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“The ‘Sign’ Read: ‘If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!’” – John 2:1-11†


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2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

T. table_of_contentsoday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveris, & Declarations:

 

Please let me explain why I did not publish a blog Wednesday.  I have a chronic eye condition known in the medical field as “keratoconus”.  Patients with this condition have misshaped globes of the eye.  Instead of the ckeratoconus-demoorneas being round and smooth, my eyes are shaped like the ends of footballs, and with ridges on their surfaces.  Thus, I wear specially made (very expensive) contacts in order to see well enough for daily living.  Without these contacts, my vision is like looking through a very thin layer of petroleum jelly.  Eventually, I will have to have corneal transport surgery on both eyes, but obviously, I wish to postpone this surgery as long as is reasonable.

One of my eyes has started to develop blood vessels on the cornea; some2816_2835_3thing very bad for future corneal transplant surgery.  Thus, I have to use four different medications on the eye throughout the day and night, and I am unable to wear a contact in this eye until some point after my surgery.  Laser surgery is scheduled for late February (He will burn the blood vessels on my cornea with the laser). 

For now, it is difficult to read due to the resultant blurriness of not wearing the contact.  For this reason, I have to limit my reflection blog to Sundays – – only FOR NOWI am also asking for your prayers in this matter.  Thank you in advance.

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Quote of the Day:

To turn water into wine, and what is common into what is holy, is indeed the glory of Christianity.” ~ Frederick William Robertson

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Today’s reflection: Jesus performs his first sign at a wedding feast in Cana.  Jesus heard and obeyed His mother, Mary – – the mother of God; Do YOU?!

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(NAB John 2:1-11)  1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.  3 When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  4 [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.  7 Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.”  So they filled them to the brim.  8 Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”  So they took it.  9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  11 Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs * in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

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Gos. Reflectionpel Reflection:

This Sunday we begin the liturgical season of Ordinary Time.  For many Sundays in this lectionary cycle (Cycle C), our readings will be taken from the Gospel of Luke.  Occasionally, however, we will read from John’s Gospel [as we do in every lectionary cycle].  Today’s Gospel reading comes from John, describing the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and His first miracle – – His first “sign”.

To situate today’s reading within the context of John’s Gospel, we need to know that this event follows Jesus’ call of His first six disciples (cf., John 1:35-51).  John tells us that Jesus and His disciples were invited to this wedding at Cana, along with Jesus’ mother, Mary.  This event is unique to John’s Gospel.  There are no parallel reports of this miraculous “sign” at Cana in any of the Synoptic Gospels.

Today’s Gospel is about “Signs (“sēmeion” in Greek).  John uses “signs” to re5030826-directional-signs-vector-or-xxl-jpeg-imageveal Jesus as the true promised Messiah to ALL “Israel”.  John uses “signs” to symbolize Jesus’ wondrous actions, His deeds.  We need to remember that the Gospel according to John is quite different in character from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  His writing style is highly literate and symbolic in nature.  It does not follow the same order, nor reproduce the same stories, as the other three Gospels.  To a much greater degree as that of the three other Gospel writers, it is the product of a theological reflection growing out of a different circle of readers, and their different traditions.  John’s Gospel was probably written in Ephesus during 90’s AD. 

John’s Gospel narrative contains a series of “signs”, seven to be exact (They will be listed near the end of this reflection.).  John’s Gospel’s relates God’s “Word” through a series of wondrous deeds – – actions – – by Jesus Himself.  It gives the impression that John is primarily interested in the “significance” of these actions. 

The first sign in today’s Gospel reading, is the “transformation of water into wine” at a wedding feast in a place called Cana (John 2:1jesus_wine1–11).  This first “sign” represents the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings (John 2:6), and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus then, and still today.  He is still actually transforming US ALL through our hearing of His “Word” and the fellowships of our Church’s seven Sacraments.

So, the Old Testament exodus stories provide the background for today’s reading:

“Recall today that it was not your children, who have neither known nor seen the discipline of the LORD, your God—His greatness, His strong hand and outstretched arm; the signs and deeds He wrought in the midst of Egypt, on Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and on all his land; what He did to the Egyptian army and to their horses and chariots, engulfing them in the waters of the Red Sea as they pursued you, so that the LORD destroyed them even to this day … Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all His servants and to all His land(Deuteronomy 11:2-4; 29:1-2).

God’s intervention in human history is anew again – – in a new, fulfilled, and fulfilling way – –  through Jesus Christ in the midst of His brethren today.

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The first verse talks about Jesus being in a place called “Cana”:

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there” (NAB John 2:1-11). 

Cana is NEVER mentioned in the Old Testament.  The only other (two) biblical references to “Cana” can be found(1) in John 4:46, which mentions Jesus, while in “Cana”, being asked to heal the son of a royal official at Capernaum; and (2) in John 21:2, where the Apostle Nathanael (Bartholomew in the Synoptic Gospels’) comes from “Cana”.  Cana of Galilee is not mentioned in any other book of the Bible, or in any other contemporary literary source.  So where is “Cana”, and why is this place significant to John?  I do not know with certainly.  Speculation is rampant among bible scholars, but I would love to find this place someday when finally discovered with certainty.  I hear the wine there is truly divine!

Also in the first verse, “The mother of Jesus” is never mentioned by name.  Matter of fact, Mary is never mentioned by name in John’s Gospel.  And, on tsecret-rosary13aop of this, Joseph is not present at the wedding feast as well.  I suspect Jesus’ earthly “father” had died sometime between his finding his lost Son in the Temple and this event some eighteen years later.

Jesus, per John, addressed His mother by saying “Woman”:

Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

This was NOT a ‘diss (slang word for “treat with contempt”) on Mary!!  Today, a child would possibly be given the “eveyesil eye” for calling his/her mother “woman” in this way.  However, in actuality, this was a normal and POLITE form of addressing one’s mother during Jesus’ time.  He also calls her by this SAME title while dying on the Holy Cross, at His most intimate – – and final – – time with her:

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son’” (John 19:26).

The word “woman” was a revealed word which was highly exulted (like the word “king”) amoung the Jewish peoples.  Jesus is “the Word made Flesh”.  When Jesus Christ calls His mother “woman”, He is revealing the promised fulfillment in Genesis:

 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Genesis 3:15).

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Wine was running low, a good “sign” of the celebration being in full force, but a bad sign because – – they are RUNNING OUT OF WINE!  So, Mary, probably helping at the celebration, goes to her son and says:

When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine” (John 2:3).

Jesus replies to “His mother”:

Woman, how does your concern affect meMy hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

If itwasn’t His time”, why did Jesus do what His mother asked?  After all, Jesus never worked miracles solely to help His family and friends.  I believe He performed this first miraculous “sign” out of OBEDIENCE to His mother, ObedienceToTheWordknowing the importance of [what we today know as] the Fourth Commandment and its great importance in God’s kingdom:

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you … Take to heart these words which I command you today…  Bind them on your arm as a ‘sign’ and let them be as a pendant on your forehead” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:6, 8)  

I wish people today saw and appreciated the need and JOY to be obedient to God’s Commandments, and not to subjugate them – – to de-prioritize them – – out of personally selfish wants and desires. 

Now, let’s go on to discuss the second (of three) points about His reply to His “mother”: 

How does your concern affect me?” (John 2:4)

Everything Jesus says is a fulfillment of Holy Scripture.  He is telling His mother that if He does what she implies, the “cats are ‘gjesusturnedwaterintowineonna be out of the bag”!  Mary is hastening God’s will, My source and My authority by doing a miracle to meet the wedding parties need.  That’s why, I believe, the third revealing point in this one verse relates to Jesus saying: 

My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

The “hour”, I believe Jesus is referring to, is His Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven:hourglass

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved His own in the world and He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

I wonder how much Jesus knew about His future at the time of the wedding feast miracle.  Did He know every single detail about His gruesome torture and death to come?  Did He know the beauty He will find in His ascension?  I believe He did.  Do you?  However, Jesus was focusing on His mother’s concern for the wedding couple.  He moved up the clock, revealing His divine authority.  So, He begins a series of seven signs here at “Cana”.

Only after John has Jesus fulfilling these seven “signs”, does the “hour” of Jesus fully arrive.  The whole Gospel of John is a progressivglory-to-god-by-brandon-halliburton-free-photo-11978e “revelation” – – a REVEALING – – of the glory of God’s only begotten Son.  At “Cana”, Jesus is beginning to reveal God the Father fully; which will ne fulfilled later when He returns – – in “glory” – – to His heavenly Father on our behalf.  Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

Jesus’ reply was tjohn2_5SCruly revealing in nature.  However, Mary was not going to take an implied “no” for an answer.  She simply looks at the “servers” and says:

Do whatever He tells you(John 2:5).

Mary knew her Scriptures well; she helped teach them to Jesus.  Mary, in her reply, may have been referencing a verse from the Book of Genesis:

When all the land of Egypt became hungry and the people cried to Pharaoh for food, Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians: ‘Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you’” (Genesis 41:55).

What I believe was important about Mary’s reason for wanting Jesus to perform a “sign” before His “time”, and His willingness to obif_mama_aint_happy_aint_nobody_happy_magnet-p147594797048165970b2gru_400ey her fully, may have been one of simple logic and survival for Jesus:

If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Do not forget the Fourth Commandment.  Jesus didn’t!!

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John goes on to report that:

There were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons” (John 2:6). 

Twenty to thirty gallons” is a litermarriageincanaal present day translation for the “two or three measures” of Jesus’ day.  This vast quantity of wine recalls prophecies of “abundance in the last days” from Jewish Scripture:

Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, flocks of sheep and cattle; They themselves shall be like watered gardens, never again neglected” (Jeremiah 31:12);

 “Yes, days are coming—oracle of the LORD—When the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps and the vintager, the sower of the seed; The mountains shall drip with the juice of grapes, and all the hills shall run with it. will restore my people Israel, they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, Plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits.” (Amos 9:13–14).

With this “first sign”, the changing of the water to wine, Jesus is replacing the “Jewish ceremonial washings” with His divine body, blood, soul, and divinity washing away all affects of original sin.  This event also presented the initial revealing – – the initial revelation – – of Jesus’ divine nature and authority at the outset of His public ministry.  

Jesus’ action in this reading points to the “wine of the new covenant” and the “bread of life” He establishes in the “Last Supper” anjesusfirstLOGOd in our present Eucharist.  It also points to the Messianic banquet which Jesus personally will host at the end of time.  (Behold the Lamb of God … Hapy are those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!)

The miracles of Jesus’ public ministry – – His “signs” – – demonstrate the power of God’s love and mercy for His people.  God’s kindness knows no limits!  And the ultimate expression of His love is revealed in the person of His Son, our Lord – – Jesus Christ.  He became flesh for OUR sake; He died for OUR redemption; He rose from the dead for OUR glorification!! 

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John ends his Gospel today by going to the beginning: the beginning of Jesus’ “signs”, the beginning of His revealed “glory”, the beginning of His public ministry, and the beginning of His disciples truly believing in Him as the true promised Messiah:

Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

God reveals His “glory” in the most unlikely places: in a stable at Bethlehem, at a wedding party in Cana, in the muddy waters of the Jordan River, and on a blood stained crosto-god-be-the-glory_137_1024x768s outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Jesus’ first public miracle – – His first “sign” – – was performed at the confident “invitation” of His mother.  In doing as His mother requested of Him, Jesus blessed a young couple, bringing JOY to their wedding feast: first, by His presence, and second, by His surprising response to Hhis mother’s concern, saving them from an embarrassing situation. 

Changing water into wine was a remarkable act of kindness; but saving the best to last was unheard of in Jesus’ day.  In Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament) wine was often seen as a gift anDo-Whatever-He-Tells-You-1024x1024d symbol of God’s blessing (cf., Deuteronomy 7:13; Proverbs 3:10, Psalm 105).  With Jesus miraculously producing 180 gallons or so of the best wine possible, and many times more than what actually was needed for the feast, He showed the superabundance of the blessings He Himself came to offer to All “Israel”, to ALL peoples.

What other signs will Jesus go on to do during His public Ministry?  Well, now would be a good time to list the seven “signs” John reveals through his Gospel:seven-signs

  • The first sign is the transformation of water into wine at Cana (Jn 2:1–11); this represents, as I mentioned earlier, the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus.

  • The second sign, the cure of the royal official’s son (Jn 4:46–54) simply by the word of Jesus at a distance, signifies the power of Jesus’ life-giving “Word”.  

  • The third sign, the cure of the paralytic at the pool with five porticoes in John 5, continues the theme of water offering newness of life.  In the preceding chapter, to the woman at the well in Samaria Jesus had offered living water springing up to eternal life, a symbol of the revelation Jesus brings.  Here Jesus’ life-giving “Word” replaces the water of the pool which failed to bring life.

  • John 6 contains two signs: the multiplication of loaves and the walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.  These signs are related to the “crossing of the Red Sea” and the manna” of the first exodus, manifesting a new exodus in process.  The multiplication of the loaves anticipates the future revelation of God in Jesus which the bread of life is His visible “sign” which we call the “Eucharist”.  

  • The sixth sign is presented in John 9, the sign of the young man born blind whom Jesus heals. This is a narrative illustration proclaiming the triumph of light over darkness.  Remember, this event takes place in the Temple during the Feast of the Tabernacles (aka, the Feast of Lights) at which there were a multitude of candelabras lighted throughout the “Holy Place”.  Jesus is presenting Himself as the Light of the Temple, and of the world.  The young man had been given his sight by Jesus.  This “sign” was an object lesson, revealing the divine power of Jesus to give light to the eyes, and at the same time, subtly revealing the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and Levites attending to the Menorah.

  • And finally, the seventh sign, the raising of Lazarus in John 11, is the climax of signs.  Lazarus is presented as a token of the real, spiritually alive, life which Jesus, THE Resurrection and THE Life, who will now ironically be put to death because of His gift of life to Lazarus, desires to give ALL to those believing in Him then, and after He was seen raised from the dead.  Notice the irony of Jesus raising Lazarus and then enduring His own death in place of Lazarus.

John’s purpose in describing these seven signs in their unique order is clearly expressed in what some bible scholars say was the “original” ending of his Gospel, at the end of Chapter 20.  Besides these seven just described:

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [His] disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

Amen!!  Amen!!          

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In the Church’s lit. summarize titleurgical history, the “wedding feast at Cana” is closely associated with the “adoration of the child Jesus by the Magi” and the “Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The “sign” Jesus performs at the wedding feast is an “epiphany” (manifestation) of Jesus’ divinity to be celebrated.flickr-3699162219-hd

With these epiphanies in mind, awareness of Jesus’ Passion and death looming future on the Holy Cross is ever present in John’s Gospel.  Even in today’s narrative of Jesus’ “first sign”, the language used by John anticipates Jesus’ future Passion.  When Jesus says to His “mother” that “His hour has not yet come”, Jesus protests against her wishes in words John used again when describing Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His disciples in John 13:1.  When introducing the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet [also only found in John’s Gospel], John writes that Jesus knew His “hour had come”.  Per John, Jesus is very much in command and extremely aware of ALL that is to happen to Him, from the very beginning.

Throughout John’s Gospel, Mary is never mentioned by name, but is referred to instead as “the mother of Jesus”.  Mary is overridingly influential in Jesus’ first “sign”.  She will never abandon her Son, even being present at Jesus’ Crucifixion.  Mary was (and still is) a faithful and constant witness to the final manifestation – – “sign” and epiphany – – of Jesus’ divinity.

John’s Gospel describes seven “signs” indicating Jesus’ true divine nature and identity to His disciples.  He never speaks of these “signwordsandeedslogosas miracles because their importance is not in the deed – – the action – – which Jesus performs, but instead in what these deeds indicate in regard to Jesus’ true nature and identity.  In today’s reading, Jesus’ disciples are said to “begin to believe”.  However, no mention is made as to whether the other wedding guests are even aware of what has happened.  (But, they thought the wine was heavenly in deed!)

Here, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, John’s Gospel seeks to establish that Jesus is going to re-define and fulfill God’s promise to “Israel”.  Jesus is establishing the New Covenant promised to the Water_Wine_Renderprophets.  A hint about what this New Covenant will be like is made evident in His deed – – the action Jesus performs.  Asked to do something about the awkward situation that a lack of wine at the wedding feast would create, Jesus’ miraculous “sign” produces vast quantities of wine: six jars overflowing with over 180 gallons of superior wine.

This overflowing response to a simple human request is a vision for us – – a “sign” – – about the vast abundance of God’s kingdom.  It challenges us to respond generously when confronted with our needs, and others’, today.  Responding as best as we can, fully confident that, like the mother of Jesus, God can transform our efforts, brings the Kingdom of God to fulfillment among us here and now!

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We. conclusionddings are magnificent and breathtaking celebrations.  We go out of our way to make the occasion festive and extraordinary.  People work hard to please one another with a special kind of JOY.  What better image of the Kingdom of God can there be than070114_weddinggift a wedding feast!  Wedding celebrations are not an everyday occurrence.  ut we can anticipate the Kingdom of God each and every day through our kindness, attention, and care to one another’s needs.

Reflect about weddings and other feasts and HOW they are used as images in Holy Slove others_t_nvcripture for the Kingdom of God.  Consider how these festive occasions are images of God’s tremendous, overflowing, love for us – – and examples of how we can show our love for one another.  Think about Mary’s attentiveness to the needs of the wedding hosts, and about Jesus’ response to His mother’s request.  What can you learn from today’s Gospel story?  Reflect on, and consider ways – – actions or deeds – – in which you might show these same sort of generous and loving values in your daily life.  Create your own “sign” for God’s plan in your life and for His kingdom on earth!!

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Reflecti. prayer sfon Prayer: 

Prayer for Generosity

(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

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

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“If Jesus Saw His Shadow On Leaving the Tomb, Would We Have Had Six More Weeks Of Lent?” – John 20:1-9†


    

 

EASTER SUNDAY 

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Congratulations to Pope Benedict XVI for seven years, today, of his being elevated to Bishop of Rome, and Vicar of Christ.  May his role as shepherd and teacher of the faithful bring all of us to a greater understanding of Jesus’ love, trust, promises, and magnificently splendid paradise on earth and in heaven.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1093 – The new Winchester Cathedral is dedicated by Walkelin.
†   1149 – Pope Eugene III takes refuge in the castle of Ptolemy II of Tusculum.
†   1378 – Bartolomeo Prignano elected as Pope Urban VI
†   1455 – Alfonso de Borgia elected as Pope Callistus III
†   1808 – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Baltimore was promoted to an archdiocese, with the founding of the dioceses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Bardstown (now Louisville) by Pope Pius VII.
†   1974 – Death of James Charles McGuigan, Catholic archbishop of Toronto (b. 1894)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Walter of Pontoise (d. 1099); Saint Constance; Saint Julie Billiart of Namur (d. 1816).

(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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Today’s reflection is about Mary of Magdala finding that the burial stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb.

 

(NAB John 20:1-9) 1 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”  3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.  4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.  6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.  8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.  9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today we begin the Easter Season, a 50-day period of meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. (Yep, Easter lasts for nearly two more months.)  Today’s Gospel reading relates the discovery of the empty tomb. It ends by telling us that Jesus’ friends, His disciples, did not yet understand, at this point, that Jesus had actually “Rose” from the dead.

The story of the empty tomb can be found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, along with John’s, who’s is presented today.  However, for me, John’s version seems to be a fusion or blending of both Matthew and Luke’s.  (Sorry Mark, you had a Resurrection narrative as well, but John seemed to ignore yours.)

I believe John’s narrative details are not necessarily meant to offer proof of Jesus’ Resurrection happening on a particular “Easter” Sunday morning.  After all, John writes with a poetic, revelational, and “conceptual” thinking and writing style in order to make a specific point – – a Van Gough-ish sort of approach in creating an image for his audience.  John’s unique style of relating detail invites each of us to reflect upon a most amazing grace; a grace founded in a faith in Jesus Christ and in His Resurrection.

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The disciples thought that everything had ended in the tragic events with Jesus’ death.  He was dead, wrapped in a burial shroud, and secured in a tomb.  It seemed the only thing yet to do was to finish the preparation of His body for a final internment as soon as the Sabbath was over.

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb while, “still dark” on “that” day after the Sabbath in order to finish preparing the body for Jesus’ final burial.  John’s Gospel has the time as “still dark”.  However, Mark has the sun already raised, Matthew describes the day as just “dawning”, and Luke’s book refers to the time as being “at daybreak”, an early dawn.

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1);

Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.” (Mark 16:2);

And,

At daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 24:1).

Each of these words or phrases – – “was dawning”, “sun had risen”, “at daybreak”, and “still dark” – – are simply subjective statement’s about the day beginning, probably around 6 AM or the “first hour”.

All four Gospels tell us that Jesus’ empty tomb was first discovered by “women”.  These women are denoted differently in each of the four Gospels:

Matthew’s Gospel:  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary;
Mark’s Gospel:  Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome;
Luke’s Gospel:  The women who had come from Galilee with Him;
and, John’s Gospel:  Mary of Magdala.

John uses the plural “we” in the second part of Mary Magdalene’s announcement to Simon Peter and the other disciples about Jesus’ disappearance from the tomb:

They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” (John 20:2).

This plural word, “we”, might reflect a Jewish tradition of women going to the tomb as a group.  Solely for safety reasons, I am sure women did not travel without company throughout the countryside of first century Palestine.

This is notable because in first-century Jewish society women could not serve as legal witnesses.  A woman’s role was literally to give birth, (preferably to a male heir), and to take care of all the household activities.  In fact, women were considered less tangible than the livestock of the area.  There were NO equal rights in first century Palestine (then, and still today)!!  So, to mention women in this special way was quite broadminded and freethinking in ideology for the time period.

As just stated, in John’s Gospel, the only woman attending the tomb is “Mary of Magdala”.  Magdala was a small city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about three miles north of Tiberias.  Mary [Magdalene] arrives at the tomb, and sees the stone removed.  In John’s Gospel, she does not go into the tomb (yet, in others, she does), so she does not know with absolute certainty whether are not the tomb is empty.  My question is: “Where are the Soldiers?”  (I surmise that they ran off with the appearance of the angels and the Risen Jesus Christ.)

Is there a significance of the stone being rolled away from the tomb entrance?  Well, for one thing, – – a significant matter of fact – – the stone closing the tomb was extremely heavy!  It would have taken several strong people to roll away such a stone from its place of function, sealing the tomb entrance. To move the stone would either have to be a group effort, or of divine origin.

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Unlike the Synoptic accounts, John’s Gospel does not describe an appearance of angels at the tomb for the reading at Mass.  (A reference to angels show up in John’s Gospel at John 20:12.)  Instead, Mary naturally assumes that Jesus’ body had been removed, stolen.  Please keep in mind, at this point Mary of Magdala did not consider that Jesus has been “raised from the dead”.  So, seeing the stone moved, she ran away from the tomb and back to the disciples, the people she truly trusted.

Mary Magdalene is the first to report the startling news of the empty tomb!  In John’s version, she is not as directed to go tell others by an “angel” or “a young man”, as is written in all the synoptic accounts.

Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7);

“On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”‘” (Mark 16:5-7);

and

“While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.” (Luke 24:4,9).

I was once told by a priest friend (Yes, this is not an oxymoron term, Priests can have friends.) of mine about a linkage or comparison between Jesus’ closed tomb and Mary, His mother.  As Mary’s virginal womb was closed, so was the tomb closed.  Yet Jesus entered the world through her closed womb, and He left the world through the closed tomb.  What an awesome revelation, at least for me.

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When informed of His vanishing, Simon Peter, and Jesus’ “beloved disciple” (John, this Gospel writer) raced to the tomb in order to verify Mary’s report of His disappearance.  The “beloved disciple” arrives first at the tomb first, but does not enter until after Simon Peter arrives and enters before him.  His hesitation paints a vivid picture, as does the detail provided about the burial cloths.  Did John wait out of fear, not being the first one going into an unknown event? … Or, was John waiting out of respect, knowing that Peter was now the earthly leader, the first Pope?

John testifies to a special feature about the status of the burial cloths, the way they were found in the tomb, causing “the beloved disciple” [John] to “believe”:

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.” (John 20:6-8).

I also see something in the details of Jesus’ burial clothes placement in the tomb.  The burial wraps were discarded without concern.  However, the “cloth” placed over Jesus’ head at His burial, I believe to be His Tallit, Jesus’ prayer garment or robe – – a special and revered item for any pious Jew – – was carefully, reverently, and meticulously folded (or rolled) and then placed carefully on the hewn rock ledge Jesus’ body was placed upon.

For the pious Jewish person, the Tallit with attached Tzitzit (the four knotted strings; one at each corner), was (and still is today) considered as sacred and uniquely special to them, as the Holy Eucharist is for us Catholics.  To the dutiful Jewish person, it is the “true” physical presence of God’s soul, divinity, and promises – – and not just a representation or symbol.

I believe the details of the tomb description, in John’s Gospel, leads one to recognize the grave had not been robbed.  Some scholars believe the presence of the burial cloths in the tomb offers essential evidence that Jesus’ body could not have been stolen.  Grave robbers would most certainly take the burial cloths along with the body.  The wrappings would make it easier to carry the body.  The wrappings would keep all the valuables with the body.  And, any tomb raider would not waste their time removing all the wrappings, thus increasing time at the scene and their chance of getting caught.

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The last verse of today’s reading was thought inspiring for me:

For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

Today’s reading concludes with a perplexing message, for me at least.  Even after having seen the empty tomb and the burial cloths, Jesus’ disciples still did not yet understand Jesus’ Resurrection had occurred.  In the passages immediately following this Gospel reading, Mary of Magdala actually meets and interacts with the “Risen” Jesus Christ, yet mistakes Him for a simple gardener.  How could she mistake a person she had grown to love – – in such a very special and intimate way – – for being a stranger?  Was His physical presence changed that much?!  Obviously, Mary of Magdala was not yet prepared to meet the “Risen” Lord who revealed Himself to her while she later lingered in the garden near the tomb (cf., John 20:11-18).

Is it significant that ALL the disciples had to deal first with the empty tomb before they could start to understand Holy Scripture’s foretelling that Jesus would die for OUR sins and then rise on the third day?  Is it significant that they ALL refuse to accept His “Rising from the dead” until after they saw the empty tomb?  I cannot answer these questions; can you?

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John the Evangelist, “the beloved disciple” of Jesus, wrote his Gospel as an eye-witness to the “Word of God” becoming flesh, living among us in human form, then dying and rising, solely for OUR salvation.

John was the only of Jesus’ Apostles who stood with Jesus at the foot of the cross. He was the only Apostle who witnessed Jesus’ death on that day we now distinguish as “Good Friday”.  And finally, John (together with Simon Peter), was the first Apostle to see the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning.

What did John see in the tomb that led him to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus?  It wasn’t a dead body for there wasn’t one.  Instead, it was the absence of a “dead body” that allowed him to believe.  In reality, the presence of Jesus’ dead body would have disproven the Resurrection prophesies. His body being present in the tomb would have made Jesus’ death merely no more than a tragic event; a conclusion to a remarkable career as a great teacher, healer, and miracle worker.  When John saw the empty tomb, did he recall Jesus’ prophecies of His rising again after three days, and then to:

rebuild His Church in three days” (John 2:19).  

Through the grace freely given to us of faith, trust, and love, John realized that NO tomb, NO death, NO anything could contain Jesus Christ, Our Savior and life giver.

In the weeks ahead, the Gospel readings from our liturgy – – our Mass – – will show each of us how the disciples, over a period of time,  came to believe in Jesus’ Resurrection through His various appearances to them, both individually and in groups.  Our Easter faith is based on their witness to both the empty tomb and their continuing relationship with Jesus – – in His appearances and in His gift of the Holy Spirit to all of them (and us), individually, personally, and intimately.

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In summary, today’s Gospel reading relates how the disciples found the tomb empty three days after Jesus’ death.  Also told to us is their “not yet understanding” the Holy Scriptures or Jesus’ being truly “raised” from the dead.  Their understanding of the Scriptures and Jesus’ Resurrection gradually unfolded (grew) for the disciples as they began to experience the “Risen” Lord in His many appearances to them, and to others.

Similarly, our understanding of Jesus’ Resurrection unfolds (grows) for us throughout our lives and experiences.  In the weeks ahead, we will see and go in the understanding of how the first of His disciples moved from confusion, doubt, and skepticism to one of faith, trust, and hope in Jesus Christ.  The first of Jesus’ disciples events and experiences can teach each of us how we also might receive this special and unique gift, – – this special and unique grace, – – of faith, trust, and hope from God.

Reflect on what you know about the events surrounding Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem for the Passover meal, His arrest, His trial, His scourging, His crucifixion, and His Resurrection.  Imagine being among Jesus’ first disciples.  If you had been there, and heard the stone covering had been removed from Jesus’ tomb entrance and that Jesus’ body was no longer there, what would you have thought?  What did Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter, and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” think had happened to Jesus’ body?

Remember that this experience was the first indication to His disciples, that Jesus had been “Raised from the dead”.  So, just as the first disciples learned over a period of time, throughout this Easter season, we also will learn more about “how to” believe that Jesus had been “Raised from the dead”.

The reality of Jesus’ Resurrection is the prime, central, and essential fact of OUR Catholic faith.  The greatest joy we can have is to encounter our living Lord- – Jesus Christ – – in an individual and personal way.  Are you ready to continually grow in that faith?  Remember, from the tiniest seeds of faith can grow a massive tree producing much fruit for all.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Easter Prayer of St. Hippolytus of Rome

 

“Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are his forever and ever.  Amen”

 St. Hippolytus (AD 190-236)

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 Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Purgatory

“For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.  Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” (2 Maccabees 12:44-45) RSV.

 

The two books of Maccabees are not in the KJV.  It was removed, after 1000 years, by Martin Luther. 

**

“Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25-26) RSV.

 

“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.  Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matthew 5:25-26) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Julie Billiart (1751-1816)

 

Born in Cuvilly, France, into a family of well-to-do farmers, young Marie Rose Julie Billiart showed an early interest in religion and in helping the sick and poor.  Though the first years of her life were relatively peaceful and uncomplicated, Julie had to take up manual work as a young teen when her family lost its money.  However, she spent her spare time teaching catechism to young people and to the farm laborers.

A mysterious illness overtook her when she was about 30.  Witnessing an attempt to wound or even kill her father, Julie was paralyzed and became a complete invalid.  For the next two decades she continued to teach catechism lessons from her bed, offered spiritual advice and attracted visitors who had heard of her holiness.

When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, revolutionary forces became aware of her allegiance to fugitive priests.  With the help of friends she was smuggled out of Cuvilly in a haycart; she spent several years hiding in Compiegne, being moved from house to house despite her growing physical pain.  She even lost the power of speech for a time.

But this period also proved to be a fruitful spiritual time for Julie.  It was at this time she had a vision in which she saw Calvary surrounded by women in religious habits and heard a voice saying, “Behold these spiritual daughters whom I give you in an Institute marked by the cross.”  As time passed and Julie continued her mobile life, she made the acquaintance of an aristocratic woman, Françoise Blin de Bourdon, who shared Julie’s interest in teaching the faith.  In 1803 the two women began the Institute of Notre Dame, which was dedicated to the education of the poor as well as young Christian girls and the training of catechists.  The following year the first Sisters of Notre Dame made their vows.  That was the same year that Julie recovered from the illness: She was able to walk for the first time in 22 years.

Though Julie had always been attentive to the special needs of the poor and that always remained her priority, she also became aware that other classes in society needed Christian instruction.  From the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame until her death, Julie was on the road, opening a variety of schools in France and Belgium that served the poor and the wealthy, vocational groups, teachers.  Ultimately, Julie and Françoise moved the motherhouse to Namur, Belgium.

Julie died there in 1816. She was canonized in 1969.

Comment:

Julie’s immobility in no way impeded her activities.  In spite of her suffering, she managed to co-found a teaching order that tended to the needs of both the poor and the well-to-do.  Each of us has limitations, but the worst malady any of us can suffer is the spiritual paralysis that keeps us from doing God’s work on earth.

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

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

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

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

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

“What A Tangled ‘Vine” We Weave When We Try To Deceive!” – Matthew 21:33-43†


 

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

   

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 Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

  

Prayer Intentions of Pope Benedict XVI for October, 2011

General Intention:

That the terminally ill may be supported by their faith in God and the love of their brothers and sisters.

Missionary Intention:

That the celebration of World Mission Day may foster in the People of God a passion for evangelization with the willingness to support the missions with prayer and economic aid for the poorest Churches. 

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 I can’t believe it has already been exactly five years ago today (2006) that five school girls were murdered by Charles Carl Roberts in a hostage/shooting event at an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.  Charles Roberts committed suicide after killing the girls.

Ironically, today is also an “International Day of Non-Violence”, commemorating the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948).

When will violence among God’s creations end?!

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1187 – Siege of Jerusalem: Saladin captures Jerusalem after 88 years of Crusader rule.
†   1264 – Death of Urbanus IV, [Jacques Pantaleon], French Pope (1261-64)
†   1538 – Birth of Saint Charles Borromeo, Italian cardinal/saint (d. 1584)
†   1833 – Birth of Rev. William Corby, American Catholic priest (d. 1897)
†   1928 – The “Prelature of the Holy Cross and the Work of God”, commonly known as Opus Dei, was founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá.
†   1931 – Pope Pius XI publishes encyclical on economic crisis

(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:

 

 

The country clubs, the cars, the boats, – – your assets – – may be ample, but the best inheritance you can leave your kids is a good example. ~ Barry Spilchuk

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable of the “Wicked Tenants”.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 21:33-43) 33 “Hear another parable.  There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.  Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.  34 When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.  35 But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned.  36 Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’  39 They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  40 What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”  41 They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’?  43 Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

  

Today’s Gospel follows last Sunday’s Gospel in which Jesus was questioned by Jewish religious leaders about the source of his teaching authority. After refusing to answer their questions, Jesus tells the parable of “the two sons”.  He then criticizes the priests and elders for their lack of belief in John the Baptist’s message.  See last week’s reflection for more on this Gospel reading.

 In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to the priests and elders with a different parable on justice.  In this parable, the landowner leases his vineyard to “tenants” and sends his servants to collect the portion of the harvest the tenants owe to him.  Several times the “servants” are sent to collect payment.  Each time, they are beaten and/or killed by the tenants.  Finally, the landowner sends his “son” to collect his rent.  The tenants, believing that they will inherit the vineyard if the landowner dies without an heir, plot together and kill the landowner’s son.

After telling today’s parable, Jesus questions the chief priests and elders about what the landowner will do to the wicked tenants.  They all agree that the landowner should kill the “wicked tenants” and give the land to “new tenants” who will pay the rent.  (That’s “eviction” at its extreme!)

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In telling the parable, Jesus is clearly drawing upon the prophecy found in Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-7), which is also purposely today’s first reading because of its strong connection with the Gospel reading.  Isaiah’s prophecy about the vineyard and bloodshed is one which the priests and elders would have known well, and even taught in the Temple regularly.

Jesus doesn’t, therefore, have to explain the symbolism of the parable; the Pharisees and elders would have understood the symbolism already:

  1. 1.     the “vineyard” represents “Israel”,
  2. 2.     the “landowner” represents “God”,
  3. 3.     the “servants” represents “the prophets”, and
  4. 4.     the “bad tenants” represents “the religious leaders”. 

Yet, Jesus continues to explain the meaning of the parable for His audience: the “kingdom of God” will be taken from the “unbelieving” (as “judged” by the Temple leaders and the Jewish society as a whole) and given to the “faithful” people of Judah.  The climactic moment in these “justice” parables is when the chief priests and elders inadvertently condemn “themselves” in answering Jesus’ question.

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The hills of Galilee were alive with the sounds of music, and were lined with numerous vineyards.  It was quite common for the land owners to rent out their land to “tenants” and to expect regular payment of a portion of produce harvested.  Many did so because they could also make a lot of money easily by collecting high rent from their renters.  Their riches and status in life allowed them to travel and own homes in various other places. (Sounds exactly like today’s wealthy class.)  

In this parable there is a close correspondence between the details of the parable and the situation it is meant to illustrate: the dealings of God with His people.  Because of the heavy symbolic representations (allegory), some bible scholars think this parable does not originate with Jesus Christ, but represents the theology of the later first-century Catholic Church.  This scholarly belief also applies to Mark’s parallel parable (Mark 12: 2-10).  However, the symbolism in Matthew’s version goes further.  

There are bible scholars, however, who believe, that while many of the symbolic elements are derived from to church sources, they have been added to a parable originated and spoken by Jesus Himself (and this is my belief as well).  This view is supported by the apocryphal “Gospel of Thomas”, in which less symbolism is found:

“A person owned a vineyard and rented it to some farmers, so they could work it and he could collect its crop from them.  He sent his slave so the farmers would give him the vineyard’s crop.  They grabbed him, beat him, and almost killed him, and the slave returned and told his master.  His master said, ‘Perhaps he didn’t know them.’  He sent another slave, and the farmers beat that one as well.  Then the master sent his son and said, ‘Perhaps they’ll show my son some respect.’  Because the farmers knew that he was the heir to the vineyard, they grabbed him and killed him.  Anyone here with two ears had better listen!” (Gospel of Thomas, 65)

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Jesus’ parable was unsettling to some of His audience.  Why did the Pharisees and elders in particular, feel offended at Jesus’ message?  Perhaps it is because Jesus’ parable contained both a prophetic message AND a warning to the religious community and its religious leaders.   Centuries earlier, Isaiah spoke of the “house of Israel” as “the vineyard of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:7).  Isaiah warned his people that their unfaithfulness would yield bad fruit (loss of freedom, and captivity by others) – – if they did not repent and change.  Jesus’ listeners understood this parable as a “healthy reminder” that God the Father will, in due time, rid the “bad fruit” from the “harvest”, putting an end to all rebellion.

 

In the very first verse, Jesus is preaching a “prophetic” parable.  Isaiah, many centuries preceding Jesus Christ, talked of a “vineyard with watchtower and bloodshed”:

Now let me sing of my friend, my beloved’s song about his vineyard.  My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; Within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press.  Then he waited for the crop of grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes.” (Isaiah 5:1–2);

 The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed!  for justice, but hark, the outcry! (Isaiah 5:7)

I find it interesting that Isaiah defines the vineyard as “the house of Israel, the people of Judah”, the Jewish people.

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In today’s parable, Matthew relates two episodes of sending multiple servants, as compared to Mark’s three episodes of a single servant, in his parallel parable:

At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.  But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.  Again he sent them another servant.  And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully.  He sent yet another whom they killed. (Mark 12:2–5a)

Mark continues by sending “many others”:

“So, too,[he sent] many others; some they beat, others they killed.” (Mark 12: 5b).

These “servants” stand for the prophets sent by God to Israel as referenced by the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah.  Though, not explicitly declared in this parable, Matthew later says the following concerning the prophets and the Jewish Peoples attitude:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!” (Matthew 23:37)

I don’t think these are very comforting words for those “unwilling” to change their heart toward Jesus’ teachings.

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Verse 34 of today’s reading talks about “obtaining his produce”.  This is very similar to what Mark relates in his parallel parable:

“At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.” (Mark 12:2)

The “produce” is the good works demanded by God.  His claim to the “produce” is the full amount of good works, to Him, and to ALL His creations.

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How many of you wonder what was meant by the “tenants” (and their negative attitude and evil intentions) in today’s parable:

Let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.”  (Matthew 21:38)

Well, I learned that if a Jewish landowner died without an heir, the “tenants” of his land would have final “quick claim” on it. 

Thus, the tenants in today’s parable obviously and dramatically take advantage of the existing law and the landowner’s patience (and perceived weakness).  Yet, they drastically underestimated the character of their landowner.  They put themselves under a severely just judgment of losing their responsibilities and their own lives when they decided to kill the last messenger, the son of the landowner:

“They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” (Matthew 21:39)

Mark’s parallel parable has that the “son” is not only killed, but also that his corpse is then thrown out of the vineyard:

“So they seized him [the heir] and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.” (Mark 12:8)

The difference, as related in Matthew’s version (the son’s death occurred outside the walls of Jerusalem), may be derived from the first-century Jewish Catholic Church’s strong belief that Jesus Christ suffered and died OUTSIDE the walls of Jerusalem, as also depicted in John’s Gospel and a later letter to the Hebrews:

Carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.” John 19:17;

Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the gate, to consecrate the people by his own blood. (Hebrew 13:12).

 

Matthew goes so far as naming the “religious leaders”: the Pharisees and chief priests in His Gospel.  Clearly this shows the extreme tension mounting between Jesus Christ and the Jewish religious leaders who thought Jesus’ ministry and message was dangerous (at least, to them).  Matthew’s Gospel was written about 40 years after Jesus’ death and accurately reflects the conflicts and tensions found in the Jewish-Catholic Christian community.  Disagreement and dissention in the “Church” was prevalent even in the first-century; definitely not a new phenomenon. 

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What does Jesus’ parable tell us about God and the way he deals with His people? First, it tells us of God’s generosity and trust.  The first-century “vineyard” was usually well equipped with everything the “tenants needed”.  The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of those tenants, trusting in them.  Likewise, God trusts us enough to give us freedom to live life as we choose.  This freedom reveals and highlights the importance of free will.  This parable also tells us of God’s patience and justice.  Not once, but many times does the land owner not only forgive the tenants their “debts”, but also implores them to be honest and do what is right and just.  From this, we understand that God the Father also forgives us our debts, when we approach Him and ask for His mercy, and implores us to return to right living, producing good fruits and good work.  And, He does this even many, many, many times!!

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In Matthew’s version, Jesus then asks the question:

What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” (Matthew 21:40)

The people present, listening to Jesus, answered His question.  (It’s really a “no-brainer.”)  Matthew has the listeners – – the Temple leaders and elders – – answer the question: 

He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” (Matthew 21:31).

In saying this, they condemn themselves.

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In his version, Matthew further adds the landowner hires “other tenants”.  Matthew has Jesus adding God’s management decisions to send other honorable tenants, who will give the landowner the produce at the proper times: when it is at its most mature, most sweet, and most fruitful.  God will also “harvest” us at our most mature, most sweet, and most fruitful spiritually! – – By this, Jesus is declaring that God’s will works through every difficulty to ensure a reaping of a great harvest of honorable sons and daughters, filled with the spirit of integrity an honesty.

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The second to last verse from today’s reading (about the cornerstone) reminds me of Psalm 118:

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:22–23)

This particular psalm was used in the early Catholic Church as the prophecy of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Both Luke and Peter wrote about this cornerstone, first mentioned in the Old Testament:

He is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.’” (Acts 4:11);

And,

“Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (1 Peter 2:7)

The “original” parable (see Mark and Gospel of Thomas mentioned earlier) ended at Matthew 21:39:

“They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” (Matthew 21:39)

However, Matthew thought necessary to complete the parable by referencing Jesus’ vindication by God:

“Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”  (Matthew 21:43)

This final verse from the Gospel reading (verse 43) is only found in Matthew.  In this final verse, Matthew says, “kingdom of God”, instead of his usual, “kingdom of heaven”.  I believe Matthew’s said “God” instead of “heaven” to indicate it came from his own local church traditional, making it more applicable to his first-century, predominantly Jewish, Catholic (Universal) Church.  

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The very last words spoken in the Gospel today are, “a people that will produce its fruit”.  The people who “will produce fruit”(many riches), are the Israelites AND the Gentiles together, as the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ on earth!!  So, what are these fruits, these riches?  They are NOT material items.  Material (only) riches can be an obstacle to entering God’s kingdom, obstacles which cannot be overcome with our human power and will.  Notice, you can’t take “it” (material riches) with you into God’s eternal paradise!  Comparing our “need” for earthly and material processions to entering heaven reminds me of an earlier verse from Matthew:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’” (Matthew 19:23–24)

Comparing of our entering heaven, with the impossibility of a camel passing through the eye of a needle, is an interesting allegory and image.  The “eye of a needle”, in reality, was an actual short or narrow gate in the wall of Jerusalem.  This smaller gate was opened after the main gate was closed at night (and staffed by TSA agents).  A camel (after taking off its shoes, belt, and emptying its pockets) could only pass through this smaller gate, only if it stooped down low, and had all its baggage removed.  A camel could only go through with NO material processions (and after a total body search and x-ray).

We come into this world naked, bare, and procession-less; and we leave this world in nearly the exact same way.  The only difference is that we also take with us (attached to our souls) the results of graces, sins, and iniquities we have “harvested” in life.  Let me ask, how shiny and well maintained is your soul?  

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Jesus, in this parable, hints and foretells both His death and His ultimate triumph over death and sin.  He knew He would be rejected by His own people and be killed.  Still, He also knew He would prevail in the end (please read Psalm 22).  After His rejection would come His glory – – the glory of resurrection and the glory of the ascension – – to the right hand of His (and our) Father in heaven.

Jesus continues to bless His people today with the gift of His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  He promises that we will bear much fruit, many graces, if we abide in Him and remain faithful to Him as found in John’s Gospel:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:1-11).

He entrusts to each and every one of us His gifts, His grace.  He gives each of us a particular mission to do in His “vineyard” – – the “body of Christ” – – the Catholic Church.  He promises that our labor, especially what we do for Him and for His creations, will not be in vain – – if we persevere with faith, love, and hope till the end:

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”(1 Corinthians 15:58).

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Do you know “the rules” – – personal, profession, relational, and spiritual – – and follow them consistently?  Even the most conscientious among us need sometimes to be reminded of the rules and their importance every now and then.  How we respond to such reminders and “adjustments” reveals our “true” character in oneself and in society.  In today’s Gospel Jesus reproaches the religious leaders and elders for their failure to heed God’s messengers, the prophets.  At this moment, you have an opportunity to consider how you respond to those who are God’s messengers, those who are calling us to adjust our paths in life, and to return to the path leading to our Lord Jesus Christ, the path of faith, of living hope, and of abiding love.

What are some of God’s “rules” that we must follow?  There is a rule book for the Catholic faith: the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”.   Have you ever read one?  Have you ever seen one?  Get one, and become informed.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the importance of listening to God’s “word”.  Our Trinitarian God speaks to us in many ways: through Holy Scripture, through the Sacraments (God’s word in action), through our Church traditions and teachings, and through modern-day prophets and visionaries (those Church approved).  We should be attentive and receptive to God’s “word” – – to us – – through these various “messengers”?

How do we respond to God’s messengers today?  How should we respond to God’s messengers today?  Pray that you will always pay attention to God’s messengers and follow God’s ways.   Let’s start with the “Act of Contrition” for the times when we have not listened to God’s word.

We can (and probably should) expect trials and difficulties as we labor for our Lord Jesus Christ, in doing our daily responsibilities.  We should even expect persecution from those who directly and indirectly oppose God’s kingdom on earth – – JESUS DID!.  I believe this is happening “right now” in our secularized and polarized society.  Being a true, practicing Catholic is not politically correct in the present United States of America!

Just remember, in the end, we will see triumph in, through, and with Jesus Christ.  Question: Do you labor for, – – work for, – – search for, Jesus Christ – – in all endeavors – – with a joyful hope and confidence in His (and YOURS) ultimate victory?  (GO team “God”, GO team “God”!!  Rah, Rah, Rah, God Is Mine!  God is Fine! God is Divine! God is “the vine”!  God is Thine!)

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

 

Act of Contrition

  

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.  Amen.”

 From: http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers

  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

  

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New Translation of the Mass

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

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

 

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

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

  

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Feast of the Guardian Angels

 

Perhaps no aspect of Catholic piety is as comforting to parents as the belief that an angel protects their little ones from dangers real and imagined.  Yet guardian angels are not just for children.  Their role is to represent individuals before God, to watch over them always, to aid their prayer and to present their souls to God at death.

The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it.  Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Devotion to the angels began to develop with the birth of the monastic tradition. St. Benedict (July 11) gave it impetus and Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20), the great 12th-century reformer, was such an eloquent spokesman for the guardian angels that angelic devotion assumed its current form in his day.

A feast in honor of the guardian angels was first observed in the 16th century. In 1615, Pope Paul V added it to the Roman calendar.

Comment:

Devotion to the angels is, at base, an expression of faith in God’s enduring love and providential care extended to each person day in and day out until life’s end.

Quote:

“May the angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs come to welcome you
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.” (Rite for Christian Burial)

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

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

  

Saint Francis and the Sacraments

 

How “Catholic” would you consider Saint Francis?

What behavior does Saint Francis request of us regarding the Eucharist and the Sacred Scripture?

Saint Francis addresses some of his brothers as “priest brothers”.   What does this say of his reverence for his brothers who have been ordained with the Sacrament of the Priesthood?

In praying the “Office” (Prayer of the Church) Saint Francis tells the friars that their HEARTS must be in it (Omn.p.107).  What did Saint Francis mean by this statement?

How prominent a role did the Catholic Church and her practices, such as the Sacraments, play in Saint Francis’ beliefs, teachings, and actions?

  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 2 & 3 of 26:

2.  The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this family circle.  It is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered throughout the world and open to every group of the faithful. In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state. By their profession they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of Saint Francis by means of this rule approved by the Church.

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

 

 

 

 

“Jesus Christ Has Risen Today!” – John 20:1-9†


“Easter Sunday”

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Congratulations to Pope Benedict XVI on his elevation to Bishop of Rome, and Vicar of Christ, six years ago today. May his role as shepherd and teacher of the faithful bring all of us to a greater understanding of Jesus’ love, trust, promises, and magnificently splendid paradise on earth and in heaven.

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We had two tornadoes on Good Friday evening in the St. Louis Area. One missed my home by no more than a mile (literally). It was a pretty scary moment. We were in the basement and I glanced over to see me 11 year old praying the rosary quietly. I felt so good in knowing that he has gained an appreciation for our heavenly mother’s care in his life.

The tornadoes created a large amount of damage, and even damaged “Lambert Field”, our Metropolitan St. Louis airport was not sparred. Aa an example, a transport van with four passengers was literally picked up by the twister and placed on a wall of a parking structure, perched over a fall of several stories. We had no deaths due to the weather, and very few significant injuries. What a miracle in this devastation. Thank You Lord.

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 Today in Catholic History:

† 624 – Death of Mellitus, third Archbishop of Canterbury
† 709 – Death of Wilfrid, English archbishop and saint
† 729 – Death of Egbert[us], English bishop/saint, dies in Iona at age 89
† 858 – Nicolaas I succeeds Benedict III as pope
† 1342 – Pope Benedict XII (b. 1285)
† 1364 – Pope Urbabus V names John V van Virneburg as bishop of Utrecht
† 1581 – Birth of Vincent de Paul, French saint (d. 1660)
† 1622 – Death of Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Swiss friar, martyr, and saint (b. 1577)
† 1910 – German Catholic youth movement Quickborn forms
† 2005 – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is inaugurated as the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church taking the name Pope Benedict XVI.

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

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection is about Mary of Magdala finding that the stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb.

(NAB John 20:1-9) 1 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

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Today we begin the Easter Season, a 50-day period of meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. (Yep, Easter lasts for nearly two more months.) Today’s Gospel reading relates the discovery of the empty tomb. It ends by telling us that Jesus’ friends, His disciples, did not yet understand that Jesus had actually “Rose” from the dead at this point.

The story of the empty tomb can be found in both the Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, along with John’s, presented today. However, for me, John’s version seems to be a fusion or blending of both Matthew and Luke’s. (Sorry Mark, you had a Resurrection narrative as well, but John seemed to ignore yours.)

I believe John’s narrative details are not necessarily meant to offer proof of Jesus’ Resurrection happening on that “Easter” Sunday morning. After all, he writes with a poetic and revelational “conceptual thought” and writing style in order to make a specific point – – a Van Gough sort of style in creating an image. His unique style of relating detail invites each of us to reflect upon a most amazing grace; a grace founded in a faith in Jesus Christ and in His Resurrection.

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The disciples thought that everything had ended in the tragic events with Jesus’ death. He was dead, wrapped in a burial shroud, and secured in a tomb. It seemed the only thing yet to do was to finish the preparation of His body for final internment.

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb while, “still dark” to finish preparing the body for a final burial. John’s Gospel has the time as “still dark”. Mark has the sun already raised. And Matthew describes the day as just “dawning,” and Luke’s book refers to the time as being “at daybreak”, an early dawn.

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1);

Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.” (Mark 16:2);

And,

At daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 24:1).

Each of these words or phrases – – “was dawning”, “sun had risen”, “at daybreak”, and “still dark” – – are simply subjective statement’s about the day beginning, probably around 6 AM.

All four Gospels tell us that Jesus’ empty tomb was first discovered by “women”.

Matthew – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
Mark – Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
Luke – The women who had come from Galilee with Him
John – Mary of Magdala

John uses the plural “we” in the second part of Mary Magdalene’s announcement to Simon Peter and the other disciples:

They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” (John 20:2).

This plural word, “we”, might reflect a Jewish tradition of women going to the tomb as a group. Solely for safety reasons, I am sure women did not travel without company throughout the countryside of first century Palestine.

This is notable because in first-century Jewish society women could not serve as legal witnesses. A woman’s role was literally to give birth, (preferably to a male heir), and to take care of all the household activities. In fact, women were considered less tangible than the livestock of the area. There were NO equal rights in first century Palestine!! So, to mention women in this special way was quite broadminded and freethinking in ideology for the time period.

As just stated, in John’s Gospel, the only woman attending the tomb is “Mary of Magdala”. Magdala was a small city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about three miles north of Tiberias. Mary [Magdalene] arrives at the tomb, and sees the stone removed. In John’s Gospel, she does not go into the tomb (in others, she does), so she does not know with absolute certainty whether are not the tomb is empty. My question is: “Where are the Soldiers?” (I surmise that they ran off with the appearance of the angels and the Risen Jesus Christ.)

Is there a significance of the stone being rolled away from the tomb entrance? Well, for one thing, – – a significant matter of fact – – it was extremely heavy! It would have taken several strong people to roll away such a stone from its place of function, sealing the tomb entrance. It would either have to be a group effort, or of divine origin to move the large stone.

Unlike the Synoptic accounts, John’s Gospel does not describe an appearance of angels at the tomb for the Gospel reading at Mass. (A reference to angels show up in John’s Gospel at John 20:12.) Instead, Mary naturally assumes that Jesus’ body had been removed, stolen. Please realize, at this point she did not consider that Jesus has been raised from the dead. So seeing the stone moved, she ran away from the tomb and back to the disciples, the people she trusted.

Mary Magdalene is the first to report the startling news of the empty tomb! In John’s version, she is not as directed to go tell others by an angel or young man, as is written in all the synoptic accounts.

Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7);

“On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”‘” (Mark 16:5-7);

and

“While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.” (Luke 24:4,9).

I was once told by a priest friend (Yes, this is not an oxymoron term. Priests can have friends per Canon Law.) of mine about a linkage or comparison between Jesus’ closed tomb and Mary, His mother. As Mary’s virginal womb was closed, so was the tomb closed. Yet Jesus entered the world through her closed womb, and He left the world through the closed tomb.

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Simon Peter, and Jesus’ “beloved disciple” (John, this Gospel writer) raced to the tomb in order to verify Mary’s report of His disappearance. The “beloved disciple” arrives first at the tomb first, but does not enter until after Simon Peter arrives and enters before him. His hesitation paints a vivid picture, as does the detail provided about the burial cloths. Did John wait out of fear, not being the first one going into an unknown event? Or, was John waiting out of respect, knowing that Peter was now the earthly leader, the first Pope?

John states that the special feature about the status of the burial cloths, the way they were found in the tomb, caused the “beloved disciple [John] to believe.”

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.” (John 20:6-8).

I see something in the details of Jesus’ burial clothes placement in the tomb. The burial wraps were discarded without concern. However, the “cloth placed over Jesus’ head at His burial, I believe was His Tallit – – His prayer garment or robe. This special and revered item was carefully, reverently, and meticulously folded (or rolled) and then placed carefully on the hewn rock ledge Jesus’ body was placed upon.

For the pious Jewish person, the Tallit with attached Tzitzit (the four knotted strings; one at each corner), was (and still is today) considered as sacred and uniquely special to them, as the Holy Eucharist is for us Catholics. To the pious Jewish person, it is the “true” physical presence of God’s soul, divinity, and promises – – and not just a representation or symbol.

Perhaps the details of the tomb description, in John’s Gospel, leads one to recognize the grave had not been robbed. Some scholars believe the presence of the burial cloths in the tomb offers essential evidence that Jesus’ body could not have been stolen. Grave robbers would most certainly take the burial cloths along with the body. The wrappings would make it easier to carry the body. The wrappings would keep all the valuables with the body. And, any tomb raider would not waste their time removing all the wrappings, increasing time at the scene and their chance of getting caught.

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The last verse of today’s reading was thought inspiring for me:

For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

For John, this verse was probably a general reference to some specific and intended Holy Scripture verses. I can think of two in the New Testament, and several from the Old Testament (there are probably many more):

Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26);

“… that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:4);

For you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit.” (Psalm 16:10);

He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence.” (Hosea 6:2);

And,

But the LORD sent a large fish, that swallowed Jonah; and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From the belly of the fish Jonah said this prayer to the LORD, his God. But I, with resounding praise, will sacrifice to you; What I have vowed I will pay: deliverance is from the LORD.” (Jonah 2:1, 2, 10).

The last verse concludes with a perplexing message, for me at least. Even after having seen the empty tomb and the burial cloths, Jesus’ disciples still did not yet understand about Jesus’ Resurrection. In the passages immediately following this Gospel reading, Mary of Magdala encounters the “Risen” Jesus, yet mistakes Him for a simple gardener. How could she mistake a person, she had grown to love in such a very special and intimate way, for being a stranger? Was His physical presence changed that much? Obviously, she was not yet prepared to meet the “Risen” Lord who revealed Himself to her while she later lingered in the garden near the tomb (cf., John 20:11-18).

Is it significant that ALL the disciples had to deal first with the empty tomb before they could start to understand Holy Scripture’s foretelling that Jesus would die for our sins and then rise on the third day? Is it significant that they ALL disbelieved until after they saw the empty tomb? I cannot answer these questions; Can you?

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John the Evangelist, “the beloved disciple of Jesus”, wrote his Gospel as an eye-witness to the “Word of God” becoming flesh, living among us in human form, and dying and rising, solely for OUR salvation.

John was the only Apostle who stood with Jesus at the foot of the cross. He was the only Apostle who witnessed Jesus’ death on that day we now know as “Good Friday”. John, together with Simon Peter, was the first Apostle to see the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning.

What did John see in the tomb that led him to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus? It wasn’t a dead body for there wasn’t one. It was the absence of a “dead body” that allowed him to believe. In reality, the presence of Jesus’ dead body would have disproven the Resurrection prophesies. His body being present in the tomb would have made Jesus’ death simply, and no more than a tragic conclusion to a stupendous career as a great teacher, healer, and miracle worker. When John saw the empty tomb he should have certainly recalled Jesus’ prophecies that He would rise again after three days – – “to rebuild His Church in three days” (John 2:19). Through the grace of faith, trust, and love, John realized that no tomb could contain Jesus Christ, Our Savior and life giver.

In the weeks ahead, the Gospel readings from our liturgy – – our Mass – – will show us how the disciples came to believe in Jesus’ Resurrection, over a period of time, through His various appearances to them, individually and in groups. Our Easter faith is based on their witness to both the empty tomb and their continuing relationship with Jesus—in His appearances and in His gift of the Holy Spirit to all of them (and us), individually and personally.

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In summary, today’s Gospel reading relates how the disciples found the tomb empty three days after Jesus’ death. Also related to us, is that they did not yet understand the Holy Scriptures or that Jesus had been truly “raised” from the dead. This understanding of the Scriptures and Jesus’ Resurrection gradually unfolded (grew) for the disciples as they began to experience the “Risen” Lord in His many appearances to them and others.

Similarly, our understanding of Jesus’ Resurrection unfolds (grows) for us throughout our lives and experiences. In the weeks ahead, we will see and come to understand, how the first of His disciples moved from confusion, doubt, and skepticism to one of faith, trust, and hope in Jesus Christ. These first disciples events and experiences can teach each of us how we also might receive this gift, – – this grace, – – of faith, trust, and hope from God.

Reflect on what you know about the events surrounding Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem for the Passover meal, His arrest, His trial, His scourging, His crucifixion, and His Resurrection. Imagine being among Jesus’ first disciples. If you had been there and heard that the stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb entrance and that Jesus’ body was no longer there, what would you have thought? What did Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter, and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” think had happened to Jesus’ body?

Remember that this experience was the first indication to His disciples, that Jesus had “Risen”. So, just as the first disciples learned over a period of time, we also, throughout this Easter season will learn more about how to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

The reality of Jesus’ Resurrection is the prime, central, and essential fact of OUR Catholic faith. The greatest joy we can have is to encounter our living Lord – – Jesus Christ – – in an individual and personal way.

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“Catholic Collect for Easter Sunday”

God our Father,
by raising Christ your Son
you conquered the power of death
and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Let our celebration today raise us up
and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL)

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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New Translation of the Mass

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

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

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

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

The Gloria

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622)

If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint’s life.

Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed “the poor man’s lawyer,” Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor.

As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. Once, during a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers.

He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions.

He was accused of opposing the peasants’ national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God’s hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed.

He was canonizefd in 1746. Fifteen yers later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.

Comment:

Fidelis’s constant prayer was that he be kept completely faithful to God and not give in to any lukewarmness or apathy. He was often heard to exclaim, “Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.” His prayer against apathy, and his concern for the poor and weak make him a saint whose example is valuable today. The modern Church is calling us to follow the example of “the poor man’s lawyer” by sharing ourselves and our talents with those less fortunate and by working for justice in the world.

Quote:

“Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation” (“Justice in the World,” Synod of Bishops, 1971).

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

The TAU

How do I view the TAU? What significance does it contain for me?
How can the TAU be a focus of MY prayers for meditation and contemplation?
In what ways do I explain to others the meaning and purpose of the TAU in the life of SFO members?
What is the symbolism of the shape of the tau when related to the “habit” Francis adopted for his way of life (which the Franciscan Friars still use today)?

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

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

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

“Lazarus Came Out Of the Tomb and Saw His Shadow. We Now Have Two More Weeks Of Lent!” – John 11:1-45†


 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

Today’s Content:

  

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Yippee, the Government did not screech to a halt in such a way as to throw the earth off its rotational axis, as many feared.  Yet sadly, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) caved in on his promise to defund Planned Parenthood.  Anti-abortion lawmakers did succeed however in blocking taxpayer-funded abortions in the District of Columbia (only 50 States to go).  

President Obama succeeded in forcing Boehner, and other Republicans in Congress, to cave in on dozens of items including Planned Parenthood, while protecting favored programs like education, clean energy and medical research.  Representative Boehner, I consider defunding Planned Parenthood as a favored endeavor, and of the utmost urgency!

Yes, the mutually agreed upon bill will remove close to $40 billion from the day-to-day budgets of certain domestic agencies over six months, – – the biggest rollback of such government programs in history.  And yes, it will put the Cabinet operating budgets on a track closer to levels before President Obama took office in 2009.  Yet we (the USA) are throwing God’s miracle in trashcans 3700 times daily, 1.37 million yearly (42 million worldwide)!  Again, how SAD!!

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    
†   847 – St Leo IV begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1512 – Pope Julius II opens 5th Council of Lateranen
†   1585 – Death of Gregory XIII,  [Ugo Buoncampagni], (b. 1502), Italian Pope (1572-85)
†   1704 – Death of William Egon of Fürstenberg, Bishop of Strassburg (b. 1629)
†   1821 – Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople is hanged by the Turks from the main gate of the Patriarchate and his body is thrown into the Bosphorus.
†   1921 – Birth of Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Fulbert of Chartres; James, Azadanus and Abdicius; Saint Paternus

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

 

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Joke of the Day:

 

Ben: Dad, why doesn’t the bible say anything about the other three persons that Jesus raised from the dead at the same time as Lazarus?

Dad: Where did you learn that there were three other persons? Lazarus was the only one in that bible story.

Ben: Well Dad, in the bible it says that there were at least four people.

Dad: Where does it say that in the bible?

Ben: Right here Dad (showing him his bible), it says “Lazarus came forth”!

 

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Today’s reflection is about the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

 

 (NAB John 11:1-45) 1 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.  3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”  4 When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.  7 Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”  8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”  9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day?  If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  10 But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”  11 He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”  12 So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”  13 But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.  14 So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died.  15 And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.”  16 So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”  17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.  19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.  20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.  21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  22 (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”  24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”  25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”  28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”  29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.  30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.  31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”  35 And Jesus wept.  36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”  37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”  38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.  39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”  41 So they took away the stone.  And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.  42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.  So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”  45 Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

 

Today’s the second longest continuous Gospel narrative in John’s Gospel read at Mass throughout the Liturgical year.  The only Gospel reading longer is the passion narrative.  This reading invites us to reflect upon what it means to call Jesus the “Resurrection and the life”.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead is also the climax of Jesus’ signs (miracles) before His own death and resurrection.  This Gospel reading directly leads up to the decision by the Sanhedrin to eliminate (kill) Jesus out of fear and jealousy and precipitated the literal fulfillment of Hebrew prophesies found in Isaiah and elsewhere.

A theme of “life” predominates throughout this reading.  Lazarus (His name means “God is my help”) is a symbol of the real “life” that Jesus – – through His death and resurrection – – will give to all who believe in Him.  Just think of the irony in the Lazarus story: Jesus’ gift of life to His friend (and to all of us) will ultimately and directly lead to His own death on the Holy Tree of redemption.

Through Lazarus’ sickness and subsequent death, God brought glory in, and to, Jesus, His only begotten Son.  Jesus, who raised His friend from the dead, did so in an anticipation of His own death and resurrection.  We should remember these two events (Lazarus’s and Jesus’ resurrections) this week in our participation at the Eucharist, which was given to us as a foretaste of Jesus’ “transfiguration” of OUR bodies, at the Parousia, His appearing and full presence – – His second coming. 

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The background of today’s story, – – the raising of Lazarus, – – is the Jewish leaders’ growing animosity toward Jesus.  He had been in Jerusalem, taking part in the “feast of the Dedication”, which we now call, “Hanukkah”, the “feast of Lights”.  The Jewish people had been pushing him to declare plainly whether or not He was the true “Messiah” prophesized.  Jesus tells them to look to His works (and not faith alone), which will testify to His coming from God (for our sake).  Many do not believe Jesus, and a number of them try to stone Him for the [false] sin/crime of “blasphemy”, claiming equality with God the Father.

While Jesus is evading those choosing to do Him harm, word is sent to Him that His friend is ill; yet He delays His journey, purposefully, for two days.  The delay heightens the drama when He eventually arrives in Bethany.  The delay also shows Jesus’ obedience to God, who is to be glorified through Jesus’ delay and Lazarus’s eventual resurrection.  

 

The story of the raising of Lazarus is not found verbatim in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  However, Luke does record another example of Jesus Christ demonstrating His compassion and His divine authority over life and death, as found in Luke 7:11-17: 

“Soon afterward he journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.  As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  A large crowd from the city was with her.  When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’  He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’  The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, ‘A great prophet has arisen in our midst,’ and ‘God has visited his people.’  This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.” (Luke 7:11-17).  

There is another parallel between the Lazarus story and Luke’s parable of the rich man and a “poor man” also named Lazarus:

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.  When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’  Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.  Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’  He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’  But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’  He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.‘” (Luke 16:19-31).

In both stories, a man named Lazarus dies.  However, in Luke, there is a request that Lazarus return from the dead in order to convince his contemporaries of the need for faith and repentance, while in John, Lazarus does return inspiring a belief in the resurrection, and in Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”, in some among them.

 

Bethany was “about two miles” from Jerusalem as stated in verse 18 of today’s reading.  In the original Greek, it was actually about fifteen “stades“.  A stade was a measurement of 607 feet, so with using simple math, this would equate to 9105 feet, or just a tad bit over 1.7 miles.  (Yes, I do love math, and yes I can be a little type “A” when it comes to the subject of math.)

Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters as dear friends, and He often stayed in their home at Bethany.  So, why did Jesus delay in coming to Lazarus’ side when He knew that His friend was gravely ill?

In verse 4, upon hearing of Lazarus’s malady, Jesus says his illness “is not to end in death”.  Do you think this statement was misunderstood by Jesus’ disciples as referring to a “physical”, human death of the body?  In reality, Jesus meant a “NOT – – ending in death”, referring to another kind of death: spiritual death.     

Jesus’ two day delay must have confused and mystified His followers.  However, they seem to be more startled and upset when Jesus finally announced that He was going to Bethany, a town very close in proximity to Jerusalem.  They saw this action as a “suicide” mission of sorts.  Jesus’ followers (and most certainly Jesus) knew the religious authorities (the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) were set on eliminating the threat to them from Jesus.  

For Jesus to come to a place as dangerous for Him as Jerusalem was, at this Passover time was, an act of courage and an act of total trust and love in His heavenly Father.  Jesus’ explanation given to His disciples was simple and challenging at the same time:

“Are there not twelve hours in the day?” (John 11:9)

To paraphrase (a potentially dangerous thing to do with Holy Scripture), Jesus said: “There are enough hours in the day to do what one must do.”  A day, in a chronological form, can never be shortened, lengthened, hurried, or slowed, for it is a fixed period of measurement.  We each have our “day”, or “time”, whether it be short or long (even if it is only “15 minutes of fame”), if we look at a “day” as in the sequential form. 

While time is limited chronologically, there is always enough time for us to accomplish what God intends for us to finish.  Remember, God knows all, and gives each of us an allotted measure of human – – mortal – – life to do what is our part of God’s plan.  So, the choice for us is either to waste it through personal self-gratification, or use it to the greatest ability for God’s glory in all we do and say. 

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Lazarus was “sick”.  Sickness can befall us for a variety of reasons.   Jesus attributed Lazarus’ sickness to the glory of God.  The glory which Jesus had in mind, however, was connected with the Holy Cross – – The Holy Tree of Redemption.   He saw the Holy Cross as His supreme glory – – and the path to glory in the kingdom of God.  For Jesus there was no other path to glory except through the cross; this was God the Father’s plan for salvation, for Jesus Himself, for the whole family of Abraham, and for all people of all nations.. 

Jesus knew that if He went to help Lazarus He would expose himself to grave danger from those in Jerusalem who were plotting His destruction.  Jesus was willing to pay that price to help His friend; to give His life for another.  Jesus would explicitly declare this truth in what would be written a few chapters later in John’s Gospel:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Are you ready to give help – – to give your own life – – for your friend?  That may seem like a relatively easy thing to do (emphasis is on the word “may”!).  Now, let me throw out the proverbial “ringer”: as a Catholic, as a Christian, are you ready to give help? – – to give your own life? – – for one’s enemy?!! 

Jesus did not segregate the two groups; and neither should we!

 

Jesus did not let circumstances or pressure dictate what He would do.  Nor did He permit others to determine His actions or plan for salvation.  He took actions on His own initiative and on His own schedule.  How often do we try to get God to do things in our way and on our self-determined period of time?  One of my favorite old-time sayings which I just made up is:

“We are on God’s time, and His pocket watch sticks occasionally!” (DEH, 2011) 

 

Let’s go back to the reference about 12 hours in a day.  Both the Romans and the Jews divided the day into twelve equal hours from sunrise to sunset.  We would think of this division as starting around 6 AM and ending at 6 PM – – in accord with God’s natural sequence of light and dark.  The day’s work and travel ceased when the daylight was gone – – when darkness fell over the earth.  Jesus made a spiritual analogy using this concept of light and dark in our relationship with God. 

Jesus is the “Light of the World”!  He is the Son Shine that makes the Sunshine.  Remember the words, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).  For those who do not believe in Him, “the light is not in him”!  In the pre-modern scientific world of Jesus’ time, people apparently did not understand clearly the concept of light entering through the eye.  They seem to have thought of light as being in the eye, as illustrated in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels:

If your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.  And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.” (Matthew 6:23).

And,

The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness.” (Luke 11:34);

While the light of Christ is with us, and actually within us and surrounding us, then, as Paul says, we must live and walk in the truth and grace of His life, which is His light within us.  Sometimes the light within us is darkness when we are not following Jesus Christ as we should, and we then experience the need to be reconciled with God the Father.  There’s a perfect time to be reconciled with God – – NOW!!   

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When Jesus announced that when He was going to the region of Jerusalem after hearing of Lazarus’ death, Thomas showed remarkable courage, as shown in His words recorded by John:

Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.” (John 11:16)

This courage, however, was not tempered with faith, trust, and hope in God’s promise to bring a victory out of defeat – – a resurrection out of death.  The proof for this statement is that even though Thomas was a witness to Lazarus’ resurrection, he later abandoned his master, teacher, and dear friend when Jesus was arrested.  He doubted his master’s resurrection until Jesus appeared to him and showed him, directly, the wounds in His hands, feet, and side.  (Hence, how the origin of the description “Doubting Thomas” came about.).  

It is through faith, courage, trust, and love that we get the strength we need to persist through any worldly trial and/or suffering which confronts us in this human and mortal exile.  If we embrace our personal crosses with faith, courage, trust, and love in God, we too will have the assurance that we will see victory and glory made possible through Jesus Christ, our personal and familial Savior.

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When Martha and Mary met Jesus with weeping, they declared to Him that if He had been there, their brother Lazarus would not have died.  They also expressed confidence and faith that God would do whatever Jesus would ask NOW.  They TRUSTED God!  They still TRUSTED Jesus Christ!  They clearly affirmed their belief in Jesus Christ and in the resurrection of the dead “in the last days”.

Martha says that she believes Jesus to be “the Messiah”, “the Son of God”, and “the One”.   All of these titles from verse 27 are a summary of the titles given to Jesus found in all the Gospels.  As in any good book (get the pun), there is always a summary of facts just prior to the climax of the story.  The use of these titles summarizes Jesus’ role as the “one” prophesized by Moses, coming to save the “chosen” people of God.

 

Interestingly for me, the shocking phrase, “became perturbed”, in the original Greek, literally means “He snorted in spirit“.  Jesus’ “snort” is defined by Encarta Dictionary as a harsh sound produced by forcing air through the nostrils in order to express feelings, especially feelings of contempt or impatience.  Jesus’ contemporaries were upset with His delay and His slow arrival in Bethany.  But, Jesus too, was upset.  He was obviously impatient at the presence of the evil of physical death present at this scene, and at the “professional” mourners who came from Jerusalem to cry attentively at Lazarus’ tomb.  You know the old adage, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature”, and I think it is even more ill-advised to get Jesus “perturbed” at you!  A perturbed Jesus may even trump a perturbed wife; something I personally know well (without even trying most times)!

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Throughout all four Gospels, Jesus regularly refers to God as His “Father”, a translation of the Aramaic word, “abba”.  Jesus regularly addresses God with a concept of filial intimacy as a son’s relationship with, and feelings toward, His parent.  The word “abba” seems not to have been regularly used in earlier or contemporaneous Jewish sources to address God.  Other occurrences of this Aramaic word are only found in the New Testament, in the books of Romans and Galatians:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:15);

And,

As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6)

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Jesus asks to be brought to Lazarus’s tomb where He prays and calls Lazarus out from the tomb.  At this sign, – – this miracle – – many come to believe in Jesus, but others take word of the miracle to the Jewish authorities, who begin their plans for Jesus’ death.

Our Lord “cried out in a loud voice” and Lazarus came out of the tomb.  In the drama of this event, I think back to an earlier verse in John’s Gospel:

The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” (John 5:28)

Lazarus was still wrapped in his burial strips, and his face was still covered.  This man could not remove his bindings, nor could he remove what blinded him.  He needed the assistance of another, Jesus Christ, to remove his darkness and oppressive wrappings.  SO DO WE!!

In a short time, Jesus Himself will be wrapped in bindings and a cloth will be placed over His face.  However, in three days, those bindings will be found in His rock-hewed tomb untied.  Their magnificent Lord and Savior vanished from the tomb.  The cloth that was draped over His face (I believe it was the tallit, a Jewish religious prayer shawl/robe) was found folded and placed carefully (and reverently) on the shelf which Jesus laid upon, while dead.

 

What a stark difference between the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus Christ.  Lazarus was resurrected to fulfill Jesus’ ministry, God’s plan of salvation for him.  Jesus was resurrected to fulfill completely God’s plan of salvation and redemption for all of us.  

Remember, Lazarus needed help to remove his oppressive and sight-blinding bindings.  Jesus is the “authority” who instructed others to remove such bindings from Lazarus.  He will do the same for us as we allow Him more fully into our lives.   Jesus Christ is the “light of the world” who will open our eyes to the beauty of God’s creation, here on earth, and in heaven.  (Never to be blinded again.)

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Lazarus may be the luckiest and most blessed person that I can think of right now.  He had a personal, direct, and physical relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ on a daily basis.  Yet, why can’t we as well?  He lives in us in the form of the Holy Spirit, and we can personally, directly, and physically receive Him in the Eucharist at Mass and at Eucharistic Adoration on a daily basis.

Lazarus also gets to experience the gift and beauty of resurrection to bodily form twice.  He experienced a bodily resurrection, as reported in this story; and will again experience a bodily resurrection, at the Parousia.  Twice, he will experience a unique, personal, and extreme love which is emitting from his Creator and Redeemer – – Jesus Christ!  We will be privileged to experience this grace once, yet he gets a double dose!  You know what?  Once will be good enough for me!  And, in a sense, I can’t wait!  (I hope my ticket is stamped “non-smoking”, – – and is up-front, first class.  I’ve had enough of coach.)

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Set against the background of Jesus’ looming death, many elements of the raising of Lazarus prefigure the “good news” of Jesus’ own Resurrection.  Soon to face the tension and clash with Jewish authorities, Jesus acts in complete obedience to God the Father.  In raising Lazarus, Jesus shows His power over death so that when Jesus dies, those who believe in Him might remember, and take hope in His promises.  Just as Jesus calls for the stone to be rolled away from Lazarus’s tomb, so too will the disciples find the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.

Today, reflect on Baptism as a dying and rising with Jesus.  In Baptism we die to sin’s power over us, rising as children of God.  In Baptism, Jesus joins us to Himself.  As He conquered death once and for all so that we – – who believe in him – – may have eternal life, we are freed from fear of death.  With Martha and Mary, we are called to profess our belief that Jesus is indeed the Resurrection for each of us personally.  Our future will be enjoying completely the unending life in His light.

 

In Summary, Jesus’ promise of eternal life is a fundamental element of our Catholic faith.  Today’s Gospel reading encourages us to recognize, accept, and respond to Jesus’ triumph, power, and victory over death as demonstrated in the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  During this Lenten Season, we need to anticipate and to praise in Jesus conquering death – – once and for all – – by His own dying (never to be repeated), and by His Rising (in a miracle), which each of us will experience on that glorious day, the Parousia.  

We sometimes use examples from nature to help describe this miracle, this gift, this mystery of our faith.  Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself talked about the seed that dies when planted in the ground in order to produce new life:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24).

Using this image of the “grain of wheat dying to produce much fruit”, we find hope and confidence in “Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life”.

Remember Jesus’ promise from today’s Gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  What does Jesus mean by this promise in your life?  Are you confident in this promise from Jesus Christ?  Pray that you will be, and will remain confident in Jesus’ promise of eternal life.  Remember what Pope St. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:3-4: It is by believing “the precious and very great promises” that we “participate in the divine nature” of God.  (We call this Sanctifying Grace.)

The Christian creed, which is the profession of our faith, is a profession, a belief, in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and in the saving power of the Holy Trinity as demonstrated in the Resurrection of Jesus the Son.  That’s why we also proclaim a belief in a resurrection of the dead on the last day, and in an everlasting life.  This IS OUR faith and hope:  This is a biblically based statement of faith declared through today’s Gospel:

“If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11).

God gives us the power of His Holy Spirit that we may be made alive in the light of Jesus Christ.  Through the Holy Spirit, we can even experience the power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in our personal lives – – NOW – – even today!  The Holy Spirit is ever ready to change, to convert, and to transform us into people of faith, hope, and love; into faith filled sons and daughters.  Amen, and Amen.

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The Creed

(From the “New” Missal starting with Advent, 2011)

 

 

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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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.

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

“And with your spirit

instead of “And also with you”.

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

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Magdalen of Canossa (1774-1835)

 

Wealth and privilege did nothing to prevent today’s saint from following her calling to serve Christ in the poor.  Nor did the protests of her relatives, concerned that such work was beneath her.

Born in northern Italy in 1774, Magdalen knew her mind—and spoke it.  At age 15 she announced she wished to become a nun.  After trying out her vocation with the cloistered Carmelites, she realized her desire was to serve the needy without restriction.  For years she worked among the poor and sick in hospitals and in their homes and among delinquent and abandoned girls.

In her mid-twenties Magdalen began offering lodging to poor girls in her own home.  In time she opened a school, which offered practical training and religious instruction.  As other women joined her in the work, the new Congregation of the Daughters of Charity emerged.  Over time, houses were opened throughout Italy.

Members of the new religious congregation focused on the educational and spiritual needs of women.  Magdalen also founded a smaller congregation for priests and brothers.  Both groups continue to this day.

She died in 1835. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1988.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Sickness/Death

 

What impression is created by St. Francis calling death his “sister”?  How did St. Francis face death?  What was his mindset?

How does St. Francis’ attitude toward sickness and death compare to your own, and/or the Catholic Church’s?

Why do we act sometimes as if it’s not right that we should be getting sick?

What virtues does Francis ask us to practice when we are sick?

Why do Christians sometimes have the idea that sickness is a punishment for having done things wrong?  Some seem to say: “If I do not picture myself as a big sinner, why should I be suffering this way”? (Reflect on Jesus’ powerful message to the apostles in John’s Gospel, chap.9:3.)

 

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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.

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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.

“Hey Steve, Let’s Get Stoned!” – Acts 7:51-60†


I want to wish a very happy and blessed birthday to a woman I have grown to love.  I think I have read nearly all her books.  This woman raised herself up and out of despair and poverty, to become a poor and simple woman doing God’s work on earth; and doing it exceptionally well: Happy Birthday Mother Angelica.  May you have a blessed day.

Today in Catholic History:
570 – Birth of Muhammed, founder of Islam (d. 632) (date disputed)
1303 – The University of Rome La Sapienza is instituted by Pope Boniface VIII.
1314 – Death of Pope Clement V (b. 1264)
1586 – Birth of Saint Rose of Lima, Peruvian saint (d. 1617)
1923 – Birth of Mother Angelica, American nun and broadcaster
    

Today’s reflection is about the stoning of Stephen.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. — Eleanor Roosevelt
  

Today’s Meditation:
    

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors.  Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.  You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”  When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.  But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.  As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”   Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.  (NAB Acts 7:51-60)
     

Israel had generations of resistance to God’s word.  God repeatedly sent prophets to correct their ways, but the Jewish people rejected, persecuted, and murdered the prophets.  There seemed to be in a constant cycle of reverence, then immoral acts leading to destruction or capture.  Then prophets proclaim the fruits of following God’s laws with limited results for long periods.  Finally, the people ask for forgiveness and redemption, which is gained through sacrifice and prayer.  The Jewish people are forgiven and live in peace, harmony, and in the presence of God in a reverent manner; only to repeat the cycle again and again (I believe seven times).    

Stephen affirms to the Sanhedrin that the prophecy Jesus made before them had been fulfilled (see Mark 14:62): Jesus died, and was resurrected on the third day.  His church was torn down (His death on the cross), and was rebuilt in three days (with His resurrection).  The location of God’s “glory” is in heaven with the risen Christ, rather than in the Jewish Temple made by humans.

 The reason they covered your ears, is that Stephen’s declaration, like that of Jesus, is a scandal to the court which regards Stephen’s declaration as blasphemy.  I can picture them all acting like little children with their eyes closed tightly, hands firmly over their ears, looking downwards, and yelling “nani, nani, nani”.   

Stephen is taken outside the city, because any death makes the ground it occurs on as “unclean.”  No one, the Jewish people nor the roman officials, would ever think of making a planned murder on sacred ground.  Murder, in whatever form, is also death to a sacred life from God.  The location of murder is irrelevant to me.  Even in this present era, people are still purposely murdered.  Sacred lives are destroyed out of our immoral thoughts that “this” life is unnecessary or a hassle.  Abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty are all offenses against this sacred life, and are wrong!

Stephen was destined to be our Church’s first martyr.  This man chosen to feed the elderly widows and other members of the Church of Christ is being killed for his faith by a mob.  Stephen sees Jesus standing with God as he is being persecuted.  Stephen is literally walking in Jesus’ footsteps. 

The word “standing” may refer to Jesus’ welcome to his martyr in an individual way.  It is a variation of Jesus sitting at Gods right hand.  When you go to a friend’s house, how much warmer is the welcome when you are met at the door, or on the porch, with a smile and handshake from the home owner.  I think this is what Jesus is doing:  standing on the porch, welcoming Stephen to His abode.

Witnesses” hardly would be probable in a lynching.  These “witness participants” were probably people caught up in the mob hysteria present, and probably threw a stone or two at Stephen.  I wonder how they felt afterwards: was there any remorse?  Stephen forgave them before they even asked; did any ask God for forgiveness?

In the crowd was a young man that will become one of the greatest figures and disciples of the Catholic Church.  This man, at this time, is a strong and devout Jew, who hates any heresy to the current Jewish faith: Saul.  Saul’s presence appears at the precise point when the Churches mission moves outward from Jerusalem to the Gentile world.

“Jesus, I am in awe at the piety of the early followers of your disciples.  Please give me the grace of these early Church Fathers.  I so want to live and die in you presence and love.  Amen.”
   

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Marian
    

When St. Mamertinus was Abbot of the monastery which St. Germanus had founded at Auxerre, there came to him a young man called Marcian (also known as Marian), a fugitive from Bourges then occupied by the Visigoths. St. Mamertinus gave him the habit, and the novice edified all his piety and obedience. The Abbot, wishing to test him, gave him the lowest possible post – that of cowman and shepherd in the Abbey farm at Merille. Marcian accepted the work cheerfully, and it was noticed that the beast under his charge throve and multified astonishingly. He seemed to have a strange power over all animals. The birds flocked to eat out of his hands: bears and wolves departed at his command; and when a hunted wild boar fled to him for protection, he defended it from its assailants and set it free. After his death, the Abbey took the name of the humble monk. His feast day is April 20th

(From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
   

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #20:
   

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

“Hey Man, Want To Get Stoned! “-Jn 8:1-7†


On this day in 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led 3,200 people on the start of the third and finally successful civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama; and in 1980, J.R. Ewing was shot by an unseen assailant, leading to the catchphrase “Who Shot JR?”
 

Spring is officially here for a day or two now.  It seems it is more wintery today in St. Louis than it was a week ago.  Hopefully, the overcast and rainy weather leaves soon.  I NEED SUN!
 

Today’s reflection is of Jesus saving the woman that committed adultery from death by stoning.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

“Don’t do anything to defend yourself; bear everything with humility; God Himself will defend you”.
 

Today’s Meditation:

 

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them.  Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.  They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?”  They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.  But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  (NAB Jn 8:1-7)

 

The Mount of Olives:  to me, this was Jesus’ place of refuge and prayer towards the end of His earthly ministry. This was His place to go when He wanted to be closer to God, just as Eucharistic adoration at my parish church is for me.   Significant covenants and events involved some type of exposure to mountains.  Noah’s ‘Ark’ landed on had Mount Ararat.  Abraham was tested on Mount Moriah with the sacrifice of Isaac (that was stopped prior to executing).  Moses spent forty days on Mount Horab (twice) to receive the Ten Commandments (twice).  And Jesus was “Transfigured” earlier on Mount Tabor.

Jesus’ opponents attempted to set a trap in this gospel reading.  Jesus knew the law well, and knew the Old Testament even better.  Leviticus 20:10 and Deut 22:22 mention only death, but Deuteronomy 22:23-24 prescribed stoning for a betrothed virgin.  The law dictated death, but Jesus knew that punishment by death was not for us on earth to decide.  Only one being is the judge of who dies, and who doesn’t; God!  Here that politicians: only God decides who dies!  Jesus’ own mother could have very well have been killed by stoning some 30 or so years earlier, for being pregnant with our Messiah: Jesus Christ!.

Why did John make such a big deal about Jesus drawing on the ground with His finger?  In Jeremiah 17:13 (RSV), it is written “Those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken thee, the fountain of living water.”  I think Jesus was fairly overtly reminding the temple teachers of the shared guilt of sin by those condemning this woman.

When pushed for an answer, Jesus reminds them of that the first stones were to be thrown by the witnesses that are condemning her (Deuteronomy 17:7).  Jesus just added a simple sentence to this law: the first without sin should throw the first stone.  A unique approach to an obvious trap set for Jesus.  I marvel at Jesus’ cunning and simple approach to living the gospel.  Thank God the sinless Blessed Virgin Mary was not there though!?

“Lord, I am living high on the mountain of faith and fortitude for you.  Please help me to stay on this mountain forever.  Amen.”
 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Enda

 

Legend has him an Irishman noted for his military feats who was convinced by his sister St. Fanchea to renounce his warring activities and marry. When he found his fiancee dead, he decided to become a monk and went on pilgrimage to Rome, where he was ordained. He returned to Ireland, built churches at Drogheda, and then secured from his brother-in-law King Oengus of Munster the island of Aran, where he built the monastery of Killeaney, from which ten other foundations on the island developed. With St. Finnian of Clonard, Enda is considered the founder on monasticism in Ireland. His feast day is March 21.

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #21:
 

On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.  Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.  Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.