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“Are You The Wheat, Or Are You the Chaff? Got Me, I Grew Up In The City!” – Luke 3:10-18†


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3rd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

The history of the Christmas tree has many stories of origin, and has had quite of few adaptations to its usage throughout history.  In my research of the Catholic aspect to Christmas tree history and origin, I left no [xmas] “leaf” unturned.  I hope you enjoy.

 

The Christmas Tree

 

Despite many historians’ attempts to link the Christmas tree to an ancient pagan practice, it is actually “Christian” in origin.  Whoa, how is that fact for a baited hook to get you to read on?!

Although it is highly unlikely that the Christmas tree – – as we know it today – – was first used in the 8th Century, some people believe the idea for the tree was invented by St. Boniface at that time.   Legend holds that St. Boniface 14was the first to co-opt the “tree” tradition for Christianity in the 8th century.  He was attempting to convert the Druids who worshipped oak trees as the symbol of their idol.  He instead offered the balsam fir tree, using its triangular shape to describe the Trinity and the fact that the evergreen branches pointed to heaven, as a symbol of God.  These new “converts” then began worshiping the Balsam fir tree as a Christian symbol. 

There are also claims that the first proper Christmas tree was erected in Riga, Latvia (one of the Baltic States) in 1510.  Today, there is a plaque in the Town Hall Square, in Riga, that is engraved with the text “The First New Year’s Tree in Riga in 1510“.  It is believed that this tree was possibly decorated with paper flowers, and then burned during the New Year’s celebration. 

Another legend has Martin Luther as being credited with bringing the popularity of the Christmas tree to Germany.  2011-11-13_10-48-16_573_288x287Out on a winter evening one night, while composing a sermon, he was awed by the beauty of the stars.  When he returned home, he attempted to recreate the beauty for his family by putting candles on an evergreen tree in his home.

We do know with certainty that the Christmas tree goes back to medieval German mystery plays.  One of the most popular “mysteries” was the “Paradise play”, representing the creation of man, the sin of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from Paradise.  It usually closed with Christmas-Fir-Branches-2457977the consoling promise of the coming of the Savior, and referencing to His Incarnation.  These plays were performed in the open, on the large town squares in front of churches, or, sometimes even inside the house of God.  The Garden of Eden was indicated by a fir tree with apples hung on the branches.  It represented both the “Tree of Life” and the “Tree of KNowledge of Good and Evil”, which stood in the center of Paradise:

“Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

When the pageant was performed in church, the “Paradeisbaum” (German for “Tree of Paradise”) was surrounded by lighted candles.  Inside a ring of lights surrounding the tree, the play was performed. 

In the 15th century, after the suppression of the “mystery plays” in the German churches, the symbolic object of the play, the tree itself, found its way into the homes of the faithful, and the Christmas tree then became a symbol of christmas_tree_albert2-747156the “Tree of the Savior”.  During this same time, the custom of a “tree” in the home developed into decorating the “Paradise Tree”, already bearing apples, with small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist.  These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of pastry cut in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells.  Finally, other cookies were introduced to this tradition, bearing the shapes of men, birds, roosters and other animals.

The first known documented use of the fir tree as a Christmas tree is found in a description written by a German traveler visiting the city of Strasbourg (in the Alsace region of France, but formerly part of Germany) in 1605.  In this description, he tells of trees being planted in rooms, and that they were ornamented with “roses of colored paper, apples, tinsel, sugar cubes, and cookies”.

Until the 17th century the “Christbaum” (as the tree is called in German, meaning “Christ tree”) had no lights.  The Christmas candles, generally used in medieval times, were placed on a Christmas “pyramid”, made of graduated wooden shelves.  As time went on, the tree replaced the pyramid in its function of representing Christ as the “Light of the World”.  The candles and glittering decorations were eventually transferred from the pyramid to the tree.  

In the 1700’s the Christmas tree custom had spread throughout northern Germany.  People began decorating the tree with candles that were lit on Christmas Eve, a practice still done today in many homes across Europe.  As the 108n-grChristmas tree custom spread through Germany, the Roman Catholic Church eventually recognized the tradition in the early 1800’s.  It was introduced to Vienna in 1816, quickly spreading across Austria, and in 1840 to France by the duchesse d’Orleans.

German immigrants were most likely to have set up the first few Christmas trees in America, as early as 1710.   During the Revolutionary War, Hessian (German) soldiers were responsible for rapidly disseminating the practice throughout the entire US Eastern seaboard.  However, the Christmas tree did not become the principal symbol of Christmas in America, and was not used generally throughout American homes until late in the 19th century. 

treeIn 1846, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who was actually German) were pictured in the London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree.  As a result of this picture, the popularity of Christmas trees soared both in England and America.  By 1920, the custom of having a Christmas tree was almost universal.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, pioneer families who settled in areas where evergreen trees were scarce made Christmas trees out of bare branches, painting them green, or wrapping the branches with green paper or cloth.  Sometimes a “tree” would be made by drilling holes in a broomstick and inserting branches of cedar or juniper into it.  Often the only Christmas tree in the community would be in the Church or school.  In the absence of a Christmas tree, presents were often hung by ribbons from a decorated clothesline strung across the corner of a room.

While many Christmas trees are set up in the home around the first of December (or earlier!), and are in the dumpster by January 2, many Catholic families often delay decorating the tree until Christmas Eve, still today.  It is thCAGLANJNappropriate, and a popular custom, to delay lighting the tree and to put gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve when we celebrate the coming into the world of the infant Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

On Christmas Eve, parents might adorn the tree after small children are asleep, so that the first sight of Christmas morning is the gloriously adorned tree.  Families with older children could even make the decorating of the tree a family affair.  Many families bless their Christmas trees.  A Blessing for the Christmas tree could be said on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Through the use of the Christmas tree, we are reminded that our first parents (Adam & Eve) were not allowed to eat from one tree, and that Christ paid the great price for our redemption – – by hanging on a tree.  Being reminded that Christ is the “Light of the World” and that His light is everlasting, bringing joy and light into our dark world – – a christmas_angel_tree1-150x150blessing truly appropriate for this great Christian symbol of faith.  Here is a simple blessing for your Christmas tree:

“Holy Lord, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of your Son, who rescued us from the darkness of sin by making the cross a tree of life and light.  May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, which we may always rejoice in the new life which shines in our hearts.  Lord God, may the presence of this tree remind us of your gift of everlasting life.  May its light keep us mindful of the light You brought into the world.  May the joy and peace of Christmas fill all our hearts.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Information obtained from the following sites:
http://www.wf-f.org/04-4-Traditions.html
http://www.christmastreehistory.net/christian
http://catholicexchange.com/the-history-of-the-christmas-tree/

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Let us submit ourselves to His guidance and sovereign direction; let us come to Him that He may forgive us, cleanse us, change us, guide us, and save us.  This is the true life of saints.” ~ Blessed John Henry Newman, “Life’s Purpose”, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist teaches the path of repentance and announces Christ.  Did you hear what I heard?

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(NAB Luke 3:10-18) 10 And the crowds asked him [John the Baptist], “What then should we do?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.”  12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  13 He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”  14 Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?”  He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  18 Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

This Sunday’s Gospel continues last week’s focus on John the Baptist and his role in preparing “the way” for Christ.  Recall last week’s reading describing John’s appearance in the desert and establishing his connection with the prophetic tradition of Israel.  If we were to read Luke’s Gospel continuously, we would learn about John the Baptist challenging the crowds who came to him, and John’s calling upon them to show evidence of their repentance.  

With this in mind, I am starting with a few verses prior to this week’s reading (and also situated between last Sunday’s Gospel and 1211-gospel-lthis Sunday’s, Luke 3:7-9).  In this way, I would like to describe to you the three types of preaching by John the Baptist: (1) eschatological, (2) ethical, and (3) messianic.  An eschatological preaching (1) concerns the human soul (the person) in its relation to His death, judgment, and destinies – – either heaven or hell.  John the Baptist urges the crowds present around him – – getting their feet wet in the faith (and maybe their entire bodies as well) – – to reform their lives in view of the coming “wrath” expected with the appearance and coming of the Lord:

“He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7,9).

John tells his listeners that they cannot rely on their lineage as Israelites.  Why (?): because true, authentic “children of Abraham can be raised up from stones” (Luke 3:8).  Rather, repentance must be observable in one’s actions.  So, the crowds, probably now questionfrightened by his words, ask John the Baptist:

What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10)

Hmm, I wonder how often I ask this same question: What am I to do Lord?  I know the answer, and sadly, I don’t like my answer.  Forgive me Lord, please!!  I will try to do better in the future with your help.  Amen.

John answers the crowds by drawing attention to, and preaching on, concrete ethical standards (2) (principles of correct moral conduct) for reforming their social behavior:

He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food shoul03advientoC3d do likewise.’  Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’  He answered them, ‘Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.’  Soldiers also asked him, ‘And what is it that we should do?’  He told them, ‘Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages’” (Luke 3:11–14).

Interestingly, Luke mentions in particular two groups of people who came to John the Baptist for spiritual advice: tax collectors and Roman (some even Jewish) soldiers.  Both groups were regarded as “dangerous” by the Jewish authorities – – and society as whole.  They were treated as outcasts among both the Jews and the Romans.

John, in his instructions, is saying we must do six seemingly simple, but rather complex, things in order to have a true conversion of heart, body, and soul:

  • ·        SHARE what we have with others: wealth and food;
  • ·        STOP  doing wrong: don’t cheat, extort, or make false accusations;
  • ·        BE SATISFIED with what you have; 
  • ·        BE CHARITABLE;
  • ·        BE JUST; and,
  • ·        BE HONEST.

John does NOT tell them to adopt his desert way of life. He does NOT tell them to make sacrificial offerings or wear sackcloth and ashes.  John the Baptist doesn’t try to purposely upset the existing social order.  However, John DOES call for a real concern for a person’s “neighbor”.LetsBeHonest

The concern for justice is a hallmark of Luke’s Gospel and for John the Baptist.  John tells the soldiers to make no false arrests, to be content with their pay, not to take bribes, and not to bully anyone.  When talking to the tax collector, he knew that they were outcasts among the Jewish people, though Jewish themselves.  John knew they were detested as “traitors” by the Jewish people and as nothing more than “robbers” approved by the Roman Government.  As for as the Roman government was concerned, if the tax collectors wanted to collect a little bit more than the government required, that was fine with them.  They could keep the extra money for themselves; all the Roman government was concerned about was getting their tax money!!  

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John obviously knew how to get his message across to these groups of people.  Through his divinely-inspired words – – and witness – – to God the Father and to others around him:

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15).

The people recognized John as an extraordinary man of God and a prophet for their times.  John broke the prophetic silence of the pJohn_the_Baptist%20imagerevious centuries when he began to speak the “Word” of God.  His message was similar to the message from the earlier Jewish prophets who scolded the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who cried out BOLDLY to awaken true repentance within them.  

John proclaims his water baptism of his followers to be clearly in immediate preparation for the coming of the actual, true Messiah.  John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s plan of salvation.  He announces to the crowds his messianic preaching (3) (relating to the Messiah instituting of the promised golden age of peace, truth, and happiness), the coming of the “ONE” mightier than he:e0274

John answered them all, saying, ‘I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fireHis winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’  Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:16–18).

When John the Baptist talks about someone coming who is “mightier and more powerful than he”, John is ultimately speaking NOT of the “earthly” Jesus (though he may not have realized this fact), but the Risen Christ, third_advent_cgrwho baptizes us with the Holy Spirit in a very personal and intimate way.  When John says “He [the Messiah] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16), he is contrasting his prophetic baptism – – just with water – – to Jesus’ additional messianic baptizing with both the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit’s “refining fire”.   When this Gospel was written decades after the Pentecost event, the early Christian community’s point of view understood,  “the Holy Spirit and fire” to be seen in light of the “fire symbolism” found in the “pouring out of the Holy Spirit” at Pentecost:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

Jesus’ “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire” fulfilled John’s “water baptism” mission on earth.  Jesus’ baptism will also be accomplished by an “immersion”, an immersion of the repentant in water, and in the cleansing power of the Spirit of God.  There will also be an immersion the unrepentant in the destroying power of God’s wrath and judgment of them!! 

John’s preaching of the “Holy Spirit and fire” is revealed in, and related to, the purifying and refining characteristics found in Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament):  First, from Ezekiel – –

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of fleshI will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

Now, from Malachi – – refiners-fire-c

“Who can endure the day of His coming?  Who can stand firm when He appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lyeHe will sit refining and purifying silver, and He will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2–3).

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John the Baptist goes on to describe the actions of the coming Messiah Savior in terms this “well entrenched urban city” boy just cannot understand:

“His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).

Iwinnowing_fork_2 am pretty certain I know what wheat is, but a “winnowing fan” (?), “threshing floor” (?), and “chaff” (?) – – what the heck are these??!!  I definitely had to  research these items, and the why and how they are related to the actions of the coming Messiah Savior.

A “winnowing fan” was a forklike shovel with which the “threshed” (separated) wheat was thrown into the air.  The wheat kernels fell to the ground – – to the “threshing floor” to be picked up later – – while the light “chaff” (the dry covering bracts [modified leafs] of grains being separated by the process of threshing) were “blown off” by the wind, gathered later, and then burned in a nearby fire.

Fire” in Old Testament times was associated with God and with His purifying action in the world, His cleansing actions in the lives of His people.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of fire, such as in the example in the story of the “burning bush” burning_bushwhich was not consumed when God spoke to Moses:

“The angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush.  When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed (Exodus 3:2). 

John, in describing the procedure by which a farmer separates wheat and chaff, is using the image as a comparison for what will happen to the “good” and the “bad” in this world by God when He returns with His judgmental and saving actions in the person of the RISEN CHRIST!

In the New Testament, the image of fire is also used with regard to the Holy Spirit, who comes to cleanse us from sin and to make utongues-of-fires holy:

 “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them” (Acts 2:3).

God’s fire purifies and refines.  This refining purification, through baptism, confirmation, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also increases our desire for holiness and for the joy of meeting the Lord when He comes again.  Our baptism in Jesus Christ by water and the Holy Spirit results in a “new birth” and entry into God’s kingdom as His beloved sons and daughters:

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

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John the Baptist ends his preaching in today’s Gospel with a message of hope:

Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:18)

For me, God’s “Word” ALWAYS offers hope, even in the most dismal of circumstances characters in the bible seem to get into.  After all, they enter those bad circumstances, usually, not because of God Himself, but because of them turning their backs on BIBLEHim!!  God was (and is) always with them, even in the BAD times; they just did not believe in his “word”, nor could they realize His presence!  So, read the Bible, re-read the Bible with YOU as the character in these stories, and then re-re-read the Bible so that you realize that the 73 books which make up this great “Bible” (in the Catholic edition) are truly “instructions” on how to live as a Catholic Christian and an honorable son or daughter of God in the world!!

The third Sunday of Advent is also called “Gaudete Sunday”.  “Gaudete”, a Latin word – – meaning “rejoicthCA2A51IGe”, with its form being a “command” – – is another way of exhorting hope.  This command to rejoice is taken from the entrance antiphon for Sunday’s Mass, which is also echoed in today’s second reading from the Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:4-6).

The Catholic Church obeys this command by lighting a pink candle instead of another purple one already on the Advent wreath.  In doing so, it is a reminder that the Advent season is a “Season of JOY” and “Re-Joy-Sing” [rejoicing] because our salvation is truly already at hand.

John the Baptist’s message of “good news” inspired many to believe God was about to do extraordinary things in their midst.  John the Baptist’s task – – his mission – – was simply to awaken the interest of his people to God’s “Word”, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough “good will” to recognize and receive the Messiah when He appearance on the scene.

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. summarize titleToday, Luke is continuing to set up two important themes of his Gospel message: (1) the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and (2) the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.

John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  John’s teaching to the crowd suggests that each person has a role to play in God’s salvation.  He is encouraging them to follow his model of faith and hope in their own personal Horizontal_Logo9life’s positions and status.  It is our personal, human cooperation in His divine plans that is THE great mystery of God’s initiative to empower and to encourage each of us to participate – – through our believing and rejoicing – – in His plan.

John the Baptist basically called the people to turn back to God and to walk in His way of love and righteousness.  Whenever the Gospel is proclaimed it has the power to awaken the faith in people, thepathofsinandrighteousnessand to change their lives for good.  John’s baptism was for repentance; a turning away from sin and taking on a new way of life according to God’s “Word”.  

Hmm, my life has its own temptations, and its own opportunities to take advantage of others, using them for my own personal gain.  Does yours?  As I prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas, I will consider my own life situation, my own temperament, and my own personality in heeding John the Baptist’s words from today’s reading.  I believe I may need to make some adjustments.  How ‘bout you?

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. conclusionThe theme of the season for Advent is sometimes described as “a period of waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ”.  However, today’s Gospel reading suggests something much different.  John the Baptist did not tell the crowds to wait for the Messiah.  Instead, he told them to prepare for the Messiah through acts of repentance.  If RepentBelieveTheGoodNewsBwAdvent is a time of waiting, it is not the “sitting in waiting room or office lobby” kind of waiting.  It is a busy time of preparation, more like the waiting we might do when “preparing for dinner guests”.  Our challenge as Catholic Christians is NOT to make this season a frantic, disordered, and/or apathetic time, but rather a time of “joyful anticipation”, making ready for God who comes to dwell among (and in) us, changing our lives with His gift (grace) of redemptive salvation.

Think about the preparations you are making during this season of Advent period.  Reflect on these activitiechanges, not only on what you are doing but WHY you are “choosing” to do these things.  Remember, Advent is a time for making ourselves ready to receive Jesus Christ – – anew and more – – in our personal lives.  Could you make some changes in your Advent activities so that you are MORE prepared to celebrate the gift of salvation at Christmas?  Hmm, I think I can for sure.  Pray that you, and your family and friends, will be able to live the “spirit” of Advent as it should be, and not as a secular time of the year.  Heck, why not sing an Advent song, such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” as you light the third candle on your Advent wreath this evening at dinner.  I will, and I’ll possibly report on the interesting looks I receive from my family members who ALL say I have a voice made for paper!!

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

An Advent Prayer

 

“Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Chuprayerrch: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to His return at the end of time.  Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which His presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever.  Amen.”

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“Is It Tax Time In God’s Kingdom?!” – Matthew 22:15-21†


     

 

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

On this day, in 1940, the Nazi’s established the “Warsaw Ghetto”.  Ironically, six years later (1946) – on this date – ten Nazi war criminals of the Second World War, were condemned to death in the “War Trials” (Nuremberg), and are immediately hung.

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Seventy days left till most of us celebrate CHRISTinMASS.  I personally try to celebrate CHRISTinMASS as often as possible.  How ‘bout you?!

 

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1333 – Death of Nicolaas V, [Pietro Rainalducci], Italian anti-Pope (1328-30)
†   1591 – Death of Gregory XIV, [Niccolo Sfondrati], Italian Pope, at age 56
†   1594 – Death of William Cardinal Allen, English Catholic cardinal (b. 1532)
†   1690 – Death of Margaretha M Alacoque, French mystic/saint, at age 43
†   1755 – Death of Saint Gerard Majella, Catholic saint (b. 1725
†   1855 – Birth of Camille Looten, Belgian priest/literature historian
†   1890 – Birth of Maria Goretti, Italian saint (d. 1902)
†   1978 – Pope John Paul II is elected in Rome.
†   Pope John Paul II Day in Poland

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

 

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Pharisees sending their disciples to test Jesus with a question about paying census taxes to the Emperor: Herod.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 22:15-21) 15 The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech.  16 They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.  17 Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”  18 Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  19 Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin.  20 He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  21 They replied, “Caesar’s.”  At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

 

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Payment of taxes is not likely to be a disputed issue in your life.  After all, Mark Twain’s famous saying is that the two “absolutes” in life are, “to pay taxes and dying”.  Yet, we can still learn something from today’s Gospel reading.  The Jewish authorities sought to trap Jesus in the religion versus State issue.  Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees and Herodians redirected their question to focus on the issue of greater importance: loving and honoring God.  Taking this perspective in our daily lives can help us make good judgments in dealing with conflicting issues of importance.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem (especially the Pharisee’s) continue their anxious, nervous, and stressed exchange of questions and challenges toward Jesus and His teachings.  They are afraid of Him, they know He is powerful, and they had to silence Him.  The point of today’s reading, the followers of the Temple Pharisees, along with the Herodians (the followers of Herod) consciously and maliciously try to entrap Jesus by their question with regard to the payment of census taxes.  This is not the first “clash” however.  The first encounter Jesus had with the Temple officials is described in Matthew 21, let’s look at it first:

When he had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things?  And who gave you this authority?’  Jesus said to them in reply, ‘I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.  Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?’  They discussed this among themselves and said, ‘If we say “Of heavenly origin,” he will say to us, “Then why did you not believe him?”  But if we say, “Of human origin,” we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.’  So they said to Jesus in reply, ‘We do not know.’ He himself said to them, ‘Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.’” (Matthew 21:23–27).

In today’s reading, and in relating future disputes with the Temple leaders, Matthew follows Mark’s Gospel with few variations.

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Matthew, in this reading, puts together an unusual and uniquely strange partnership between the Pharisees and the Herodians.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod Antipas, a Jewish political leader who collaborated with the Romans.  His collaboration would have required a compromised observance of the Mosaic Law.  Along with his concessions, the Herodians and the Pharisees also made financial concessions.  The Herodians were willing to bend their interests, placing political over religious beliefs.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, taught a scrupulous and painstaking observance of Mosaic Law, and strongly opposed Roman occupation.  Herodians favored the payment of taxes; the Pharisees opposed it.  In this reading, there are two severely opposing beliefs coming together for a common purpose: to destroy!!

Though Matthew maintains a joining together of the Pharisees and Herodians in this account, he clearly wished to emphasize the Pharisees’ part in the plot to discredit Jesus and His movement.  The Pharisees are solely mentioned in the first verse of today’s reading (Matthew 22:15).  The Herodians (followers of Herod) are joined with them only in the prepositional phrase of Mt 22:16:

They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” (Matthew 22:16)

The Pharisees wanted to “entrap Him [Jesus] in speech”.  With a covert intent, they posed a question, trying to force Jesus to take either a position contrary to that held by the majority of the people or one that would bring Him into conflict with the Roman authorities in Jerusalem.

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The help of the “Herodians”, supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, seemed to be needed in the deception of Jesus.  The Herodians were a political (and not religious) faction, who favored payment of the Roman imposed census taxes. The Pharisees, on the other hand, did not favor the imposed taxes.  The Pharisees and Herodians were not friendly toward each other, and possibly even hostile toward each other, under “normal” circumstances.

So, why did they come together to trap Jesus in some sort of perceived “slanderous” statement?  The answer is quite easy: Jesus Christ was a common enemy to both of them.  To the Pharisees, He questioned their authority and teaching.  To the Herodians, He was a potential threat to their societal structure: He was revealing that both groups have gone astray from following the “Torah” of God the Father.  So, Jesus was perceived as “stirring the pot”, creating dissention within the Temple and Societal leadership itself. 

These men were as familiar with regard to Herod the Great was, 32 years prior (at Jesus’ birth), in regards to Old Testament prophecies of the “coming Savior Messiah”.  Both the Pharisees and the Herodians liked their lifestyles, and feared any change.

Per the Old Testament prophecies, the “Messiah” would:

1) come from David’s family and be heir to David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Psalms 89:3-4, Psalms 110:1, Psalms 132:11, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 11:1-5, and Jeremiah 23:5);

2) have “Kings” bow down to Him (Psalms 72:10-11);

3) would bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and announce the release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1);

4) would enter the Temple “with authority” (Haggai 2:7-9, Malachi 3:1 );

And,

5) would be the cornerstone of God’s Messianic Community (Isaiah 28:16, Psalms 118:22-23 ).  

Both, the Herodians and the Pharisees saw the people believing that Jesus of Nazareth was living out the Old Testament requirements of God’s Messiah.

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The Jewish people resented their foreign rulers and despised paying any taxes to Caesar.  So, the Pharisees posed an “impossible (tricky) question” to test Jesus to see whether He was loyal to them and to their (misguided) understanding of religion, or not.  (Nothing is impossible with God; nor is anything too tricky for Him!)  

The Herodians and the Pharisees approached Jesus, asking that He take a side in their dispute. They appear to be asking Him for His Rabbinic wisdom, yet (in reality) only wishing to trap Him in a “catch-22” situation.  If Jesus answered that it was lawful to pay taxes to a pagan ruler, then he would lose credibility with the Jewish nation who would regard him as a coward and a friend of Caesar.  If he said it was not lawful, then the Pharisees would have grounds to report him to the Roman authorities as a political trouble-maker and have him arrested.  

So, why the BIG deal over a few coins?  Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power.  Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them.  In a certain sense, the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler.  Where the coin was valid, and used, the political “ruler” held political control over the people of the region.  Since the Jews used the Roman currency, it was the property of the Roman leader, Caesar.

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The Pharisees asked Jesus if it is lawful to pay census taxes according to “the law of God”.  Both groups thought that Jesus would be “trapped” either way He answered.  If he said “Yes”, the Pharisees would say he was paying alms to the Romans and not the church.  If He said “No”, they would call Him a “revolutionary” and report Him to Herod.

Jesus, in a classic Jewish rabbinical way, answers the question by asking a question:

Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” (Matthew 22:18)

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Jesus’ response to this attempt to trap Him publically exposed the astuteness and cleverness of His inquisitors.  From His first words in response to their questions, Jesus showed that He is very much aware of what they were trying to do: to entrap Him.

’Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”  Then they handed him the Roman coin.” (Matthew 22:19) 

Jesus asks for a “Roman coinand it is readily and immediately provided to Him.  It probably came from the hand of a Herodian in attendance (which for me is the only reason they are mentioned in this Gospel reading), yet, the Pharisees showed themselves to be quite willing to freely accept a compromise made with the Herodians and the Roman government.  Remember, Jesus had already exposed the Pharisees as hypocrites in an earlier reading (Matthew 21:23–27, mentioned earlier).

They [the inquisitors] were ready to produce money for Jesus to hold.  Picture the image of Jesus holding money, and stating either, “No, don’t pay these taxes” or “Yes, you must pay Herod”!  Either would be devastating from a public perception viewpoint.  Their readiness to supply a visual image to their question – – money – – implies another proof of acceptance by the Pharisees, of the financial “advantages”, of the Roman administration in Jerusalem and Palestine as a whole.

Jesus then takes His response one step further.  He asks the Pharisees and Herodians:

 “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  (Matthew 22:20)

His inquisitors examine the coin and agree it is Caesar’s image on the coin.  This “Caesar” was the emperor “Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus” (A.D. 14–37).  

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Jesus’ answer cunningly avoids taking any sides in the question of the “lawfulness of the tax” by saying:

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:21)

With simple logic, Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians the coin belongs to Caesar, avoiding the question of lawfulness altogether. Going further, then, Jesus tells them that their obligation is also to pay to God that which belongs to God!

In saying to “repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, Jesus raises the Pharisee’s debate to a new (and super-natural) level (ha, ha).   The Pharisees and Herodians hypocritically asked about taxing in respect to its relationship to the “law of God”; but instead, should have rather been concerned with repaying God the Father with the “good works” which are due to Him. 

If they don’t pay attention to this requirement, hear what Jesus had said earlier, in another parable, He recently told:

He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.  Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:41, 43)

No wonder they were trying to “trap” Him!

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Holy Scripture tells us to give to everyone whatever is their due, and to owe no one anything, except to love one another:

“Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.  Love fulfills the Law.  Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  (Romans 13:7-8)

Jesus’ response to the Herodians and Pharisees in today’s story, suggests the proper ethics, a principle or belief directing one’s behavior, that Catholic Christians should adopt in their lives.  Jesus’ “Words” of “paying to God which belongs to God” should remind ALL of us the importance of keeping things of this earth in their proper perspective!!  How many of us are attached to worldly (materialistic) things at the expense of the love and honor which we owe to God?

Make a list of the activities which you spend time doing, such as household tasks, jobs, academics, and recreational activities, and so on.  What is the true importance of each of these activities?  What would happen if there were an imbalance in your attention to these activities, spending too much time on one activity at the expense of another?

Today, we are reminded of the necessity of giving things their proper importance.  The Herodians and Pharisees were giving too much importance to the issue of the payment of taxes.  Jesus Christ reminds the Pharisees and Herodians (and us) that loving and honoring God is of greater importance than ANY thing on earth.  We do many important things; but we need to remember that God is of the greatest importance in our lives!!  Pray that you will learn – – and continue – – to keep things in a proper perspective while remembering to keep God first in your lives.

 

For me, today’s Gospel reading has another deeper meaning as well.  We, too, have been stamped with God’s image since we are created in His own likeness:

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

We rightfully belong – – not to ourselves, – – but to God (just as Caesar’s coins belonged to him):

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price.  Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

 

Let me finish today with what Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1). 

Do you acknowledge that your life – – and everything you possess – – belongs to God the Father, and not to yourself?  Do you give to God what rightfully belongs to Him?  I try every single day (and some days, I succeed!!)!!

 

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 96

Sing praise to the Lord.

 

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.  Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his marvelous deeds.  For great is the LORD and highly to be praised, to be feared above all gods.  For the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.  Splendor and power go before him; power and grandeur are in his holy place.  Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and might; give to the LORD the glory due his name!  Bring gifts and enter his courts; bow down to the LORD, splendid in holiness.  Tremble before him, all the earth; declare among the nations: The LORD is king.  The world will surely stand fast, never to be shaken.  He rules the peoples with fairness.  Amen.” (Psalm 96:1,3-10)

 

 

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.

 

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

to the first line of the opening dialogue.  The last line of that dialogue also changes.  We presently say, “It is right to give him thanks and praise,” but with the new text, we will say:

 “It is right and just.”

This will lead more clearly into the opening of the prefaces, which will commonly begin with the words:

It is truly right and just.

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

 

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297)

 

Margaret was born of farming parents in Laviano, Tuscany.  Her mother died when Margaret was seven; life with her stepmother was so difficult that Margaret moved out.  For nine years she lived with Arsenio, though they were not married, and she bore him a son.  In those years, she had doubts about her situation.  Somewhat like St. Augustine she prayed for purity—but not just yet.

One day she was waiting for Arsenio and was instead met by his dog.  The animal led Margaret into the forest where she found Arsenio murdered.  This crime shocked Margaret into a life of penance.  She and her son returned to Laviano, where she was not well received by her stepmother.  They then went to Cortona, where her son eventually became a friar.

In 1277, three years after her conversion, Margaret became a Franciscan tertiary.  Under the direction of her confessor, who sometimes had to order her to moderate her self-denial, she pursued a life of prayer and penance at Cortona.  There she established a hospital and founded a congregation of tertiary sisters.  The poor and humble Margaret was, like Francis, devoted to the Eucharist and to the passion of Jesus.  These devotions fueled her great charity and drew sinners to her for advice and inspiration. She was canonized in 1728.

Comment:

Seeking forgiveness is sometimes difficult work.  It is made easier by meeting people who, without trivializing our sins, assure us that God rejoices over our repentance.  Being forgiven lifts a weight and prompts us to acts of charity.

Quote:

“Let us raise ourselves from our fall and not give up hope as long as we free ourselves from sin. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners.  ‘O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!’ (Psalm 95:6).  The Word calls us to repentance, crying out: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).  There is, then, a way to salvation if we are willing to follow it” (Letter of Saint Basil the Great).

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

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and the Spirituality

 

What is Saint Francis’ description of “true obedience”?

Why did Saint Francis say that moving to a “hermitage” would be an “escape”?

Does his reason resonate with us in some of our frustrations?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 16 & 17 of 26:

 

16.  Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.

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17.  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.

“Let Us Walk and Talk Together!” –Matthew 21:28-32†


 

 

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

 

It is exactly 3 months till CHRISTinMASS today.  I love this season more than any other season of the year (Easter comes close, with Halloween being a distant 3rd).  The reason is because I believe more people live a life of “thinking” about Jesus, and are more open to hearing His message than any other time of the year.  It is so sad that a secular aspect of this beautiful time of the year has to be used to draw people back to what should be a daily event: celebrating Christ in our lives.

December is the Christmas Season per any wall calendar.  However, we need to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” every day of our existence.  I pray that we can all celebrate Christ in all aspects of our lives.  Let us “Walk the Talk” together on our individual paths of righteousness, leading to eternal joy and paradise in paradise.  Let us all keep “CHRISTinMASS”!!

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   303 – On a voyage preaching the gospel, Saint Fermin of Pamplona is beheaded in Amiens, France.
†   1392 – Death of Sergius van Radonesj, Russian saint, at age 78
†   1534 – Death of Clement VII, [Giulio de’ Medici], Italian Pope (1523-34), at age 56 (b. 1478)
†   1617 – Death of Francisco Suarez, Spanish Jesuit, philosopher/theologian (b. 1548)

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

 

 

 

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 Quote of the Day:

 

 

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, and deserted by everybody.  The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference towards those who are victims of exploitation, corruption, poverty, and disease.  Love has to be built on sacrifice.  We have to give until it hurts.”  ~ Mother Teresa, “Where There Is Love, There Is God”, Doubleday

 

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus posing a question to the “Chief Priests and Elders” on the meaning of obedience; the Parable of the “Two Sons”.

 

 

 

(NAB Matthew 21:28-32) 28 “What is your opinion?  A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’  29 He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went.  30 The man came to the other son and gave the same order.  He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.  31 Which of the two did his father’s will?”  They answered, “The first.”  Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  32 When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.  Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.

 

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

What kind of future are you preparing for?  Jesus encourages us to think about the consequences of our choices, especially those decisions which will count not just for now, but for eternity as well.  The choices we make now can, and WILL, affect and shape our future, both our human future on earth as well as in our eternal life in the age to come.

 

The background for today’s Gospel concerns the mounting tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees and Scribes.  Jesus has already entered Jerusalem and overturned the money changers’ tables in the Temple:

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” (Matthew 21:12).

 Jesus obliviously caught the attention of the religious authorities.  The “learned men”, (the chief priests and elders), approach and question Jesus about the “source” of His authority.  

Jesus refuses to name His source of His authority to these religious leaders.  Instead, He questions the “Chief Priests and Elders” through the parable we “hear” in today’s Gospel reading.  The religious leaders answer is essentially and humanly correct, but their answer, at the same time, convicts them.  Their failure to take note of the call for repentance from John the Baptist and for their inability to recognize the Kingdom of God is their downfall.

The example Jesus posed in today’s Gospel could have been taken directly from any of our personal experiences.  Each of us can recall instances in which someone spoke one thing, and then did another.  The reason for Jesus’ parable is to illustrate that our “actions” speak louder than “words”, even with God.  (And even “by” God.)

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Today starts a series of debates in Jesus’ public ministry.  His message is directed to the Jewish people about their misinterpretations of their Scriptures.  This message is highlighted by today’s first of three parables on the judgment of Israel, as found in Matthew’s Book (Matthew 21:28 – 22:14).  Future parables will include, “The Parable of the Tenants”, (Matthew 21:33–46), believed to originate from Mark 12:1–12, and, “The Parable of the Wedding Feast”, (Matthew 22:1–14) which is very similar to a parable found in Luke 14:15–24, concerning their readiness to accept invitations from God, and about proper attire, both external and internal.

In today’s reading from Matthew, the “two sons” respectively represent the religious leaders and the religious outcasts who followed John the Baptist’s call to repentance, in contrast to the religious leader’s choice NOT to respond to John the Baptist’s call for repentance to them as well.  The chief priests and elders condemned themselves by their choice not to follow the example of conversion and repentance of the tax collectors and prostitutes.

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Matthew’s first parable, (today’s parable), if taken by itself, would point simply to a difference between “saying and doing”, – – talking the talk versus walking the talk – – a theme of much importance throughout his Gospel:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21);

And also,

“For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50).

This theme of the importance of one’s actions (or lack of actions) in response to a call to repentance is probably the parable’s “original” point.  However, the theme is given a more specific application by the addition of the very last two verses:

“’Which of the two did his father’s will?’  They answered, ‘The first.’  Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.  Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.’” (Matthew 21:31–32).

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Jesus states:

“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew21:31).

I take His words, “entering the kingdom of God before you”, as meaning “THEY (the “sinners”) enter AND YOU do not.”  (Do you see any correspondence to today’s Church situations?!)

Now, listen to Luke’s version, and notice the similarities:

“All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, and who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God; but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.” (Luke 7:29-30).

Pretty interesting declaration, don’t you think?!

 

Also in verse 32, when Jesus said, “When John came to you in the way of righteousness …”, several meanings are possible.  First, that John the Baptist himself was “righteous”; or, that he “taught ‘righteousness’” to others; lastly, that John the Baptist had an important place in God’s “plan of salvation”:

John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?  Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him” (Matthew 3:14–15).

I see meaning in all three reasons.  John is aware of Jesus’ superiority to him – – as the mightier one – – who is coming and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit:

 “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11).

John’s reluctance to allow Jesus among “the sinners” whom he is baptizing, is strongly affected by Jesus’ prophetic response.  To “fulfill all righteousness” is a two-fold reference to 1) the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and 2) the righteousness of moral conduct in conformity with God’s will.  These are God’s expectations for ALL – – both leaders and laity.  Here, however, “righteousness” seems to refer to “the saving activity of God the Father”. “To fulfill all righteousness” is to submit to “the plan of God (the Holy One of Israel)” for the salvation of the whole human race, His loving creation in His image and likeness.  God the Father’s plan involves Jesus’ true and real identification with sinners; hence the spiritual appropriateness of His accepting John’s baptism (… to “fulfill all righteousness”)..

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To Summarize: the situation Jesus posed, through today’s parable, is rather clear-cut and straightforward.  Given the same task by their father (to go out and work in the vineyard), one son declares his disobedience in words, yet then eventually obeys in his actions.  The second son obeys with his words, yet disobeys in his actions.  The question which Jesus poses is insightful and direct:

 “Which of the two did his father’s will?” (Matthew 21:31)

  All would agree that “actions speak louder than words” and that even if his words were disobedient, the son who did the work as ordered did the father’s will.  Remember how Jesus gave a revealing definition of who is truly His brother:

“For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)

Jesus’ is just as insightful and direct- – TO US – – as well.  The chief priests and elders, the ones who speak most often about God, did not act accordingly.  They did not respond to the message of repentance announced by John the Baptist with a change of heart, a conversion.  Instead, John’s message was listened to by those one would not expect to repent – – tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners. However, because of their choices and actions, these sinners will enter the Kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders.

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In conclusion: Jesus tells a simple story, a parable, of two typical and imperfect sons, to illustrate the attitude and desire of God, and the way of God’s kingdom on earth.  The father sufficiently provided for his sons: food, housing, and everything else they needed.  Everything the father had and owned was shared with his children.  The father also accorded his two sons with work in his own vineyard.  He expected them to show him some respect, loyalty, and honor by doing their fair share of the daily work.  The first son told his father, face-to-face, that he would not work for him. However, he soon changed his mind and did what his father asked of him.  The second son said he would work for his father, but didn’t carry through his promise.  He acted contrary to his father’s will and his own best self-interest.  So, who really was the good son among the two?  Both sons disobeyed their father; however, one repented and then did what the father told him.

Jesus makes His point clear though this parable: Good intentions are not enough.  Also, promises don’t count unless they are acted on.  God wants to change our hearts so that we will show by our words and actions that we respect His will.

God the Father offers each of us the greatest treasure possible: unending peace, joy, happiness, and life with Him in His eternal, everlasting, joyful kingdom.  We can lose that treasure by refusing the grace – – the gift – – God the Father offers us by following His way of truth and righteousness.  How well are you doing in respecting the “will and plan” of our heavenly Father?

Jesus asks us the same question, “Who did his Father’s will?”  Do your words indicate your obedience to God?  If not your words, do your actions?  God desires a full and daily conversion of heart so that our actions (and our words as well) will give evidence of our total love for, trust and faith in God.  Remember what is written in Hebrews:

Without faith, it is impossible to please him [God].” (Hebrews 11:6)

Did you notice that Jesus “condemned” the religious leaders for not allowing John the Baptist’s message of repentance to change their hearts and actions?  Recall a time when a family member or friend said one thing and then did another.  Acknowledge that sometimes the action taken demonstrates a “true” change of heart, a true conversion of heart and soul.  Jesus wants us to do more than just to pay lip service to, to only recognize, and to make some concession to, the Gospel.  Jesus wants ALL of us to be transformed – – converted – – by His “Word”!!  WALK the TALK!!  Experience a true conversion to and for God by showing evidence of your change of heart in both actions and words.

 

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 Reflection Psalm:

 

Psalm 25

A prayer to God for mercy.

 

“Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths.  Guide me by your fidelity and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long.  Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD, for they are ages old.  Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me according to your mercy, because of your goodness, LORD. 

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore He shows sinners the way, He guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble His way.  Amen” (Psalm 25:4-9)

 

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

The Gloria

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

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

 

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Finding the Body of St. Clare

For some six centuries the body of St. Clare laid buried deep under the high altar of “Santa Chiara”, a church in Assisi built in her honor.  In 1850 Pope Pius IX granted permission for excavations to be made to find and exhume her body.

After seven days, the stone coffin containing the body of the saint was found.  When it was opened, it was discovered that the body of St. Clare, though blackened with age, was still incorrupt.  It was put into a crystal coffin, and placed in a crypt of the church, after it was completed in 1872.

The feast of the Finding of the Body of St. Clare, instituted by Pope Pius IX, is celebrated by the all three branches of the Franciscan families.

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

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

Sacraments

 

How prominent a role did the Catholic Church and her practices (such as Sacraments) play in Saint Francis’ thinking and advice?

How many of “blessings” and “helps’ from God are many non-Catholics totally unaware of?

 

 

 

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

 

 

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.

Т

26. As a concrete sign of communion and co-responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance.  They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.

  

“May the Best Man Lose His Life – – to Jesus!” – Matthew 18:15-20†


 

Twenty-Third Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Popes Prayer Intentions for September

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, asks that we join him in prayer for the “concrete problems that trouble the Universal Church, especially those of the missions.”  These are our Holy Father’s prayer intentions for September:

GENERAL INTENTION:
That all teachers may know how to communicate love of the truth and instill authentic moral and spiritual values.

MISSIONARY INTENTION:
That the Christian communities of Asia may proclaim the Gospel with fervor, witnessing to its beauty with the joy of faith.

Т

Next Sunday is the 10th anniversary of this country’s attack by fundamentalist Islamic Terrorists.  Please pray for all the affected souls (dead and alive) from this disaster of pure hated.  Lord, please be in our prayers, hearts and mind, on this sad, yet glorious day.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   422 – St Boniface I ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1085 – Death of Irmgarde van Keulen, German countess of Aspel/saint
†   1571 – Catholic coup in Scotland
†   1781 – Los Angeles, California, is founded as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (the City of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of the Little Portion) by 44 Spanish settlers.
†   1918 – Jhr Ch Ruys de Beerenbrouck, Jhr. Charles Joseph Maria Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (1 December 1873 – 17 April 1936) was a Dutch nobleman and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1918 to 1925 and again from 1929 to 1933, who becomes 1st Dutch Catholic premier

(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:

 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” ~ Proverbs 15:1

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching His disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.

 

(NAB Matthew 18:15-20) 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.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

What’s the best way to repair a damaged relationship?  Jesus offers His disciples a special grace of spiritual freedom and power for restoring the broken or injured relationships within His faith community.  He makes it very clear that His followers should not tolerate a break, infringement, or outright violation in relationships among themselves.

This reading gives direction to the actions of Jesus Christ’s reputable disciples toward those who have strayed from their teachings and practices.  Today’s discourse is the “how-to” for dealing with someone who sins, and yet continues within the community (Sort of like many of our present day Catholic Legislators).  Them, and many others in the Catholic Church today are “Catholics Only In Name”: “COINs”!!

 

Today’s Gospel is taken from a part of Matthew’s book which is sometimes called the “discourse on the Church” or the “church order discourse”.  In this section of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks more directly, openly, and frankly about Catholic (Universal) Church discipline and Church order.  

Today’s reading is only one of two instances wherein Jesus uses the word “church” in Matthew’s Gospel.  In Matthew’s record of Jesus’ “Word” and teachings, we can also hear and experience reverberations of the kinds of questions and problems faced by the first-century Catholic Christian community for whom he wrote.

Т

Not in today’s reading, but found immediately prior to this reading (Matthew 18:1-14), is the first part of the “discourse on the Church.  Matthew addresses the Catholic Christian community’s concern about hierarchy.  In this previous “first” part, Jesus responds to the disciples’ question about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  His response indicated that those who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven must be like children!!  He further cautioned the “church leaders” who might lead His disciples going astray – – off path of salvation, by accident or purposely.

Next is today’s part, the second section of Jesus’ “discourse on the Church”, Matthew 18:15-20.  Here, Jesus addresses a very common occurrence in the early Christian community: a dispute between two or more members of His Catholic Church.

Sin must be confronted, and help must be offered, in restoring a damaged personal or communal relationship of love, trust, and faith.  When these relationships between brothers and sisters of Christ are damaged, then we must spare no effort; we must use all resources – – human and divine – – to help the brother or sister “at fault” to see their error, and to set the relationship “just and righteous” again.

Regardless of the decision in dealing with one in error, the church’s judgment will be ratified in heaven – – by God the Father Himself.  The three-step process of rectification in today’s reading relates (though not exactly) to the Qumran community procedures found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (see 1QS 5:25–6:1; 6:24–7:25; CD 9:2–8).

Т

In the conclusion of today’s reading, Jesus ends with a proverb about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to a very small number of prayers (Hope hopeful is this!!).  Jesus Christ is always in “the midst” of any gathering of His disciples, no matter how small.

After reading and reflecting on this Gospel reading multiple times, I wonder whether this context of prayer, as portrayed in today’s reading, has anything to do with the preceding judgment of the unrepentant sinner.  It seems uncertain in context, but not in concept.  Let’s see what I say about this, in detail, later.

Т

Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters in a fair way; a procedure which continues, in a very similar form, to this day.  First, the victim should privately address the offender and attempt to resolve the dispute without outside involvement.  If this fails, then the victim should bring two or three witnesses and confront – – in a loving manner – – the “offender” again.  If the dispute is still unresolved, the matter should be brought to the attention of the entire church community.

Finally, and sadly, if the offender refuses to adhere to the restoration arranged by and approved by the church community, then Jesus Christ Himself suggests the “offender” may be expelled from the Church, – – “excommunicated”.

 

Jesus starts His discourse with a profound and heavily-laden theological sentence:

“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.” (Matthew 18:15) 

Your brother”, from verse 15, is the colloquial term for a Catholic Christians fellow disciple in Christ.

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (Matthew 23:8).  

The bracketed words, “against you”, (also in verse 15) are words widely attested to in many versions of Holy Scripture.  However, they are not in the ancient manuscript texts, “Sinaiticus” and “Vaticanus”, nor in some other written documents.  Their omission in these important documents only broadens the type of sin in question to ANY type of sin!  

Still in verse 15, “Won over” literally means “gained.”  Saying, “we won over this person”, means this person has come too understood, and corrected his fault.  In doing so, he has gained his own personal insight, and, at the same time, you gain a friend and companion on your faith journey.

 Т

Taking two or three with you as witnesses (verse 16) when confronting a person who is in error, is not a new concept.  In actuality, this exact model is even covered in Moses writings, the Torah:

One witness alone shall not stand against someone in regard to any crime or any offense that may have been committed; a charge shall stand only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)

Т

What is meant by the word “church” (verse 17) in this reading?  The words, “the church” is the second of the only two instances of this specific word in Matthew’s Gospel; the other being Matthew 16:18:  

“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.” (Matthew 16:18).

Here, it refers not to the entire church of Jesus Christ, as in Matthew 16:18, but instead, to the local congregation instead.

 

Also in verse 17, what did Jesus mean when He said, “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector”?  Well, history shows that in first-century Palestine, observant and pious Jews avoided any interaction with “Gentiles” and “tax collectors” – – “heathen sinners”!!  In the same way, Catholic Jewish-Christian disciples of this biblical time also had to separate themselves from the arrogantly un-repented, sinful member who refused to repent, even when convicted of his sin by the whole church (his brothers and sisters in Christ).  This person was (and still is) to be put outside the fellowship of the Catholic Church community; he or she is “excommunity-cated”.

 

The harsh language about Gentile and tax collector points to a stage in Matthew’s first-century Catholic (Universal) Church, wherein, it was principally composed of Jewish Christians.  Though this period of a “Jewish-only” Catholic Church has long since passed, the principle of exclusion (including the severest form, excommunication) for such a sinner remains to this day, and has spread from Matthew’s local church, to the entire worldwide church community.  Saint Paul even made a similar demand for excommunication in his first letter to the Corinthians (Corinthians 5:1-13), in regards to incest and pride:

“It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans—a man living with his father’s wife.  And you are inflated with pride.  Should you not rather have been sorrowful?  The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst.” (1 Corinthians 5:1–2).

 

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on Jesus’ instruction (and if anyone knew about sin, he did!!):

 

When any one sins against us, let us take great care, not for ourselves, for it is a glorious thing to forget injuries; only forget thine own injury, not thy brother’s wound.  Therefore ‘rebuke him between thee and him alone,’ intent upon his amendment, but sparing his shame.  For it may be that through shamefacedness he will begin to defend his sin, and so thou wilt make him whom thou desirest to amend, still worse.  ‘Rebuke him’ therefore ‘between him and thee alone.  If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother;’ because he would have been lost, hadst thou not done it.  But ‘if he: will not hear thee,’ that is, if he will defend his sin as if it were a just action, ‘take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established; and if he will not hear them, refer it to the Church; but if he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.’  Reckon him no more amongst the number of thy brethren.  But yet neither is his salvation on that account to be neglected.  For the very heathen, that is, the Gentiles and Pagans, we do not reckon among the number of brethren; but yet are we ever seeking their salvation.” (Sermon 82.7)

Т

What can we learn from today’s reading, along with the above passage from St. Augustine, about how to repair a damaged relationship?  

If you feel you have been wronged by someone, Jesus Christ says the first step is to speak directly, yet privately, to the individual who has done you harm.  The worst thing one can do is dwell on any grievance, poisoning the mind, heart and soul.  Retaining grievances (resentment) makes it more difficult to go directly to the person who caused the damage.  If we truly want to settle a difference with someone, we need to do it “face-to-face” and “heart-to-heart”.  

If this fails to resolve the issue, then the second step is to bring another person (or persons) to help in the “repair of the relationship”.  This “witness” should be mature, wise, and compassionate person rather than someone who may be equally hot-tempered and/or judgmental.  Remember, the goal is not to put the “offender” on trial, but to persuade the “offender” to see his error, and to be reconciled with each other (and the church).  

If this loving (and second) interaction fails, we still must not give up.  Instead we should seek the help of the entire Catholic Christian community – – the “Church”.  Notice the emphasis and importance is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Catholics, who will pray, seeking a solution for reconciling the matter, based on Christian love and wisdom rather than relying on coercive force, threats, and legal action.

Lastly, if the church fails to bring about reconciliation, what else is there to do?  Jesus Christ says we have the right to abandon stubborn and inflexible offenders, treating them like social outcasts.  

The tax-collectors and Gentiles were regarded as “unclean” by the religiously pious Jews.  However, we know from Holy Scripture that Jesus was often a companion and friend of tax-collectors; He ate with them, and even praised them at times!  Even if excommunicated, we should always hope and pray for a conversion of heart in the “offender”, and reconciliation with the church family.

 

Jesus does not discourage, in any way, disagreements within the Church community.  After all, being human in nature, disagreements are inevitable.  He even acknowledged the reality of conflict and error in our world, and offers His disciples a specific, respectful, and loving means for addressing such matters.  

I love what Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen had said about disagreeing with the “infallible teachings” of the Magisterium:

“You have two choices if you disagree with the Church’s infallible teachings:

1)  Change your mind, or
2)  Change your mind!!”

(Bonus Trivia Question:  Can you name ALL the “infallible” teachings of the Catholic Church.  You may be surprised at how many there are in fact.  The answer will be at end of today’s reflection.)

Т

Let’s go on to the next verse:

“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.” (Matthew 18:18)

Except for the use of both singular and plural verbs for “bind” and “loose” in verse 18, it is practically identical with Mathew 16:19b:

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16:19b).

Many bible scholars take it as a granting (a grace given) to all Jesus’ disciples what was previously given to Peter (the first Pope) alone.

Т

It is in the conclusion to today’s reading (verses 19 & 20) that a great message of hope is found: Jesus is “truly” present with the Catholic Church community, and will guide His Church community in its relationships.  If decisions are taken to Him in prayer, then His church community can be assured of the Holy Trinity’s assistance.

 

Some bible scholars take verses 19 and 20 as relating to “prayer” when the church community gathers in order to deal with the specific un-repentant sinner of verse 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.” (Matthew 18:17).

Unless an “a fortiori” argument (argument “from [the] stronger [reason]”) is assumed, this seems unlikely to me.  After all, God’s answer to the prayer of “two or three” (as stated in both verse 19 AND 20) envisions a different situation than prayer involving the entire church body (the congregation).  In addition to this argument for a separate meaning and purpose, the object of “prayer” in today’s reading is expressed in the most general of terms, as it expresses “anything for which they are to pray”, and is not specific to the un-repentant sinner.

 

However, this last verse of today’s great message is one of “hope inspired by a grace”, from Jesus Christ Himself:

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

His presence guarantees the value, merit, and importance of prayer.  This verse is similar to one attributed to an unknown Rabbi, executed in 135 A.D., at the time of the second Jewish revolt:

“…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them (Pirqê ’Abôt 3:3).

Т

In conclusion, conflict and disagreements are a natural part of family, church, and societal life.  Yet, within these groups, we are given an opportunity to learn how to “fairly” resolve disagreements by treating people with love and respect.

It needs to be reiterated, Jesus Christ refuses NO ONE who is ready to receive pardon, healing, and restoration.  A call to accountability is inevitable, and we can’t escape it, both in this life, and at the “Day of Judgment” (the “Parousia”) when our Lord Jesus Christ will return.

Do you tolerate broken relationships?  Or, do you seek to repair, restore, and amend relationships in the way God gives you, through opportunity and His grace given process?  While we have the opportunity to do so in this life, we must not give up on our stubborn, inflexible, “offenders”.  Instead, take every opportunity and make all effort to win them back into the fold – – with, in, and through the grace and power of God’s healing love and wisdom.  

This week, reflect on your way of resolving disputes at work, and at home.  What kinds of things produce disagreements for you?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches His disciples the proper way to handle conflicts within the Catholic (Universal) Christian community – – the Church.  Try to summarize Jesus’ steps He personally proposed for resolving conflicts.  How might today’s Gospel enlighten you in handling disagreements?  

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus also promised (and still promises) He will help those who pray to Him with their needs.  Pray that you (and your family and friends) will learn to handle inevitable conflicts in a respectful, loving, Christian way.

 

(Bonus Trivia Question Answer:  There are only TWO “ex cathedra” (infallible) teachings in the Catholic Church; both are about the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

First, is her “Immaculate Conception”, declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and grandfathered in after the First Vatican Council’s declaration of papal infallibility in 1870.  And the second is about her bodily “Assumption” into heaven, declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950.)

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  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 “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely.  More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal.  It will now say, I have greatly sinned and later adds through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that
I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;

therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Rose of Viterbo (1233-1251)

 

Rose achieved sainthood in only 18 years of life.  Even as a child Rose had a great desire to pray and to aid the poor.  While still very young, she began a life of penance in her parents’ house.  She was as generous to the poor as she was strict with herself.  At the age of 10 she became a Secular Franciscan and soon began preaching in the streets about sin and the sufferings of Jesus.

Viterbo, her native city, was then in revolt against the pope.  When Rose took the pope’s side against the emperor, she and her family were exiled from the city.  When the pope’s side won in Viterbo, Rose was allowed to return. Her attempt at age 15 to found a religious community failed, and she returned to a life of prayer and penance in her father’s home, where she died in 1251.  Rose was canonized in 1457.

Comment:

The list of Franciscan saints seems to have quite a few men and women who accomplished nothing very extraordinary.  Rose is one of them.  She did not influence popes and kings, did not multiply bread for the hungry and never established the religious order of her dreams.  But she made a place in her life for God’s grace, and like St. Francis before her, saw death as the gateway to new life.

Quote:

Rose’s dying words to her parents were: “I die with joy, for I desire to be united to my God.  Live so as not to fear death.  For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening, but sweet and precious.”

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:

 

Peace

 

How do you explain what “peace” is? 

What are some different meanings for the word “peace” – among governments, neighbors, in families, relationships?

What did Francis mean by this word: “Peace”?

What does Sacred Scripture mean by this word: “Peace”?

Since we are called to be “peacemakers” by Christ, go line by line and explain how each suggestion (pledge line) of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis [above] helps promote peace.

 

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

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

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.   Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

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

 

 

♫“All We Need Is Love; Dah, – Dah, Dah Dah, Dah!”♫ – Matthew 5:38–48†


            

Today in Catholic History:


†   1154 – Death of Saint Wulfric of Haselbury Plucknett
†   1431 – Death of Pope Martinus V, [Oddo Colonna], Italian, (b. 1368)
†   1798 – Louis Alexandre Berthier removes Pope Pius VI from power.
†   1994 – Pope John Paul II demands juristic discrimination of homosexuals

(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:

 

An “eye for an eye” will make the whole world blind. ~ Gandhi

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Bringing the Christian message to modern man. We have stressed the importance of this theme of evangelization on many occasions. On June 22, 1973, we said to the Sacred College of Cardinals: “The conditions of the society in which we live oblige all of us therefore to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how we can bring the Christian message to modern man. For it is only in the Christian message that modern man can find the answer to his questions and the energy for his commitment of human solidarity.” And we added that in order to give a valid answer to the demands of the Council which call for our attention, it is absolutely necessary for us to take into account a heritage of faith that the Church has the duty of preserving in its untouchable purity, and of presenting it to the people of our time, in a way that is as understandable and persuasive as possible.

 

Burning questions. This fidelity both to a message whose servants we are and to the people to whom we must transmit it living and intact is the central axis of evangelization. It poses three burning questions, which the 1974 Synod kept constantly in mind:

– In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on man’s conscience?

– To what extent and in what way is that evangelical force capable of really transforming the people of this century?

– What methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?

Basically, these inquiries make explicit the fundamental question that the Church is asking herself today and which may be expressed in the following terms: after the Council and thanks to the Council, which was a time given her by God, at this turning-point of history, does the Church or does she not find herself better equipped to proclaim the Gospel and to put it into people’s hearts with conviction, freedom of spirit and effectiveness?

http://www.ciofs.org/ratio/2010/EN201102.htm

 

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus commanding us to love our enemies, and to pray for your persecutors.

 

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  39 But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.  40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.  41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.  43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?  47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same?  48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.   (NAB Matthew 5:38–48)

 

Imagine Sister Death [a Franciscan concept and term] coming for you and taking you to the paradise we know as heaven.  The very first person you meet, after Jesus of course, is the one person you liked the least in life!  It is a very possible reality!  Remember, God loves each one of us, individually, and without regard for OUR perceived earthly status of others!  The Pharaoh of “Moses” fame, King Herod the Great, Judas, Hitler, and even today’s abortion practitioners may be in paradise with us.  After all, these much loved creations of God (though hated by man) may have chosen to repent, acknowledge their sinfulness, and may have received forgiveness for their transgressions on earth.  A prime example is St. Dismas while hanging on the cross:

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.”  The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  (Luke 23:39-43)

When Jesus talked about the law God gave to the Jewish people, He did something no one previously had ever done before.  He gave a new benchmark or norm based not only on the condition of “justice” (a sound or good reason, fairness and reasonableness), but also based on the higher law of grace and love.

Today we have the last two teachings offered at the “Sermon on the Mount”.  They both deal with love of our enemies.  Jesus is speaking extremely powerful words here.  In the first part of His discourse, He is teaching on a well known (to the common Jewish person) Levitical Law:

 “Limb for limb, eye for eye, tooth for tooth!  The same injury that a man gives another shall be inflicted on him in return.”  (Leviticus 24:20)

Jesus knew the Mosaic Law – – and its intention – – better than any Pharisee, Sadducee, or Scribe could ever conceive and understand.  In today’s reading, Jesus quotes from Mosaic Law:

But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Exodus 21:23-25)

We should not understand “an eye for an eye” as an extremely harsh punishment for all crimes.  It was actually meant to limit acts of revenge by making sure the punishment was not excessive, but equitable: only “fitting” the crime or act done.  

Scripture scholars believe the language of this law came from the Semitic people surrounding them, from whom the Israelites stemmed.  So, this old ‘law” may seem quite cruel by today’s standards.  However, this law meant to limit vengeance, and to promote mercy.  In reality, the law was not normally taken “literally”, but instead served as a guide to discern for a “judge” as equitable punishment and penalty for a particular offense or crime.  It was prescribed so that the punishment from one “injured” would not exceed any injury done during the initial crime/sin.  

Now, Jesus uses this part of Holy Scripture to contrast His idea of the better, higher, more humane standard with the limited law of basic qualities.  Then He is asking His followers to take a different approach by resisting retaliation altogether.  Jesus is saying that, for His disciples, the way in His everlasting paradise in heaven, goes far beyond what this old covenant law prescribes.  We are now challenged to suppress the proportionate retaliation previously set by law, and to take the courageous step to even forgive the offender.  This is living the new law of mercy, set by Jesus Himself.  Of the five examples found in verses 38-42 of today’s reading, only the first example (eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth) deals directly with retaliation for evil.  The other four speak of charity, kindness, generosity, compassion, mercy, and even LOVE for one’s enemy.  A sense of forgiveness and an absence of pride are the “new” norm which plays the essential role in His “love” command.

 

Jesus’ country was invaded by, occupied by, and ruled by a Roman government and military.  Roman soldiers in Jesus’ Palestine had the right to annex and/or requisition any property and/or services of the Jewish population by Roman civil law.  This could also include forcing people to perform specific functions – a type of conscription.

If you remember the Passion narratives, Simon is conscripted to carry Jesus’ cross:

“They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.” (Mark 15:21)

Jesus is saying that the righteous man will purposely “go the extra mile” for another, with no expectation of reward or thanks. 

 

Mercy me!  Mercy Me!  Mercy is the key!  (I’m a poet & didn’t know it!)  The Old Testament is full of citations involving the directive that we must be merciful:

 “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”  (Leviticus 19:18). 

Say not, ‘As he did to me, so will I do to him; I will repay the man according to his deeds.’”  (Proverbs 24:29)

If your enemy be hungry, give him food to eat, if he be thirsty, give him to drink.”   (Proverbs 25:21). 

 “Let him offer his cheek to be struck, let him be filled with disgrace.”  (Lamentations 3:30). 

The response to a person who strikes us on the face, takes us to court, or demands a service of us is not simply to resist and retaliate, but to offer ourselves to seek reconciliation and even to be ready and willing to surrender our property out of love.  Those who are called to the Kingdom of Heaven are to go beyond the way of the secular world and to serve God’s people and kingdom.

The next difficult level expected of those followers who are invited to God’s kingdom is the willingness and the ability to embrace our enemies: first to forgive, and then to love them.  

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”  (Leviticus 19:18)

There was a religious attitude among the people of Jesus’ time on earth that allowed one to hate those not “neighbors” (meaning anyone not Israelites), and to distance oneself from those who are not their “neighbor”.  Jesus corrects this misinterpretation (cf., the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37).  

In contrast to “hate”, Jesus emphasizes that “love of God” and the “love of neighbor” are the two primary and essential directives on which all other commandments and laws revolve.  He further extends these “love” commandments to our enemies and our persecutors.  He extends its meaning to encircle, to take-in, all men – – even our enemies.   His disciples, as children of God and followers of Christ, need to imitate the example of God the Father, who grants His gifts of “sun” and “rain” to all people and all creation, both good and bad.  A Christian, a true Catholic, has NO personal enemies!  Our ONLY enemy is evil – – SIN – – and NOT the “sinner”!

There is absolutely NO room for retaliation or retribution in God’s kingdom.  We need to avoid returning “evil for evil”.  We must seek the good in those who wish us a bad fate, ill-will, or harm.  The virtue of love is the distinguishing mark of a Christian – – of a Catholic: universal LOVE!  The universal call to holiness is not a recommendation, but rather, a commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How often have you accepted insults and abuse without any resentment, malice, or anger – – as Jesus showed us in His example?  When you are required to do more than you believe you should, do you insist on an equitable division, special attention, and/or “rights”; OR, do you respond with grace, joyfulness, and contentment?  

 

“Tax collectors” were Jews who engaged in the collection of taxes, tolls, and customs.  Tax collectors contracted with the Roman civil government for the right to collect these taxes within their districts.  In essence, they became sub-contractors of the Roman government, the “occupying force” in Palestine.  Whatever they could covertly and overtly collect above their allotment of pay became a profit by “embezzlement or extortion”.   Reasonably assumed, and without any doubt in my mind, abuses of embezzlement and extortion were widespread among the Jewish population.  Under-handed and crooked tax collectors were well-known and NOT liked.  Therefore, Jewish tax officials were not only NOT liked, they were disgraced, regarded as sinners and outcasts of their Jewish community – – along with their families.

Jesus’ disciples are not to be solely content and happy with the usual standards of conduct expected under Jewish Mosaic Law.  Jesus is commanding us to love all people, not just the ones we like or we think deserve love.  Even our enemies (such as the tax-collector) deserve our love.  The dishonest, the thief, the murderer, the ponzi-schemer, and so on, could become a Saint through the actions of the Holy Spirit working with, in, and through them, and you to bring them to confess their sins and seek God’s forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of those they harmed.  Remember, even one of Jesus’ twelve Apostle’s was a tax-collector:

As He [Jesus] passed by, he saw Levi [Matthew], son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And he got up and followed Him. (Mark 2:14)

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 5:48) Jesus introduces an image or concept as difficult for us today as it was for His disciple friends:

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

And then, He (Jesus) repeats this concept fourteen chapters later, when talking to a young rich man:

 “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.'” (Matthew 19:21)

So, what did Jesus mean by “perfect”?  Talk about high standards!  (That’s way above me and my pay grade.)  Thankfully, the Catholic Church has asked this same question throughout the centuries.  In Chapter 5 of Vatican II’s Constitution “Lumen gentium”, it is written:

The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and every one of His disciples, in every condition.  He Himself stands as the author and consummator of this holiness of life: ‘Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect’ […] ‘Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity [love]; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society.’”  (Vatican II’s Constitution “Lumen gentium”, 40)

 

The “fullness of Christ’s life” is in loving God, and loving every person and all God’s creation as fully as we can.  We are God’s “work in progress”, “Striving to reach the completeness we are called to in God’s kingdom.”  Attempting to “love our enemies” is definitely a part of our striving for completeness.  Completeness includes seeking the good and even the best for the “unjust” as well as the “just” (verse 45).  Perfection then includes desiring and encouraging the utmost “good” for, and towards, others.

Jesus’ new standard is God the Father’s own perfect, complete, universal, and practical love for each person.  His perfect love becomes the “model” each of us is called to imitate and live by, through Jesus’ invitation and command.

To enable us to do what He, Jesus Christ, calls us to do, He provides us with the enabling ability to do this command in the person of the “Advocate”, the Holy Spirit, with the gift of grace which sanctifies us, encourages us, empowers us, and inspires us.

God freely gives power and grace to those who believe, trust, and accept the grace of the Holy Spirit indwelling with us, and working in and through us.  God’s divine and totally full “love” towards each and every one, even our enemies triumphs over even our own hurts, fears, prejudices, grief’s, and every other imperfection of our lives.

This attitude is, for me, the key with understanding what Jesus was intending us to understand when He said:

Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

 

As “sinful” human beings, it is far easier to show kindness, love, and mercy when we expect to benefit from doing our actions.  However, it is much harder when we expect NOTHING (not even a return of love) in exchange.  Yet, your “enemy” can actually assist you to surmount your overwhelming goal of “perfection”!  If you want to be perfect – – love all your enemies.  After all, you could be “stuck” with them for eternity!

To encourage you, my dear readers, to continue on this endeavor to be “perfect” as our heavenly father is, I offer the following:

  1. Instead of embracing and sheltering improper and hateful thoughts, say a short prayer for the person who provokes your emotions and hostilities. 

 “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”  (1John 1:7-9)

 

  1. Ask God for forgiveness when you realize your faults. 

 a.  Our actions, prayers, and love for those who do us ill-will and harm will ultimately help us overcome the strength, influence, and clout of vengeance and retribution.

 b.  Unconditional love further liberates the divine power of that “love” to do “good”, even in the face of pure evil. 

 

How can we possibly love those who cause us harm or ill-will?  Well, just remember:

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Take advantage of EVERY opportunity – – every invitation granted to you – – to love another, especially the enemy.  The perfection of God will begin to emit and shine from you as you succeed.

 

We learn many practical skills in our lifetime.  Such skills include cooking, cleaning, hygiene, driving, how to deal with teenage sons, and so on.  Most of us also learn about caring for others as well as ourselves by sharing, forgiving, and loving through our personal and interpersonal experiences.

Love is the most important thing one can share with another.  The same is true in God’s kingdom.  Jesus taught His followers how to love others beyond those who are closest to them (“neighbors”).  Jesus tells us to love “even our enemies”.  As members of God’s kingdom, we are called to love everyone without any prejudice – – even “those who hate and persecute us”!

 

Jesus wants for us to love ALL others as if we were Jesus “Himself”.  If we extend ourselves in love to others, then we will be doing exactly as Jesus did, and as Jesus desires and empowers us to do..  Perfection is simply an unmitigated, non-prejudicial, and complete love for all people and all creations of God.

Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor?  Remember, you are not alone in this process.  Ask the Holy Spirit to fill and transform you into the image of His Son so that you may walk in the joy and the freedom of “the boy that was before Him.”  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.”   (Hebrews 12:1-2)

 

 “Act of Love

 

“O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love.

I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you.  I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto (1910-1920; 1908-1919)

 

Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, three children, Portuguese shepherds from Aljustrel, received apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon.  At that time, Europe was involved in an extremely bloody war.  Portugal itself was in political turmoil, having overthrown its monarchy in 1910; the government disbanded religious organizations soon after.

At the first appearance, Mary asked the children to return to that spot on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months.  She also asked them to learn to read and write and to pray the rosary “to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.”  They were to pray for sinners and for the conversion of Russia, which had recently overthrown Czar Nicholas II and was soon to fall under communism.  Up to 90,000 people gathered for Mary’s final apparition on October 13, 1917.

Less than two years later, Francisco died of influenza in his family home.  He was buried in the parish cemetery and then re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1952.  Jacinta died of influenza in Lisbon, offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners, peace in the world and the Holy Father.  She was re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1951.  Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and was still living when Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000.  Sister Lucia died five years later.  The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is visited by up to 20 million people a year.

Comment:

The Church is always very cautious about endorsing alleged apparitions, but it has seen benefits from people changing their lives because of the message of Our Lady of Fatima.  Prayer for sinners, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and praying the rosary—all these reinforce the Good News Jesus came to preach.

Quote:

In his homily at their beatification, Pope John Paul II recalled that shortly before Francisco died, Jacinta said to him, “Give my greetings to Our Lord and to Our Lady and tell them that I am enduring everything they want for the conversion of sinners.”

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 20 & 21 of 26:

 

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

 

 

21.  On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council

“When Lost, Hug HIS Tree!” – Luke 15:1-10†


 

God, Please Bless America!!

September 11, 2001 needs to be forever remembered!!

 

Individuals have the “right” to build a Mosque near “ground-zero,” or even to burn books such as the “Koran,” but that does not make it necessarily “Right!”

Remember the “Pieta” and “Our Lady of Sorrows.”  Picture the victims of this tragic act of violence in our loving Blessed Virgin Mother’s lap, instead of the usually pictured infant Jesus. (Taken, in part, from a letter by Fr. Pio Jackson, OFM)

 

 

Next week will be my first anniversary of writing these reflections.  With 258 postings as of today, my knowledge and piety for Holy Scripture has vastly increased.  I have grown to love reading my Bible (yes, I am a catholic WITH a Bible – actually I have several).  The 73 books of the Bible are amazing reads and valuable sources of information, inspiration, and spirituality.  I cannot tell you how many “God-winks” I have experienced in my journey through Scripture.  God truly does work in mysterious ways.

Thank you again for reading, and for commenting on my reflections.  I pray that you have been helped or inspired by my words.  Actually, I should not use the word “my” as I firmly believe that I am not creating these reflections.  I am allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me, and I love the fact that the Paraclete is so lovingly intertwined into my soul and body.  Thank you Lord, my God and my all; I love and trust in you always.

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

      
†   1690 – Birth of Peter Dens, Belgian Catholic theologian (d. 1775)
†   1960 – John F. Kennedy avers he does not speak for the Roman Catholic Church, and neither does the Church speak for him.

(From “Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Where will you stand in eternity?  Smoking or Non-Smoking!

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and Scribes criticizing Him for keeping company with the poor and dreads of society.

 

1 The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him [Jesus}, 2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  3 So to them he addressed this parable.  4 “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  5 And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 6 and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  7 I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.  8 “Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?  9 And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’  10 In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  (Luke 15:1-10)

 

Jesus in today’s Gospel relates two of three parables about losing, finding, and rejoicing.  There are two fairly obvious themes with these readings today.  The first focuses on God’s desire that all of us who may be lost will be found and return to Him.  The second spotlights on OUR calling to search for the “lost sheep or coin” and bring them home to God.

The Pharisees and Scribes were mumbling about Jesus’ followers.  Jesus wasn’t just drawing those interested in discussing religious matters on an intellectual level, or even the particulars of the temple law.  These followers were not only the regular synagogue and temple worshiping crowd, but also a “new” circle of people altogether.  Up till this point, many followers of Jesus would not have been considered a traditionally pious people.  These individuals of various piety levels were gathering to Him — like hair on soap, and it wasn’t just a few either. The outcasts of Jewish society like the lepers, Samaritans, Gentiles, tax-collectors, and other sinners all approached Jesus with a genuine eagerness to hear what he had to say and teach.  

Their “hearing” Jesus’ message started a movement towards conversion for these “outcast heathens.” This “hearing” stands in stark contrast to the “hearing” of Jesus’ fellow “chosen ones” who have heard and not believed.  These Pharisees and Scribes are being cautious and suspicious of Jesus; they complain about His associating with “sinners” and the other dreads of society.  These Pharisees and Scribes were not used to mixing with these “worthless” people following Jesus.  They considered these people as “unclean;” and to be in contact or involved with them would bring uncleanness on them as well.  Jesus’ insight about these “Pharisaical attitudes” is deliciously revealing in these three parables (only two of which are presented in this reflection). 

The parable of the lost sheep in today’s Gospel is also found in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 18:12-14); but Luke adds two additional parables: “the lost coin parable” in Luke 15:8-10, and “the prodigal son parable” found later in this chapter (Luke 15:11-32).  These two additional stories are from Luke’s own special tradition of faith.  Luke illustrates Jesus’ particular concern for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” and for God’s love for every repentant sinner.  In His parables, Jesus takes real life reactions and turns them into a spiritual understanding and application.

Jesus is acting out the very character of his Father, God!  He does much more than simply accepting these “lost” people; Jesus welcomes them and even eats with them, which in His time and culture meant much more than just a meal.  It is a special meal of welcome and recognition for that individual.  There’s nothing wimpy about Jesus’ actions, attitude, or love for all people, especially the poor and suffering. He actively welcomes people who might normally expect rejection from other “teachers”.  

In the first story of the lost sheep, the shepherd leaves behind the ninety-nine sheep to search for the lowly lost sheep that had left its flock.  When he finds it, the shepherd rejoices, but NOT just by himself, as suggested in Matthew’s version.  Instead, he rejoices with his friends and neighbors.  In this same way, God rejoices more over the lowly sinner, similarly lost, who repents.  In this group were the “heroes,” the non-Jews, outcasts, and tax collectors who have come to hear, really hear, Jesus.  Jesus reveals that there is joy in heaven; and that there is even more joy over the outcasts repentance than the righteous, unrepentant, ninety-nine who think they have no need for a change of heart.

The Jewish people have always been a shepherding clan of people, going all the way back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Sheep were raised for wool, meat, and for holy sacrifices.  A hundred sheep (99 + 1, Hmm) would be a fairly normal size for a herder.  In Jesus’ parable, the herder was probably counting his herd and finds one missing.  Leaving the ninety-nine, he goes off looking for the “one” lost sheep until he finds it.  There is no blame directed towards the sheep that went lost; the emphasis of the story is on the joyfulness of the event when the lost is found. The point Jesus was making is quite simple and elegant: the pious people of Israel are not necessarily the lost sheep in this parable!  The tax collectors and sinners are the real lost sheep for whom Jesus was sent!

The second story is about a woman who is so poor that she will not stop searching for her lost coins until she finds them.  How many of us have searched through the deep recesses of our furniture and cars, just for a little spending change?  This is an allegorical story to me; it makes a similar but much stronger point than the first parable. 

This lady in the parable was poor.  She was poor of materialistic needs and possibly poor of spiritual needs as well.  In her searching of all the deep recesses of her life (represented by her home), she made a total examination of her life, consciousness, spirituality, and immediate possible future.  She re-examined every part of her being (her home), and finally finding what she had lost: her conviction and belief in a loving and true God (represented by the ten coins).  In her repentance of the past, her conversion in the present, and a new belief in a loving God that is forever present with her in a unique way, she found a new freedom and wealth never before experienced.  This woman is now joyful and celebrates her “new” life with others, (her brothers and sisters in Christ) who believe as she.

In this second parable when Jesus talks about ten coins, He is literally talking about, “ten drachmas.”  A drachma was a Greek silver coin of the time period.  The drachma may not have been in circulation during Jesus’ time of public ministry in Israel, but Luke’s readers would know what a drachma was the few decades later when Luke wrote his Gospel. A drachma was worth about the same as a Roman denarius: an average day’s wage; so she was looking for ten days wages.

In studying the meaning of biblical numbers, “ten” is one of the “perfect” numbers.  It signifies the “perfection,” or fullness of divinity and a completeness of right order.  In other words, this number implies total and complete wholeness.  As I saw myself in these stories, I saw myself searching through the recesses of my memory, looking for something I know I need but don’t have; then I remembered finding my treasure: it being the love of, and for, Jesus Christ.  It was then that I realized that through these parables we all are being led to a totally perfected, complete, and wholesome soul full of joy at an eternal celebration with Him in paradise.

We are not covering the third parable in this reflection today.  You will have to wait; but I guarantee a doozy of a reflection with this story from Jesus.  All I can say is that it involves sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll!  It will make you laugh; it will make you cry.  It will be rated a five-star reflection on the “God-O-Matic” Meter!  How is this for a cliff-hanger to get you back for future reflections?!

When we are lost, God doesn’t wait for our return. He actively seeks us out. And when His “lost sheep” are found, how could He not celebrate and rejoice?  Jesus’ role is not only one of group redemption and salvation, but that it begins with a “one-by-one,” “person-by-person,” “search and rescue” mission.  That was Jesus’ undertaking on earth in His human AND divine fullness.

If you ask your children who are scouts, or if you are one of the few parents that volunteers as a scout leader, you have probably been taught what to do when lost in the woods: literally, “hug-a-tree.” You know that this means to stay put exactly where you are so others can find you more easily.  Just as any parent would go to any length to find a loved one and bring them home, so too would God.  That is what Jesus is telling us in these stories!  No matter what we do, no matter how bad or wrong we are, God, our infinitely good and loving Father, is always ready and anxious to find and forgive us.  He desires to welcome us back into His loving arms.  In fact, He actively draws us back to Himself.

Remember; Jesus is acting out the very character of his Father, God.  An essential part of God’s character is His extending mercy and love to the “undeserving” of society.  His mission is not only to welcome those who are searching for Him, but also to actually seek the injured, the sick, the oppressed, the blind, the imprisoned, and those who may not be searching for Him.  God really does go to great lengths in order to rescue us.  Our souls are worth all risks for Him.  How does Jesus live this role yet today?  The answer is, I believe a part of His initial plan unveiled two thousand years ago: the Holy Cross of our salvation and redemption — the message of true and active love for all creation still yet today.

If geographically lost, do not forget to “hug-a-tree.”  When lost on our faith journey, the same advice is true: “Hug a tree” — the tree of salvation and redemption — Jesus’ Cross!  He will be more than happy to hug you, and bring you to safety.

 

“St. Francis’ Prayer Before the Crucifix”

 

Most high,
glorious God,
let your light fill the shadows of my heart
and grant me, Lord,
true faith,
certain hope,
perfect love,
awareness and knowing,
that I may fulfill Your holy will.  Amen.

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

  

This feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 3); both have the possibility of uniting people easily divided on other matters.

The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary began in Spain in 1513 and in 1671 was extended to all of Spain and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1683, John Sobieski, king of Poland, brought an army to the outskirts of Vienna to stop the advance of Muslim armies loyal to Mohammed IV in Constantinople. After Sobieski entrusted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he and his soldiers thoroughly defeated the Muslims. Pope Innocent XI extended this feast to the entire Church.

 

Comment:

Mary always points us to God, reminding us of God’s infinite goodness. She helps us to open our hearts to God’s ways, wherever those may lead us. Honored under the title “Queen of Peace,” Mary encourages us to cooperate with Jesus in building a peace based on justice, a peace that respects the fundamental human rights (including religious rights) of all peoples.

Quote:

“Lord our God, when your Son was dying on the altar of the cross, he gave us as our mother the one he had chosen to be his own mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary; grant that we who call upon the holy name of Mary, our mother, with confidence in her protection may receive strength and comfort in all our needs” (Marian Sacramentary, Mass for the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

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 12 & 13 of 26:

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

“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.