Tag Archives: synagogues

“Love Doesn’t Calculate; It Spends Lavishly Instead – – And Boy, Does My Wife ‘LOVE’ Spending!” – Mark 12:38-44†


32ndSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Now that the elections are over, it is our duty as Catholic Christians to help bring all people – – all our brothers and sisters in Christ together in peace and HARMONY.  Let us all pray for our country’s leaders, for our country itself, and for each of US. 

A friend gave me the following intentions for prayer during the election period; however, I tweaked it to be used as a way of praying daily.  Please let me know what you think about the following set of various bible verses:

SCRIPTURE VERSES TO PRAY FOR OUR NATION

It is critical that Christians pray for our nation.  There is amazing power in united prayer.  Pray with others whenever possible.  The power of prayer can overcome any obstacle or ungodly influence and, indeed, do great things!

II Chronicles 7:14– If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, will heal their land.
Acts 17:30 – Pray for repentance for yourself and for our nation.

Psalm 32:6-7
– Pray that Christians will be motivated to pray faithfully for our nation and that the Lord would deliver us from the wrong leaders.
Proverbs 16:13
– Pray that our nation will listen to the truth and not be led astray.
Psalm 125
– Pray that those who trust in the Lord will not be shaken.
Psalm 86:14-17
– Pray that the Lord would defeat those who have no regard for Him in this election.
II Kings 13:16
– Pray that the Lord would put His hands on the president (and his team) and guide them.
Daniel 2:20-22
– the Bible tells us that God sets up kings and God deposes kings. God is in control.
Luke 12:54-57
– Pray that our nation will do what is right.
Psalm 16:7-8
– Pray that the Lord would give wise counsel and guidance to the president.
Proverbs 1:5-6
– Pray that the President will listen with discernment, add to his knowledge, and receive wise counsel.
John 16:33 – Pray that the President would be given wisdom and ability from the Lord to overcome any obstacle or difficulty.
Philippians 4:13
– Pray that the President will have special strength and unusual ability from God.
Psalm 18:32-36
– Pray that the Lord would arm the President with strength; would guide him in battle; and would sustain him and give him victory.
2 Corinthians 12:9
– Pray that the Lord would empower and enable the President in any area of weakness.
Habakkuk 1:5 and 3:2
– Pray that the Lord would do something that would utterly amaze us and grant the country true freedom.

 Please print out this prayer guide and pray daily.  Please forward this to every Christian you know!

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 Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus notices a poor widow’s offering and commends her great sacrifice.  What’s your commitment to “tithing”?

(NAB Mark 12:38-44)  38 In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums.  42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The context for today’s Gospel continues to be one of mounting tensions between Jesus and the Jewish authorities.  In today’s reading, Mark tells of Jesus’ teaching specifically in the Temple area where He could observe His Jewish brethren putting in their offering to the Temple treasury.  

Today’s Gospel reading is what my children call a “twofer”: the denunciation of the Scribes, and the poor widow’s contribution, combined into one teaching.

In the first part, we hear Jesus warn the crowds to not follow the example of the Scribes in seeking honor and coveting attention from others by their actions and religious behavior.  It is important for us to recall that Jesus taught these things while in the vicinity of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Scribes “home court” territory.  Mark, in this first part of his Gospel today, is setting the stage for Jesus’ arrest, passion, and crucifixion.  While the tradition of a deep hostility between the Pharisees and Jesus is well founded, this reading reflects a growing animosity which goes beyond that of Jesus’ personal ministry to that of the bitter conflict between Jesus, His followers, and the Temple leaders, in their religious practices.  

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Jesus’ first teaching is about the Scribes (and, I am sure, the Pharisees and Sadducees as well), and their very public and overt attention which they purposely bring onto themselves.  The Scribes’ narrow, legalistic, and external practices of piety in matters of public worship, and observance of the commandments, with their own interpretations, places them in opposition to Jesus’ teaching of the TRUE moral intent of God the Father’s divine law.   

Per Jesus and divine law, the following practices and tradition of the Temple leaders are dubious, questionable, and untrustworthy:

    •  going around in long robes
    • accept greetings in the marketplaces,
    • having seats of honor in synagogues, and
    • holding places of honor at banquets”.  

So, Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes for their lack of humility.  In their misguided zeal, the Scribes desired and sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”.  They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and religious “rulers”.  They unfortunately made the practice of their faith one of a place of honor rather than “humbly serving” the “chosen people” of God.

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues (humility and piety) actually leads one to increased greed and further separation from God the Father.  Mark actually warns of the consequences of greed and arrogance in today’s reading:

In the course of his teaching he [Jesus] said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation’” (Mark 12:38-40).

The Scribes are “acting” in order to impress others and earn praise.  Their actions were solely for the purpose of making their “piety” more noticeable.  The hypocrisy of the Scribes (and the Pharisees and Sadducees) is in their “long prayers” and public actions – – in their purposeful, very public demonstrations of “piety” – – having no other purpose than to enhance their ego’s and reputations as the paramount and BEST religious persons in the area (and beyond).

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The Scribes “place of honor and worship” was the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was the center of Jewish worship from the time Solomon built it in 957 BC – – and rebuilt after its first TOTAL destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC – – until shortly after the time of Jesus when it was destroyed completely by the Romans in 70 A.D. and never rebuilt.  Jesus observed how Jewish “pilgrims” were making their required contributions to the Temple treasury.  It was expected that observant Jews would make pilgrimages to the Temple to offer prayer and sacrifices.  These visiting pilgrims also were expected to make a financial contribution to the Temple treasury.  (See, Catholics aren’t the only ones who are expected to contribute financially to their “parish”!)

As we would expect, Jesus observed that those who were rich contributed large sums to the treasury, while those with less funds made smaller contributions.  A similar situation exists in most of our parishes as well today, especially in our financially depressing times which we are currently experiencing now.  

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Jesus, in His second teaching from today’s reading, calls attention to a “poor widow” who makes the smallest of contributions – – a paltry sum of money, just two coins of very little value.  Jesus give His approval to the poor widow’s offering, commending her because her small offering was an act of profound love and generosity.  She was giving from “her livelihood” rather than from her surplus.  WOW!!  Do you trust God enough to do such an act?  I admit, I have difficulties in doing this quite often.  (This is something to truly work on for me.)

Jesus says of her that she is “blessed”, not only for her actions, but especially for her attitude, intentions, and because she gave “from her poverty”.  This “poor widow” had “contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”.  This “widow” is an example of the poor ones – – such as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis of Assisi – – who detached from material possessions, showed her dependence on God; which led to her (and their) blessedness (and the wonder & admiration from Jesus Himself):

Calling His disciples to Himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury” (Mark 12:43).

Her simple offering provided a striking contrast to the pride and pretentiousness of the Scribes who were “censured” by Jesus in the preceding verses (Mark 12:38-40).

Jesus is extolling the fortunate condition of this poor woman who is, at the same time, favored with the blessings of God the Father because of her true, deep faith.  She was a REAL disciple of Christ who appreciated the real values of God’s kingdom.  The present condition of this “poor widow” will ultimately be reversed in God’s kingdom.  She will inherit the riches of eternal life – – in the everlasting presence of God – – at the bountiful and eternal banquet in heaven.

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In Jesus’ denunciation of the Scribes, He warns against three things: 

  • the desire for prominence rather than selfless service;
  • the desire for admiration and recognition (seeking esteem from others) rather than seeking to promote the good of others through humble service and love;

and thirdly,

  • attempting to use one’s position (even a religious position) for self-gain and self-advancement.

True faith means relating to God – – and to one’s “neighbor” – – with love, honor, and reverence.  God places the Holy Spirit within each of us, filling us with the joy of His presence, the joy of true worship, and the joy of selfless giving and love for, and to, others.  This true love, honor, and reverence for God frees our heart to give freely, generously, and abundantly both to God AND to neighbor.

To give from our livelihood is not only an act of love and generosity, it is also an act of trust in God’s mercy, love, and providence.  We can only give from our need if we trust in God providing for us.  Jesus Himself demonstrated the ultimate act of loving generosity and trust in God when He gave His life – – for US – – on the Holy Cross.

Jesus, through His Passion and death, taught His disciples a dramatic lesson in giving with love.  Love doesn’t calculate; it spends lavishly instead!  (And boy, does my wife “LOVE” spending!!)  Jesus drove this point of “love giving more than it takes in” home to His disciples while sitting in the Temple, observing and commenting on the people offering their contributions to the Temple treasury.  

Jesus’ teaching seems to be very simple: this “poor widow” trusted with all she had, believing God would provide for her.  Jesus reveals to her that love for God is more precious than any amount of money!  Jesus taught that real giving must come from the heart.  A “gift” which is given – – for show or with conditions – – loses most of its value.  However, Jesus reveals that He is impressed by a gift given out of love, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice, is truly invaluable – – priceless – – in God’s eye and His kingdom.  

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The amount or size of the gift doesn’t matter as much as the cost to the giver.  The “poor widow” could have kept one of her coins, but instead she gave away ALL SHE HAD!!  Jesus praised this person who gave the Temple barely anything of monetary value, solely because it was everything she had in life, “her whole living”.  

What we have in life to offer to God and neighbor may look very small and not worth much in our eyes, and even in others’ eyes; but if we put ALL we have towards God’s will and plan, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you and others, God will certainly do with it – – and with us – – what is beyond our feeble consideration and understanding.  

Today’s Gospel leads us to think about our family’s financial contributions to our personal parish communities, the diocese we live in, other Church-sponsored organizations, and even other charitable groups.  Good stewardship (the way in which someone organizes and takes care of something) invites us to share our time, talents, and treasures.  

Sometimes, our decisions about charitable giving are made without the knowledge of others in our family.  However, we need to remember that we can teach a valuable lesson when we make family members aware of HOW we are contributing to our Church and to other charitable organizations.  We can pass on our knowledge of God’s gifts for others imparted to us in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.

Think about your family’s financial contributions to your parish and to other Church functions and activities, as well as other charitable organizations.  Think about why it is important for you to share your resources with these organizations.  Finally, reflect on what Jesus observed in the generosity of the “poor widow”.  In what ways might you make a sacrificial gift to support your parish or other charitable organization through a donation of time, talents, or treasures (it does NOT have to be money!).  Then, participate in the action you choose to take for the organization you chose to support.  Finish your reflection on the generosity of the “poor widow” with a prayer, asking for God’s help to be “generous” like the generous “poor widow” in today’s Gospel.  Thank you.

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 Reflection Prayer:  

STEWARDSHIP PRAYER

Generous God, I give thanks to you for the gifts you have given me: my life, my family, my friends; my time, talents, and material possessions.  All that I have comes from you. Help me to remember this and rejoice in your goodness.

Walk with me, my God. Help me on my spiritual journey, so that I may constantly renew my relationship with you and all the good people in our parish and throughout the world.

Renew in me your Spirit.  Give me the strength and courage to become a better follower of Jesus, to be a disciple.  Help me hear the call to “Come, Follow Me.”

I give glory to you, my God, as I make stewardship a way of life.  Amen.”

http://www.stewardshipli.org/main/prayer.html

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“I’m the Best Darn Humble Person Around, I Do Believe!” – Matthew 23:1-12†


 

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Today’s Content:

 

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

All Saints Day and All Souls Day are Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, this week.  All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation.  I hope to see you all in Church.  This year, this past Wednesday, marks the 45th Anniversary of my father’s death.  I miss him, but know he (and my Mom) is (are) with me every single Eucharistic celebration.  In preparation for All Saints Day, let’s pray for greater courage in fighting abortion.

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Tomorrow night is Halloween.  Please be safe in all your Ghoulishly Christian endeavors.  If you have children that go “trick or treat”, please use the usual safety rules:

  1. 1.     Reflective material or flashing light or cyalume stick visible on all side placed on costume,
  2. 2.     Parent accompany the children on the haunt and haunting activities,
  3. 3.     Only go to homes where you know the occupants, and
  4. 4.     Inspect any treats prior to allowing children to have and/or consume.

Better yet, go to a party at yours or neighboring church (yet still follow the rules).

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Finally, The St. Louis Carinals are the Baseball World Champions.   There 11th World Champions in 2011 (“11 in 11”).  Besides the team, the fansare also the best.  The city is celebrating, people are hugging perfect strangers and NO rioting, breaking windows, or any other BAD behavior!  We have to be the greatest and classiest fans, not only in baseball, but in sports period!  Way to go Cardinals Nation, and way to go St.Louis Area for once again showing the world the proper and GREAT way to celebrate – –  with CLASS!  (thanks Jeff)

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   701 – John VI of Greece begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   942 – Alberic nominates Pope Marinus II (Martinus III)
†   1270 – The Eighth Crusade and siege of Tunis end by an agreement between Charles I of Sicily (brother to King Louis IX of France, who had died months earlier) and the sultan of Tunis.
†   1389 – French king Charles VI visits pope Clemens VII
†   1534 – English Parliament passes Act of Supremacy, making King Henry VIII head of the English church – a role formerly held by the Pope
†   1950 – Pope Pius XII witnesses “The Miracle of the Sun” while at the Vatican.
†   Feasts/Memorials: St. Artemas; St. Herbert; St. Marcellus the Centurion; St. Saturninus; St. Serapion

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

 

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  Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning against following of the Scribes and the Pharisees example; and teaches that those who would be great must be servants as well.

 

(NAB Matthew 23:1-12) 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice.  4 They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  5All their works are performed to be seen.  They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  6 They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’  8 As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.  9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.  10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.  11The greatest among you must be your servant.  12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

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 Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel continues to expand on the tension between Jesus and the Temple leaders.  Having finished a string of dialogues with the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus is now directing His words to the crowds following Him, warning them not to follow the example of the Scribes and Pharisees in “saying” – – but not “doing”.

Today, Matthew’s begin a narrative in which Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes and the Pharisees for their lack of humility. Matthew, in his writings, saw these Temple leaders as true enemies of Jesus (cf., Matthew 16:1, 6, 11, 12; and Mark 8:11–13, 15).

Who were these men of “faith” that could be enemies of Jesus?  The Scribes and Pharisees were teachers of Mosaic Law.  They were entrusted with the laws interpretation, and thus were influential in determining everyday Jewish practices.  

In order to appreciate the conflict that is evident in this passage, we must understand that Jesus was basing His teachings on the exact same laws and traditions offered to the Temple leaders, as found in the Old Testament, especially the Torah.  Both Jesus and the Temple leaders were interpreting the Law of Moses in order to adapt it to contemporary Jewish life of the time.  The differences between Jesus’ and the Temple leader’s teachings therefore, are often highlighted and amplified in Matthew’s Gospel.

While there is a well-seated and lengthy tradition of deep opposition existing between Jesus and the Temple leaders, today’s discourse by Jesus, exposes an opposition that goes far beyond that of Jesus’ ministry period on earth.  This opposition has to be viewed as expressing the long-held and very bitter conflict between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s later first-century Jewish-Catholic Church, when this Gospel was composed.  Matthew’s Church is believed to have included many who did not believe a break with the Temple was necessary to be a follower of Jesus Christ (My question: Was it?).  So, Matthew reports of Jesus stating that it is correct to “do” and “observe” what the Scribes and Pharisees teach; it is only their “example” that is to be avoided. Namely, Jesus is talking of the Temple leaders love for being honored and exalted (I call it the “look at me, I did much good” syndrome).  Therefore, today’s Gospel reflects the tension of an active internal debate that is occurring within the later first century Church and the Pharisaic Jewish church.

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The Temple leaders are sitting on their “laurels” – – their own personal glory – – and not sitting with God in mind and present among them.  So, is this what Jesus meant when He said:

The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.” (Matthew 23:2)?  

It is not clear whether Jesus meant this is a metaphor for Mosaic teaching authority, or, actually referring to a physical chair on which the “priest or Rabbi” sat as he taught and governed.  After all, there were found to be known seats such as this, in synagogues of later periods.  Did Jesus foretell future events in Jewish religion, was it just a coincidence, or was there another meaning?  

 

Jesus doesn’t stop at just this one observation, but continues to a greater phase in His comments that the Temple leaders do not walk the talk:

 “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” (Matthew 23:3)

Jesus is not doing away with Mosaic Law, but is instead expounding upon – – amplifying and fulfilling – – Mosaic Law:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophetsI have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

Remember, during the “Beatitudes” narrative, Jesus declared the “was said … but I say …” statements (cf., Matthew 5:31-42).  He is now also DIRECTLY warning His disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees, by their examples, as He did when talking of John the Baptist as a “true” servant of God (cf., 14:1-12).

The Scribes and Pharisees indults and actions in observing Mosaic Law in all things cannot be taken as the PROPER way to conduct oneself, then, and now in Jesus’ Catholic Church on earth today.  Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by conformity to salvation history and Mosaic Law.  At the same time, He is also points – – and leads – – to a new “church” that would exist after His death and resurrection on Easter Sunday.  During Jesus’ ministry, the beginning of God the Father’s kingdom on earth, His mission remained within the framework of Mosaic Law, though with a significant anticipation of the age to come.  Keeping this fact in mind, the crowds following Jesus Christ and His disciples were encouraged not to follow the example of the Jewish leaders whose deeds did not conform to their teachings.

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Carrying a heavy load is certainly not any fun or joy for ANYONE.  In verse 4 of today’s reading is the phrase, “They tie up heavy burdens”.  This particular phrase reminds me of Ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom while submitting to the Church’s “yoke”.

Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instructionTake her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching.  For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.” (Sirach 51:23, 26)

Jesus is reminding His follows that though burdened by the “law” as expanded on by the Scribes and Pharisees, that there is a undeniable hope in a faith and love to God the Father.  Those “burdened” can find rest in the “true” Word of God:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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To the indictment of the Temple leaders of preaching – – yet not practicing – – the “true” faith (verse 3), Jesus adds the indictment of “acting in order to earn praise”.  The disciples have already been warned against this same fault when Jesus taught about alms-giving, prayer, and fasting much earlier in His ministry (cf., Matthew 6:1-18).

Jesus is alluding to two specific aspects of Jewish spiritual life prescribed by the Law of Moses, for which many Catholics are not aware.  These two aspects, and two words associated with these aspects, are used in verse 5 of the Gospel.  Let me explain the items: “phylacteries” and “tassels”, and their proper use.

Phylacteries” are an item of clothing required by Mosaic Law during periods of prayer.  They are simple, small, and usually black boxes containing parchments on which verses of scripture are written.  They are worn on the left forearm and on the forehead by black straps (cf., Exodus 13:9, 16; and Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18).  If you watch people at the remains of the Temple wall (the Western Wall in Jerusalem), you will notice these small black boxes on their foreheads, and strapped (with long pieces of leather) around their left forearm, as they pray facing the wall.  These are the same phylacteries in use today, as in Jesus’ time.

The “Tassels” (officially called “Tzitzit”) are the “fringe” Mosaic Law prescribes to be worn on the corners of one’s garment (such as the prayer shawl) as a reminder to keep the commandments.  The widening of phylacteries (bigger boxes) and the lengthening of tassels (longer fringe and tassels) were solely for the purpose of making these “proofs of piety” more noticeable and pronounced.  (Humility in its finest; isn’t it!)

In their misguided zeal, the Temple leaders sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”. They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and rulers.  They, unfortunately, made the practice of their faith – – a burden – – rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to “humbly serve”.

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It is obvious Jesus loved His Father and His faith.  Jesus Christ was not afraid to express His concerns about the way the Temple leaders were abusing their positions for personal gain.  Jesus did not “bow out” or “quit” out of frustration.  Instead, Jesus Christ brought His Catholic (universal) Church into union with God His Father, and gave all that believed (and still believes) in Him the possibility of eternity salvation in paradise.  

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues actually leads to increased greed and separation from God the Father.  Another Evangelist, Mark, in his Gospel, even warns of greed and arrogance:

In the course of his teaching he [Jesus] said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.’” (Mark 12:38-40)

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We now get to the second portion of Jesus’ discourse today: the warning against using various titles.  This section however, is addressed to the disciples alone, and not to the followers coming along for the ride, or the Temple leaders.  

Everybody loves a title.  I once had a title: “Director of Quality Assurance”, which meant I was reportedly in charge of a very important aspect of my company.  In reality, my jobs consisted mainly of filing papers, and counting various variables, in an office BY MYSELF (and with no staff).  (Not as glamorous as the job sounded on my business card.)

Temple leaders loved the name, “Rabbi”, meaning “my great one, or, teacher”.  It was (and still is) a title of respect for teachers and leaders.  Jesus was called “Rabbi” many times in Holy Scripture.  At age fifteen, He was even found teaching in the Temple (the 5th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary).  A large part of His earthly ministry involved being in or around the Temple frequently.  He was easily recognized as the leader of a group of people associated with the Jewish religion.

So, was Jesus against calling anyone “rabbi” or “father”?  Or, was He just directing this sharp rebuke solely to the Scribes and Pharisees? Well, I believe He was warning both His disciples and the Temple leaders about the temptation to seek titles and honors in order to increase one’s personal reputation and admiration by others.  Holy Scripture gives more than enough warning about the danger of self-seeking “pride”.  Examples can be found in the books of Proverbs and James:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) 

And,

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6),

While only the title ‘Rabbi’ is used in addressing the Scribes and Pharisees, I believe the inference is that “Father” and “Master” was also used.  The prohibition of these titles – – to Jesus’ disciples – – highly suggests that the use of these titles was present in Matthew’s first-century Jewish-Catholic Church.  Per Matthew, Is Jesus forbidding the “title” or the spirit of superiority and pride shown by their acceptance (or both)?

Saint Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD), and the bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin language, comments on Matthew’s Gospel reading:

Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity.  For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives.  One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher.  I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption.  Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father.” [Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew]

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Humility is the key to piety and love of the Trinitarian God.  The Evangelist, Luke, says of humility:

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Our Blessed Virgin Mary is the supreme example of how to live a humble life.  The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order states:

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 (#9),

And,

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 (11).

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 In Summary, the warning Jesus gives against seeking places of honor in the community was directed as much toward the future Catholic communities as well as the Jewish leaders of His day.  Indeed, it is a warning that resonates with us LOUDLY today (Yet, cannot, or will not, be heard by many).  Catholic Christian leadership is a call to “service” for the glory of God!!  Like Jesus Christ, and His Virginal Mother, those who would be leaders among us must be “servants of ALL”.

St. Paul described “servant leadership” in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He recalled their “sharing”, their humility in serving the Church, and their “toil and drudgery”:

We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.  With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.  You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-9)

Although the challenging words of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel was directly addressed to religious leaders of His time, many voices today should still question those in positions of political and economic power.  In their own words, participants in the “Occupy Together” movement have accused individuals, groups, and businesses of greed, arrogance and corruption.  Yet, they don’t (are won’t) see the greed, arrogance, and lawlessness on their own part.  For me, most in both groups: the US Government and in the group of “wildly greedy individuals” are equal partners in greed, arrogance, and corruption.  Their actions of removing themselves from laws (by law and action) prove their lack of caring for the people they are suppose to “serve”.  Arrogance thrives in our halls of government, and in parks around the world (with the “Occupy” groups) today.

 

There is hope however.  Respect for God and His ways will dispose us to humility and simplicity of heart.  The word “disciple” means “one who listens in order to learn”.  Jesus shows us the way to God the Father, the sure and true way of peace, joy, righteousness, holiness, and true happiness.  He showed us “the way” by lowering Himself as a servant for our sake:

He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8).

What is true Christ-like humility?  It is when humility is “lived” with a true self-knowledge; seeing Jesus’ Christ in each and every person we meet.  The humbled do not rely on themselves, but trust in God and the power of His love and saving grace.  True humility is a “servant-like” quality, enabling us to place our life in the service of God and neighbor. Do you have a joy for Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?  Are you following Jesus’ example of service to others – with Humility?

Our response to economic and political concerns, should be to “model” humble servant leadership, and seek the same from those in positions of extraordinary power.  Remember, November 8th (Election Day) is right around the corner.  So, practice what you peach!”  What does this mean to you?  Can you list some examples of people you know who “practice what they preach”?  In these people, what do you observe in them, and what do you admire about them?

“Do as I say, not as I do.”  How many of us have been tempted to say (or actually have said) this phrase to our children and co-workers (Yep, I have)?  Today’s Gospel resounds with Jesus’ reply, “Practice what you preach.”  People, who know us best, can identify the [many] inconsistencies between what we want to teach and the example that we actually give – – so ask, if you aren’t afraid.  

Maybe the challenge for all of us, especially for those of us who are parents, is to model with consistency a love, faith, and hope in the Catholic Christian “way of life” we wish to teach our loved ones.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus Christ talk about the importance of acting in ways that are consistent with our faith.  How might you better practice the Catholic faith you professed at your Baptism and Confirmation (and at every Mass).  TODAY, choose an “action” to take which shows your faith – – in action.  Pray together that your faith will be shown consistently in your actions AND words.  Remember, God opens doors and gives you what you need to “act” on His behalf, so use the gifts and talents God has given you.

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 131

We find peace in the Lord.

 

 

“LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty.  I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.  Rather, I have stilled my soul, like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul.  Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever.  Amen.”  Psalm 131:1-3

 

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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 memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

The one that is most familiar to us (“Christ has died, Christ is risen …”) has disappeared completely.  The three remaining ones are similar to those in the current missal, but the wording is different in each case.

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

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (c. 1533-1617)

Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.

Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23.  Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor.  Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life.  He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home.  There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.

Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits.  He was not helped by his poor education.  He applied twice before being admitted.  For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca.  When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.

His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian.  Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.

Alphonsus died in 1617.  He is the patron saint of Majorca.

Comment:

We like to think that God rewards the good even in this life.  But Alphonsus knew business losses, painful bereavement and periods when God seemed very distant.  None of his suffering made him withdraw into a shell of self-pity or bitterness.  Rather, he reached out to others who lived with pain, including enslaved blacks.  Among the many notables at his funeral were the sick and poor people whose lives he had touched.  May they find such a friend in us!

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 Penance

Have you ever thought of Christ as your brother?

Why does Francis call us “Brothers and Sisters in Penance”?

Are we to really “hate” our bodies? (cf., Galations:5:13-21)

How much of Francis’ life was spent in penance and conversion?

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

 

Chapter 1

 

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

“Ash Wednesday – – First Day of Lent” 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

The number forty has many Old Testament Biblical references:

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

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

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

 

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

            

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Today in Catholic History:


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

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of: Motorists; Widows and Oblates

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

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

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Money

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

“Yo; Drop That Stuff and Come With Me! We Have Places To Get To, People To Save, and Lots of Bread To Break!” – Matthew 4:12-23†


            

Today in Catholic History:
    


†   909 – John of Rila (aka Saint Ivan) was the first Bulgarian hermit, known for the “fable of two pies”.
†   1350 – Birth of Vincent Ferrer, Spanish missionary and saint (d. 1419)
†   1492 – The “Pentateuch” (Jewish holy book) is first printed.
†   1789 – Georgetown College becomes the first Roman Catholic college in the United States in the city of Washington, D.C.
†   1929 – Birth of Patriarch Filaret (Mykhailo Denysenko) of Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate
†   1936 – The Catholic People’s Party (KVP) of Curacao (a Caribbean Island) is formed
†   1998 – Pope John Paul II condemns the US embargo against Cuba
†   Memorials/Feasts: St. Raymond of Peñafort, confessor, d. 1275; St. Emerentiana, virgin and martyr, d. 305; Blessed Marianne of Molokai

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

  

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 07 of 13 Parts

The Church expects us, urges the Cardinal, to have an attitude and conduct of authentic evangelical parrhesia  spent in the city of man. In the city of concrete human relations, of ‘humanity in situ’, not in a virtual, purely academic city, one of theoretical situations and obliging conformity towards the powers that be – out of fear or, worse still, for one’s own personal advantage.

What is parrhesia  ?

It is speaking clearly, without fear and hesitation, giving uncompromising witness to the Truth of the Gospel, explaining the hope that lives in us, sowing with humble courage the seed of the Word.

Today, more than ever, we should ask the Lord for the grace of parrhesia, for each one of us, for the whole SFO and for our churches.

In order to rediscover our prophetic mission and not be silent about violence perpetrated on the poor.

In order to intervene with courage every time human rights are violated.

In order not to be afraid of threats and to speak with honesty, without betraying the Word of God and making compromises, when the rights of God are made subordinate to the interests of men and of the idols which would claim His place.

 

(Continued on next published blog)

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

 

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus beginning to preach in Galilee.  He also and calls His first disciples.

 

12 When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.  13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”  17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.  19 He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.  21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.  23 He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.   (NAB Matthew 4:12-23)

 

Today’s Gospel records the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ ministry begins after His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, and after his forty-day retreat to the desert where He was tempted by Satan.  When Jesus returns from His sojourn in the desert, he learns that John the Baptist had been arrested and was imprisoned.

 

Isaiah’s prophecy of the light rising upon Zebulun and Naphtali and Jesus’ residence at Capernaum is realized and fulfilled in the opening verses of today’s reading:

“They look to the earth, but will see only distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into thick darkness. But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.  In the former time he brought them into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.”  (Isaiah 8:22-9:1)  

Galilee was at the crossroads of the “world” and much traffic passed through this little region.  This territory was devastated politically and religiously around the mid-700’s B.C., with the Assyrian invasion.  At this time a segment of the Jewish population was exiled to other regions, and a substantial number of “foreigners” were moved into the territory, forcibly taking possession of the land from the Jewish people, and then inhabiting in it.  For this reason, the area is referred to in Holy Scripture hereafter as the “Galilee of the Gentiles”.  This same land that was devastated and abused in Isaiah’s time will also be the first to receive the light, mission, and salvation of Jesus Christ’s life and preaching.

In order to fit Jesus’ move to Capernaum into Isaiah’s prophecy, Matthew speaks of Capernaum as being “in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali“, though it was actually “only” in the territory of Naphtali.  Matthew also somewhat “tweaked” his understanding of the “sea” in the messianic prophecy as the Sea of Galilee instead of the original Mediterranean Sea, as in Isaiah.

 

 

At the beginning of His teaching and preaching ministry, Jesus takes up the words of John the Baptist:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  (Matthew 3:2)

Jesus made two rather simple and direct demands: repent and believe!  The Holy Spirit gives us grace to see our sins for what they are – – denial, refusal, and a rejection of the love of God.  God wants to change our ways of thinking and transform our lives by the power of His ever-living word, and through the actions of the Holy Spirit.

However, Jesus Christ takes up John’s words of repentance and penance with a different meaning than John’s.  In Jesus’ ministry on earth, the kingdom of heaven had already begun to be present (and still is present today and forever).

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  (Matthew 12:28)

Jesus’ enduring, permanent, and redeeming efforts usher in a “new” age and covenant in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ brought such an enhancement and improvement through His salvation, that what is now required from us to be part of His kingdom, is a true and radical daily change in our behavior towards God and others.  God, in and through Jesus Christ, intervened in a special way to save all mankind.  We must now be open to God’s grace, and reform our ways in this same special way – – DAILY! 

We are obligated to make a stand – – either for God, or against Him!  (There are NO grey areas here!)  We must purposefully stop our moving (or slipping) away from God, and instead purposefully and lovingly move closer to Him.  With the coming of Jesus Christ, penance and a turning toward God on a daily (maybe even hourly) basis are absolutely essential!

Repentance is of such exceptional importance for Jesus that He preaches on this issue as the very first subject in His public ministry.  His words not only echo John the Baptist’s proclamation, it is the same – – word-for-word – – with John’s (as found in Matthew 3:2).  Both John and Jesus demanded repentance and penance as a precondition and qualification for receiving the Kingdom of God, which Jesus Christ has brought in and established in its fullness in, with, and through Him.  Jesus will present, illustrate, and reveal the Kingdom of God to be a Kingdom of love and holiness.

“We must submit our sins to the Church with a contrite heart in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that we may be daily more and more converted to the Lord, remembering His word: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand’”. (Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 5)

Mankind fell into darkness with Adam and Eve’s sin.  Yet, God never abandoned His “chosen” people.  When His Son, Jesus Christ, was scourged and crucified, God raised Him up!  And this is our personal story, our future, as well.  We are sinners who are saved through the light of Jesus Christ.  We die in, and with, Christ – – and we rise with Him!  We go from the darkness of sin, to the light of His salvation.

 

 

These four men chosen by Jesus to be His first disciples, (and even His first Apostles), had already met the Lord, Jesus Christ, prior to His choosing them:

“The next day John [the Baptist] was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’  The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’  They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’  He said to them, ’Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.  It was about four in the afternoon.  Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed).  Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter)”.  (Jn 1:35-42)

Their brief meeting with Jesus must have had an extremely powerful effect in their hearts and minds, as well as on their souls.  The effect Jesus had on these four fishermen moved them to immediately leave everything behind so as to follow Him, and to be His first disciples – – traveling with Him unfailing for three years and over many, many miles of ministry.  Can you envision the powerful presence that Jesus had on the people He met in order to elicit such an immediate and complete response as that of these first disciples?  Rising above their own personal and spiritual human faults and shortcomings (which the Gospel does so well at never hiding), we can see the great and wonderful promptness and generosity of these men (and hopefully ours) in answering God’s call.

“God draws us from the shadows of our ignorance, our groping through history, and, no matter what our occupation in the world, He calls us in a loud voice, as He once called Peter and Andrew”. (St. Josemaria Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 45)

The promptness, enthusiasm, and eagerness with which these disciples (and future Apostles) follow Jesus were remarkable.  They immediately leave their nets and past lives, and follow Him.  God comes into all of our lives just as He did with these four fishermen; coming to us individually, He personally calls us to do His work in our lives and witness.  If we do not answer Him “immediately”, He may “continue” on His way, and we could easily turn our back on Him, and lose sight of Him. 

He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power.  When the Lord calls us to be his disciple and benefactor of His grace, we should not think that we don’t have anything to offer Him in exchange.  The Lord takes the little we can offer and uses it for a sign and greatness of, for, and in, His kingdom in heaven and on earth.

Were these men more special than any of us?  HECK NO!  These were men had little education, and laboring as fishermen, when called by Jesus Christ.  More so than not, Jesus Christ seems to call ordinary men to perform extraordinary feats, while in the midst of their ordinary labors, actions, and lives.  The Wise Men were “called” in their ordinary glimmering occupations of studying and dreaming in the flickering stars; Moses was shepherding his flock when told to start a travel export company of sorts; Elisha was plowing his land when summoned to help another prophet, and to take care of a “jezebel”; and Amos was looking after his herd of sheep, his grove of fig trees, and counting his money when was given his mission.

Jesus’ calling of the first disciples gave to each of them a part in His work and mission.  Their “calling” entailed an abandonment of family, friends, and their former ways of life.  (Note: later bible verses suggest that the first disciples’ separation from their families may not have been as complete as the verses in today’s Gospel might lead us to believe.)  Is it surprising that three of the four chosen today (Simon, James, and John) are prominent among Jesus’ disciples (and Apostles) as having a closer and more personal relationship with Him than any others following Him?  They had the privilege of witnessing events in Jesus’ life and ministry which the other disciples did not see and experience.

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” (Matthew 17:1; 26:37) 

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’  He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.”  (Matthew 26:36-37).

 

 

The reading today ends Jesus’ first ministry actions as reported in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapters 3 and 4).  His ministry activities of teaching, proclaiming the good news of God (the Gospel), and healing will continue for the next three years on earth, and still continues today through the actions of the Holy Spirit working in and through each of us in a personal way.

 

Today’s Gospel reading ends with a description of Jesus’ ministry – – as it is beginning – – in that small fishing village of Galilee.  

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.”  (Matthew 9:35)

Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God with his life and work.  He teaches in the synagogue and preaches of the “kingdom”.  Jesus’ ability to cure people’s diseases and illness is a “sign” of God’s kingdom.  In Jesus’ ministry, we can already begin to see the Kingdom of God among us.

 

Could it be that the message for us today is to balance the fundamental “call” to be a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ with the challenge to be “fishers of men”, even within our own little circle of families and friends?  Initiating, and maintaining this balance will probably necessitate that we – – change some of our “priorities” – – in respect to our own families, friends, AND GOD!

Itemize and list the duties and activities of your typical day.  What are your “priorities” in your daily details and schedule?  How do you respond and react when your daily plans are interrupted or must be changed?  With your daily life in mind, reflect on the faith, trust, and example of the first disciples who “immediately” dropped everything they had and knew to follow Jesus.  Does your “priorities” and schedule give witness and evidence of placing God first in your life?  What might you do in order to better reveal and expose that God is your priority?

Do you show others around you the joy of the Gospel – – God’s “LIVING” Word?  Do you pray for your friends and family, co-workers, and the marginalized to come to know Jesus Christ?  Do you pray for them to grow in the beauty and acknowledgement of His eternal and unending love?  Please pray that you will always give witness, confirmation, and external signs that God comes first in your life.

“Only when a person is struck and opened up by Christ can true community grow.”  (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI] “The Theological Locus of Ecclesial Movements”)

 

 

Psalm 27

 

“The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom do I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom am I afraid? 

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’S house
all the days of my life,
that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord
and contemplate his temple. 

I believe that I shall the bounty of the Lord
in the land of the living. 
Wait for the Lord with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord. 
Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Mother Marianne Cope (1838-1918)

 

Though leprosy scared off most people in 19th-century Hawaii, that disease sparked great generosity in the woman who came to be known as Mother Marianne of Molokai.  Her courage helped tremendously to improve the lives of its victims in Hawaii, a territory annexed to the United States during her lifetime (1898).

Mother Marianne’s generosity and courage were celebrated at her May 14, 2005, beatification in Rome.  She was a woman who spoke “the language of truth and love” to the world, said Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. Cardinal Martins, who presided at the beatification Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, called her life “a wonderful work of divine grace.”  Speaking of her special love for persons suffering from leprosy, he said, “She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus.  Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother.”

On January 23, 1838, a daughter was born to Peter and Barbara Cope of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany.  The girl was named after her mother.  Two years later the Cope family immigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York.  Young Barbara worked in a factory until August 1862, when she went to the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York.  After profession in November of the next year, she began teaching at Assumption parish school.

Marianne held the post of superior in several places and was twice the novice mistress of her congregation.  A natural leader, three different times she was superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, where she learned much that would be useful during her years in Hawaii.

Elected provincial in 1877, Mother Marianne was unanimously re-elected in 1881.  Two years later the Hawaiian government was searching for someone to run the Kakaako Receiving Station for people suspected of having leprosy.  More than 50 religious communities in the United States and Canada were asked.  When the request was put to the Syracuse sisters, 35 of them volunteered immediately. On October 22, 1883, Mother Marianne and six other sisters left for Hawaii where they took charge of the Kakaako Receiving Station outside Honolulu; on the island of Maui they also opened a hospital and a school for girls.

In 1888, Mother Marianne and two sisters went to Molokai to open a home for “unprotected women and girls” there.  The Hawaiian government was quite hesitant to send women for this difficult assignment; they need not have worried about Mother Marianne!  On Molokai she took charge of the home that Blessed Damien DeVeuster (d. 1889) had established for men and boys.  Mother Marianne changed life on Molokai by introducing cleanliness, pride and fun to the colony.  Bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women were part of her approach.

Awarded the Royal Order of Kapiolani by the Hawaiian government and celebrated in a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mother Marianne continued her work faithfully.  Her sisters have attracted vocations among the Hawaiian people and still work on Molokai.

Mother Marianne died on August 9, 1918.

Comment:

The government authorities were reluctant to allow Mother Marianne to be a mother on Molokai.  Thirty years of dedication proved their fears unfounded.  God grants gifts regardless of human short-sightedness and allows those gifts to flower for the sake of the kingdom.

Quote:

Soon after Mother Marianne died, Mrs. John F. Bowler wrote in the Honolulu Advertiser, “Seldom has the opportunity come to a woman to devote every hour of 30 years to the mothering of people isolated by law from the rest of the world.  She risked her own life in all that time, faced everything with unflinching courage and smiled sweetly through it all.”

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 23 & 24 of 26:

 

23.  Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

  

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.

“When I Grow-Up, I Want To Be a Martyr!” – Luke 21:12-19†


 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day  in the United States.  Here is a little prayer I found on-line, and wish to share with you for this uniquely scrumptious day:

“MAY YOUR STUFFING BE TASTY, MAY YOUR TURKEY BE PLUMP.  MAY YOUR POTATOES ‘N GRAVY HAVE NARY A LUMP.  MAY YOUR YAMS BE DELICIOUS.  MAY YOUR PIES TAKE THE PRIZE, MAY YOUR THANKSGIVING DINNER STAY OFF OF YOUR THIGHS!!”

 

 

 

31 Days till CHRIST-mas.  AND, just a few days (4) till the start of the New Liturgical Year.  What a great time to start anew and refreshed.  Go to “Confession” this week.

    

     

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   496 – Anastasius II succeeds Gelasius I as Catholic Pope
†   642 – Theodore I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1192 – Death of Albert I van Leuven/Luik, Belgian bishop of Luik/saint, at age 27
†   1583 – Death of René de Birague, French cardinal and chancellor (b. 1506)
†   1713 – Junipero Serra, priest had a mission in California
†   1775 – Death of Lorenzo Ricci, Italian Jesuit leader (b. 1703)
†   1833 – Birth of Antoine Labelle, Quebec catholic priest (d. 1891)
†   1925 – 1st radio-broadcast of Dutch KRO (Catholic Radio Broadcast)
†   Feast Days: Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and other Vietnamese Martyrs; Saint Colman of Cloyne – Cobh, Ireland

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Question:              Why can’t you take a turkey to church?
Answer:                 Because they have such FOWL language!

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ warning to His followers that persecution will come before the end time (the Parousia).

 

12 “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  13 It will lead to your giving testimony.  14 Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15 for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.  16 You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  17 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18 but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives. (NAB Luke 21:12-19)

 

 

For Luke to say “Before all this happens . . . “(in verse 12), he is saying that some of the signs of the Parousia described in today’s reading still remains pending for development, an emergence, and/or for discovery in the future.  In dealing with the persecution of the disciples, Luke is simply pointing to signs that have already been fulfilled, such as the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., some ten to twenty years prior.  There are still others that must be fulfilled prior to the Parousia event occurring.  We all need to realize that the Parousia will not be a “wham-bam” one day event; it will last for eternity.  Please remember, we are on God’s time, not “earthly” time.  Don’t count the “hours” or figure out the “how” Jesus will return to us, for He should always be welcome, and we should always be ready to welcome Him!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus doesn’t want any of us to be on the defensive.  We must go out, and go out boldly, to share our unconditional love for God, and His overwhelming and never ending love for us, with whom all come into contact. 

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

We may not have to prepare our defense of God’s word, but we can practice something else that is important for our defense.  We need to practice praising and pleasing God in everything we do, say, and witness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

An Advent Reflection Prayer

 

“All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”

– From Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions

 

St. Andrew was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. Now all have been canonized by Pope John Paul II.

Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan.

The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful.

Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries.

Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons.

The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution.

By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees.

During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.

Comment:

It may help a people who associate Vietnam only with a recent war to realize that the cross has long been a part of the lives of the people of that country. Even as we ask again the unanswered questions about United States involvement and disengagement, the faith rooted in Vietnam’s soil proves hardier than the forces which would destroy it.

Quote:

“The Church in Vietnam is alive and vigorous, blessed with strong and faithful bishops, dedicated religious, and courageous and committed laypeople…. The Church in Vietnam is living out the gospel in a difficult and complex situation with remarkable persistence and strength” (statement of three U.S. archbishops returning from Vietnam in January 1989).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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


 

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

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

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

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

            

  

Today in Catholic History:

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

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

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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Prayer In Time of Danger”

 

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of the West Indies

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 14 & 15 of 26:

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

 

 

 

 

15.     Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

“Walk the Talk; That Is All I Ask Of You!”–Luke 11:42-46†


 

ENCOURAGING PREDICTIONS FOR 2011: With all the problems the World is facing, it can be unsettling!

 
The Top 10 Predictions for 2011:

 1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
 2. Prayer will still be the most powerful thing on Earth.
 3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
 4. God will still honor the praises of His people.
 5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
 6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
 7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
 8. There will still be room at the Cross.
 9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.

 
Isn’t It Great To Remember Who Is Really In Control, and that; “the Word of the Lord endures forever.”  ( 1 Peter 1:25 )
 
I hope you found this encouraging!   I did!  Sometimes we need a reminder of just “WHO” is really in control.

     

Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1492 – Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) and his crew land in the Bahamas
†   1582 – Because of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar this day does not exist in this year in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
†   1878 – Birth of Patrick Joseph Hartigan, Australian Roman Catholic priest, educator, author and poet. (d. 1952)
†   1917 – The “Miracle of the Sun” is witnessed by an estimated 70,000 people in the Cova da Iria in Fátima, Portugal.
†   1958 – Burial of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII on the 41st anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun”.
†   In the Roman Catholic Church – translation (1163) of Saint Edward the Confessor; memorial of Saint Gerald of Aurillac; optional feast of Our Lady of Fatima

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Sweep first before your own door, before you sweep the doorsteps of your neighbors. — Swedish Proverb

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus confronting the Pharisees and Scribes for their hypocrisy.

 

42 Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.  These you should have done, without overlooking the others.  43 Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.  44 Woe to you!  You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”  45 Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.”  46 And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.  (NAB Luke 11:42-46)

 

Do you think Jesus is angry?  This is the first of three woes against the Pharisees found in Luke’s Gospel.  But, it is actually as much an expression of sorrow and pity as much as it is anger towards the temple officials.  Jesus was angry with the Pharisees because they failed to “hear” God’s word, and they failed to lead the people in the “true” ways of God’s personal love and relationship with each of His people.

(Trivia time: Do you know the origin of the expression “Oh woe is me?”  It is straight from the Holy Bible.  You can find it Job 10:15, “If I am wicked, woe to me!”–NRSV.)

What was meant by Jesus calling the Pharisees “unseen graves?”  Well, any contact with the dead or with human bones and/or graves brought upon that person a ritual impurity, separating him/her from worshiping in the temple.  Spelled out in Numbers 19:16: “everyone who in the open country touches a dead person, whether he was slain by the sword or died naturally, or who touches a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean for seven days.”  This Biblical book called “Numbers” is one of the five books of the “Pentateuch.”    The Pentateuch (Greek for “having five books”) is itself, the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – and enjoys a particular prestige among the Jewish people as the “Law,” or “Torah.” It is considered the concrete expression of God’s will in regard to Judaic faith.

Jesus portrays the Pharisees as ones who have slowly and subtly led the Jewish people astray through their misconceived perception and attention to the “law.”  To me, Jesus is calling out the Pharisees as hypocrites who profess one doctrine, and live another of selfishness and elitism.

The “Scholars of the law” were experts in the Mosaic Law, the Torah, and were probably a member of the group identified in Luke 5:21 as the Scribes.  The Scribes devoted their lives and “vocations” to the study and interpretation of the “Torah:” the Law of Moses.  The Scribes took the Ten Commandments and expanded their interpretations, creating over fifty large books of instructions containing thousands of specific rules, regulations, and practices.  So exacting were their interpretations of these instructions and directions, that in attempting to “live them out,” it left very little time for anything else, including worship and prayer!  In the Pharisees and Scribes foolish fervor, they required superfluous and taxing rules and practices which obscured the more important matters of religious life: love of God and neighbor.  

In response to the remark from this Jewish legal expert, the probable Scribe, about Jesus daring to insult them and the Pharisees, Jesus illustrates the superiority of God in recognizing the Pharisees and Scribes movement away from the personal relationship with God through Jesus, and towards only “following rules” without regard to a deeper meaning and reason for the laws.  Jesus is literally “calling out” the Pharisees as ones that He considered “ritually impure” through their own misconceived actions and attitudes.

Jesus wants people to “walk the talk.”  He wants people to lead by example; to love – unconditionally – both Him and all others of His Creations.  Unfortunately, the Pharisees and Scribes in today’s Gospel have forgotten this very basic tenet of their faith.  There are still many of these types of “pseudo-Pharisees and pseudo-Scribes in our midst even today.  Could any of us reading this reflection today possibly be considered “ritually impure” by Jesus?  Hmm – food for thought!!

 

For the Lord’s Cleansing, Defense, and Governance of the Church 

 

“May your continual pity, O Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church; and, because without you she cannot endure in safety, may she ever be governed by Your bounty.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690)

 

Margaret Mary was chosen by Christ to arouse the Church to a realization of the love of God symbolized by the heart of Jesus.

Her early years were marked by sickness and a painful home situation. “The heaviest of my crosses was that I could do nothing to lighten the cross my mother was suffering.” After considering marriage for some time, Margaret entered the Order of Visitation nuns at the age of 24.

A Visitation nun was “not to be extraordinary except by being ordinary,” but the young nun was not to enjoy this anonymity. A fellow novice (shrewdest of critics) termed Margaret humble, simple and frank, but above all kind and patient under sharp criticism and correction. She could not meditate in the formal way expected, though she tried her best to give up her “prayer of simplicity.” Slow, quiet and clumsy, she was assigned to help an infirmarian who was a bundle of energy.

On December 21, 1674, three years a nun, she received the first of her revelations. She felt “invested” with the presence of God, though always afraid of deceiving herself in such matters. The request of Christ was that his love for humankind be made evident through her. During the next 13 months he appeared to her at intervals. His human heart was to be the symbol of his divine-human love. By her own love she was to make up for the coldness and ingratitude of the world—by frequent and loving Holy Communion, especially on the first Friday of each month, and by an hour’s vigil of prayer every Thursday night in memory of his agony and isolation in Gethsemane. He also asked that a feast of reparation be instituted.

Like all saints, Margaret had to pay for her gift of holiness. Some of her own sisters were hostile. Theologians who were called in declared her visions delusions and suggested that she eat more heartily. Later, parents of children she taught called her an impostor, an unorthodox innovator. A new confessor, Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit, recognized her genuineness and supported her. Against her great resistance, Christ called her to be a sacrificial victim for the shortcomings of her own sisters, and to make this known.

After serving as novice mistress and assistant superior, she died at the age of 43 while being anointed. “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”

Comment:

Our scientific-materialistic age cannot “prove” private revelations. Theologians, if pressed, admit that we do not have to believe in them. But it is impossible to deny the message Margaret Mary heralded: that God loves us with a passionate love. Her insistence on reparation and prayer and the reminder of final judgment should be sufficient to ward off superstition and superficiality in devotion to the Sacred Heart while preserving its deep Christian meaning.

Quote:

Christ speaks to St. Margaret Mary: “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this sacrament of love…. I come into the heart I have given you in order that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament” (Third apparition).

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

 
    

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

   

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

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

  

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