccurs.  This book was written long after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  The early Catholic Christian expectations of an “imminent” second return of Jesus had to obviously undergo some modification.  So, Luke cautions his readers against counting on this delay and acting irresponsibly.  A similar warning can be found earlier in Luke’s Gospel:

“But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful (Luke 12:45–46);

These verses are a warning for Jesus’ disciples to be ALWAYS (i.e., daily) ready for the Lord’s return, during the Parousia – – the promised Second Coming of Christ.  It is also an implied acknowledgement of the “Final Judgment”, the ultimate acknowledgement of God the Father’s love and active participation in the course of this awesome event, the fullest revelation of God sharing His eternal love for each of us.

As Catholic Christians, we need to start living as if the Parousia is here now – – as if you see Jesus Christ descending on a “cloud” NOW!!  Live holy lives; rejoice in hope; be alert to the various Eschatology_False-Prophets_620deceptions that Satan will launch against the Church in those days:

Many false prophets will arise and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11).

 Make use of a radical simplicity in life.  All our material possessions will no longer benefit, nor be of benefit, to us after the Parousia event: they will burn in the purifying fire on that day:header

Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.  For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.  Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.  But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1 John 2:15-17);

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.  Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought [you] to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire.  But according to His promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

BBePreparede in a state of constant awareness and perpetual readiness and anticipation.  Also, be in constant personal spiritual growth – – the best way to prepare.  Luke is warning us to NOT have the attitude, “I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back”.  This is truly a foolish attitude to cultivate.  Live the scouting life: “Be Prepared!!”

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. summarize titleThough Jesus predicts a time of destruction and fear, He indicates that others will be frightened; Jesus’ disciples are instead not to fear, but to stand tall.  However, Jesus goes on to say that He does NOT promise deliverance from anxiety or tribulations in our earthly lives.  Jesus encourages His disciples to pray for strength OFTEN!!  The ealift-up-praiserly Catholic Christian communities did not find consolation in the promise of an ideal and perfect place where ALL live in peace and harmony – – and neither should we today.  Instead, we recognize – – in our Catholic Christian faith – – the instrument and ways by which we can witness to God’s unfailing love for us in ALL circumstances, even the rough times.  These instruments are the Holy Sacraments: all contained in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Jesus’ predictions about the end times may sound dire. However, in the very next verses in Luke’s Gospel, just after today’s reading ends, he tells us that people woke early to listen to Jesus’ teaching in the Temple area:

During the day, Jesus was teaching in the temple area, but at night he would leave and stay at the place called the Mount of Olives.  And all the people would get up early each morning to listen to him in the Temple area” (Luke 21:37-38).

In His personhood and in His personal message to those who listen, strength and consolation will be found.  Like the first Catholic Christians, we will certainly encounter and experience events and cirthCAM75JLMcumstances leading us to periods of despair in our lives.  (After all, we are ONLY human – – but saved by His grace.)  Therefore, through prayer, we find strength and consolation in Jesus’ “Words” and in His continuing presence with us – – through all our trials – – bearing and undergoing, and sometimes suffering together, witnessing to the loving action of God in our world.

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. conclusionSince the early first centuries, many Churches in the east and west have marked “special seasons” to celebrate the central, essential, and foundational “truths” of the Catholic Christian faith.  The Advent season reminds us that we are a “pilgrim people”, exiles from Christ’s eternal heaven, who long for our “true” home with God in His heavenly kingdom.  We are awaiting – – with joyful hope – – the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the age – – the Parousia.  

No one but God the Father knows the day of Jesus’ “return in glory”.  But, it is certain that we are living in the end times, the culmination of this present age in God’s plan – – NOW!  The end times MARK_13_32_by_traylor1234began with the “first coming” of Jesus Christ – – through His “Incarnation” and birth – – which we celebrate at Christmas and the Epiphany.  The end times culminates in His return on the “Final Day of Judgment”.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns His disciples against the apathy and lack of vigilance which can surface if one’s spirit becomes depleted by the anxieties of daily life.  Many of us are all too familiar with this kind of fatigue which Jesus is referring to in today’s reading.  It comes with being concerned about ours or another’s health, job security, education, financial problems, and any number of other reasons.  

Yes, ALL these aspects of life are important matters indeed.  Jesus does not promise to end our daily Keep Your Eyes On Jesusworries and fears.  However, He DOES teach His disciples (and us) that they will have the “strength” to withstand these anxieties and trials IF and WHEN we stay focused on Him in our everyday lives.  His disciples need to remain “vigilant” for His second return – – IT WILL HAPPEN – – someday!  His disciples need to be consistent in praying for “strength” to endure all “tribulations”.  Through prayer, God helps us stay focused on what (actually, “WHO”) is most important in our lives – – Jesus Christ!!

Recall your previous traditions of making New Year’s resolutions in preparation for a new calendar year.  Today IS the first Sunday of Advent, which is the beginning of the new Church year.  During the resolutions1season of Advent, our Gospel readings ask us to consider what (and “WHO”) is most important to us as we prepare for Jesus’ coming, at His birth AND at the “end of time”.

Jesus describes “signs” which surely will disturb and scare many people.  However, Jesus says that these “signs” should not be disturbing to His disciples.  Remember, Jesus in today’s in reading, says that these “signs” indicate “redemption” is near.  He even goes so far as to tell us how to behave:

When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke21:28).

 With this new Church year, what Advent “resolutions” might you make to help you stay focused on Christ; to help you be prepared to receive the salvation which we celebrate at Jesus’ birth, and anticipate at Jesus’ “second coming”.  Pray for God’s help in following through on these “New Year” resolutions you just made.

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Reflection Prayer: 

Psalm 25

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul, my God, in you I trust; do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. No one is disgraced who waits for you, but only those who are treacherous without cause. Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. Guide me by your fidelity and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long. Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD, for they are ages old. Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me psalm25_4_5according to your mercy, because of your goodness, LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way, He guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble his way.  All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth toward those who honor his covenant and decrees. For the sake of your name, LORD, pardon my guilt, though it is great. Who is the one who fears the LORD?  God shows him the way he should choose. He will abide in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The counsel of the LORD belongs to those who fear him; and his covenant instructs them. My eyes are ever upon the LORD, who frees my feet from the snare.

Look upon me, have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart; bring me out of my distress. Look upon my affliction and suffering; take away all my sins. See how many are my enemies, see how fiercely they hate me. Preserve my soul and rescue me; do not let me be disgraced, for in you I seek refuge. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; I wait for you, O LORD. Redeem Israel, O God, from all its distress!  Amen.

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“The Devil Made Me Do IT – – NOT!” – Matthew 4:1-11†


 

“First Sunday of Lent” 

 

  

Today’s Content:  

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I know it is not until Thursday, but is it ever too early to celebrate a great saint (and a fun time)?!  (PS – 286 days till CHRISTmas.)

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Are you active in the “40 Days for Life” campaign?  If not; why not?!  Just pray, if not wanting to participate in a prayer vigil at an abortion death mill.

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I personally would like to thank the Governor of Illinois for doing away with the Death penalty in his state.  Though the “death penalty” is not absolutely opposed in the teachings of the Catholic Church, I believe that even the lives of prisoners should not be taken away from them by others.  All life is sacred, including the unborn, the marginalized, the sick, the old, – – and yes, – – even prisoners.

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Congratulations to Justin Cardinal Rigali for doing the right thing in suspending 24 priests in his diocese.  I am sure his action was the result of much thought and prayer, and probably not very popular with some people.  I pray other Church Leaders learn from his example as a shepherd of his flock.  God Bless you Cardinal Rigali.

         

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Today in Catholic History:

 

†   483 – St Felix III begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1138 – Cardinal Gregorio Conti is elected Antipope as Victor IV, succeeding Anacletus II.
†   1548 – Birth of Sasbout Vosmeer, Dutch Catholic theologist/apostole
†   1599 – Birth of Johannes Berchmans, Dutch Jesuit/saint
†   1615 – Birth of Innocent XII, [Antonio Pignatelli], Pope (1691-1700)
†   1951 – Death of James I Wedgwood, British theosophist/Catholic bishop, at age 67
†   1981 – Attempt on Pope John Paul II’s life by Mehemet Ali Agca, in Vatican Square
†   2004 -Death of Franz König, Austrian Catholic Archbishop of Vienna (b. 1905)
†   Memorial/Feasts: Saint Gerald; Saint Nicephorus (also in Greek Orthodox); Saint Roderick; Saint Leticia 

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

“When tempted, invoke your Angel.  He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped!  Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him.  He trembles and flees at the sight of your Guardian Angel” ~ St. John Bosco

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ fasting for forty days in the desert and His being tempted by Satan, as recorded by Matthew. 

(Matthew 4:11) 1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.  3 The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”  4 He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.'”  5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.  For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”  7 Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'”  8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”  10 At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan!  It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'”  11 Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him. 

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In each of the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), Jesus is reported to have gone into the desert wilderness, after His baptism by John the Baptist, in order to fast and to pray for forty days, wherein, He is tempted by the devil.

Each Evangelist tells how the devil tempts Jesus in the desert.  In Matthew, as in Luke, the devil presents three temptations to Jesus.  (Mark does not mention the individual temptations.) The devil tempts Jesus to use His divine power, first to appease his hunger, then to put God’s promise of protection to the test, to become a world ruler of all the kingdoms of the world, if only He (Jesus) will worship him (the devil).  In each case, Jesus resists his temptations and rebukes the devil with words from Holy Scripture.

Matthew’s Gospel reading from today’s Mass is filled with suggestions, quotations, and similarities found in the Old Testament, particularly in the stories of the Jewish people’s wandering in the desert for forty years.  Just as the Israelites were tempted during the Exodus of the First Covenant, so too was Jesus tempted with the bringing in of the New, Second Covenant.

Jesus, just recently proclaimed by God to be God’s “beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17) at His baptism, is now subjected to three temptations by Satan.  Obedience to the Father was (and is) a characteristic of being a true son.  Jesus was tempted by the devil to rebel against God the Father.  In the first two tests, the temptations were subtle; then, in the last one, the test is clearly more revolt.  In each refusal and rebuke by Jesus, He expressed Himself, in the words of Moses found in the Book of Deuteronomy:

“He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut 8:3)

“You shall not put the LORD, your God, to the test, as you did at Massah.” (Deut 6:16).

“The LORD, your God, shall you fear; him shall you serve, and by his name shall you swear.”  (Deut 6:13)

Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted out of His deep love for us.  He also allowed Himself to be tempted in order to teach us important lessons needed for our spiritual maturity and survival.

The divine Jesus is perfect.  He could only be tempted “externally”.  What does “externally” mean?  Well, there are three levels of temptation:

  • External: We may know this type of temptation as “suggestion”.  It is a temptation in which we take delight even though we don’t give clear consent.  We can experience this type of external temptation without actually sinning.  An example would be finding a bundle of $100 bills lying on the street and imagining for a brief moment keeping the money. (Finders keepers, losers weepers.)  [No sin occurs yet]

 

  • Internal: a temptation in which we take delight and give some consent, but not complete consent.  In this type of temptation there is some sinfulness.  An example could be picking up the money in the previous example, and taking it home.  Once at home, you have a change of heart, and call the police. [Most often venial sinning]

 

  • And, deeply internal:  – a temptation in which we give actual and full consent.  This is always profoundly sinful.  This type of temptation affects the deepest part of the soul.  An example would be keeping, and spending the money though you know it is not yours (and you do not care)!  [It is a mortal sin, separating oneself from God’s presence and the grace of salvation.]

Jesus’ temptations in the desert wilderness have a deep significance in salvation history.  Satan’s testing of Jesus resemble those trials of Israel during the wandering in the desert, and later in Canaan.  The victory of Jesus, the true Israel, and the true Son, distinctly differs from the failure of the ancient, disobedient “son,” the old Israel.  

Many (in fact, all of us) important people have been tempted throughout sacred history.  Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, and all the Jewish people themselves experienced temptation; I believe we are all tempted on a daily basis, at minimum:

“For the just man falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble to ruin.”  (Proverbs 24:16). 

With Jesus zealously rejecting the temptations of Satan, He became THE example, and revealed how to handle temptations in our daily battles with Satan, or with any other evil enticements.  We need to learn to resist and overcome evil by our increasing knowledge of the word of God, especially the three verses Jesus knew and used in today’s Gospel.

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The number forty has many Old Testament Biblical references:

  • the forty days and nights God sent rain in the great flood of Noah’s day:

“Seven days from now I will bring rain down on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and so I will wipe out from the surface of the earth every moving creature that I have made.” (Genesis 7:4);

  • the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God:

“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 24:18);

  • the forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the desert while traveling to the Promised Land:

“Here where your children must wander for forty years, suffering for your faithlessness, till the last of you lies dead in the desert.”  (Numbers 14:33);

  • The forty years during which Israel was tempted in the desert:

“Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)

  • the forty days and nights Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb:

“He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.” (1 Kings 19:8);

  • And, the forty days warning Jonah gave the people of Nineveh in his prophecy of judgment to repent:

Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, ‘Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.’” (Jonah 3:4).

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In the hostile environment of the desert, Jesus fasted for forty days.  At the conclusion of this period of prayer, and fasting, Jesus was tempted by the devil: 

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:1-2)

“At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” (Mark 1:12-13)

“Filled with the holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.  He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.” (Luke 4:1-2)

Jesus prepared himself for His “test” by prayer and fasting.  Moses acted the same way when preparing for his role in salvation history:

“So Moses stayed there with the LORD for forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:28)

We follow in Jesus’ footsteps with OUR yearly Lenten fast.  Pope John Paul II (the Great) brought this concept to mind so eloquently in one of his “General Audience” addresses:

“It can be said that Christ introduced the tradition of fasting for forty days into the liturgical year of the Church, because He himself “fasted forty days and forty nights” (Mt 4:2) before beginning to teach.  With this forty-day fast, the Church is, in a certain sense, called every year to follow her Master and Lord, if she wishes to preach his Gospel effectively.” (John Paul II, General Audience, February 28, 1979)

Jesus’ retreat into the desert wilderness calls us, and teaches us, to prepare ourselves by prayer and penance before any important decisions or actions.  How often do you fast, much less pray?

Jesus spent forty days and nights in a physically brutal environment. Verse two of today’s reading says He was “hungry”.   Of course He was hungry!  Satan knew this, and took the opportunity to tempt Him when the “human” Jesus was at His weakest.  The enemy will certainly tempt us when we are at our weakest!

What kind of a temptation is there in Jesus “producing some bread”?  Jesus not only produced bread later on in His ministry, he also produced fish AND wine as well!  (What a great meal.)  However, Satan is very cunning.  What Satan proposed for Jesus would have been for His [Jesus’] benefit solely, and not part of God’s plan for salvation and redemption.  If you notice, all of Jesus’ miracles were 1) always for others, and 2) always for the purpose of salvation and redemption for all peoples of every race, culture, and nation.

When tempted by the devil to change rock into bread, Jesus refused to use His divine power for His own sole benefit, though He was truly and personally physically hungry.  Performing a miracle at this time was not part of His Father’s plan for salvation and redemption.  Jesus instead chose to accept whatever God “wills”.  Do we “choose” as Jesus did? 

He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Jesus is trusting in God’s fatherly providence.  God led Jesus into the desert in order to prepare Him for His earthly ministry.  Jesus trusted God the Father completely that He would not let Him die from hunger in the desert.  “Yahweh” [God] prevented the Israelites from dying by miraculously providing manna to eat in the desert.  In contrast to the Israelites of the Exodus, who were impatient when faced with hunger in the desert, Jesus trusted in His father’s providence wholeheartedly.  How is your level of “trust” in God’s providence?

In this example, Jesus teaches us that when we ask God for things, we should not ask for what can be obtained by our own efforts.  We should also not ask for something that would be exclusively for our own convenience.  Rather, we should pray for what will help us towards our holiness, and that of others.

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The devil continued His tempting of Jesus, relentlessly and cunningly (I cannot stress how persistent and cunning Satan is!).  If Satan isn’t able make us renounce our faith, or able to trick us into a mortal sin, he will then try to get us to make little “choices” which will eventually lead us away from God.

Since “daring” Jesus to perform a miracle did not work, the enemy quickly moved to another approach.  The devil has no scruples and will use whatever way possible to separate a human soul from God.  Satan prods Jesus to jump off a high structure to prove His divinity with Jesus being saved from death by the hands of angels.  Tradition has it that this particular temptation happened at the southeast corner of the Temple wall, its highest point due to its geographical position on the hill.  Satan further supports his proposal, his test, with the use of Holy Scripture, specifically Psalm 91:

“For God commands the angels, with their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11a, 12).

This test for Jesus from Satan was unlike the Israelites at Massah, who demanded a miracle of water from Moses:

“You shall not put the LORD, your God, to the test, as you did at Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:16),

Jesus refuses to “test” God: 

“They quarreled, therefore, with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’  Moses replied, ‘Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you put the LORD to a test?’” (Exodus 17:2).

To “test” God’s faithfulness reveals little or no real trust in Him.  It shows an opposition to trust in God.  On the other hand, we should also not be presumptuous in purposely placing ourselves in danger, expecting God to help us with His power, nor by asking God for signs of proof of His faithfulness to His word.  Our trust in God must be simple, complete, and full, – – not “foolhardy”!

Jesus does not demand from God an amazing, special, or unexpected show of power at this time in His human life.  He is completely, totally, and fully surrendering His existence to the will, the trust, and the love of God the Father!

Satan purposely tried to use Holy Scripture in a false way.  We must be aware of heresies from people interpreting the bible out of context, losing site of the unity which exists in Holy Scripture.  St. Gregory the great wrote:

 “The devil can also interpret Holy Scripture, quoting it to suit himself.  Therefore, any interpretation which is not in line with the teaching contained in the Tradition of the Church should be rejected.  Catholics should be on guard against arguments which, though they claim to be founded on Holy Scripture, are nevertheless untrue.” (St. Gregory the Great, In Evangelia homiliae, 16)

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For Satan’s third and final test offered to Jesus, he proposed to give Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” if only Jesus would simply bow down and worship him – – the devil.  This temptation was probably intended to recall Israel’s worship of false gods during their desert sojourn of forty years (the Exodus; cf., Numbers and Deuteronomy).  Jesus’ refusal of the offense is therefore taken from the words of the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy:

“The LORD, your God, shall you fear; him shall you serve, and by his name shall you swear.” (Deuteronomy 6:13).

Jesus’ statement is both a teaching and a warning for all of us to be on alert; not to allow oneself to be deceived by the devil.  We should appreciate and learn from Jesus’ attitude and actions during these three “tests”.  During His human life on earth Jesus did not want any glory which belonged to Him alone.  Though Jesus had the right to be treated as “God”, He took the form of a servant, a slave:

“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians  2:6-8).

So, as Catholics, believers in, and followers of, Jesus Christ, we need to realize that ALL glory is due solely to God alone.  We must not use the fullness, completeness, and greatness of the Gospel to further our own personal interests and ambitions.  I found ideas of St. Josemaria Escriva enlightening:

“’We should learn from Jesus.  His attitude in rejecting all human glory is in perfect balance with the greatness of his unique mission as the beloved Son of God who takes flesh to save men.  He has a mission which the Father affectionately guides with tender care: ‘You are my son; I have begotten you this day.  Only ask, and you shall have the nations for your patrimony.’  And the Christian who, following Christ, has this attitude of complete adoration of the Father, also experiences our Lord’s loving care: ‘He trusts in me, mine is to rescue him; he acknowledges my name, from me he shall have protection.’” (St. Josemaria Escriva, Christ Is Passing By, 62)

If we struggle without faltering, we will attain victory.  No one wins without first overcoming, little by little, until we have fully conquered our selfishness, and enemies of our human nature:

“Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer.  Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days.  Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelations 2:10).

In return for Jesus’ trust, angels came and “ministered to Him.” By coming to minister to Jesus after rejecting Satan’s offers, the angels teach us about the interior “joy” given by God to the person who fights against temptations brought forth from the devil.  To help in this fight, God has given us very powerful protectors against Satan’s temptations – – our Guardian Angels.  That is why the Church encourages us to call on their help and aid daily!  (By the way, do you know the name of the angel assigned as the “Prince of the Heavenly Host” of those angels empowered to help us resist and overcome Satan and all the other “fallen” angels? —————-(The answer is Michael).

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In summary, each of Satan’s temptations to Jesus offers insight into God, the human state in life, and salvation history.  Jesus’ rejection of the temptations showed that He would not put “God the Father” to the test. (So, neither should we.)  Positioning Himself on the word and authority of Holy Scripture, Jesus rebukes Satan (“the devil”).  Throughout this ordeal, Jesus always stayed confident in God’s providence, protection, and faithfulness.

Jesus was tempted just like we are tempted every single day.  He overcame His temptations by the grace and strength which His Father gave Him.  In Luke’s Gospel, he says that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” (cf., Luke 4:1).  When tempted by the devil Jesus did not try fighting His adversary with His “human” strength and capabilities.  Instead, He relied on the power of the Holy Spirit in and with Him. 

On our journey through Lent, you may notice the Sunday Mass readings calling us to adopt the same confidence Jesus had in dealing with His temptations.  By itself, God’s word will be – – and IS – – always enough.

My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9) 

God’s promise of protection can always be faithfully trusted.  We need to keep in mind that “God alone is God”!

How can we conquer sin and coercion in our personal lives?  Jesus Christ gives us His Holy Spirit to be our strength, our guide, and our comforter during temptations.  God wants us to “fight the good fight for our faith”:

“Compete well for the faith.  Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim. 6:12).

He graces us with the power and strength coming from the Holy Spirit.  Do you depend and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for your strength and help in your life?

When Jesus resists the temptations presented to Him by Satan, He draws on His religious upbringing and tradition.  Jesus is able to quote from Holy Scripture because He was praying the scriptures of Moses and the prophets, and so was a person who lived His Jewish beliefs “fully”.  He also knew Himself to be the “Son of God”.  So, we too are responsible for engaging ourselves “fully” in our Catholic Christian faith and tradition so that we too can draw upon these when needed to help resist temptations.  The Secular Franciscan Motto says this so well, in seven simple words:

“Gospel to life and life to Gospel”.

Since Jesus rebuked the devil’s temptations by quoting Holy Scripture, how important to you is the Bible, the Sacraments, and the Traditions of our Catholic faith life?  Do you have a favorite Scripture passage?   Please remember, and be encouraged, that “one does not live by bread alone”…….. but, by “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (A little known motto of our Jesus believing Jewish cousins.)

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 “Our Father

 

“Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Leander of Seville (c. 550-600)

 

The next time you recite the Nicene Creed at Mass, think of today’s saint.  For it was Leander of Seville who, as bishop, introduced the practice in the sixth century.  He saw it as a way to help reinforce the faith of his people and as an antidote against the heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ.  By the end of his life, Leander had helped Christianity flourish in Spain at a time of political and religious upheaval.

Leander’s own family was heavily influenced by Arianism, but he himself grew up to be a fervent Christian.  He entered a monastery as a young man and spent three years in prayer and study.  At the end of that tranquil period he was made a bishop.  For the rest of his life he worked strenuously to fight against heresy.  The death of the anti-Christian king in 586 helped Leander’s cause.  He and the new king worked hand in hand to restore orthodoxy and a renewed sense of morality.  Leander succeeded in persuading many Arian bishops to change their loyalties.

Leander died around 600.  In Spain he is honored as a Doctor of the Church.

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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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

The Gloria

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

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Prayer I

What attitudes do prayers create in me? 
Can you identify with your prayers? 
What is your approach to prayer? 
How is your prayer-life like Jesus Christ and St. Francis? 
How do you handle it when you fall into the habit of “reciting prayers” rather than “praying prayers”? 
Can you define the difference?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 13 & 14 of 26:

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


 

“Ash Wednesday – – First Day of Lent” 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the start of the Lenten Season.  Most followers of Western Christianity observe Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Holy Saturday (April 23, 2011).  The six Sundays in this period are not counted because each one represents a “mini-Easter,” a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. 

The number forty has many Old Testament Biblical references:

  • the forty days and nights God sent rain in the great flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4);
  • the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18);
  • the forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the desert while traveling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33);
  • the forty days Jonah in his prophecy of judgment gave the city of Nineveh in which to repent (Jonah 3:4).
  • the forty days and nights Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8);

AND, Jesus retreated into the wilderness, where he fasted for forty days, and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-2, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-2).  Jesus said that his disciples should fast “when the bridegroom shall be taken from them” (Matthew 9:15), a reference to his Passion.  Since the Apostles fasted as they mourned the death of Jesus, Christians have traditionally fasted during the annual commemoration of his burial.

The Etymology of the word is interesting for me.  In Latin, the term “quadragesima” (a translation of the original Greek meaning the “fortieth” day before Easter) is used instead.  In the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the common vernacular instead of the traditional Latin, the English word “lent” was adopted.  This word (lent) initially meant, simply, “spring” (as in German language “Lenz” and Dutch “lente”) and derives from the Germanic root for “long” because, in the spring, the days visibly lengthen.

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude, below (after my reflection on the Gospel), is one of the most famous of the prayers for souls in purgatory.  St. Gertrude the Great was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century.  According to tradition, our Lord promised her that 1000 souls would be released from purgatory each time it is said devoutly.  Please say this prayer each day, during Lent.

            

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1422 – Death of Jan Zelivsky, Hussite priest (b. 1380)
†   1440 – Death of St. Frances of Rome, Italian nun (b. 1384)
†   1452 – Pope Nicolaas I crowns Frederik III RC-German emperor
†   1568 – Birth of Aloysius “Luigi” van Gonzaga, Italian prince/Jesuit/saint
†   1824 – Death of Jacobus J Cramer, priest of Holland/Zealand/Friesland, dies at 79
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Gregory of Nyssa; Saint Frances of Rome; Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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In today’s reflection, Jesus teaches that almsgiving, prayer, and fasting should be done in secret.

 

1 “[Jesus said to His disciples] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  16 “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.  They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.  And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.   (NAB Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

  

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Today, we celebrate “Ash Wednesday”, the first day of the liturgical season known as “Lent” (explained in detail at the beginning of this blog, above).  We should be preparing ourselves to celebrate the Catholic “summit” of our Spiritual and Liturgical year: Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead on that early Sunday morning we now call “Easter”.  

Each year, the readings for Ash Wednesday are the same.  They instruct us to develop and mature a true and loving change of heart.  This season is a time to build-up our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; disciplines that are meant to be part of our individual and communal Catholic ways of life during every season – – every day – – of the year.  However, during the Lenten season, we are given an opportunity as a Catholic Family (the Church militant) to renew and refresh our commitment to theses regular “yearly” practices.

The Jewish people considered prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as the fundamental works of religious life.  These three practices were the essential and primary practices of a pious person; the three great pillars on which the good life was based (a Trinitarian statement).  

Jesus is warning against doing good so others can see you.  He then gives three examples in today’s reading: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  In each example, the conduct of the “hypocrites” is compared with what is actually demanded of His followers.  Jesus is instructing His followers with the aim of praying, fasting, and giving alms, to not draw attention so that others may notice and think highly of them?  He is instead instructing His followers to give glory to God, and not allow glory to self.    

Self-seeking glory is in opposition to “piety”.  True piety is far more than just feeling good or looking holy to others.  True piety is a virtue of loving devotion and surrender to God in all aspects of life.  Piety is an individual and person attitude of awe, reverence, worship, and obedience to our almighty God.  True piety is a grace and action of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through us, – – individually, – – enabling us to devote our entire lives to God with a righteous longing to please Him in all things, thoughts, and actions.

Jesus warns his followers against acting for the sake of appearance.  When His disciples give alms, pray, and fast, they are to do so in such a way that only God, who sees their heart and soul – – and knows what is hidden, – – will know.  Although our Gospel reading today omits the Lord’s Prayer (cf., Matthew 6:9-15), we can bear in mind that Matthew presents the Lord’s model of prayer for His disciples’.

 Do not pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his Gospel.” (Didache 8:2)

 

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The references to “reward” in today’s reading, is also found in other verses of Matthew’s Gospel:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:12)

“For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46)

“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42)

It seems that Matthew considered all Christian disciples as “prophets”.  A prophet is, by definition, one who speaks in the name of God.   In addition, being “righteous” is required for all of Jesus’ disciples.  The Prophets, the righteous man, and the “little ones” from Matthew 10:41-42, are used here for different groups within the followers of Jesus Christ – – Christian missionaries of the era – – per se, as compared to His “close group” of Apostles and disciples that stayed near His physical presence.

What is the “reward” that Jesus offers to His disciples – US?  Answer: Communion with God our Father. (WOW!!)  In God the Father, we find the true and complete fullness of life, happiness, truth, beauty, love, and eternal joy. (What else would anyone want?)  Saint Augustine, the great fourth century bishop of Hippo, wrote the following prayer in his Confessions:

“When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.  The Lord rewards those who seek him with humble and repentant hearts.  He renews us each day and he gives us new hearts of love and compassion that we may serve him and our neighbor with glad and generous hearts.”

This reference to “reward” in today’s reading shows the word itself is an early part of Christian moral buzz-words.  In using this particular word (reward), Jesus is possibly attempting to emphasize the distinction between the Christian idea of reward and that of the hypocrites, especially the Scribes and Pharisees.  In the original Kenoi (Biblical) Greek, Matthew uses two different Greek verbs to express the reward of the disciples compared to that of the hypocrites.  The “reward” word for the hypocrite is the verb “apecho”, a business-related term meaning to give a receipt for what has been paid in full.

The word “hypocrite” occurs 21 times in the New Testament.  Mark uses it once. Luke uses it four times.  In addition to parallel words and references, Matthew uses it eleven times in passages that are found solely in his Gospel.  All of these are Jesus’ statements in which “hypocrite” refers to the most religious Jews of Jesus’ day – – the Scribes and Pharisees.  Interestingly for me, the word “hypocrite” is not found in the Book of Acts or any of the other epistles, but only in the Gospels.

When Jesus used the word “hypocrites” in verse 2, was He is, in fact, referencing the Scribes and Pharisees of the Jewish temple:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.” (Matthew 23:13) 

 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You pay tithes 12 of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.  (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.” (Matthew 23:27)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous.” (Matthew 23:29)

The designation – – “hypocrite” – – reflects an attitude which resulted, not only from the disagreements and controversies at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry in the early first century A.D., but also continued with antagonisms and disagreements between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s congregation in the later part of the first century A.D., and continuing on throughout history.  I believe we sadly still experience a large amount of hypocrisy in everyday life, in the Catholic Church itself, and even within my own Secular Franciscan Order.  Hypocrisy continues throughout all aspects of earthly existence to one level or another.  How sad!

Jesus, in saying “they have received their reward”(verse 2), is telling His followers that these individuals desired “praise” in their actions instead of a relationship with God, and have received exactly what they were looking for, and not God’s grace.

 

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The only “fast” (verse 16) prescribed in the Mosaic Law is on the “Day of Atonement”:

“Since on this day atonement is made for you to make you clean, so that you may be cleansed of all your sins before the LORD, by everlasting ordinance it shall be a most solemn Sabbath for you, on which you must mortify yourselves. (Leviticus 16:30-31).

However, the practice of regular fasting became a very common practice in later Judaism and Christianity:

“Do not let your fasting be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second day and the fifth day of the week [Monday and Thursday], but you shall fast on the fourth day and the day of preparation [Wednesday and Friday].  (Didache 8:1).

 

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Now, let’s return to the beginning of my reflection.  What is our responsibility during the Lenten Season?  What does rubbing burnt palm leaves on one’s forehead have to do with praying, fasting, and alms-giving?

The meaning behind tracing a cross on our foreheads with ashes at the beginning of Lent (the outward liturgical sign of our inner belief and faith) is a summary of our Catholic Christian life.  The ashes on our foreheads remind us of our origin from God through Adam in that beautiful garden, and of our human death in body.  Today, when receiving ashes, listen to the words prayed by the minister when receiving them on your forehead:

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

There are actually three representations associated with the ashes.  Most know about the ashes representing our origins and death, but there is actually an additional representation most probably don’t think of (Isn’t it interesting that even the ashes have a Trinitarian aspect to them!)

The ashes are also the sign of our victory: that victory being – – the cross of Christ.  As the minister places the ashes on your forehead, he is making the sign of the cross. (Through sometimes it appear to look like a map of Europe or a Rorschach test.)  In Jesus’ death and resurrection, He overcame and conquered death.  Our destiny as Catholics is to receive the same “victory” over death that Jesus Christ triumphed over, and won for us.  We acknowledge Jesus’ victory over death when we:

 “turn away from sin and are faithful to the Gospel.”
(Words from the alternative prayer when receiving the ashes.)

 

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In summary, the season of Lent presents an opportunity to examine our life and to re-commit ourselves to the Catholic practices of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  Ash Wednesday is a great time to pray and to plan Lenten practices.

Jesus expected His disciples to give alms, pray, and fast.  He gave instructions that when we do those practices, they should not be done solely for public display.  Think of one way YOU will give “alms” during Lent; to share what you have with people in need – – in a private way.  Think of one way YOU will “pray” – – privately – – during Lent.  Choose one thing that YOU will “give up” during Lent as a reminder of your love for God – – without telling others.  

Finally, pray that God blesses your Lenten promises by praying today’s psalm from Mass (Psalm 51), the “Our Father”, or the Prayer of St. Gertrude (below).

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude

 

Eternal Father, I offer you the Most Precious Blood of your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family.  Amen.

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440)

 

Frances’s life combines aspects of secular and religious life.  A devoted and loving wife, she longed for a lifestyle of prayer and service, so she organized a group of women to minister to the needs of Rome’s poor.

Born of wealthy parents, Frances found herself attracted to the religious life during her youth.  But her parents objected and a young nobleman was selected to be her husband.

As she became acquainted with her new relatives, Frances soon discovered that the wife of her husband’s brother also wished to live a life of service and prayer.  So the two, Frances and Vannozza, set out together—with their husbands’ blessings—to help the poor.

Frances fell ill for a time, but this apparently only deepened her commitment to the suffering people she met.  The years passed, and Frances gave birth to two sons and a daughter.  With the new responsibilities of family life, the young mother turned her attention more to the needs of her own household.  The family flourished under Frances’s care, but within a few years a great plague began to sweep across Italy.  It struck Rome with devastating cruelty and left Frances’s second son dead.  In an effort to help alleviate some of the suffering, Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever the sick might possibly need.  When all the resources had been exhausted, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging.  Later, Frances’s daughter died, and the saint opened a section of her house as a hospital.

Frances became more and more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, and it was not long before she requested and was given permission to found a society of women bound by no vows.  They simply offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor.  Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but rather at home with her husband.  She did this for seven years, until her husband passed away, and then came to live the remainder of her life with the society—serving the poorest of the poor.

Comment:

Looking at the exemplary life of fidelity to God and devotion to her fellow human beings which Frances of Rome was blessed to lead, one cannot help but be reminded of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (September 5), who loved Jesus Christ in prayer and also in the poor.  The life of Frances of Rome calls each of us not only to look deeply for God in prayer, but also to carry our devotion to Jesus living in the suffering of our world.  Frances shows us that this life need not be restricted to those bound by vows.

Quote:

Malcolm Muggeridge’s book Something Beautiful for God contains this quote from Mother Teresa say about each sister in her community: “Let Christ radiate and live his life in her and through her in the slums.  Let the poor seeing her be drawn to Christ and invite him to enter their homes and lives.”  Says Frances of Rome: “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife.  And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

Patron Saint of: Motorists; Widows and Oblates

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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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The third form of the penitential rite, with the various invocations of Christ (e.g., “You came to call sinners”) will be much the same (not much of a change), though an option is added to conclude each invocation in Greek:

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

instead of in English: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy”, as it is presently.  The first two forms (found in the past two previous blogs) may conclude with this threefold litany too, either in English or in Greek.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Money

How does the monthly fraternity collection fit into your understanding of poverty and penance?  How does shopping at second-hand stores (e.g., garage sales/Good Will/Salvation Army/etc.) for clothing and furniture show concern for the environment and natural resources?  What is your attitude toward money and possessions?  Are you comfortable curbing your desire to “want more”?  Can you think of examples of doing this (curbing your desires)?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 9 & 10 of 26:

 

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

 

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10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

“There Are No Salt Substitutes In Heaven!” – Matthew 5:13-16†


 

What a week we had.  Snow, sleet, wind, and COLD was had by all.  Two inches of ice with ten inches of snow on the top at the beginning and mid-week, with an additional 4 inches of predicted “just a dusting” yesterday.  More snow predicted for tomorrow. 

On the positive side, did not lose power (yet) and we got a lot of “family time”.  Playing “Chutes and Ladders” with four teenage boys can be a “hoot and howler” when stir-crazy.

 

 

 

Last weekend, I attended the St. Louis Catholic Men’s Conference, held at St. Louis University.  What a great, spiritual, and uplifting time I experienced!  The lectures were superb, the fellowship was awesome, and the books and CD’s available were numerous (my wallet was quite a bit lighter at the end of the day).  I highly recommend this conference to all, if it is available in your area.  Who wants to attend with me next year?

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†  337 – St Julius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†  891 – Death of Photius, Byzantine theologist/patriarch of Constantinople/saint
†  1740 – Death of Pope Clement XII (b. 1652)
†  1910 – Death of Alfonso Maria Fusco. Beatified Italian Roman Catholic priest and founder (b.1839)
†  1922 – Cardinal Achille Ratti elected Pope Pius XI
†  Feast/Memorials: Saint Amand, Apostle of the Franks; Saint Vedastus; Saint Dorothea, patron saint of florists; Saint Paul Miki; Saint Titus

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

  

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 11 of 13 Parts

It is only through our conversion and our efforts to conform to Christ, like Francis, that our parrhesia and faithfulness to the accomplishment of our Mission can be born and prosper.

It is a matter of recognizing the Plan which God has for each of us, in which we will find our own Truth, which is Christ, and the Grace to accomplish fully our vocation and mission, letting charity in truth, which is God, take hold of us, as we are taught by the Holy Father Benedict XVI in his latest Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

Charity in truthis the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.

 

(Continued on next published blog)

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

 

 

  

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that His disciples are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

 

13 You are the salt of the earth.  But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?  It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  14 You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house.  16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.  (NAB Matthew 5:13-16)

 

Today’s Gospel reading is quite endearing and timely for the majority us this past week.  After “surviving” a declared, genuine, and potentially life-threatening ice storm/blizzard/deep-freeze, I have used mega-amounts of driveway salt in the past few days.  (And I am supposed to be on a low-salt diet!)

Jesus just completed the teaching of the Beatitudes.  He used the metaphor of “salt and light” to describe our life as His disciples.  Jesus seemed to appreciate using fairly ordinary images, (like salt and light), to convey extraordinary truths of fact and spirituality.  At every Mass today Jesus will be stating a very deep and prophetic statement in these few sentences, and in the images it creates in our minds.  His declaration is not only for those following Jesus nearly two millennia ago, but also for His many disciples today and in the future.  He is teaching to His disciples, He emphasized that the results of their (and our) conduct, actions, and activities can influence the world for a divine good.  Every single one of us will NOT escape notice in doing God’s will any more than a city set on a mountain can escape notice.  

 

How often do we think of salt and light in our lives and in society as a whole?  We seem to take salt for granted (unless it is snowing), but this element of nature was critical in the days before refrigeration and prior to the advances in today’s preservation techniques.  During the time of Jesus, salt was also used as a healing agent as well as the aforementioned essential preservative and food flavoring.  

In a similar way, the prevalent and common use of electricity in our modern world makes us less perceptive and less insightful to the value, need, and importance of the sun’s light in our lives.

 

Jesus says to these farmers, fishermen, and laborers, “You are the salt of the earth … the light of the world.”  I am sure they were standing there listening to Him start His teaching, and thinking, “Hey, wait a minute.  You pulled out the wrong sermon today.  That sermon should be for the big city people in Jerusalem.  That is where the scholars, priests, lawyers, and philosophers live and work.  We are just little ‘nobodies’ that make no difference to anyone, barely surviving each day.”  How wrong can they be in this thought?!

Jesus is warning these men (and women) following Him that they would attract strong opposition from the world:

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mathew 5:11-12)

God could have destroyed – – wiped out – – ALL evil in His authority, power, and supremacy: in His omnipotence.  Yet, He did not.  He actually did a much better thing.  He allows good to come out of evil!  He makes “sanctity” (holiness) come out of evil!  When the day of His bountiful harvest comes, sanctity will be found so great and overpowering among us – – solely because of the wickedness, malice, and evil that will cover and take it in.  WOW – this paragraph is a reflection just by itself!

Food for thought: Even ONE person in a family or group of friends may be the salvation for the whole family or group.  It may not be given to him to see the final results, and ultimate conclusion of his acts and words on the family or group, but God truly works through each of us in unique and special ways.  Sin is negative, but sanctity is so much more positive.  In fact, sanctity is truly the only REAL power when it comes to evil!  SO, when prompted with evil, flip the coin over to see the opportunity for holiness – – for love – – for SANCTITY!

We are never alone in fighting evil.  His disciples will exert an influence on the world through and with the power of the Holy Spirit.  If we fail in doing good works, we would be as useless as “flavorless salt or as a lamp whose light is concealed”.  This simile (a figure of speech or image) is the bases of a fundamental and essential teaching for any Catholic.  We all must strive for personal sanctification (a means of achieving holiness or a source of grace), AND, we must also strive to seek sanctification in all others we meet.  As salt purifies, preserves, and penetrates, so must we – – as His disciple on earth – – be “salt” in the world to purify, preserve, and penetrate society, for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, love, and peace. 

 

In Jesus’ time, people traded with salt, exactly like we trade with gold, stocks, and bonds today.  It was used as a form of “currency”!  Why?  Salt was used to preserve food from corruption: going “bad” or rotting.  Salt also “brings out” flavor in foods to which it is added, usually making it taste better.  Salt is not noticed physically in the food we eat, completely disappearing into the cuisine it is placed into.  Its “actions” in the food is noticeable, yet remains invisible to the naked eye. 

We should also be the same as “salt” among the people around us.  We should help others not to sour, not to sin, not to “go bad”.  Others we meet should recognize the flavor and zest of our spirituality, trust, and love for God and each other we come into contact, – – truly seeing Jesus in everyone we meet.  However, our actions should not draw attention to ourselves, but instead to the magnificent glory and divinity of the Holy Trinity.

“You are salt, apostolic soul.  ‘Salt is a useful thing’, we read in the holy Gospel; but if the salt loses its taste, it is good for nothing, neither for the land nor for the manure heap; it is thrown out as useless.”  (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 921)

The odd theory of salt “losing its flavor” has led some scholars to reason that the verse refers to salt from the Dead Sea.  Since this type of “salt” is chemically “impure”, it could conceivably lose its taste with time and atmospheric conditions.  (If you put salt on the bedpost, would it lose its flavor overnight?)

Our good works are the fruits of charity, – – of love.  Our works are to love others as God loves each of us individually and as a whole.

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)

John Stott, an Anglican clergyman of some notoriety, once commented that when society goes bad:

“We Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves?  One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad.  It cannot do anything else.  The real question to ask is: ‘Where is the salt?’” 

Do your thoughts, words, behaviors, actions, and life in general, help to hinder and stop the physical, social, and spiritual decay of society that is festering and rancid family, neighborhood, country, and world?

 

Jesus also used the image of “light and a lamp” to further illustrate His teaching.  Lamps in the ancient world served a vital function, as they still do today.  They enable people to see and work in the dark.  Lamps have saved my shins many times in the middle of the night.  (Can you picture urban “rush hours” without intersection signal lights?)  The Jewish people of Jesus’ time comprehended “light” a little different than we do now.  For them, “light” could also be an expression of an inner beauty, truth, and goodness of, and with God.  In His light we see light.

For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:10)

God’s word is a lamp that directs our steps on our individual paths to Him.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

 

Our duty or mission as Catholics involves the conversion of others to His grace and love.  It is one of the clearest expressions of love we can show.  The Second Vatican Council emphasized our duty to be apostolic – to be like the Apostles.  And what is that duty?  Well, simply put, to preach the Gospel in our thoughts, words, and actions – – ALWAYS!!

“It seems to me that this lamp is the symbol of charity; it must shine out not only to cheer up those we love best but to all in the house.”  (St. Therese of Lisieux, The Autobiography of a Saint, Chapter 9)

St. Francis preached this notion in his own special way, when he said:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words!”

Our duty to be like the Apostles was conferred to each of us in an individual and specifically unique way with our Baptism and Confirmation (cf., Lumen gentium, 33).   We are given untold opportunities for applying our love for each other, for evangelization, and for sanctification.  Always let “your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds” (Matthew 5:16). 

In regards to our Catholic witness to others, it is said in the “Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church”:

“The Church must be present in these groups through her children, who dwell among them or who are sent to them.  For all Christians, wherever they live, are bound to show forth, by the example of their lives and by the witness of the word, that new man put on at baptism and that power of the Holy Spirit by which they have been strengthened at Conformation.  Thus other men, observing their good works, can glorify the Father and can perceive more fully the real meaning of human life and the universal bond of the community of mankind.” (Ad gentes, 11)

 

Many of the speeches given by George H.W. Bush (#43 – Daddy Bush) had a recurring phrase throughout his Presidency about a “thousand points of light”.  The phrase was actually created by his speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, and the phrase was first used in his inaugural address on January 20, 1989:

“I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good.  We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding.  We will work on this in the White House, in the Cabinet agencies.  I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved.  The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.”

You may like his politics are not like his politics, but this part of his speech was extraordinary in showing his love for all mankind.  God’s grace not only illuminates the darkness in our lives, showing us our sins and iniquities, but it also fills us with the warmth of His divinely spiritual light, joy, and peace.  Just as the light from our Sun (in the celestial heavens) illuminates the darkness of the world and enables one to see visually, so does the light of Christ (our heavenly SUN SON on earth) shine in the hearts of His followers and enables all of us to see the heavenly reality of God’s shining kingdom, also on earth. 

 

All Catholics wherever they happen to be, must be living witnesses and examples of God’s kingdom through their words, deeds, and actions.  We have an obligation to manifest and reveal the “new being” we became through the sacred Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.  In others seeing our witness to God’s word through good works, they may recognize the true meaning of human dignity and life, as well as the universal commonality, unity, and shared aims of mankind as creations of our loving God.

Matthew’s Gospel speaks to the enduring power of imagery that Jesus often presented to His followers two thousand or so years ago (and still today).  Jesus’ call to be a “salt for the earth and light for the world” powerfully states our mission as a Church, and as individual Catholics.  Our commitment to social justice and peace for God’s creations surges from the two catchphrases that Jesus imparts to us in today’s Gospel.  Our obligations and responsibilities as disciples of Jesus Christ, leads us to our situational requirements as Catholics, known to many of us as the “Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy”.

 The traditional Corporal Works of Mercy are:

•To feed the hungry;
•To give drink to the thirsty;
•To clothe the naked;
•To shelter the homeless;
•To visit the sick;
•To ransom the imprisoned;
•To bury the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are:

•To instruct the ignorant;
•To counsel the doubtful;
•To admonish sinners;
•To bear wrongs patiently;
•To forgive offences willingly;
•To comfort the afflicted;
•To pray for the living and the dead.

 

Our mission is to be a light-bearer of, and for, Christ so that others may see the love, truth, and grace, of and in, Holy Scripture.  When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, console the doubtful, and so on, we exemplify to ourselves – – and to each other – – our witness to being the “salt of the earth and the light of the world”.  When we do these things in a “community” of faith, – – the Church, – – we are indeed acting as “a city set on a mountain” that cannot be hidden!

Jesus said that “nothing can remain hidden or secret”.  We can try to hide things from others and from ourselves; yet, we cannot hide ANYTHING from God!  Many of us yield to the temptation to shut our eyes from the consequences of sinful ways and immoral habits, even when we are fully aware of what the consequences are for such behaviors.  Remember, even in those times when we abandon Him, He NEVER abandons us.  He will always wait for us to return to Him – – with the open and outstretched arms – – of the Crucified Jesus on that Holy Tree.  There is great freedom and joy for those who live in God’s light and who seeks HIs truth through faith. 

 

Prayer for Enlightenment

 

“O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to you my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity.  May my understanding be always obedient to your heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, of which you are the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and you be honor and glory forever.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Paul Miki and Companions (d. 1597)

 

Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, immediately killing over 37,000 people.  Three and a half centuries before, 26 martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki.  Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church.

Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan.  While hanging upon a cross Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese.  The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ.  I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ.  I thank God it is for this reason I die.  I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die.  I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy.  I obey Christ.  After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors.  I do not hate them.  I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”

When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity.  But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith.  Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.

Comment:

Today a new era has come for the Church in Japan.  Although the number of Catholics is not large, the Church is respected and has total religious freedom.  The spread of Christianity in the Far East is slow and difficult.  Faith such as that of the 26 martyrs is needed today as much as in 1597.

Quote:

“Since Jesus, the Son of God, showed his love by laying down his life for us, no one has greater love than they who lay down their lives for him and for their sisters and brothers (see 1 John 3:16; John 15:13).  Some Christians have been called from the beginning, and will always be called, to give this greatest testimony of love to everyone, especially to persecutors.  Martyrdom makes disciples like their master, who willingly accepted death for the salvation of the world, and through it they are made like him by the shedding of blood.  Therefore, the Church considers it the highest gift and as the supreme test of love.  And while it is given to few, all, however, must be prepared to confess Christ before humanity and to follow him along the way of the cross amid the persecutions which the Church never lacks” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 42, Austin Flannery translation).

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

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 6 & 7 of 26:

 

6.  They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity. 

 

7.  United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

“Salvation Saves! I’ll Bet Your SKIN On It !” – Luke 17:11-19†


            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   461 – St Leo I the Great ends his reign as Catholic Pope with his death (440-461)
†   627 – Death of Justus, Archbishop of Canterbury
†   1241 – Death of Celestine IV, [Goffredo Castiglioni], Pope (for 16 days)
†  1483 – Birth of  Martin Luther, Ex-Catholic Priest and German Protestant reformer (d. 1546)
†   1549 – Death of Paul III, [Alessandro Farnese], Italian Pope (1534-49), at age 81 (b. 1468)
†   1687 – Pope Innocent XI publishes decree Coelestis pastor
†   Feast Days:  Pope Leo I the Great; Andrew Avellino

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Suffering with truth decay?  Brush up on your Bible.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about is about Jesus healing 10 lepers, with only one (the Samaritan) returning to give thanks; and on the nature of change.

 

11 As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.  12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him 13 and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”  14 And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  As they were going they were cleansed.  15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?  18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”  (NAB Luke 17:11-19)

 

 

Jesus, during His journey to Jerusalem, stopped to heal ten lepers that approached Him.  (Note: all skin diseases during this time were called “leprosy,” which itself is now known as “Hansen’s Disease”).  In performing an act of mercy, Jesus is giving us a lesson about faith, love, and reconciliation.  Jesus also gives us a reminder that faith can sometimes be found in unlikely places and that we should always be open to change.  

Ten people afflicted with “leprosy” came to Jesus asking for a cure.  In the Jewish culture, leprosy created a division between those with skin disease and family, societal, and religious practices.  “Sin” does the exact same thing to any of us also.  With the effects of sin on our souls, we are separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ, and especially with the Trinitarian God Himself!  With sin, we are focused on a self-love, our own needs and wants instead of the needs and love of those with whom we come into contact.  When we confess our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are “healed” immediately by God’s grace.

Struck with compassion towards the ten “diseased” men, Jesus heals all of them. However, only one returns to thank Him, that one being the Samaritan, a “foreigner.”  In the Jewish culture in which Jesus lived, Samaritans were looked down upon as “heathens” because of the differences between the two communities in their observance of Mosaic Scripture.  

How could this Samaritan, a foreigner in Jesus’ land – a man with a strange accent and probably strange mannerisms – and definitely a man possessing a rebellious theology, be the ONLY ONE to go back to Jesus?  He surely had to overcome two major barriers in order to ask for, and receive, a cure from Jesus.  The first barrier was physical.  He had to overcome the contagious aspect of his disease in order to approach Jesus.  He also had to forget about the cultural and religious differences (the second barrier) of their perceived mutual disbelief of each other’s religion to obtain God’s favor. 

Why were Samaritans so disliked by the Jewish people?  Well, Samaritans were a people that originally inhabited a portion of central Palestine west of the Jordan.  Many were “Hebrews,” but with their own separate doctrinal beliefs, and perhaps even different religious practices.  They, like the Jewish people, regarded themselves as descendants of the “ten tribes of Israel.”  The Samaritans though claimed to possess the orthodox religion of Moses in their manuscripts of the Torah or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament).  The Samaritans further regarded the Jewish Temple, and the Jewish priesthood, as having deviated from the Orthodox Law of Moses.  In essence, the two groups existing together could be described as gasoline being thrown into an oil pit.  The two did not mix well, but if any match was thrown into the mix (e.g., controversies or in-fighting) BOTH could erupt violently! 

So, imagine what it might be like for these ten men (nine Jewish and a single Samaritan) to begin realizing they are being totally healed – WOW!  Then imagine the nine Jewish lepers excited to run to the Temple priests as Jesus commanded; while the one Samaritan stopped, realized he is free from the disease, and his first impulse was to return to Jesus in order to thank Him, and not go to the “Jewish” Temple priest in Jerusalem.  Jesus was delighted to see him return fully whole and healed.

The significance of Jesus commending the Samaritan for his faith (and salvation) is very important to not only the Jewish crowd following Jesus, but also to the non-believers in the area overhearing Jesus’ surprise of the Samaritan returning.  Jesus proclaimed, and also demonstrated, that God will bring salvation to ANYONE who hears with faith; and that a true faith can be found in very unique and surprising places (e.g. “foreigners”).

This event describing the thankfulness of the cleansed Samaritan [hence, non-Jewish believer of Jesus] who had leprosy is told in Luke’s Gospel only.  I believe it is because this happening provided a further illustration of Jesus holding up a non-Jew as an example to his Jewish contemporaries that God’s grace through Jesus the Messiah is for all people who will believe, even “foreigners.”  Another example of this perception can be found in Luke 10:33, where a comparable point is achieved in the story of the Good Samaritan (Another foreigner who cares for his neighbor without regard of religion).  It is the faith these “foreigners” had in Jesus that brought them salvation.  I can think of three other similar Bible verses that compare the relationship between faith and salvation in Luke’s Gospel: Luke 7:50; 8:48; and 8:50.  Please read them.

Why did Jesus tell the ten men to Go show yourselves to the priests?”  Jesus, being well-versed in the Old Testament and Levitical laws knew that any person with a skin disease had to be examined by the temple priest when a skin disease was cured; and then also to make an offering for their cleansing, as Moses prescribed in Leviticus 13:45-46, 49; 14:2-9; and Num 5:2-3.  With the priests’ approval, this person could then re-enter Jewish society, and thus re-enter the temple to worship as well.

 

Besides the importance of faith, another lesson given to us in this healing encounter has to do with salvation itself.  Salvation is defined in this instance as “liberation of an individual from sin and its consequences.”  All ten of the lepers were given the gift of healing for their skin lesions; but in his gratitude to God for this gift of healing, only the Samaritan actually found the gift of “salvation,” a personal relationship with Jesus.  Salvation is realized in recognizing and accepting the gifts we have been given; sharing these gifts as God wants us to; and in knowing to whom we are to offer our thanks: God!!  To me, salvation creates a divine change in our attitudes, our reasoning, and our souls.

Change is inevitable in all our lives.  “Nature” itself is changeable (every 10 minutes in my part of the country); and we, as mortal humans change, in part, through and because of the staining nature sin on our souls.  Even though we are redeemed and renewed by the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, and the Holy Eucharist, we are still continuously bombarded by the temptation to sin.  Our nature is continually urged towards corruption by bodily desires unless fortified by divine spiritual assistance.

When our battles with evil our made evident (even if just to ourselves), “brought out into the open,” so too are the graces of and from God.  We only need to choose which nature to grasp: God’s grace or Satan’s iniquities.  When temptation and failure is nearest, the promise of God is also at hand. 

Among our many and unrelenting responsibilities as loving parents, we are to help foster the gift of appreciation and thankfulness.  This is especially true of appreciating and thanking God for all His compassion, benevolence, kindness, and helpfulness to us. 

Prior to Jesus coming into their lives, the Apostles were certainly victims to earthly vices.  After encountering Jesus, they were changed – transformed or converted – into people who labored and counseled others with love and gratitude for all, Jew and Gentile alike.  This conversion or transformation was not easy in any way.  It was a Daily struggle of hard work on the Apostles part.  So it goes with OUR spiritual journey of DAILY conversion.  One is not saved on belief (FAITH) alone: one must work at being a Christian!

What are some of the gifts you have received from God?  How often do you give thanks for all of God’s goodness given to you?  Do you praise God, even when given the gift you DO NOT want?  It is far too easy to thank Him for the good things in life.  But, through the bad periods we are also given the opportunity to grow closer to our magnificent, heavenly, Father by giving Him thanks in all circumstances as St. Paul instructs us to do!  Our sufferings can unite us with the same suffering Jesus endured for our salvation on the Holy Cross in a very personal way.  We are not necessarily thanking God for the suffering itself, but for the grace to endure, and the lessons we will learn from the gift of suffering.

I am in pain on a daily basis.  Like the lepers in today’s Gospel reading, I am ordained to a life of agony and suffering.  Between my heart and lung maladies, back and knee pain from 30 years of abuse as a paramedic lifting, prying, and carrying many things and people in awkward situations, plus the usual general aches and pains of growing old, I am very familiar with agony and hurting.  I have come to realize that my suffering is a permanent – and probably necessary – component in my life.  I now know I need to be humble instead of being the proud and boisterous person of my youth.  I need humility in my general life, as well as my prayer life and my faith.  I used to pray and NEVER listen.  I now know that I NOT ONLY need to talk to God, but also more importantly, I need to LISTEN to Him as well.  

My pain and trouble breathing keeps me focused on the divine mercy of God in Jesus, through His own suffering and forgiveness.  Maybe my pain is a kind of personal “stigmata” to keep my heart and soul going in the right direction.  By the way, I can honestly say that I have never been happier in my life.  God definitely works in mysterious and unorthodox ways.  He gave me a difficult cross to carry; and for giving me this unique and true grace, I truly love Him more than I ever have before.   

Don’t think I am bragging.  There is nothing to brag about in what I just related to you.  Other than being a uniquely special creation of God, (as each one of us is to God), I believe I am nothing special.  I believe I am a typical Catholic man living in an often “unjust” and “secular” world today.  However, I have hope and faith for the future; and I give thanks and praise to God for His “Peace and all good.”  (A translation of St. Francis’ favorite greeting:Pax et Bonum.”)

Today’s story relates to us what Jesus is wanting from all of us.  Every time our faith is increased, we should turn to Him in prayers of thanksgiving and adoration.  Every time our prayers are answered, we need to acknowlege His grace with a moment of being in His presence spiritually.  It is not because He knows that when we approach Him our faith increases.  It is because every time we come to Him our hearts and souls are opened even more to His word, His works, and His love!!

 

“Joy in Suffering”

 

“Lord, help me to joyfully suffer in this life for the souls in purgatory; and be with me in prayer as I gladly cleanse my soul in purgatory for my transgressions.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Leo the Great (d. 461)

 

With apparent strong conviction of the importance of the Bishop of Rome in the Church, and of the Church as the ongoing sign of Christ’s presence in the world, Leo the Great displayed endless dedication as pope. Elected in 440, he worked tirelessly as “Peter’s successor,” guiding his fellow bishops as “equals in the episcopacy and infirmities.”

Leo is known as one of the best administrative popes of the ancient Church. His work branched into four main areas, indicative of his notion of the pope’s total responsibility for the flock of Christ. He worked at length to control the heresies of Pelagianism, Manichaeism and others, placing demands on their followers so as to secure true Christian beliefs. A second major area of his concern was doctrinal controversy in the Church in the East, to which he responded with a classic letter setting down the Church’s teaching on the two natures of Christ. With strong faith, he also led the defense of Rome against barbarian attack, taking the role of peacemaker.

In these three areas, Leo’s work has been highly regarded. His growth to sainthood has its basis in the spiritual depth with which he approached the pastoral care of his people, which was the fourth focus of his work. He is known for his spiritually profound sermons. An instrument of the call to holiness, well-versed in Scripture and ecclesiastical awareness, Leo had the ability to reach the everyday needs and interests of his people. One of his sermons is used in the Office of Readings on Christmas.

It is said of Leo that his true significance rests in his doctrinal insistence on the mysteries of Christ and the Church and in the supernatural charisms of the spiritual life given to humanity in Christ and in his Body, the Church. Thus Leo held firmly that everything he did and said as pope for the administration of the Church represented Christ, the head of the Mystical Body, and St. Peter, in whose place Leo acted.

Comment:

At a time when there is widespread criticism of Church structures, we also hear criticism that bishops and priests—indeed, all of us—are too preoccupied with administration of temporal matters. Pope Leo is an example of a great administrator who used his talents in areas where spirit and structure are inseparably combined: doctrine, peace and pastoral care. He avoided an “angelism” that tries to live without the body, as well as the “practicality” that deals only in externals.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 10 & 11 of 26:

 

10.      United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

 

 

11.      Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.

“Knock, Knock, Who’s There!” – Luke 13:22-30†


32 Days till the Start of the Advent Season, AND
59 Days till Christmas

 

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   625 – Honorius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

I am ready to meet my maker.  Whether or not my maker is prepared for the  great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. — Winston Churchill

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about entrance to heaven only through Faith AND Works.

 

22 He passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’  He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”  (NAB Luke 13:22-30)

 

What is this “narrow door” to the “Masters House?” Jesus’ story about the door being shut on the procrastinators coming too late insinuates that they had offended their host [God] through their action (or inaction), and that this justified their ban, – – their barring from heaven.  I believe most, if not nearly all Jewish people understood this part of the story simply because the Jewish religious teachers of Jesus’ time would not allow students arriving late to class to enter; the door being closed and locked.  Furthermore, these students were banned from class for an entire week in order to teach a lesson in discipline and faithfulness to the divine importance of their religious duties.

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

These two parables preceding today’s reading were used by Jesus to illustrate the future magnitude of the “kingdom of God.” This future kingdom will result from the worldly mission and ministry of Jesus’ preaching, advocacy and healing.

Today’s reading stresses the great effort required for gaining entrance into God’s kingdom and that it is vital to accept the opportunity, given NOW to enter, because this “narrow door” will not remain open forever.  

The “narrow door” which Jesus is talking about is HIMSELF!!  In John 10:9, Jesus literally states, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”  Jesus gives us the way to enter into the paradise of heaven through the Holy Cross wherein He was crucified for our sins.  God, through the human and divine natures of Jesus, sacrificed HIMSELF for OUR sins!!  If we want to be citizens of God’s kingdom on earth AND in heaven, we must follow Jesus’ path, which includes “the way of the cross.”  

The word “strive” from verse 24 can also be translated from the original Greek to mean “agony.”  To enter the narrow gate one must labor against the vigor of, and our sometimes profound weakness to, temptation to sin – and other obstructions from doing the will of God – such as apathy, laziness, and indifference.

Many Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time believed that ALL “Jewish” people would automatically gain entrance to heaven, except for a few clearly obvious “sinners.” I would bet the proverbial “tax-collector,” leper, and prostitute were on the Pharisees “barred from heaven” list!  Most Jewish leaders believed “Israel” was specially chosen by God when He established a covenant with them and thus guaranteed, in essence, a slot in heaven no matter what happens. 

This last paragraph makes me ponder the “saved by faith alone” versus the “saved by faith and works” arguments.  How many people believe they automatically have a slot held for them in heaven – – just because they believe they are saved by God

Heck, Satan even believes in God!!

Sadly, this belief is not just a protestant tenet anymore.  I know of many Roman Catholics endorsing this error in faith.  Jesus warns that ANYONE can be excluded – permanently BANNED – if one does not endeavor to enter the “narrow door” through faith AND works! 

Jesus doesn’t directly answer the question asked in verse 23: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  However, His response is strikingly interesting for two reasons.  First, Jesus says that being a member of God’s chosen people, does not automatically give one a ticket for entrance through the narrow door into the kingdom of God.  

Second, Jesus’ words were a warning of rejecting His teachings’.  Jesus declares that many “Gentiles” from places outside Palestine would also enter heaven; God’s invite is open to Jew AND Gentile alike.  Some Jewish people would have their “places at table of the banquet in the kingdom” taken from them and given to Gentiles from the “four corners” of the world.  Many Gentiles would go through the narrow gate to paradise BEFORE even those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended: the chosen Jewish people.

In Luke 14:15-24, a parable about “the great dinner” is a further example of rejection by most of the Jewish people towards Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet of heaven, AND the addition of the invitation to all the Gentiles of the world.  Also invited, in Luke’s parable are the poor, crippled, blind, and lame who Jesus grouped as those who recognize their need for salvation.

Please remember that we do not go through this “worldly” struggle alone.   God is always with us, giving us His grace when we are open to receiving.  As we struggle, we are promised an open “narrow” door as long as we maintain our faith and works – – for ourselves, others, and God!

 

“Prayer for Success in Work”

 

“Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my many sins; to work with thankfulness and joy, considering it an honor to employ and develop, by means of labor, the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, prudence and patience, never surrendering to weariness or difficulties; to work, above all, with purity of intention, and with detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account which I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success so fatal to the work of God.  All for Jesus, all for Mary, all after thy example, O Patriarch Joseph.  Such shall be my motto in life and death.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza (c. 1200-1271)

 

Dominicans honor one of their own today, Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza. This was a man who used his skills as a preacher to challenge the heresies of his day.

Bartholomew was born in Vicenza around 1200. At 20 he entered the Dominicans. Following his ordination he served in various leadership positions. As a young priest he founded a military order whose purpose was to keep civil peace in towns throughout Italy.

In 1248, Bartholomew was appointed a bishop. For most men, such an appointment is an honor and a tribute to their holiness and their demonstrated leadership skills. But for Bartholomew, it was a form of exile that had been urged by an antipapal group that was only too happy to see him leave for Cyprus. Not many years later, however, Bartholomew was transferred back to Vicenza. Despite the antipapal feelings that were still evident, he worked diligently—especially through his preaching—to rebuild his diocese and strengthen the people’s loyalty to Rome.

During his years as bishop in Cyprus, Bartholomew befriended King Louis the Ninth of France, who is said to have given the holy bishop a relic of Christ’s Crown of Thorns.

Bartholomew died in 1271. He was beatified in 1793.

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the Rule:

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Keep Your Skin On! Keep Your Skin On! I’ll Take Care of You; Don’t Worry!” – Luke 17:11-19†


 

This weekend is the annual Knights of Columbus “Tootsie Roll” Drive for mentally and physically handicapped children in the State of Missouri.  We are also exactly half-way through the annual “40 Days for Life” event for unborn children.  Let us all remember in our prayers the sanctity and uniqueness of each person’s life today.  God does not make “mistakes” or “inconveniences!”  All life is precious, and a special grace from God.

 

 

 

Did you realize that this October has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays; all in 1 month.

This event occurs only one time every 823years. 

AND,

Today is 10-10-10!  This only happens once every 1000 years (a millennium) – WOW!

BUT the best news is that:

Jesus comes every moment of every day!

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1575 – During the Battle of Dormans, Roman Catholic forces under Duke Henry of Guise defeated the Protestants, capturing Philippe de Mornay among others.
†   1582 – Because of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar this day does not exist in this year in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Worry” looks around, “Sorry” looks back, “Faith” looks up.

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus healing 10 lepers, and the only one returning to give thanks is the Samaritan.

 

11 As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.  12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him 13 and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”  14 And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  As they were going they were cleansed.  15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.  17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?  18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”  (NAB Luke 17:11-19)

 

Jesus, during His journey to Jerusalem, stopped to heal ten lepers that approached Him.  (Note: all skin diseases during this time were called “leprosy”).  In performing an act of mercy, Jesus is giving us a lesson about faith, love, and reconciliation.  Jesus also gives us a reminder that faith can sometimes be found in unlikely places.  

Ten people afflicted with “leprosy” came to Jesus asking for a cure.  In the Jewish culture, leprosy created a division between those with skin disease and family, society, and religious practices.  “Sin” does the exact same thing to any of us also.  With the effects of sin on our souls, we are separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ, and especially with the Trinitarian God Himself!  With sin, we have focused on a self-love, our own needs and wants instead of the needs and love of those with whom we come into contact.  When we confess our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are “healed” immediately by God’s grace.

Struck with compassion towards the ten “diseased” men, Jesus heals all of them.  However, only one returns to thank Jesus, that one being a Samaritan, a “foreigner.”  In the Jewish culture in which Jesus lived, Samaritans were looked down upon because of the differences between the two communities in their observance of Mosaic Scripture.  

How could this Samaritan, a foreigner in Jesus’ land – a man with a strange accent and probably strange mannerisms – and definitely a man possessing a rebellious theology, be the ONLY ONE to go back to Jesus?  He surely had to overcome over two major barriers to ask for, and receive, a cure from Jesus.  The first barrier was physical.  He had to overcome the contagious aspect of his disease in order to approach Jesus.  He also had to forget about the cultural and religious differences (the second barrier) of their perceived mutual disbelief of each other’s religion to obtain God’s favor. 

Why were Samaritans so disliked by the Jewish people?  Well, Samaritans were a people that originally inhabited a portion of central Palestine west of the Jordan.  Many were “Hebrews,” but with their own separate doctrinal beliefs, and perhaps even different religious practices.  They, like the Jewish people, regarded themselves as descendants of the “ten tribes of Israel.”  The Samaritans though claimed to possess the orthodox religion of Moses in their manuscripts of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament).  The Samaritans further regarded the Jewish temple, and the Jewish priesthood, as having deviated from the Orthodox Law of Moses.  In essence, the two groups existing together could be described as gasoline being thrown into an oil pit.  The two did not mix well, but if any match was thrown into the mix (e.g., controversies or in-fighting) BOTH could erupt violently! 

So, imagine what it might be like for these ten men (nine Jewish and one Samaritan) to begin realizing they are being totally healed – WOW!  Then imagine the nine Jewish lepers excited to run to the temple priests as Jesus commanded; while the one Samaritan stopped, realized he is free from the disease, and his first impulse was to return to Jesus in order to thank Him, and not go to the “Jewish” temple priest in Jerusalem.  Jesus was delighted to see him return fully whole and healed.

The significance of Jesus commending the Samaritan for his faith (and salvation) is very important to not only the Jewish crowd following Jesus, but also to the non-believers in the area overhearing Jesus’ surprise.  Jesus proclaimed, and also demonstrated, that God will bring salvation to ANYONE who hears with faith; and that a true faith can be found in very unique and surprising places (e.g. “foreigners”).

This event describing the thankfulness of the cleansed Samaritan [hence, non-Jewish believer of Jesus] who had leprosy is told in Luke’s Gospel only.  I believe it is because this happening provided a further illustration of Jesus holding up a non-Jew as an example to his Jewish contemporaries that God’s grace through Jesus the Messiah is for all people who will believe, even “foreigners.”  Another example of this perception can be found in Luke 10:33, where a comparable point is achieved in the story of the Good Samaritan (Another foreigner who cares for his neighbor without regard of religion).  It is the faith these “foreigners” had in Jesus that brought them salvation.  I can think of three other similar Bible verses that compare the relationship between faith and salvation in Luke’s Gospel: Luke 7:50; 8:48; and 8:50.  Please read them.

Why did Jesus tell the ten men to Go show yourselves to the priests?”  Jesus, being well-versed in the Old Testament and Levitical laws knew that any person with a skin disease had to be examined by the temple priest when a skin disease was cured; and then also to make an offering for their cleansing, as Moses prescribed in Leviticus 13:45-46, 49; 14:2-9; and Num 5:2-3.  With the priests’ approval, this person could then re-enter Jewish society, and re-enter the temple to worship as well. 

Besides the importance of faith, another lesson given to us in this healing encounter has to do with salvation itself.  Salvation is defined in this instance as “liberation of an individual from sin and its consequences.”  All ten of the lepers were given the gift of healing for their skin lesions; but in his gratitude to God for this gift of healing, only the Samaritan actually found the gift of “salvation,” a personal relationship with Jesus.  Salvation is realized in recognizing and accepting the gifts we have been given; sharing these gifts as God wants us to; and in knowing to whom we are to offer our thanks: God!! 

Among our many and unrelenting responsibilities as loving parents, we are to help cultivate the gift of appreciation and thankfulness.  This is especially true of appreciating and thanking God for all His compassion, benevolence, kindness, and helpfulness to us. 

What are some of the gifts you have received from God?  How often do you give thanks for all of God’s goodness given to you?  Do you praise God, even when given the gift you DO NOT want?  It is far too easy to thank Him for the good things in life.  But, through the bad periods we are also given the opportunity to grow closer to our magnificent, heavenly, Father by giving Him thanks in all circumstances as Paul instructs us to do!  Our sufferings can unite us with the same suffering Jesus endured for our salvation on the Holy Cross in a very personal way.  We are not necessarily thanking God for the suffering itself, but for the grace to endure, and the lessons we will learn from the gift of suffering.

I am in pain on a daily basis.  Between my heart/lung maladies, back and knee pain from 30 years of abuse as a paramedic lifting, prying, and carrying many things and people in awkward situations, plus the usual general aches and pains of growing old, I am very familiar with agony and hurting.  I have come to realize that my suffering is a permanent – and probably necessary – component in my life.  I now know I need to be humble instead of being the proud and boisterous person of my youth.  I need humility in my general life, as well as my prayer life and my faith.  I used to pray and NEVER listen.  I now know that I need NOT ONLY to talk to God, but also more importantly, I need to LISTEN to Him as well.  

My pain and trouble breathing keeps me focused on the divine mercy of God in Jesus, through His own suffering and forgiveness.  Maybe my pain is a kind of personal “stigmata” to keep my heart and soul going in the right direction.  By the way, I can honestly say that I have never been happier in my life.  God definitely works in mysterious and unorthodox ways.  He gave me a difficult cross to carry; and for giving me this unique and true grace, I truly love Him more than I ever have before.   

Don’t think I am bragging.  There is nothing to brag about in what I just related to you.  Other than being a uniquely special creation of God, (as each one of us is to God), I believe I am nothing special.  I believe I am a typical Catholic man living in an often “unjust” and “secular” world today.  However, I have hope and faith for the future; and I give thanks and praise to God for His “Peace and all good.”  (A translation of St. Francis’ favorite greeting:Pax et Bonum.”)

 

“In Gratitude”

 

“Thank you, Father, for having created us and given us to each other in the human family.  Thank you for being with us in all our joys and sorrows, for your comfort in our sadness, your companionship in our loneliness.  Thank you for yesterday, today, tomorrow and for the whole of our lives.  Thank you for friends, for health and for grace.  May we live this and every day conscious of all that has been given to us.  Amen.”

From The Catholic Prayer Book,
compiled by Msgr. Michael Buckley

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Francis Borgia (1510-1572)

 

Today’s saint grew up in an important family in 16th-century Spain, serving in the imperial court and quickly advancing in his career. But a series of events—including the death of his beloved wife—made Francis Borgia rethink his priorities. He gave up public life, gave away his possessions and joined the new and little-known Society of Jesus.

Religious life proved to be the right choice. He felt drawn to spend time in seclusion and prayer, but his administrative talents also made him a natural for other tasks. He helped in the establishment of what is now the Gregorian University in Rome. Not long after his ordination he served as political and spiritual adviser to the emperor. In Spain, he founded a dozen colleges.

At 55, Francis was elected head of the Jesuits. He focused on the growth of the Society of Jesus, the spiritual preparation of its new members and spreading the faith in many parts of Europe. He was responsible for the founding of Jesuit missions in Florida, Mexico and Peru.

Francis Borgia is often regarded as the second founder of the Jesuits. He died in 1572 and was canonized 100 years later.

Patron Saint of Earthquakes

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

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 10 & 11 of 26:

 

10.     United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

 

11.     Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.