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


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2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

T. table_of_contentsoday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveris, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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

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Quote of the Day:

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

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

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

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Gos. Reflectionpel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus replies to “His mother”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John goes on to report that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen!!  Amen!!          

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflecti. prayer sfon Prayer: 

Prayer for Generosity

(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

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

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“Jesus Defines the Word ‘IS’ AT His Last ‘Feast’!” – Mark 14:12-16, 22-26†


The Solemnity of the Most Holy
Body and Blood of Christ

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

There will not be a Reflection Blog next week as I will be on an “ACTS Retreat” Weekend with Christ and my fellow Bothers in Christ from my home parish in Hazelwood, Missouri; along with a few great men from Chicago, Illinois who are trying to bring the ACTS Retreat format to their area.  Please keep all of us in your prayers as I will be keeping you in my prayers.

I personally make two three-day retreats a year: one an ACTS format retreat and the other a Franciscan Regional Retreat.  On top of this, I make several one-day personal or small group retreats throughout the year.  I truly love spending time separated from this “materialistic” world, totally and completely tuned-in to God’s world instead.  For me, it’s a little bit of heaven.

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Today, the second Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate a second week of solemnities as well.  We have now returned to “Ordinary Time” in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church.  Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  At one time, this day was called Corpus Christi, the Latin words for “the Body of Christ.”  In the most recent revision of our liturgical rites, the name for this day has been expanded to be a more complete reflection of our Eucharistic theology.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1190 – Third Crusade: Frederick I Barbarossa drowns in the Sally River while leading an army to Jerusalem.
†   1538 – Catholic German monarchy signs League of Neurenberg
†   1539 – Council of Trent: Paul III sends out letters to his bishops, delaying the Council due to war  and the difficulty bishops had had traveling to Venice.
†   1632 –Birth of Esprit Fléchier, French writer and bishop (d. 1710)
†   1637 – Birth of Jacques Marquette, French Jesuit missionary and explorer (d. 1675)
†   1688 – Birth of James III Edward, Old Pretender, recognized as King of Britain by Pope
†   2001 – Pope John Paul II canonizes Lebanon’s first female saint Saint Rafqa
†   2010 – Death of Metropolitan Basil Schott, Archbishop of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh (b. 1939)

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

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Quote of the Day:

“I do not know how we can live a spiritual life that bears great fruit (including having our prayers answered) unless we are feeding on the life that God intended us to feed on.  The Eucharist is essential for our life.  It is food for the soul; it is food for life eternal.” ~ Sr. Ann Shields, “Pray and Never Lose Heart“, Servant Books

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Today’s reflection: Jesus shares His Last Supper with His disciples.

 

(NAB Mark 14:12-16, 22-26) 12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  13 He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.  Follow him.  14 Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’  15 Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.  Make the preparations for us there.”  16 The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.  22 While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.”  23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.  25 Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”  26 Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

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Gospel Reflection:

Our reading today is the account of the “Last Supper” as found in Mark’s Gospel.  It begins with the instructions Jesus gave to His disciples in order to prepare the Passover celebration approaching rapidly.  Mark then goes on to give a brief, yet accurate, account of the “Last Supper”.  However, our reading today omits the middle verses about Jesus’ predicting His betrayal by one of His disciples, we soon learn to be Judas Iscariot.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us the specific time period of the event:

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb …” (Mark 14:12).

The connection between these two events – – the festival of “Passover” and the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” – – are reflected in several books of the Old Testament (cf., Exodus 12:3–20, 34:18; Leviticus 23:4–8; Numbers 9:2–14, 28:16–17; and, Deuteronomy 16:1–8).

Mark’s Gospel describes Jesus’ “Last Supper”, celebrated with His disciples, as occurring during the Jewish feast of Passover.  The Passover meal, still today, includes many ritually important elements, such as unleavened bread, lamb, and bitter herbs.  Each food item recalls an aspect related to the Israelite Exodus event, with the instructions for the preparation of the meal carefully prescribed in Mosaic Law.  It is a significant, central, and crucial obligation of the Jewish faithful to celebrate the Passover meal, even still today, giving thanks to God for His deliverance and protection.

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The “Passover” festival commemorated the Israelite’s redemption from slavery and their departure from Egypt by night while led by Moses.  This festival began at sundown, after the Passover lamb was sacrificed in the temple in the afternoon of the “fourteenth day of the month of Nisan” **.  FYI, Passover, as all Jewish religious holidays, begins at Sundown. 

The Passover supper is on the same evening, and thus is associated with the eating of “unleavened bread”.  The “Feast of the Unleavened Bread”, itself was continued through “Nisan 21” **.  This particular Jewish “Feast” is a reminder of the hardships and haste placed upon the Israelites surrounding their “Exodus” departure.  

Through both the dual “festival” and “feast”, praise and thanks to God for His magnificent goodness in the past are combined with a hope of their future salvation through His grace.

Bible Scholars have placed the exact date of Jesus’ “Last Supper” as “Nisan 14” **, a date on the Hebrew Calendar (still in use today).

** Nisan (or Nissan) is the first month of the ecclesiastical year and the seventh month (eighth, in leap year) of the civil year, on the Hebrew calendar.  The name of the month is Babylonian.  In the Torah it is called the month of the Aviv, referring to the month in which barley was ripe.  Being a spring month of 30 days, Nisan usually falls on the Gregorian calendar between March and April.  

The first verse of today’s reading, besides giving us a definitive date of Jesus’ Passover meals, opens with Jesus’ disciples asking for directions from Him:

His [Jesus’] disciples said to Him, ‘Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” (Mark 14:12) 

I am certain Jesus’ response bewildered His much loved disciples and friends:

Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.   Follow him.” (Mark 14:13)

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A “man carrying a jar of water” is a strange sort of oddity for the Jewish society of the first century.   Only women carried jars at this time of history in Israel.  Perhaps His words were a prearranged signal from Jesus to follows of His in the City of Jerusalem itself; a signal to get prepared for His arrival.  So, in order to understand this point better, I went back to the original Greek version of the Bible to see the actual words used, with their word-to-word translations:

kai {AND} apostellei {HE SENDS FORTH} duotwn {TWO} maqhtwn  autou {OF HIS DISCIPLES,} kai {AND} legei  {SAYS} autoiV {TO THEM,} upagete  {GO} eiV {INTO} thn  {THE} polin  {CITY,} kai {AND} apanthsei {WILL MEET} umin {YOU} anqrwpoV {MAN – meaning a human being, NOT GENDER} keramion {A PITCHER} udatoV {OF WATER} bastazwn {CARRYING;} akolouqhsate  {FOLLOW} autw {MAN – meaning a human being, NOT GENDER }

The Greek word actually used here, “anqrwpoV, implies simply a person and not necessarily a male.  I believe this verse, along with the next, gives a strong credence to a signal for a pre-arraigned meeting place needing to be readied:

“Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’” (Mark 14:13). 

(My dear Watson, this sounds like a “James Bond 007” thriller starting to act out!  Wait, I’m mixing spy stories up, aren’t I!)

They did as they were told, and found exactly what Jesus said they would find.  This unknown “water-carrying man” showed Jesus’ emissaries a “large upper room” (verse 15), already furnished and ready for use.  So, they prepared for the Passover celebration feast:

“The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.” (Mark 14:16)

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Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what He had announced earlier at Capernaum – – giving His disciples “the LIVING bread”, His body and His blood:

 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give IS my flesh for the life of the world.”  The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’  Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks MY blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For MY flesh IS true food, and MY blood IS true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks MY blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.’” (John 6:51-58).

Jesus’ passing over to His Father by His death and resurrection – – the “new” Passover – – is anticipated in the “Last Supper” and celebrated in the Eucharist or “Lord’s Supper”, fulfilling the “Jewish Passover” and anticipating the “final Passover” of the church in the glory of God’s kingdom.  (Say this sentence three times fast.)  The “oldLIVES in the “new, and the “new” FULFILLS the “old.

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Mark seems to have purposely omitted many elements found in the Jewish Passover meal.  Instead he describes only those elements he believed to be most essential to revealing the true essence of the Christian Eucharist: Jesus taking the bread, blessing the bread, breaking the bread, and sharing the bread with His disciples.  This bread He now shares IS transubstantiated*** into Jesus’ own body.  Comparable words and actions follow as Jesus shares the chalice (cup) with His disciples.  Those who drink from the chalice are invited to share in a “NEW” covenant, sealed by Jesus’ own blood.  Mark, through the Eucharist, looks forward to the Kingdom of God which Jesus inaugurates at the “Last Supper” celebration.

*** “Transubstantiate” is an intransitive verb in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrine meaning  to undergo a change in substance from bread and wine to the body and blood of Jesus Christ during Communion

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We now skip forward to the actual Passover Celebration – – the “Last Supper”.  This Gospel reading shows the clear-cut and specific time Jesus instituted the “Sacrament of the Eucharist”:

“He [Jesus] took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this IS my body.’  Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  He said to them, ‘This is MY blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many’” (Mark 14: 22-24). 

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, shows that Jesus’ words continued to live on in the celebration of the ”Mass”, and still continues to this day:

 “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This IS my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup IS the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” (1 Corinthians 11:23–25).

The actions and words of Jesus expressed within the framework of the Passover meal conveys God’s “chosen” people towards a “NEW” covenant through Jesus’ selfless sacrifice of Himself.  How?; through the offering of His body and blood in anticipation of His passion and death just a few short hours later.  His “blood of the covenant” alludes to the Old Covenant story of the Exodus:

“Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and, rising early in the morning, he built at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve sacred stones for the twelve tribes of Israel.  Then, having sent young men of the Israelites to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls as communion offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar.  Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, ‘All that the LORD has said, we will hear and do.’  Then he took the blood and splashed it on the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.’” (Exodus 24:4–8).

Jesus, through His actions and words is signifying the NEW community that His sacrifice will bring into being on earth and in heaven.  His “blood” is the “seat of life”, and when placed on the altar (transubstantiated), “makes atonement”:

“Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is the blood, as the seat of life, that makes atonement.” (Leviticus 17:11).

Jesus’ blood “will be shed for many” (verse 24) is a participle denoting an event “future” to the “Last Supper”.  Jesus knew His Father’s will and plan, and He was willing to surrender Himself for the salvation and redemption of His flock.

The word “many” (verse 24) in today’s reading does not mean some are excluded.  Instead, the word “many” in this case is a “Semitism” (a custom, tradition, and characteristic of Semitic people – primarily Jewish and Arab peoples) designating the combined group who will share and benefit from the service of the “ONE”!!  Thus, “many” in this particular instance is equivalent to “ALL”.  Wait, how can “many” mean “all”?!  The meaning, significance, and substance of both words can be vicarious to interpret into present day English; in Hellenistic Greek, it is difficult to distinguish between the two words.  Many words in the Greek Bible do not translate well into our present day English easily.

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Jesus begins verse 25 with a word never before used as the opening word of a sentence – – until Jesus did (and did many times) – – “AMEN”:

Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). 

You see, any time the word “Amen” started a sentence in Holy Scripture, it was ALWAYS said by Jesus Himself.  These initial or beginning “Amen’s” are truly unparalleled, otherwise unknown, in Hebrew literature.  “Amen” at the beginning of a sentence does not refer to the words of a previous speaker.  Instead, Jesus deliberately used this particular word in introducing a new thought, a new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom.  He is deliberately indicating that whatever He says next is true, and will occur.  AWESOMELY WOW!!

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Today’s reading from Mark concludes with Jesus and His disciples “singing a hymn” before leaving for the “Mount of Olives”:

Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26)

My understanding is that it was a custom to sing a “hymn of thanksgiving” at the conclusion of the Passover meal.   Bible footnotes point to five specific “hymns” or “Psalms”: Psalms 114–118.  Psalm 114 is a hymn celebrating Israel’s escape from Egypt, journey through the wilderness, and entry into the promised land; and the miracles of nature that bore witness to God’s presence in their midst.  Psalm 115 is a hymn to the glory of Israel’s God.  Psalm 116 is a thanksgiving hymn responding to the Jewish people’s divine rescue from mortal danger and near despair.  Psalm 117, being the shortest hymn, calls on the nations to acknowledge God’s supremacy.  Finally, Psalm 118 is a thanksgiving hymn usually used in a procession into the Temple boundaries.

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In summary, the Gospel for today reminds us to the awesome fact that the Eucharist is a memorial of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Holy Cross – – for US!!  We, as pious and faithful Catholics, truly and fully believe that Jesus Christ IS truly and fully present in the elements (aka, “accidents”) of bread and wine, transubstantiated into His glorified and perfect body and blood.  Each time we celebrate this precious Sacrament of the Catholic Church, we are preparing for God’s Kingdom. The Second Vatican Council has taught us that this celebration IS THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT of the Catholic Christian’s life. 

The supernatural food of the Holy Eucharist is healing for both body and soul, and gives strength for our personal journey towards heaven.  The Holy Eucharist offers healing, pardon, comfort, and rest for your soul.  The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist IS an intimate union with Christ Himself.  I firmly believe, when consuming His precious body and blood, we are perfected (oh, so temporarily), and experience a true heaven on earth, united with Christ completely and fully!!  Now that is truly AWESOME indeed!!

When the Lord Jesus commands His disciples (including us) to eat His flesh and drink His blood, He invites us to take His life into the very center of our being:

 “Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you (John 6:53).

The life which Jesus offers is the very life of God Himself.  Jesus’ death on the cross, His gift to us of His body and blood – – in the Eucharist, and His promise to eat and drink again with His disciples when the kingdom of God comes – – in all its fullness – – are inseparably connected.  

Jesus instructed His disciples to “do this in remembrance of me”.  These words establish every “Lord’s Supper” or Eucharist as a “remembrance” of Jesus’ atoning death, His resurrection, and His promise to return again:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Within hours of Jesus’ “Last Supper” and the institution of the “Sacrament of the Eucharist”, He is put to death.  Yet, what a joyful result came from such a gruesome death as Jesus experience!  We gained an inheritance; an inheritance of “union” with a truly loving and living God.  And, there seems to be a further secret in all of this as well (my dear Watson).  The secret is that God’s inheritance for us is more immediate and present than we could ever dream.  Yet, we often forsake God’s gift to us – – Himself – – as only a “consolation prize” of solace and comfort for when we die, not while we are living.

Guess what?!  We can experience our inheritance, our communion with God – – and ALL His creation – – again and again during this life.  We experience our inheritance in a central way through, with, and in, the Eucharist.  The Blessed Sacrament is a celebration and thanksgiving of Christ’s self-offering and the covenant between the human and the divine life.  A “Sacrament” effects what it signifies: the Eucharist, at the same time, effects and signifies a communion (a co-union).  It effects and signifies our participation in Jesus Christ’s death-conquering activity to bring about an everlastingly and joyful life.  WOW!!!  The Eucharist itself moves us to becoming a “sacrament” (little “s”) as well – – showing Christ’s presence and power in the world.  Watson, that’s a TRIPLE WOW for us to celebrate!!

Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper joyfully anticipates the final day when the Lord Jesus will feast anew with His disciples in His promised heavenly feast.  

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In conclusion, Think about some of the things that are required to prepare for a family/friend holiday meal: choosing the menu, preparing the shopping list, and assigning duties for cooking, setting the table, preparing decorations, leading the prayers, and cleaning up during and afterwards.  (Wow!! A lot to do for sure.)

Did you notice how Jesus instructed His disciples to prepare for their Passover meal in this reading? (Answer: by having a trust in Him.)  As ALL meals require some kind of planning and preparation, so too does our Sunday (and weekday) Eucharistic celebrations requires planning.  So, what might you do to better prepare for our celebration of the Eucharist? Examples should include prayer, reading the scriptures of the mass PRIOR to mass, being attentive, and participating in mass.  Choose one or more ideas and begin to implement them in your life.  Pray for God’s help in making your celebration of the Eucharist the highlight of your week – – AS IT SHOULD BE ALWAYS!!

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Reflection Prayer:

Behold the Lamb of God

“the Agnus Dei”

“Behold the Lamb of God,
behold Him who takes
away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called
to the supper of the Lamb.  Amen”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Faith and Works

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works?  Can his faith save him?” (James 2:14) RSV.

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?  Can faith save him?” (James 2:14) KJV.

**

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17)RSV.

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret of Scotland

St. Margaret was Queen of Scotland’s father, Edward Atheling, was the Saxon heir to the throne of England, and her mother was a German princess, the descendant of Emperors.  Like the strong woman of the Gospel, the practice of Catholic virtues made her still more illustrious.  After the Norman Conquest, many members of the English nobility, including Margaret, found refuge in the court of Malcolm III of Scotland.  In 1070 Malcolm married Margaret and made her Queen of Scotland.

Margaret impressed the Scottish court both with her knowledge of continental customs and also with her piety.  For the love of God she imposed upon herself severe mortifications, leaving aside the superfluous and often even the necessary.  She influenced her husband and son to govern better and introduced Catholic customs, manners and ceremony to the Scottish court.  She raised her sons in great piety and one, David, was later canonized.  Above all she excelled in her zealous charity for her neighbor.  She was called “the mother of orphans” and “the bursar for the poor of Jesus Christ.”

In 1093, after six months of great physical suffering, she delivered her soul to God in Edinburgh.  The sanctity of her life and the numerous miracles she worked both in her life and after her death made her famous worldwide.

In 1673 Pope Clement X named her the patroness of Scotland, over which she had reigned for almost a quarter century.

http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j077sdMargaret4-10.htm

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

“Which Way Is OZ; Um, I Mean GOD!” – John 14:1-12 †


 

Fifth Week of Easter

 

 

Today’s Content:

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I guess if you are reading this on Sunday the 22nd (or later), Jesus Christ either:

  • Did not come yesterday to take all His “chosen” people to heaven as predicted by an engineer that calculated the date from Bible passages,

  OR,

  •  You’re not one of the “chosen” people.

(PS – It is only 578 days till the end of the Mayan Calendar)

Let us please remember what Holy Scripture says of the end of time (the Parousia):

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

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1377 – Pope Gregory XI issues five papal bulls to denounce the doctrines of English theologian John Wycliffe.
†   1381 – Birth of Saint Rita of Cascia, Italian Saint (d. 1457)
†   1457 – Death of Saint Rita of Cascia, Italian saint (b. 1381)1526 – Pope Clemens VII, France, Genoa, Venice, Florence & Milan form Anti-French League of Cognac
†   1667 – Death of Pope Alexander VII, [Fabio Chigi], Italian Pope (1655-67), at age 68
†   1715 – François-Joachim de Pierre de Bernis, French cardinal and statesman (d. 1794)

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We don’t pray to change God’s mind.  We pray that our minds are changed instead.  If we received everything we requested, then we would BE God.  There would no longer be a need for faith and trust in others!  There would no longer be opportunities for other doors to open in our lives.  And, there would be no need to see Jesus Christ in others that we come into contact with in our daily lives.  I believe that without faith and trust, there would no longer be such gifts as anticipation, wisdom, miracles, sharing, trust, or even the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  How sad would be the world without faith, trust, and PRAYER!” ~ Dan Halley, SFO

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:1-12)

 

(NAB John 14:1-12) 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  4 Where (I) am going you know the way.”  5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”  9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?  The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.  The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.  12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.  

 

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The readings for the last few Sundays have been about Jesus’ Resurrection.  Today’s Gospel takes us back in time, to an event in Jesus’ life, a day before His Passion and death.  The scene in today’s Gospel takes place at Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His trusted disciples.  Within 24 hours, Jesus will be dead.

In the Gospel chapter (John 13) just previous to this reading, Jesus washed His follower’s feet, foretold of the betrayal by one of His group of friends, and gave His “new commandment” (“Love one another as I have loved you”).  Now, in today’s reading (john 14), Jesus is revealing the nature of His true “Father” to His, “chosen” “Twelve”.  In this reading, Jesus introduces the foretelling of His departure from this world, and of His return. 

As much as we try to plan for and avoid trials and tribulations in our lives, we inevitably encounter difficulties and ordeals.  And, sometimes these trials and tribulations seem to be more than we think we can handle!  Perhaps, this is why John has Jesus saying, in the very first verse:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)

It is also evident in these verses (John 14:2-3) that Jesus is concerned about the problems His departure will cause for His followers “left behind”.  Jesus knew that His disciples would have to face adversities and trials, especially after He left them on earth, ascending to His Father in heaven.  Jesus assured them that His departure is for their (and our) benefit.  It was to prepare a place for them (and us) in God’s house – a place of refuge, a place of peace, a place of rest, and a place of everlasting joy and happiness in and with God the Father Himself. 

Jesus always “speaks”, then and now, in very personal promises, words, and actions meant for us personally.  In this way, He truly and fully shares His love for each and every one of His followers: those of us who believe in Him.  So, when I am troubled, distressed, and/or “tired”, I know for certain that there is always room in His heart for me and for you as well!

 

Apparently, the prediction of Peter’s denial (Deny me three times, and then the cock crows story) troubled and saddened all His disciples (John 13).  On top of this, Jesus is soon “leaving on a jet cloud”. 

So, I am sure that He realized they needed to be encouraged and reassured.  Hence, Jesus took on the role of a cheerleader (of sorts) by telling them that He is going away to prepare for them a place in heaven.  I was not in that Jerusalem room, listening to Him with the other “Twelve”.  However, with a proper attachment to the Holy Spirit I am still quite joyous in knowing that there IS a place being reserved in heaven, just for me – – and for you too.  (So Awesome)!

Recall that Jesus talked about “my Father’s house” before:

“They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.  Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”?  But you have made it a den of thieves.’  The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.” (Mark 11:15-18).

Now, through John, Jesus is saying that HE is the new Temple; and there is room in His heart for everyone.  In His Father’s house, there are many dwelling places; and He is preparing a dwelling place for ALL His disciples.

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It is intriguing that Jesus Christ says, “You have faith” in God.  Then, He says, “Have faith” in me?  Notice the difference between these two phrases, “You [truly do] have faith”, and “[please] Have faith”.  The former is a matter of fact and the latter a request or plea for them to believe, i.e., have faith and confidence in Jesus Christ as the true “Promised One” to David.

Then, when Jesus declares, He is “Coming back again”, He is introducing a whole new idea about His coming again, a second time, to fulfill the end of time vision of the prophet Daniel (Daniel 10).  Another notable reference to the “Parousia” by John can be found in the first of his three “epistles”, 1 John 2:28:

Now, children, remain in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not be put to shame by Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28).

Other references to the second coming known as the “Parousia” are Corinthians 4:5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

“Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5);

And,

For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

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Jesus Christ, though His very own personal works of salvation and redemption, has prepared our personal heavenly abodes.  In so doing, His words should be attended to, not only by the “Twelve” reclining and dining with Him at His “last meal”, but also to everyone who believed then, believes now, and will believe in Him into the centuries to come.  The Lord Jesus Christ will bring with Him – – into His glory – – all those who believe, and have truly stayed faithful to Him.

 

If the Father’s home in heaven is our destination, how can we find our way without a map or a travel guide?  How do we get to the proverbial “X” that marks the spot on the treasure map?

Holy Scripture speaks of “the way that leads to joy, peace, and “oneness” with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit:

“LORD, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies.” (Psalm 27:11;

And,

“Be careful, therefore, to do as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, not turning aside to the right or to the left, but following exactly the way prescribed for you by the LORD, your God, that you may live and prosper, and may have long life in the land which you are to occupy (Deuteronomy 5:32-33).

 

Holy Scripture (John 14:15) reveals that Thomas wants to know the way.  “The Way” is used three times in this Gospel reading, and seven further times throughout the Acts of the Apostles (cf., Acts 9:2; 18:25; 18:26; 19:9; 19:23; 24:14; and 24:22).

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The way” in verse 4 is not a mythical “yellow brick road” to heaven.  “The way” is not a physical item or trail which one treads on in order to get from one place to another.  “The way” is Jesus Christ – Himself!!  In addition, “the way”, besides being a “destination”, was also an early first-century designation or “name” for the group of believers in Jesus as the “Messiah” God.

 

When Jesus proclaims: “I am the Way”, He is not simply giving guidance and leadership in saying those profound words; He is declaring that He personally ISthe way”.  We cannot get lost if we follow Him on our individual paths to His kingdom.  He leads and guides us personally every day of our lives, if we allow.

 

Jewish temple leaders and Roman officials called followers of Jesus Christ “the way”, a name for a religious faction or sect.  Proof of such fact is found throughout the book of Acts:

“[Saul] asked him [the Temple high priest] for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.” (Acts 9:2).

At another time:

But when some in their obstinacy and disbelief disparaged the Way before the assembly, he withdrew and took his disciples with him and began to hold daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  About that time a serious disturbance broke out concerning the Way.” (Acts 19:9, 23).

And again Paul declares:

I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.” (Acts 22:4);

And finally,

“This I do admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors and I believe everything that is in accordance with the law and written in the prophets.  Then Felix, who was accurately informed about the Way, postponed the trial, saying, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I shall decide your case.’” (Acts 24:14, 22).

 

So, we now know “the way” is both Jesus Christ Himself and the people themselves who made up the early community of believers.  This concept of the same word (“the way”) recognizing a movement and group has not changed since the first–century, and will never change or came to an end.  The present word, “Church” represents both a movement of the Catholic faith and the people who make up the universal (Catholic) congregation now known as the “Catholic faith”. 

Anyone who was going to be a member of the early Catholic Community, known as “The Way”, had to do two things:

  • They had to know “The Way” so they could help other people live the faith.
  • They had to truly live “The Way”.

Do “You” truly know “The Way”, and are “You” living the faith of “The Way”?

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We have affirmed Jesus is “the Way”.  Now Jesus Christ, our Lord, also declares He is “the Truth”.  Many can say, “I have taught you the truth”; but only Jesus can say, “I am the Truth”.  Realize that moral truths cannot be conveyed in words alone.  Moral truths have to be communicated by example, as Jesus demonstrated in “ALL” His earthly ministry.

With God’s truth dwelling in our hearts, minds, and soul, we will speak what we “hear” from God:

When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.  He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.” (John 16:13)

 

The truth” in today’s reading is the divinely discovered, revealed, and exposed reality of God the Father truly manifested in the fully human and fully divine person of Jesus Christ, and in the fully human and fully divine works of Jesus. The possession of His “truth” bestows knowledge of, strength over, and liberation from, sin for us.  Much earlier, John says the truth will release you from Satan’s power:

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32).

 

It looks as if neither the Pharisees, nor the Apostles truly grasped who Jesus truly was, and what He truly was – – and it sounds as if Jesus was truly disappointed and frustrated that both groups did not fully grasp or understand – – although Jesus believed they could have, and even should have recognized Him.

It seems to me that Jesus Christ may have been, for the statement found in John 8, to be rebuking them for their unbelief:

So they said to him, ‘Where is your father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my FatherIf you knew me, you would know my Father also.’” (John 8:19)

I believe the “Twelve” disciples (soon to be called Apostles’) did not really understand what Jesus was telling them; hence, Phillip’s and Thomas’ reactions.  St. Augustine wrote of this part of Jesus’ discourse above (John 8:19):

 “It was necessary for Him to say, ‘I am the Way’ to show them that they really knew what they thought they were ignorant of, because they knew Him (St. Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 66, 2)

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Then Jesus continues, saying I am “the Life”! – – the true life of “the way” to God, and the true life of the “truth” about God – – and about Himself.  He not only shows us the path of life, but also gives the kind of special life only God can give: eternal and abundant life:

You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” (Psalm 16:11);

Are there any worries or difficulties that can keep YOU from perfect peace and happiness in a life abandoned to, surrendered to, and given to Jesus Christ without restraint or condition?  After all, it is written:

 “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

He is the resurrection and the life to all that believe in Him:

Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live’” (John 11:25)

In sin, there is death; in Jesus Christ, eternal life.  The choice before us is clear.  Let us all pray for the grace to choose wisely, faithfully, and correctly all the days of our life.  Amen and Amen!!

 

Jesus ISthe Way” to God the Father, through what – – He Himself – – TEACHES.  By us keeping to His teachings, we will reach His open arms in heaven.  “The Way” is:

  • Through faith, which he inspires, because He came to this world so that:

Everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15).

  • Through Jesus’ example, since no one can go to God the Father in heaven without imitating God the Son (Jesus Christ).

 

  • Through Jesus’ merits, which makes possible for us to enter our heavenly abode, prepared for us by our loving and saving Messiah.

 

And above all, He is “The Way” to God the Father because:

 

  • He reveals and introduces us to His (and our) Father, with whom He is one because of His divine nature, with whom we are one because of His sanctifying grace.

 

Older Catholic Catechisms described God as “the Supreme Being, above all creatures, the self-existing and infinitely perfect spirit.”  (I seem to like Jesus’ Description of His Father better: “If you know me, you know Him.”)

As he invited Philip (and Thomas) to know Him, Jesus Christ is inviting us to know Him, “If you want to know what God is like, look at ME!”  For me, that means God cries, God laughs, God embraces little children, and God touches the lepers, the marginalized, and the outcast.

The Gospels of this Easter Season, along with my recent “Profession” in the Secular Franciscan Order, declares to me how amazingly and delightfully close, devoted, and intimate God the Father truly is to me.  (Boy, He still has a lot of work to do with me though!)

 

Jesus Christ is the ONLY path linking heaven and earth.  There are NO shortcuts to heaven!  Hanging on the Holy Cross of human death, His one outstretched hand touches this world (holding our hands) while the other touches heaven (holding His Father’s).  WOW – – What a powerful image!!

In saying “I am the way”, Jesus is speaking to ALL of us who are determined to take our individual Catholic Christian vocations seriously, be it the single, married, clerical, or religious life.  Jesus truly wants God (Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit) to be in our soul: our thoughts, on our lips, and in everything we do and say, always, – – continuously, – – and forever.

Jesus’ words do much more than simply provide an answer to the inquiries of Philip and Thomas in today’s reading.  He is telling them and us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, with an emphasis on all parts equally.  John the Evangelist says Jesus Christ is full of Truth because by coming to this world He shows that God is faithful to His promises, because He teaches the truth about “who” God is, and tells us that true worship must be:

“in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23)

 

Jesus IS eternally “the Life” because He had then, He has now, and He will always have divine life with His Father:

Through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race. (John 1:4).

Because of His life with God the Father, He makes us, through grace, sharers in that same divine life.  This is why John’s Gospel goes on to say:

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3).

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In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows us the purpose for our life; what we should strive for with all of our strength, being, and desire – – To know, love, and praise God in all we do, think, and say!  

Knowing God personally is the prize above all prizes.  Jeremiah says of the “Lord”:

“Let him who glories, glory in this, that in his prudence he knows me, Knows that I, the LORD, bring about kindness, justice and uprightness on the earth; For with such am I pleased, says the LORD.  See, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will demand an account of all those circumcised in their flesh (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

A great truth of the Catholic faith is that we can know the living God in our lives.  Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to possibly knowing something about God, but rather, knowing God intimately and personally.  The essence of Christianity, of Catholicism, is the knowledge of God as OUR personal and collective Father and Savior.  This intimate and loving relationship makes our Catholic faith distinct from Judaism and other religions.

 

Remember, Jesus said, “I AM the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.”  Everyone can achieve an understanding of “Truth” and the “Life”; but not all truly find “the Way”.  The sensible, the intelligent, and the clever living among us realize God is eternal life and a knowable truth.  The “Word of God”, – – who is Truth and Life, and joined to, and one with God the Father, – – became “the Way” by taking a human nature and form: Jesus Christ.

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Even among His “chosen”, they had moments of doubt.  Thomas doubted his fellow disciples’ news that they have seen Jesus Christ Risen.  Now, in today’s reading, Thomas challenges Jesus by saying that the “Twelve” don’t really know where He is going, or how He is going to get there.  Jesus explains that He Himself IS the way, IS the truth, and IS the life.  So, in knowing and loving Jesus then and there, the disciples (and we) now know and love God the Father Himself as we and they believe in and love Jesus their Lord!

Philip then makes a request that challenges Jesus’ words.  Philip wants Jesus to show God the Father to the assembled followers.  

Jesus had just finished telling those assembled disciples:

If you know me, then you will also know my Father.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7).

I rank Phillip asking for proof as one of the boldest questions directed to Jesus.  Philip is asking for a “theophany”, an appearance to a human being of a god in a visible form, similar to the one Moses experienced in Exodus:

“Moses then went up with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel, and they beheld the God of IsraelUnder His feet there appeared to be sapphire tile work, as clear as the sky itself.” (Exodus 24:9-10).

 

As a first-rate teacher, Jesus responds to Philip by repeating and elaborating on what he has just told the disciples:

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9).

They had seen Jesus and had known Jesus.  So, they have seen and known God the Father. Then Jesus immediately offers another reassurance about His departure:

“Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.” (John14:12).

 

The connection between Jesus and His Father, between Jesus’ work and the work of God the Father, is made clear in today’s Gospel.  Jesus is in God the Father, and God the Father is in God the Son: Jesus.  As God spoke His name to Moses, “I am,” so too Jesus speaks His name to His disciples:

 “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6).

 

Philip (and Thomas) were both blinded to the reality of the faith they actually had:

“Jesus said, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, “Show us the Father”?’” (John 14:9). 

 

Linger over this for a moment and consider who God the “Father” actually is.  He is:

  • The all-powerful Creator of the universe.
  • The Author of life who keeps everything in existence. 
  • He is the God whose beauty, only partially revealed, dazzled Moses and made Moses face so radiant that people were afraid to approach him (cf., Exodus 34: 30-35).  (Moses then decided to wear a veil after being with God.)

Previously, Isaiah was so overcome by the sight of God that he feared for his life:

“In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple.  Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet, and with two they hovered aloft.  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!’ they cried one to the other. ‘All the earth is filled with his glory!’  At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.  Then I said, ‘Woe is me, I am doomed!  For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’” (Isaiah 6: 1-5).

 

Wow!! God the Father is:

  • Glorious in holiness,
  • Robed in light, and
  • Majestic beyond compare.

This is God the Son – – Jesus Christ – – as well.  Seeing the one IS seeing the other:

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?  The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.  The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.” (John 14: 10-11).

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Jesus’ followers were feeling they were going to be left behind.  Jesus was going to His “glory”, and they were being left out.  Who hasn’t experienced that same feeling of being “left out” in the crowd?  I was poor athletically and ended up being picked last, as always, for team sports.  Over time I perfected “Right Field” and “Timed Out” on the various baseball and soccer teams.

In today’s reading, Jesus assures them:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:1,3). 

He assures us as well, with the exact same words:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:1,3). 

Jesus Christ will never leave us behind!

 

Jesus’ words must have seemed peculiar, puzzling, and even out of the ordinary to the “Twelve” who were dining, talking, and listening to Him at, what came to be, His last earthly meal.  They could not understand the unique and mysterious “oneness” of – – Father and Son.  By this time, Jesus Christ had walked on water, controlled the wind, forgave sins, and even raised the dead.  ALL in the presence of these “Twelve” men!  Yet, they still did not know Him yet as God.  No wonder Jesus rebuked these “men of faith”.

The vision of God the Father in Jesus the Son is a vision found only through faith.  No one has “seen” God as He truly is:

No one has ever seen God.  The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1:18);

And,

Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46).

 

No image, symbol, or thought can truly capture ALL that God is, for He is beyond any and all images, symbols, and thoughts.  However, an image, symbol, or thought, can express something about who God is and how each of us has experienced God the Father in our lives.  For some of us, it could be an image, symbol, or thought of a shepherd, a rock, a bright warm sunset, or the look in your spouse’s eyes.  What is your favorite image, symbol or thought of God the Father?

 

All manifestations of God the Father, Himself, – – a Theophany – – have only been seen as reflections of His greatness and power.  The highest and greatest visual expression of God the Father which has EVER been given to us is IN the person of Jesus Christ Himself; the Son of God sent to be among us in both a human and divine “Way”.  Vatican II says:

Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself: through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but especially through His death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth.  Moreover He confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed, that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal.”  (Vatican II, Dei Verum, 4).

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Before leaving this world, Jesus Christ promised His “Twelve” (and others, including us today) that He would make them (and us) “sharers” in His power and authority.  God’s plan of redemption and salvation was manifested through these “Twelve” men, and is now manifested through us and future generations.

The “works” of God: conversion of people to the Catholic Christian faith, sanctification by preaching and teaching and by the Sacraments of the Catholic Church which are all done in and through His Name – – Jesus Christ, and with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says, in today’s Gospel:

“…whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these …” (John 14:12).

The “works” Jesus speaks about are the miracles performed through their (and our) works in the name of Jesus Christ.  Here are only two of many such “works”, as found in the book of Acts:

Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer.  And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple.  When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’  He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.  Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, (rise and) walk.’  Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.  He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.” (Acts 3:1-10);

And,

“Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.  A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.” (Acts 5:15-16).

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Did Jesus Christ already know His “word” would be preached, not only throughout first century Palestine, but throughout the ends of the earth and for all eternity?  The answer: OF COURSE HE DID!!

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (John 3: 21)

Jesus’ extraordinary power, graced to us through “apostolic succession” and the Holy Spirit, cultivates within us a gift and ability to teach and preach.  We are lovingly bestowed a great grace proceeding from Jesus Christ HIMSELF, who ascended (not taken or escorted) to God the Father, and is “seated at His right hand!!

 

Jesus undertook and endured the humiliation and pain of the cross for the redemptive payment for OUR sins and not His (for He had none).  He not only gave of Himself in this heroic virtue of giving up His life, He still gives of His glorified “self” from heaven by the manifest actions of power through the Apostles – – and through US – – by the Holy Spirit!

 

The disclosure, the revelation of the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), is fully completed in the passage which follows today’s reading (and is the Gospel for next Sunday; John 14:15-21).  Because Jesus leaves and returns to His Father, the Father then sends in Jesus’ name the Holy Spirit, theAdvocate” promised by Jesus Christ: the Holy Spirit in the divine person, who continues the work of God the Father and of God the Son on earth today.  He is commonly referred to as the “Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity”. – – the ONE God of Israel.

 

Our minds can’t comprehend all the philosophical and theological questions about God.  It is far beyond our finite capabilities.  Even St. Thomas Aquinas (a Dominican), who, in my opinion is the greatest Theologian in Catholic Church history, is said to have remarked that everything he had written (a large amount – he loved to write) was like “straw”.  After experiencing a vision during the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Mass one day, St. Thomas Aquinas believed that what he wrote was absolutely worthless in describing the theology and philosophy of God and His unique Being.  He never wrote another word, and died a short time later.

If a man known as a “Doctor”* in the Catholic Church, a man recognized by other Christian religions as a “learned” man, a man whose writings are held in high esteem throughout all of Christianity, whose writings can be found in any and all Colleges and Universities of the world, cannot describe the essence of God, CAN ANYONE?!

(* a “Doctor of the Church” (from the Latin “docere”, to teach) is a title given to individuals whom the Catholic Church recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.)

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In Summary, members of the same family often bear close resemblances to one another.  Sometimes physical resemblances are shared within a family, but often the similarities are behavioral characteristics and mannerisms. Close resemblances in others (and possibly ourselves) are affirmed through a number of phrases commonly heard in our society: “He’s a chip off the old block” or “She’s her mother’s daughter.”

Can your friends recognize common traits of you in your family, and family in you?  Are there physical resemblances that friends recognize in you, and recognize in other members of your family?  Are there mannerisms which are shared among members of your family?  Are there any common interests and occupations that people might associate with your family?  (Medicine runs in my family’s occupational line.) 

Keep in mind that members of the same family intrinsically share many characteristics, even though each person in the family is a unique individual.  What does Jesus Christ tell His disciples about His relationship with God the Father? – – they are in each other.  The relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ (God the Son) is so close and intertwined that Jesus says those who have seen and known Jesus have also seen and known God the Father.  Jesus promises His followers that, because of their faith in Him and in God the Father, they too will be able to do the exact same work Jesus Christ did Himself.  Do others recognize in YOU the works, characteristics, mannerisms, and traits of God the Father and God the Son?

 

Today’s Gospel features a true “mystery of faith” which might be examined in light of familial relationships.  In Jesus Christ we see and know God the Father.  Likewise, God the Father is known through the life, work, and teachings of God the Son: Jesus Christ.

I can choose to look to Jesus Christ and the way He is revealed in Holy Scripture.  Whenever the glorious Jesus Christ comes to His disciples and Apostles in their individual and collective struggles, He is always merciful, compassionate, and loving, just as His God and Father is – – merciful, compassionate, and loving.  This is how I see God.  This I know God to be, and will always be in my life!

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To conclude, Jesus makes it possible for each of us to personally and individually know God as our loving and merciful Father.  To see Jesus is to see what “God the Father” is like.  In Jesus we see the perfect love of God.  Jesus’ perfect love illuminates a God who cares intensely for each of us in an individual and unique way, and who lovingly desires each of us to dwell in His kingdom.  God’s desire for us to share His “Way”, “Truth”, and “Life”, led Him to the point of laying down His own life solely for us: that is Jesus Christ upon the Holy Cross.  

Jesus is the true and full revelation of God, who loves us completely, fully, unconditionally, and perfectly.  He promises that God the Father will hear our prayers when we pray in His name.  For this reason, He taught His followers to pray with confidence the following words:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven” (Matthew 6:9).

 

Please meditate on the following, before answering:

Do YOU pray to your Father in heaven with joy and confidence found in His love, trust, and care for YOU?  Have you ever addressed God as “My Father in heaven?

The “God of all ages” was (and is) fully and definitively revealed in the human Jesus Christ!  If you want to know “what” God is, and how to reach Him, look to Jesus Christ.  Through Him, you have been given access to every grace and spiritual gift, to an imperishable and unending inheritance, and to none other than God the Father Himself!  Alleluia and Amen!!

 

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Our Father

 

“Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.  Amen.”

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

 

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

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

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

 

The 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:  Blessed Joachima (1783-1854)

 

Born into an aristocratic family in Barcelona, Spain, Joachima was 12 when she expressed a desire to become a Carmelite nun. But her life took an altogether different turn at 16 with her marriage to a young lawyer, Theodore de Mas. Both deeply devout, they became secular Franciscans. During their 17 years of married life they raised eight children.

The normalcy of their family life was interrupted when Napoleon invaded Spain. Joachima had to flee with the children; Theodore, remaining behind, died. Though Joachima reexperienced a desire to enter a religious community, she attended to her duties as a mother. At the same time, the young widow led a life of austerity and chose to wear the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis as her ordinary dress. She spent much time in prayer and visiting the sick.

Four years later, with some of her children now married and younger ones under their care, Joachima confessed her desire to a priest to join a religious order. With his encouragement she established the Carmelite Sisters of Charity. In the midst of the fratricidal wars occurring at the time, Joachima was briefly imprisoned and, later, exiled to France for several years.

Sickness ultimately compelled her to resign as superior of her order. Over the next four years she slowly succumbed to paralysis, which caused her to die by inches. At her death in 1854 at the age of 71, Joachima was known and admired for her high degree of prayer, deep trust in God and selfless charity.

Comment:

Joachima understands loss. She lost the home where her children grew up, her husband and, finally, her health. As the power to move and care for her own needs slowly ebbed away, this woman who had all her life cared for others became wholly dependent; she required help with life’s simplest tasks. When our own lives go spinning out of control, when illness and bereavement and financial hardship strike, all we can do is cling to the belief that sustained Joachima: God watches over us always.

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:

 

Franciscan Spirituality

 

Have I developed and nurtured my Franciscan Spirituality?  Or have I been developing and practicing another style and approach?

What have I been doing recently to develop my Franciscan Spirituality?

Have my religious activities been heavily “routine” and without much “spirit”?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 22 & 23 of 26:

 

22. The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love.  This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.

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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.

 

“Chose To Participate and Get More, Or Become Lax and Lose All Now AND In the Future!!” – Luke 19:11-28†


 

Wow, were has this year gone?  We are finishing the “Ordinary Time” of the liturgical year, and only a slight 10 days till the start of another liturgical year with the start of Advent.  Only 38 days till CHRIST- mas.  Are you ready?

 

 

 

Congratulations to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, on his election as head of the USCCB.  An excellent choice was made by our countries other shepherds.

 

Today in Catholic History:

  
      
†   594 – Death of Gregory of Tours, bishop and historian (b. c.539)
†   1231 – Death of Elisabeth of Hungary (Third Order Franciscan), daughter of Andrew II of Hungary (b. 1207)
†   1302 – Death of St. Gertrude the Great (b. 1256)
†   1576 – Birth of Roque Gonzales de Santa Cruz, Paraguayan Jesuit missionary (d. 1628)
†   1681 – Birth of Pierre François le Courayer, Catholic French theologian and writer (d. 1776)
†   1928 – Notre Dame finally loses a football game after nearly 25 years of straight wins.  In 2009, some believe they lost their Catholic identity as well.
Feast Days: Elisabeth of Hungary; Gregory of Tours; Hilda of Whitby; Hugh of Lincoln; Acisclus

(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:

 

Exercise daily — walk with the Lord

 

 

http://www.thebricktestament.com

 

 

Today’s reflection is about being a trusted, faithful, and productive servant of God.

 

11 While they were listening to him [Jesus] speak; he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God would appear there immediately.  12 So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.   13 He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’  14 His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’  15 But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading.  16 The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’  17 He replied, ‘Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’  18 Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’  19 And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’  20 Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief,  21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding person; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’  22 He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant.  You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; 23 why did you not put my money in a bank?  Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’  24 And to those standing by he said, ‘Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.’  25 But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’  26 ‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  27 Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.'”  28 After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.  (NAB Luke 19:11-28)

 

Disciples MUST take risks in following our “King:” Jesus Christ,- – the “Messiah,” – – in His footsteps and on His path to salvation with eternal life in paradise!!  There is no “SAFE” position on this aspect of Faith.  The only path is to take risks!  How does this “prophetic statement” make you feel?  This reading today needs to be interpreted in its own context: What is to be given to Jesus, the King?

In today’s Gospel, Luke is combining two very distinct parables: (1) a parable about the conduct of faithful and productive servants and (2) a story about a rejected king.  A very similar story about the conduct of servants also occurs (in another fashion) in Matthew 25:14-20.  

The story about the rejected king might have stemmed from a historical event that occurred at that period in time.  After the death of Herod the Great (who ordered the slaughter of the children in the infancy narratives), his son Archelaus had to travel to Rome in order to receive the title of “King.”   A delegation of Jews, resolute that he not be their new king, travelled to, and appeared before Caesar Augustus, in Rome, in order to oppose the request of Archelaus.  Although not given the official title of “king,” Archelaus was made “ruler” over all of Judea and Samaria (which includes the city of Jerusalem).  

The Jews in Jesus’ time had a heightened sense that the Messiah would appear and usher in the kingdom of God on the earth.  In His teachings, Jesus often spoke in messianic and prophetic language about the coming supremacy of God.  Luke uses today’s story to supply a correction to the widely held expectation of the imminent end of the age and of the establishment of the kingdom in Jerusalem (see Luke 19:11 – covered in depth in my previous blog).  

Jesus is not on his way to Jerusalem to receive the power of a king.  There is to be no spectacular “manifestation” of the kingdom of God magically appearing before all eyes in Jerusalem.  For the manifestation of God’s kingdom to happen, Jesus must leave His “land;” and then only after returning from a “distant” place will reward and judgment take place (what a ‘poetic’ reference to the Parousia).  What is being offered by Jesus – – the “King” – – instead is dedication, persistence, and faithfulness, obedient to His Father’s will!

The “they” in verse 11 not only includes Jesus’ follows and admirers, but also His opponents.  Jesus wanted all, even those opposed to Him, to know that at issue in this lesson was how one should use their material possessions in response to the advent of Jesus’ in their lives. 

Jesus is the representation appearing as the “King” in the story line today.  The people, religious leaders, and disciples all respond differently to Jesus as “King.”  The people are anxiously awaiting the Messiah promised in scripture of old.  The religious leaders were adamant that Jesus not be looked upon as the Messiah, the “King”!  And finally, the followers of Jesus are at least suspicious of him, while others are well aware of the true nature of Jesus.

The ten gold coins from verse 13 literally denote “ten minas.”  A mina was a monetary unit that in ancient Greece was equivalent to one hundred drachmas.  So, in doing the “biblical” math, these ten coins mentioned in today’s reading equaled one thousand (1000) days wages.  (Wow – nearly three years worth of pay!)  But – and a big BUT, – this story IS NOT about investment banking!!  It is entirely about spiritual gifts and talents, and how we must share them!

Jesus taught in regards to their desire for a “new kingdom” in this story of a nobleman who went away to receive a kingdom.  The parable reveals something important about how God’s salvation plan, how He brings about the plan, and our purpose in His plan.  It opens with the nobleman’s trust in his subjects.  He leaves them with a large sum of money to use as they think best.  He TRUSTED them with his property.  Though there were no strings attached, he was obviously testing them to see if they would be faithful and reliable in their use of the money that was entrusted to them.  Finally, the nobleman, now a new “King” with his return from a distant land, rewards those who are faithful and punishes those who sit by idly and do nothing with his money.

God gives His kingdom to those who are ready to receive His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in a very personal way.  God trusts us with His gifts and graces.  He gives us the freedom (freewill) to use them as we think best.  With each gift and talent, God gives sufficient grace, resources, and power for using them in a fitting way.  As the parable of “the talents” (in an earlier reading) shows, God loathes apathy, lack of interest, and coldness with His graces, gifts, and talents that He has imparted to us. 

God admires, respects, and awards those of us who use their talents, gifts, and graces for doing His work joyfully and willfully. “Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more!”  Sounds like my old boss; “You did such a great job, here are three more things for you to do!”)  But for those who chose to neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them – – they will lose what they have.  (“YOUR FIRED” – literally if you can excuse the prophetic pun.) 

There is an important lesson here for all of us to learn!  Not one of us can be apathetic, stationary, or inactive in being a Catholic.  We either chose to participate and get more, or we become lax and lose what we have now AND in the future!  We either follow Jesus on our (and His) path to eternity in paradise or we follow on the much easier and carefree path to eternal torment.  Which path do you want to take?  Do you TRUST in God’s grace?  Do you make good use of the gifts and talents God has already given to you?  Finally, do you share these gifts and talents?

Our King (Jesus the CHRIST) is overflowing in the bounty He promises.  Acceptance of God’s rule over oneself is a great moment of decision for us.  Unfortunately, some decide not to accept what our King Jesus brings in plenty for all of us.  Jesus has the important, decisive, and critical role in regard to all of our destinies; He determines our “life” and “death!”  I bow to Him lovingly, gracefully, and gratefully!!

 

Prayer for the Sanctification of Labor

 

“O God, the creator of all things, you framed the law of labor for the human race.  Graciously grant, by the example and patronage of St. Joseph, that we may do the work you provide us and earn the reward you promise.  Sustain us with your grace to live up to our duties in charity and justice.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231)

 

In her short life Elizabeth manifested such great love for the poor and suffering that she has become the patroness of Catholic charities and of the Secular Franciscan Order. The daughter of the King of Hungary, Elizabeth chose a life of penance and asceticism when a life of leisure and luxury could easily have been hers. This choice endeared her in the hearts of the common people throughout Europe.

At the age of 14 Elizabeth was married to Louis of Thuringia (a German principality), whom she deeply loved; she bore three children. Under the spiritual direction of a Franciscan friar, she led a life of prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor and sick. Seeking to become one with the poor, she wore simple clothing. Daily she would take bread to hundreds of the poorest in the land, who came to her gate.

After six years of marriage, her husband died in the Crusades, and she was grief-stricken. Her husband’s family looked upon her as squandering the royal purse, and mistreated her, finally throwing her out of the palace. The return of her husband’s allies from the Crusades resulted in her being reinstated, since her son was legal heir to the throne.

In 1228 Elizabeth joined the Secular Franciscan Order, spending the remaining few years of her life caring for the poor in a hospital which she founded in honor of St. Francis. Elizabeth’s health declined, and she died before her 24th birthday in 1231. Her great popularity resulted in her canonization four years later.

Comment:

Elizabeth understood well the lesson Jesus taught when he washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper: The Christian must be one who serves the humblest needs of others, even if one serves from an exalted position. Of royal blood, Elizabeth could have lorded it over her subjects. Yet she served them with such a loving heart that her brief life won for her a special place in the hearts of many. Elizabeth is also an example to us in her following the guidance of a spiritual director. Growth in the spiritual life is a difficult process. We can play games very easily if we don’t have someone to challenge us or to share experiences so as to help us avoid pitfalls.

Quote:

“Today, there is an inescapable duty to make ourselves the neighbor of every individual, without exception, and to take positive steps to help a neighbor whom we encounter, whether that neighbor be an elderly person, abandoned by everyone, a foreign worker who suffers the injustice of being despised, a refugee, an illegitimate child wrongly suffering for a sin of which the child is innocent, or a starving human being who awakens our conscience by calling to mind the words of Christ: ‘As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me’ (Matthew 25:40)” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 27, Austin Flannery translation).

Patron Saint of: Bakers

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 17 & 18 of 26:

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

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

 

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

“Yo’ Bro’ – You Royally Screwed Up This Time!” – Mt 18: 15-20†


Just a few days left before I make my “Total Consecration to Jesus, Through Mary!”  I would love to share a very small portion from the devotion.  This was in yesterdays reading:

Unfortunately, so many people care little or nothing about the Word of God, even though they have heard it time and again, because they do not have the spirit of Christ.  Yet, if you really want to understand the Words of Christ, you must try to pattern your whole life on His.”

“What good is it to know the entire Bible by heart and to learn the sayings of all the philosophers if you live without grace and the Love of God?”

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1253 – Death of St. Clare of Assisi, Franciscan and Founder of the Poor Clare Nuns (b. 1194)
†   1890 – John Henry Cardinal Newman, English Catholic cardinal (b. 1801)

 (From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) 

  

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  
    

“The good of the collective is based on the good of the individual.” – John Hough :>
      

    

Today’s reflection is about what excommunication really is; and prayer.
      

15 “If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  19 Again, (amen,) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  20  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (NAB Mt 18: 15-20)

 

As meant for those who have strayed from Jesus’ path to salvation, the lesson in today’s Gospel Reading turns to how Jesus’ disciples are to deal with anyone who sins, and remains within the Church community, even though unrepentant.

For the sinner, first there is to be a private correction.  If this is unsuccessful, then there is a further correction before two or three witnesses.  And, if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the assembled community (the Church communities and leadership), and if the sinner refuses to listen and act on the correction of the Church, the person is to be expelled from the Church body (excommunicated).  The Church’s judgment, Jesus expounds in this bible reading, WILL be ratified in heaven by God.  

Most good models for correcting behavior seem to follow this approach in the workplace.  The standard is to first give an oral counseling: a one-on-one type of re-education, which should have NO impact on the employee’ status, if they comply.  If the behavior still does not change, the employer asserts a correction attempt through a single, or series of, formal (maybe written) notice(s) of poor behavior, with specific goals for the employee to achieve by a certain point.  Failure at this time could result in further disciple, including suspension and dismissal from employment.  If still not repented, the employee goes before a human resources (HR) hearing/evaluation which usually results in suspension or probable termination.

We do the same things in our own families.  How often do we re-teach safety and household living behaviors to our children, with escalating modes of discipline for repeated deviations in behavior?  My children still shudder, even as teenagers, when I say “time-out is about to commence.”

 “Your brother,” in the verses above, refers to the fellow disciples in the Catholic Church community of the time.  Later in Matthew’s Gospel (23:8), Jesus reiterates this by saying, “As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.”  

The words, “against you,” in the first sentence of today’s gospel, creates the potential for a dualistic approach to this one sentence.  The omission of these two words in brackets definitely broadens the scope and type of sins in question. Without the words, the verse is saying that you should notify the individual of his errors, every single time he sins, regardless of how minor the offense, or too whom the offense was directed.  Though we are obliged to tell people when they are in error, and especially when in danger of harming their soul, I definitely can see this verse being majorly abused by a few people.  We all know people that get into everybody else’s “business.”  How do you feel when they approach you?  I bet it is not welcoming or Christian.  My caveat to this sentence is to remember to preach with love, and to remember that we are ALL sinners.

By bringing the repentant sinner back into the fold of the Catholic Church, the Church itself gains that soul for salvation, and eternity in heaven.  The term “won over” literally means “gained” in the context of this gospel interpretation.

When Jesus said, “ … take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses,’” He was referring to the Old Testament Law found in Deuteronomy 19:15: “One witness alone shall not take the stand against a man in regard to any crime or any offense of which he may be guilty; a judicial fact shall be established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”   Please remember, the goal is to bring someone back into God’s grace, and not to “gang-up” on the person.  The individuals (the witnesses) need to have a loving and caring approach in breaching the person’s inappropriate behavior.

When Jesus refers to “the Church,” this is the second of the only two instances of the word “Church” to be found in all four gospels.  The other instance is also found in Matthew’s Gospel, 16: 18: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”  In this latter case (16:18), Jesus’ “Church” means the community of disciples that He will gather together; and like a structural building, this community of disciples will have Peter as its solid foundation – a “rock” to build on.  In the case of today’s Gospel reading, the small distinction is that it probably does not refer to the entire Church body like in Matthew 16:18, but only to the local congregation of followers in the town, instead of the entire Catholic (meaning universal) Church.

“Treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”  Hmm, sounds like a pretty harsh treatment to me!  After all, how many people like to hear that a tax or bill collector is at the door, or on the phone?  How many people invite the bill collectors, and other enemies to dinner?  Observant Jews of this time in bible history avoided any relationships or camaraderie with Gentiles and tax collectors.  For me, this is profoundly interesting, since Matthew was a lucrative tax-collector prior to his conversion, through Jesus.  Proves to me that there is definitely hope for us all, through Jesus’ salvation and redemption.

In this verse about Gentiles and tax-collectors, Jesus is saying to the congregation of Christian disciples to separate themselves from the arrogantly sinful member who refuses to repent, especially when convicted of their sin by the entire Church.  The person in this case has purposefully excluded themselves from the fellowship of the Church community through their own action and/or reaction.  This person had, by their refusal, self-excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

I see this problem in excess with today’s society; at least in the United States.  It seems Catholics today like to pick and choose which tenant of the Church to obey, and which of those that is of no importance to them.  This is evident with the numbers of Catholics attending Sunday Mass: about 30%.  Sadly, seventy percent ARE NOT GOING TO MASS, except maybe for CHRISTmas and Easter!  My children, in an ironic joke, call these people “C&E” Catholics.

Other tenets of dissent from CATHOLICS include, but definitely are not limited to, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, including same-sex marriage, the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, and even Papal Authority.  I am sure there are many other issues, but I’ll just leave it at this.  On reviewing this list, it is identical to the problems protestant faiths have with Catholicism. 

Sadly, this condition in the Catholic Church is because of poor catechesis in the past couple of decades.  Educating these poor souls is essential, for their eternal survival, and the Church’s.  At the end of the day though, I truly believe in what our late and Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “There is something a Catholic can do if he or she disagrees with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  You can change your mind, or you can change your mind!”  

The harsh language about Gentiles and tax collectors probably reflects a period in the time of Matthews’ participation in the local Synagogue, when it was principally composed of Jewish Christians, and very few Gentiles followed Jesus. This aforementioned time had long since passed when Matthews Gospel was written around 50 A.D., but the principle of exclusion for such a sinner still remained, even years after Jesus’ crucifixion.  

Paul makes a similar demand in 1 Cor 5:1-13, when he gives extremely clear advice on how to handle any case wherein a member of the Catholic Church  is caught up in immoral behaviors and actions.  Paul gives a strong case for excommunication, ending with what is written in 1 Cor 5:13: “God will judge those outside. Purge the evil person from your midst.”

There are many examples in Jewish literature of this “binding-loosing” image.  Except for the plural of the verbs “bind” and “loose,” the verse in today’s reading is practically identical with Matthew 16:19b, – “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  This phrase is understood by scholars as granting to all the disciples, what was previously given to only to Peter.  There can easily be several meanings to this particular verse, but two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, AND the lifting or imposition of excommunication.  

All Catholics are to go out into the world and witness to God – to live and preach His word.  Someone who purposefully excludes themselves from the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, through their own action and/or reaction is self-excommunicated.  All the Catholic Church is pronouncing, when saying someone is excommunicated, is the recognition of the individual’s own deviation from the path of salvation.  It is to be considered a medicinal rather than a vindictive penalty.  Excommunication is meant not to punish, but to correct the person’s belief or behavior, and to bring the person back to a path of righteousness and salvation.  Excommunication is always done through love for the individual, and the Church Community.

The excommunicated person does not cease to be a Christian.  One’s baptism cannot ever be cancelled, as baptism creates a permanent and everlasting mark on one’s soul.  However, the excommunicated person is, in essence, “exiled” from Catholic society, and as non-existent in the eyes of ecclesiastical authority.  The excommunicated offender’s status before the Catholic Church is, sadly, that of a stranger.  Thankfully, such an exile immediately ends as soon as the offender has given a suitable remedy for their offense, as judged by the ecclesiastical authority.  

The right to excommunicate is a necessary corollary of the fact that the Catholic Church is a society, a community, of people.  Every society has to have the right to exclude and deprive unworthy and culpable members from its “rights and social advantages,” either on a temporarily or permanent basis. This right of exclusion is necessary, by natural law, to every society, in order that it can run smoothly and without interruption, for its own survival.

Excommunication, especially “a jure,” is either “latæ” or “ferendæ sententiæ.”  The first (latæ) is incurred as soon as the offence is committed, by reason of the offence itself without any intervention from an ecclesiastical judge.  The person is excommunicated at once by the fact or acts itself!  Examples are those people that performs, assists in, or obtains an abortion, in direct violation of natural and Canon Law, and are automatically excommunicated.

The second (ferendæ sententiæ) is inflicted on someone only by a judicial sentence.  It occurs only when an ecclesiastical judge has summoned the person before a tribunal (a type of court trial); has declared the person guilty; and punished him according to the terms of Canon law.  You will know this type of excommunication by these or similar words: “under pain of excommunication … will be excommunicated”.  A recent example in my area was for Catholics attending or assisting at the ordination of women priests or a bishop, in direct violation of Canon Law.

The Gospel reading ends with a verse about a favorable response from God to our prayers.  Even if that number of followers gathered together is a very small number, Jesus will be in their midst.  Do you take the ending verses in today’s Gospel Reading about granting prayers from groups, as applying to prayer on the occasion of the Church’s gathering to deal with the sinner that is not repented?  I think it seems unlikely.  God’s answering of prayer from a very small group envisions a totally different situation from that involving an entire congregation praying in union.  Also, the target of the prayer in the last two sentences of this Gospel Reading is expressed in a very “general way;” presuming, anything for which they are praying, will be answered.

Some see the last sentence of today’s Gospel reading as meaning that the presence of Jesus seems to guarantee the worth and effectiveness of prayer.  The bible verse is extremely similar in perspective to one attributed to a rabbi that was executed in A.D. 135, during the second Jewish revolt: “… When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them” (Pirqe Abot 3:3).  WOW!  What a promise to make.  Or is it?

Jesus, in reality, isn’t talking about some type of magical formula to get whatever we wish.  We can’t win a MEGA lottery with some sort of prayer!  What Jesus is stating in these bible verses, is that it is good to have someone else praying with us. for like petitions or intention requests.

The two or three people praying together, is not limited, in any way, to geographical locations.  You do not have to be physically together for Jesus to be in your midst.  No matter how far apart you may be physically, if you and others are praying for the same intention, Jesus IS WITH YOU!  This is the major emphasis of the “Divine Office:” the prayer of the Church.  At any given moment, people across the world, AND in heaven, are praying this prayer – with God in their midst!

It isn’t easy waiting, and trusting in God, at times of stress and need.  Praying with another is encouraging and helpful for our mental being and spiritual souls.  Friends help us discern God’s direction.  So, keep persevering in your prayer life, and see how the Trinity works in you, AND your prayer partners.  Together, you can give each other a great piece of mind during times of sorrow or tribulations.  Maybe this peace IS the unintentional answer to your prayer.

 

Act of Hope

 

“O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Clare of Assisi 1194-1253

 

At the beginning of the 13th century, when luxury and sensuality held sway, St. Francis of Assisi made his appearance, giving to men the example of a poor and penitential life. But God wished also to give the vain and pleasure-loving women of that period an example of contempt of the world’s vanities. For this mission he chose Clare, the daughter of a prominent and noble family of Assisi, born January 20, 1194. Her father was Favarone de Offreduccio, count of Sassorosso; her mother, the servant of God Ortolana, who died in the odor of sanctity.

Before the child’s birth it was revealed to the mother that her offspring would be a brilliant light in the world. This light the mother detected in her daughter from her earliest years. Besides being favored with personal beauty, Clare possessed a charming personality and rare qualities of mind. She was a favorite in the family, and hardly had she attained to young womanhood, when several suitors sought her in marriage.

But her virtues surpassed the gifts with which nature endorsed her. She interested herself in the poor and frequently denied herself things so as to be able to give more to the poor members of Christ. She loved prayer, and it was her sweetest delight to surrender her heart to sentiments of ardent devotion before Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Beneath her beautiful garments she wore a sharp penitential belt in order to honor the sufferings of Christ and to preserve herself a chaste virgin for His sake.

She was 18 years old when she heard St. Francis preach in the cathedral of Assisi during the Lent of 1212. His words on contempt of the world and on penance, and particularly the holy example he set, so earnestly affected Clare, that she conferred with him and soon recognized that God was calling her to lead a life similar to his in the seclusion of a convent. She did not hesitate to carry out God’s plans. Realizing that her family, intent only on a brilliant future for her in the world, would oppose her vocation in every way, she had to leave home in secret.

On Palm Sunday she went to church, dressed in her richest garments, to attend divine services. That night, attended by an elderly relative, she went to the little chapel of Sty. Mary of the Angels, where St. Francis and his brethren came to meet her with lighted candles in their hands. Before the altar she removed her beautiful head-dress, then St. Francis cut off her hair and covered her head with a veil of common linen. In place of rich garments, she received a coarse penitential garb and was girded with a white cord. This was the way in which the mother and founder of the Poor Clares was invested on March 18, 1212. For the time being, St. Francis placed her in a convent of Benedictine sisters.

When Clare had successfully overcome the great opposition of her family, who had intended to force her to return home, her sister Agnes joined her in the sacrifice. St. Francis arranged a little convent for them near the church of St. Damian. There the number of consecrated virgins soon increased. They served God in great poverty, strict penance, and complete seclusion from the world according to a rule which St. Francis gave them as his Second Order. Clare was obliged in obedience to accept the office of abbess in 1215 and to continue in it for 38 years until her death. But her love for humility found compensation in the performance of the lowliest services toward her sisters. In spite of her great physical sufferings, she set her sisters a striking example of zeal in penance and prayer.

In the year 1240 an army of Saracens who were in the service of Emperor Frederick II drew near Assisi. They rushed upon the little convent of St. Damian that lay outside the city and had already scaled the walls of the monastery. In mortal fear the sisters had recourse to their mother, who was ill in bed.

The saint, carrying the pyx containing the Most Blessed Sacrament, had herself carried to a convent window. There she pleaded fervently with the Lord of heaven in the words of the Psalmist (Ps 73:19), “Deliver not up to beasts the souls, that confess to thee, and shield thy servants whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.” A mysterious voice coming from the Host said, “I shall always watch over you.” Immediately panic seized the besiegers. A ray of brilliant light which emanated from the Blessed Sacrament had dazzled them. They fell down from the walls and fled from the place. The convent was saved and the town of Assisi was spared.

After suffering from serious illness for 30 years, Clare felt that her end was drawing nigh. After she had received the last sacraments, she and one of her sisters beheld the Queen of Virgins coming with a large escort to meet her, the spouse of Jesus Christ. On August 11, 1253, she entered into the joys of eternity and on the following day her body was buried. Pope Alexander IV canonized her already in the year 1255. She was chosen as the universal patroness of television in 1958.

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

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #11 of 26:  

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.

“Faith is a Conversion Problem!” – John 14:1-6†


Today in Catholic History:
†  1131 – Death of Adjutor, Roman Catholic Saint
†  1555 – Death of Pope Marcellus II (b. 1501)
†  1623 – Birth of François de Laval, first bishop of New France (d. 1708)
†  1651 – Birth of Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, French educational reformer, Catholic saint (d. 1719)
†  Liturgical feasts: Saint Adjutor, Saint Eutropius, Saint Maximus, 3rd century martyr, Saint Suitbert the Younger (d. 807), Saint Pope Pius V

Today’s reflection is about faith.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

“Faith makes all things possible: love makes all things easy.”
    

Today’s Meditation:
     

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  Where (I) am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (NAB John 14:1-6)
      

This gospel reading is about the start of dialogue about Jesus’ departure and return.  This conversation will eventually end the same way it started, with John 14:1, 27: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

You have faith” is an essential element of Christianity.  What is faith?  The twinkle in the eyes of Children on Christmas morning, before even spying what Santa had brought them, and placed under the tree, is faith.  Faith is also the grip your child has on your hand the first time they get stitches or a cavity filled.  And faith is the child going to sleep after you rid their room of the boogey-man one stormy evening.

Faith, for me as an adult Christian, is looking at the monstrance holding that piece of bread, and knowing that it had been changed into the true and actual body of the living Christ, through the actions of the Holy Spirit.  Faith knows that God, who being perfect could not suffer, so He came to us in the form of a human so He could suffer for us, in order to gain our redemption.  Faith knows my suffering is living in the footsteps of Christ, so that I can gain perfection in heaven.

Patrick Overton wrote, “When you have come to the edge of all light that you know, and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”  This is what most children believe. As young adults, we come to think of faith by what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”   Being a “well seasoned” adult, I have finally come to think of faith the same as Mother Teresa of Calcutta believed: “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”

In this gospel reading Jesus talks about coming back again.  In the bible, it is reiterated time and time again that He will return.  He also wants us to return to Him on a daily basis.  Let’s face it; we are all sinners, and need to convert ourselves to Christ on a daily basis.  This phrase has a special significance for me.  At my lowest point in life, a time when I was angry at everyone including myself and especially at God, I was in Church giving Him a piece of my mind (to say it nicely).  I actually heard God say to me (not in a thunderous voice, but in that little internal feeling), “It has been a very long time since you actually came to me and talked openly.  Come back tomorrow, and let’s do this again!”  I nearly fell out of the pew!

There are two ways to know the “way” that Thomas is asking about.  The first is through a genuine relationship with Jesus himself; and also through following the tenants of Christianity in your life.  Neither is an easy path.  Actually, both are very difficult paths to follow; having many pitfalls and obstructions.  The many roads away from Jesus and a Christian life are much easier to navigate, but do not offer the reward of eternal life in paradise, that the difficult one does.

We already covered the “way” to Jesus.  Now, “the truth and the life:” the divinely revealed reality of God the Father being manifested in the person and works of Jesus. Jesus, possessing the truth and life of perfection, has the knowledge, and the ability to liberate us from sin.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Amen.”
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Blessed Benedict of Urbino, OFM Cap.
     

Born at Urbino, Italy; died at Fossombrone, Italy, 1625; beatified in 1867. Born into the de’Passionei family, Benedict was a lawyer in his home town before joining the Capuchins at Fano in 1584. His previous training, complemented by his faith, made him an effective preacher. He was the companion of Saint Laurence of Brindisi, whom he followed to Austria and Bohemia.

(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
     

Prologue to Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule, Chapter 1:
      

… “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).

“The Son IS the Father!” – John 10:27-30 †


Happy “Good Shepherd Sunday.”  It is a beautiful day outside, with a cool breeze, light rain, and the birds singing.  Today is also the “World Day for Vocations.”  And finally, we are exactly 1/3 of the way to Christmas.  Woo-Woo and Ho-Ho.
 

Today in Catholic History:
† 32 – Marcus Salvius Otho, Roman Emperor (d. 69)
† 1214 – Birth of King Louis IX of France, Third Order Franciscan (d. 1270)
† 1265 – Death of Roger de Quincy, 2nd Earl of Winchester, English crusader
† 1982 – Death of John Cardinal Cody, American cardinal (b. 1907)
† 2007 – Boris Yeltsin’s funeral – the first to be sanctioned by the Russian Orthodox Church for a head of state since the funeral of Emperor Alexander III in 1894.

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus is God!

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

For us Trinitarians (if I may say it with reverence) – to us God Himself is a society – G. K. Chesterton
   

Today’s Meditation:
     

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.”  (NAB John 10:27-30)

  

What does a shepherd do: it is much more than just forcing animals around a field?  A shepherd lives with his charges 24 hours daily.  He gives the sheep their food, and attends to any needs they may need.  The shepherd teaches his sheep to follow the one chosen to be in charge of the flock.  The shepherd watches the flock, and protects his flock, even with his own life.  The shepherd will place himself in danger to rescue one little sheep out of thousands.  The shepherd is the sheep’s life-giver and protector, as well as their teacher and leader.

Jesus, our heavenly and good shepherd, is truly a “shepherd” for us.  He lives with us, and through us.  He feeds us and tends to our needs.  Jesus teaches and leads us.  He watches over us, protects us, and rescues us.

 So when He calls us “His sheep,” we should take that as an honor of a true love from Him.  Jesus wants us to hear, know, and follow Him.  For simply allowing Jesus into our lives and following Him, we will not only never die, but He also promises that He will never let anyone go.

The third sentence of this gospel reading is a two part sentence.  I find it easier to read this sentence as, “As for the Father, what he has given me is greater than all,” or “My Father is greater than all, in what he has given me.”

Jesus is asserting His unity of power with God, and reveals that the words and deeds of His ARE the words and deeds of God.

“Lord, you are my shepherd, and I fear no evil in any valley or place, as I know you are always with me.  For that I am thankful.  Amen.”
    

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:    Bl. Pedro de San Jose Betancur
     

Blessed Pedro de San Jose Betancur, was born a poor shepherd. He prayed much as he tended his flocks. At 31 he travelled to Guatamala City to try find a job away from sheep. Here he became friends with the Franciscans and Jesuits and enrolled in the Jesuit College of San Borgia to become a priest. Due to lack of education he had to withdraw and became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, where he took the name Peter of Saint Joseph. He is the first canonized Guatemalan native. He and other men founded the Bethlehemite Congregation or Hospitalers Bethlehemite who attended to the sick. He was born in 1619 at Villaflores, Tenerife Island, Canary Islands, and died in 1667 at Guatamala City, Guatamala.

(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.