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“There are Good Sheep, and there are ‘BAAA’-d Sheep!” – John 10:1-10 †


 

“Good Shepherd Sunday”

The fourth Sunday of the Easter

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Please keep me in your prayers today.  After three years of formation, I am “Professing” in the Franciscan Order of, and for, “Seculars”.  This will be my final “Rite of Commitment to the Gospel Life” in the Secular Franciscan Order.  This Sacramental will be within the Mass; and within, though, for, and with the Holy Spirit in my soul, mind, heart, and body in a very unique covenant with our Almighty and Magnificent Lord Jesus Christ.

After much contemplation, meditation, and prayer, my journey has come to a point of wanting to be fully immersed in the Holy Spirit as our Order’s Seraphic Father, – – St. Francis, – – showed to his brothers and sisters in Christ.  My journey of faith has been fruitful, emotional, exciting, thought-provoking, and divinely inspiring.

I want to thank a few people for assisting me with the special journey I took to get to this point – – and a journey I will continue for the rest of my life.

First, I want to express gratitude to my wife and Sons.  They have put up with a lot of strong emotions and turmoil from me at times over the past couple of years (for which I am truly sorry).  I love them so dearly. Next, I want to thank my SFO Fraternity (Our Lady of Angels), my Regional Fraternity (St. Clare), and all the people that I have come to know as dear friends and a true “family”.  We have had our times of frustrations, short tempers, and concerns.  (I am rather stubborn at times after all – however, I know most people would never believe this [hee, hee]).  As in any family, these sad and distressing periods only highlight and enlighten the love, trust, and respect which emanates when we are together as a group.

It is important for me to give a special thanks to a dear friend, confidant, and journey partner: my “Spiritual Director”, John Hough.  Though his education, philosophy, and theology is Jesuit-based (Sorry St. Francis), no one could have done a better job in walking with me on my formation path, truly holding me up at times (an achievement in itself), and helping me to grow in the love and awe of God’s Word – – Holy Scripture, Church teachings, and traditions.  And, I also want to thank John for helping me to understand my unique role in His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  John, I love our four hour breakfasts/talks at McDonalds each and every Saturday morning.  It is quite interesting to see individual’s reactions when they see two middle-aged Catholic men, with Bibles open on the table (next to the coffee and Egg McMuffin), discussing matters of faith and Scripture.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to unendingly thank, praise, and adore my God in the Holy Trinity: Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I surrender my “self”, – – my “ALL”, – – to You and to Your “will”.  As St. Francis joyously proclaimed throughout his entire earthly life:

“My God and My ALL!”

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter is always Good Shepherd Sunday in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar Sunday.  The name “Good Shepherd” derives from the Gospel reading on this day, which is also always taken from the 10th chapter of John.  In this reading, Christ is described as the “Good Shepherd” who, by dying on the Cross, lays down His life for His sheep.

Recently, today’s Feast Day has also become known as “Vocations Sunday”, a day in which prayers should be said for vocations to the priesthood and religious life by the Catholic faithful.  This also includes praying for me and other Catholic brothers and sisters who seek a more intimate and formally “consecrated” manner of living out our faith, our hope, and our love for the Holy One of Israel, our Lord, Savior, and friend, Jesus Christ.  That’s why I am asking you, my dear readers, and thanking you for praying for me and my brethren in the Secular Order of St. Francis of Assisi.  Thank you ALL!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Shepherd_Sunday

 

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Today in Catholic History:

†   884 – Death of Marinus I, [Martinus II], Pope (882-84)
†   913 – Death of Hatto I, Archbishop of Mainz (present day Germany)
†   1252 – Pope Innocent IV issues the papal bull “ad exstirpanda“, which authorizes the torture of heretics in the Medieval Inquisition.
†   1608 – Birth of René Goupil, French Catholic missionary (Canadian Martyrs) (d. 1642)
†   1665 – Pope Alexander VII proclaims the theology of Fr. Jansen as heretical (called Jansenism).  Jansenism emphasized predestination, denied free will, and maintained that human nature is incapable of good.
†   1773 – Death of Alban Butler, English Catholic priest and writer (b. 1710)
†   1800 – Pope Pius VII calls on French bishops to return to Gospel principles
†   1891 – Pope Leo XIII publishes encyclical “Rerum novarum“, the first document of the Catholic Social Teaching tradition.
†   1912 – Alexis Kagame, Rwanda, priest/writer
†   1931 – Pope Pius XI publishes encyclical “Quadragesimo anno” discusses the ethical implications of the social and economic order.
†   1948 – Death of Edward Flanagan, American priest and founder of Boys Town (b. 1886)
†   1961 – Pope John XXIII publishes encyclical “Mater et Magistra”  (Mother and Teacher) on the topic of “Christianity and Social Progress”.
†   Feast/Memorials: Saint Achillius; Saint Isidore the Labourer; Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle; Saint Reticius; Saint Denise; Saint Dymphna; In the Coptic Church: Athanasius of Alexandria

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus BEING the gate for His sheep.

(NAB John 10:1-10) 1 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.  2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.  7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  8 All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

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What do you know about sheep and shepherds?  Realize that shepherds and sheep have a very close, unique, and personal relationship with each other.  Still to this day, sheep only follow their own shepherd; they recognize his voice – – his word – – and will not follow a stranger.  The shepherd’s job is to protect his sheep, even with his life if necessary.  In some ways, the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep is like that of a parent and child (God the Father, and His children on earth).  In Jesus Christ, our personal “Good Shepherd”, we find protection from our dangers, and the reward of an abundant and everlasting life with and in Him.

The fourth Sunday of the Easter season is called “Good Shepherd Sunday”.  In each of the three lectionary cycles (A, B, and C), the Gospel reading invites us yearly to reflect on Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”.  In each cycle the reading is from the same tenth chapter of John’s Gospel.  This tenth chapter sets the framework and basis for Jesus’ teaching about Himself as the “Good Shepherd”, leading us, – – His sheep, – – to paradise in His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  Today’s Gospel reading falls between the stories of Jesus’ curing the man born blind (chapter 9), and the resurrection of His dead friend, Lazarus (chapter 11).  Both of these “bookend” Gospel stories were just proclaimed during this year’s Lenten Season.

Following the controversy which ensued when He healed the man born blind, Jesus directs His “figment of speech” about “the sheep and the shepherd” towards the Jewish religious leaders listening to Him: specifically, the Pharisees.

The Pharisees believed in a “divine origin” of creation, found in the Jewish Scriptures known to us as the “Torah.”  The Pharisees also believed in the oral traditions received from Moses, Joshua, and the “Elders”.  Pharisees had a belief in the resurrection of the dead (unlike the Sadducees), and were intensely devoted to the “Mosaic Law”, both written and oral (again, unlike the Sadducees).  Most scholars believe that the other Temple Leadership faction, a group called the “Scribes” and who were considered experts in Mosaic Law, also belonged predominantly to this Pharisaic “party” of Temple leaders.

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Before we  dive into today’s reading, and pull away the layers of meaning hidden yet needing to be exposed with the help of the Holy Spirit, I need to explain the concept (for me, at least) of the repeated words, stressing a particular point.

Whenever Jesus says, “AMEN, AMEN”, I believe He is saying to us:

Yo, LISTEN to me.  I am about to say something very important and profound.  Open those ears and shut those mouths!!”

(Trivia time:  “Amen, amen” is said 13 times in the New Testament, all in John’s Gospel: Chapters 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 21.  The repeated word combination – – “Amen, amen” – – is used three times in the Old Testament: Numbers 5, Nehemiah 8, and Tobit 8).  Each time it is used by the writer or speaker to declare that what follows is a true teaching from God.

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Jesus Christ was not the first to use the metaphor of a “Good Shepherd” in teaching about God’s kingdom.  Jeremiah (a seldom read book of the Old Testament) criticized, and spoke against, the Kings and priests (also described as “shepherds”) who let go, – – or even led – – their “sheep”, astray.  Jeremiah wrote:

“The priests asked not, ‘Where is the LORD?’  Those who dealt with the law knew me not: the shepherds rebelled against me.  The prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after useless idols.”  (Jeremiah 2:8);

But then, God promises:

I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently.” (Jeremiah 3:15).

He then goes on to say, referring to the false shepherd in Jeremiah 2: (above):

“Yes, the shepherds were stupid as cattle, the LORD they sought not; Therefore they had no success, and all their flocks were scattered.” (Jeremiah 10:21);

In God’s name, Jeremiah promised “new shepherds” who would graze their flocks properly so that they will never be harassed or anxious again:

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.  Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.  You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deedsI myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply.  I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.  Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:1-6).

Another prophet, Isaiah, even wrote of the “Good Shepherd”:

Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!  Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!  Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.  Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care. (Isaiah 40:9-11).

And finally, Ezekiel censured false “shepherds” for their misdeeds and laziness, their greed and neglect of their responsibility:

Thus the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, in these words prophesy to them (to the shepherds): Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves!  Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?  You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured.  You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts.  My sheep were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; my sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them.  Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep; because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD.” (Ezekiel 34:1-9)

(WOW!!  What a scene.  Does any of this possibly sound familiar to you recently?)

The motif of a “shepherd” was not only related by the prophets, but also used for “Yahweh” – – God Himself – – throughout the Old Testament:

“Then he blessed them with these words: ‘May the God in whose ways my fathers’ Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day.’”  (Genesis 48:15);

“Each one’s bow remained stiff, as their arms were unsteady, By the power of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel(Genesis 49:24).

The special King of Israel, David, saying this song, remembers his early days shepherding in the hills of Israel.  This is what David sang:

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.”  (Psalm 23:1-4);

Shepherd of Israel, listen, guide of the flock of Joseph! From your throne upon the cherubim reveal yourself.” (Psalm 80:2);

And, a later prophet said this addressing God:

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, that dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.” (Micah 7:14).

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The 23rd Psalm is one of the most beloved Psalms expressing our fundamental and  necessary trust in Jesus Christ, who leads us always from dark and difficult places and into the light of His presence, the majestic peace of rest in His kingdom (our true Easter faith).

The 23rd Psalm is not the only portions in Holy Scripture to talk so eloquently about the Shepherd who will rescue from darkness and bring to restful pastures.  Later, the prophet Ezekiel wrote:

“For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.  I will lead them out from among the peoples and gather them from the foreign lands; I will bring them back to their own country and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel (in the land’s ravines and all its inhabited places).”  (Ezekiel 34:11-13).

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Today, in this Gospel reading, Jesus again presents Himself as THE promised “Shepherd”, who looks after His sheep, seeks out strays, cures the
crippled, and carries the weak on His shoulders:

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in
search of the stray
?  And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not strayIn just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14);

And Luke also writes:

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?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 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.’  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.” (Luke 15:4-7).

In addition to the title, “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ attaches to Himself the image of the “gate”, and “door” into the “sheepfold”, we now know as the Catholic Church.  As Vatican II teaches:

The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ (John 10:1-10).  It is a flock of which God Himself foretold He would be the shepherd (Cf., Isaiah 40:11; Exodus 34:11ff.), and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds; are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds (cf., John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:4), who gave His life for the sheep (cf., John 10:11-15).” (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 6, 11/21/1964).

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The “Good Shepherd” discourse is a continuation of the confrontation with the Pharisees described in John 9 (the blind man cured).  Since the image of the “Good Shepherd” is figurative, then the “hired hands” would, in fact, be Pharisees who had just excommunicated the cured blind man (cf., John 9).  Today’s reading serves as a commentary on the “cured blind man” story told in this chapter.

Throughout John’s Gospel, the Pharisees (along with the Scribes and Sadducees) failed to accept Jesus’ ministry and teaching, either out of fear, ignorance, or greed.  They showed themselves to be “thieves and robbers” (verse 1) because they tried to lead the “sheep” without themselves entering through the “gate” – – Jesus Christ.

“Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1)

Through the use of this metaphor, Jesus is telling His listeners that those who follow Him and His “way” will find an abundant and glorious life in paradise.  Jesus Christ identified “Himself” both as the “Good Shepherd”, the “door”, and the “gate” of the single, true “sheepfold”.  Still today, the current shepherds of the current sheepfold (Catholic Bishops and the Pope, making up the “Magisterium”: the teaching authority) who are faithful to Him are the ones whom the sheep (Jesus’ disciples – – US) should follow, as faithful sheep follows their shepherd.

We all have “closed doors” in our lives, places we do not wish to enter.  Places inside ourselves where we do not want to go, out of fear and hurt.  Behind these “doors” are things like old hurts, previous and present addictions and health concerns, strong hatreds, personal fears.

Jesus is telling us that He can lead each of us through His “gate”, as each one of us is a much loved part of His flock.  Jesus Christ can lead each of us, personally and individually, through the “closed doors” in our lives – – those places where there is trouble, – – so we can deal with those issues with His support, help, and love: His grace.  Jesus doesn’t stop at just opening up the “doors” of our lives: He also leads us out again, into His kingdom on earth.

As our true “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ NEVER leaves us.  In today’s Gospel reading, He is telling each if us: Don’t be afraid”!!

Jesus, our loving “Good Shepherd”, will always furnish, through the Holy Spirit indwelling within each and every one of us, all that is necessary to do God’s will:

“May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus our Lord, furnish us with all that is good, so that we may do His will.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

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A “Sheepfold” is a low stone wall opened to the sky.  It is simply a pen for sheep.  Other names for a “sheepfold”, in modern language can be “a folding” or sheepcote.  The image represented in today’s reading for the “sheepfold” is, in reality, God’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ’s metaphor about the relationship between sheep and their shepherd is based on the concept of familiarity.  So familiar was the shepherd and his sheep, that each was called by a distinct name.  Sheep recognized, and loved, their specific shepherd.  They would not follow a stranger shepherd arbitrarily.  At the end of a day grazing in the field, shepherds (still to this day) lead their sheep from pastures to a common gated
area called a “sheepfold”.  One shepherd is chosen to protect all of the community’s sheep until the next morning when each flock’s shepherd would return to lead his designated sheep to pasture again.  As shepherds move among sheep, the sheep follow only their shepherd by recognizing and following his voice – – his words.

In the winter the sheep were usually brought into a communal shelter, locked and kept secure by a guardian shepherd, usually positioned at the “gate”.  He was literally the door through which the sheep had to pass.

Each Shepherd had a distinctive call, which only his sheep would recognize and follow.  Do you believe that you have the potential of becoming this familiar in recognizing Jesus Christ’s voice?  Can you quickly discern His voice, His call, from other voices in the world?  Well, you certainly can: the gift of discernment.  This gift is the ability to make good judgments; it is every disciple’s bequest in and through Jesus Christ; it is developed as we imitate His first followers who:

“… devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42).

Paying close attention to Holy Scripture and Church teachings can help us recognize God’s “voice” and the nature of details He might be telling us:

Be attentive to him and heed his voice.  Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin.  My authority resides in him.” (Exodus 23:21)

Fellowship with other followers of Jesus Christ can build us up, helping us to see and understand whether our thoughts and actions are on target with God’s will, or not.  Fellow disciples of Jesus Christ can listen to your ideas and opinions, and advise us whether they think an idea or opinion is sound or not.

Our personal prayer can become an awesome conversation when we learn to “hear” the voice of God, who loves us above all His creations.  The Eucharist can become an intimate, cherished, and loving encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ, who wants to lead us, Himself, into a deeper understanding of His Father’s “will”.

Do not worry about trying to “find” Jesus Christ’s voice within you.  If you simply allow Him to act in and within you, you WILL follow Jesus Christ Himself, intuitively.  You already know His voice:

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

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A shepherd is the leader of a cluster of sheep, called a flock.  They recognize him as their provider, their protector, and their “ALL”Without the shepherd, the “sheep” would no longer be protected, and would succumb to a horrendous death from the evil that follows them (wolves, dogs, and coyotes – – materialism and/or Satan).  These sheep in today’s story follow their human protector, and no other; we “sheep” follow our Divine protector and no other.  Sheep “recognize his voice”, and go where he goes: we “sheep” recognize Jesus Christ’s voice and follow Him, personally and collectively.  We are a “flock”.

In today’s reading, the Pharisees (sheep not of His flock, nor shepherds) do not recognize Jesus.  They do not recognize His voice, His words, or His authority over them.  However, the people of God, as symbolized in today’s story by the blind man and the sheep, do recognize Jesus’ voice, His words, and His authority over us.

Jesus uses the image of the shepherd’s voice being recognized by the sheep to teach a divine truth: since there are “strange” voices surrounding and constantly calling to us (evil), we need to know and recognize the “voice” of Christ Himself!  His voice is continuing without end, and is addressing us through the “Magisterium” of the Catholic Church.  In following God’s specific voice, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, we are receive all the nourishment and protection our soul needs.

St. Josemaría Escrivá writes eloquently about the flow of grace given to us through the voice of Jesus Christ, in an everlasting way, through the Sacraments:

“Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a flow of grace in the sacraments.  He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way.  There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives a road of faithfulness to God.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ is Passing By, 34).

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We’ve all experienced coming into, and being part of, a group in which we did not know anyone initially.  Perhaps it was simply at a friend’s party, or at a wedding or funeral of a relative or acquaintance.  In such encounters and interactions, we naturally look for a familiar face, and listen for a familiar voice within the group or crowd of individuals.

Jesus Christ came as someone who would be (and still is) with us at every step and turn in our lives.  Even when we feel alone, lost, or confused, He is there.  He wants to be a familiar presence in our lives always; He wants His voice to be the voice which we grow to know well, and hear often.  All we need do is to allow Him to get close, and then listen.

So, listen to Jesus and let His face shine upon you:

Shepherd of Israel, listen, guide of the flock of Joseph!  From your throne upon the cherubim reveal yourself to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.  Stir up your power, come to save us.  O LORD of hosts, restore us; Let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.  May your help be with the man at your right hand, with the one whom you once made strong.  Then we will not withdraw from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.  LORD of hosts, restore us; let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.”  (Psalm 80: 2-4, 18-20)

John says that Jesus used a “Figure of speech” (verse 6) in His teaching of the “Good Shepherd”.  John the Evangelist is simply using a different word or phrase for His descriptive speech than the “parable” of the Synoptic Gospels.  However, the concepts are similar.  In His metaphor, Jesus develops and interprets the image of the “shepherd” and “the flock”, in order to ensure that all who are well-disposed to His teachings can understand the meaning of His discourse.

The Pharisees (and many other Jews) failed to understand Jesus Christ.  Their lack of understanding is nothing new for Jesus.  The same people (Pharisees and other Jews), also failed to understand the Eucharist:

“The Jews murmured about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven,’ and they said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father  and mother?  Then how can he say, “I have come down from heaven”?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Stop murmuring among yourselves. (John 6:41-43);

These same people failed to understand the true meaning of the “living water”:

“Some in the crowd who heard these words said, ‘This is truly the Prophet.’  Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But others said, ‘The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he?  Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’  So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.” (John 7:40-43);

And these same people failed even to understand or believe in the raising of Lazarus from the dead:

 “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:45-46).

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The full power of the “Good Shepherd” image came easily to the first-century Palestine inhabitants.  The Jewish people, most of whom were well acquainted with nomadic shepherds in a country where shepherds were a familiar sight.

The sheep themselves were part of a “nomadic” shepherd’s family.  These animals traveled with the family, from birth to death.  New lambs were continuously being born into the “family” group and flock.  Sights, sounds, and smells of the family, the shepherd, and the flock were familiar to these newborn lambs from the time they are born, bonding them to the shepherd as a baby does to its mother.

From the very beginning of our lives, we come to experience and grow in knowledge of God throughout our lives.  We “see”, “hear”, and “smell” God though our various lessons and interactions of life.  As we grow and age, people “from outside the fold” seem to help us interpret our experiences, and help enhance the “truths” we hold within ourselves.

There is a fine distinction, easily overlooked, in today’s reading.  In John 10:7-8, the figure of Christ is as a “gatefor the shepherd to come to the sheep.  However, in the very next verses, John 10:9-10, the figure is that of a gate for the sheep through which sheep could “come in and go out”.

In verse 7-8, Jesus will readily leave the ninety-nine “sheep” to search for and rescue the “one lost sheep”:

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?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 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.’  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.” (Luke 15:4-7).

In verse 9-10, Jesus is also the figure of a “gate” for the sheep to “come in and go out”.  With Jesus Christ as our personal “protector and supplier of all our needs”, we enter into His kingdom, in heaven and on earth.  I see this phrase of “coming and going” as living a proper and morally straight Christian Catholic life in all we do, think, believe, and say.  As a Catholic, we are called to “come” to Him, our shepherd, at His table, to receive Him truly, physically, and spiritually through the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist – – Communion, at every opportunity possible. With Jesus Christ indwelling fully within and though each of us at the dismissal of the Mass, we are told to “go out” to spread the good news, the Word of God:

Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” (St. Francis of Assisi).

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What is the lesson we are to learn in today’s Gospel reading?  I believe it is to “abandon” ourselves to Jesus Christ.  We are taught to say: “Lord, do with me what you will.”  This lesson is emphasized during the Advent Season with Mary saying:

“‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38),

And, continued with Jesus teaching us “how to” pray:

“… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

When one gives oneself to Jesus Christ, that person receives  a “Good Shepherd” who will walk with  them through every rough spot – – and knows he or she is never alone with no  “key” to enter the sheepfold.

What does today’s Gospel  reading mean to me (and to you)?  This is  a question that should be asked any,  and every time one reads Holy Scripture, especially the Gospels.  When reading and meditating on the WORD, one  must keep in mind the history, geography, and society AT THAT TIME, while at  the same time keeping it in perspective with today’s much different world and  society.  We should keep in our minds and  hearts what was meant by the “words” themselves then, and still today.  God’s WORD is truly without end:

The word of the Lord remains forever.”  (1 Peter 1:25)

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Our Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ, promises to go and gather  His sheep, scattered throughout the lands, and bring them back to “good pastures”.   Jesus  Christ is the ONLY source for  forgiveness, redemption, and salvation.   In today’s reading, by referring to the Jewish  teachers and to their traditions, Jesus rejects these “supposedly religious” men  as “thieves and robbers”.

It is so easy to recognize that the “voices” of thieves and  robbers CANNOT bring forgiveness,  redemption, and salvation.  In actuality,  these “thieves and robbers” would be  more than happy to quietly, and sneakily, steal any worthwhile virtues and  divine fortunes you have on your soul.  Please  remember, Jesus is the “Good Shepherd”  who came so that we (His sheep) may have eternal live for eternity in heaven  with Him.  Jesus is the way, truth, and  life!

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I have grown to realize that an individual who belongs to the  “true” Church of Jesus Christ, the Catholic (universal) Church, sometimes seems  to enter into “confinement”, that is, the proverbial “sheepfold”.  Maybe this feeling of confinement is because there  are things one CANNOT do in God’s kingdom.  Maybe one feels their “thinking and beliefs” have been stifled by being  a faithful and pious Catholic Christian.  (Have I peeked your interest in where I am going with this thought  process?)

Jesus Christ’s words are “true” in the Catholic  Church.  One may expect that belonging to  the Catholic Church community means giving up some freedom to think and believe  what one may want.  However, in reality,  the security one can find in the “true” Catholic Church – – founded by Jesus  Christ Himself, – – allows all of us the freedom to dream, to explore, and to  ask questions one possibly could not have ever asked before.  By belonging to a community of Jesus Christ’s  disciples, one can dream even greater dreams and experience a far greater destiny,  regardless of “who” we are in this world.  Jesus Christ has come so that we might have life; He has rescued each of  us; He will nurture each of us; and He will love each of us, as only a “Good Shepherd” can do; and only a “Good Shepherd” does.

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In concluding this reflection, (even though we have less  experience with sheep and shepherds in our fast-paced and modern society, we  can still identify strongly with the image of Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” and the “gate” for us, His sheep.  For me, Psalm 23 remains a popular and  favorite psalm for prayer in my life.  In  Jesus’ role of the “Good Shepherd”,  we know ourselves to be protected and cared for by a loving, compassionate, and  merciful God – – for the Father, by the Son, and through the Holy Spirit.

Holy Scriptures describe God as a “shepherd” who brings  security and peace to His people:

The LORD will guard your coming and  going both now and forever.” (Psalm  121:8).

Even today’s leaders,  the Catholic Priests, Bishops and Pope of Christ’s Church on earth, are called “shepherds”,  with Jesus’ image of “Good Shepherd” in mind:

“May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all  mankind, set over the community a man who shall act as their leader in all  things, to guide them in all their actions; that the LORD’S community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16-17).

Just as a shepherd kept watch over his sheep and protected  them from danger day and night, so too does Jesus stands watch over His people,
becoming the “shepherd” and “guardian” of our souls:

For you had gone  astray like sheep, but you have now  returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter  2:25).

And He has chosen to appoint “shepherds” to watch with Him,  and protect by Him, all His sheep, day and night in each generation.

We are given, in  today’s Gospel, the opportunity to reflect on our Catholic faith’s leadership,  and their role in God’s kingdom.  Jesus’  words suggest to us that those who will lead the Catholic Christian community should  be known by their faithfulness to Jesus.  Church leaders should recognize that Jesus Christ  is the “true gate” for all of His “sheep” (His followers), and that having a  good and proper relationship with Jesus Christ is of primary importance for every  Catholic leader now identified as a “Good  Shepherd”.

Jesus’ metaphor also  suggests that a faithful Catholic leader requires a good and proper relationship  with the community: the “shepherd”  knows “his sheep”, AND they (His  sheep) know him.  Catholic Christian  leaders should “truly”, and “fully”, follow the example of Jesus Christ, the “Good Shepherd”, by being faithful to Him  and being a good and proper “shepherd” themselves. (AMEN, AMEN!!)

Do you know, do you recognize, and do you desire the peace  and security of a life “truly” and “fully” “abandoned” to God as your personal  and communal “Good Shepherd”?  (Sounds hard, doesn’t it?!)  Do you look to Jesus, the “Good Shepherd”,  to receive the strength and courage you need, on a daily basis, to live and  serve Him as His faithful disciple?

Jesus Christ is the GATE.  The only way into His sheepfold, His kingdom, is THROUGH Him.  We must  enter into Him, and allow Him to enter into us (surrender ourselves), thus  filling us with His presence.  Through Jesus  Christ, we not only enter into His kingdom, but in His filling us with  “Himself”, we become the gate for others to enter into His kingdom as  well.  Very powerful; just think about  this last sentence for a while.  – – Read  Ephesians 4:11-16.

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I hope you have guessed by now that I have chosen the 23rd  Psalm as the closing prayer for today’s Gospel reflection.  Written by King David, the 23rd Psalm  is portrayed with figures of a “shepherd”  for the “flock”, and a desire for  generosity toward a guest at His feast.  The  imagery of both sections of the 23rd Psalm is drawn from the  teachings and traditions of the “40 year exodus” in the desert:

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in  his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes  with care.  They shall not hunger or thirst,  nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them; for he who pities  them leads them and guides them beside springs of water.” (Isaiah 40:11; 49:10);

And,

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant coasts, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers  them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock.” (Jeremiah 31:10).

There are five terms or phrases in the 23rd  Psalm’s beautiful song and prayer that I would like to explain prior to your  reading it on your own:

  • The right path” means the “right  way”, the “way of righteousness.”
  • A dark valley” is often translated to  mean the universally well-known, “the  valley of the shadow of death.”
  • You set a table before me” is an  expression occurring in an “exodus” perspective, as found in Psalm 78:19:

They spoke against God, and said, “Can God spread a table in the desert?” (Psalm 78:19)

  • Oil” is a well-known (at least to the  Jewish People) perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at  banquets and in the anointing of Kings: (cf., Psalm 104:15; Matthew 26:7; Luke  7:37, 46; John 12:2).
  • Goodness and love” are the blessings emitting  continuously, and without end, from God’s covenant with Israel, the “chosen”  people.

 “23rd Psalm

“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures you let me graze; to safe  waters you lead me; you restore my strength.  You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through a dark valley,  I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.  You set a table before me as my  enemies watch; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Only goodness and love will pursue me  all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to  come.  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.

There is  only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we now say, “God of power and might,” with the new liturgical text we will say:

God of hosts”.

While this may make many people think of round Communion wafers, the meaning here is “armies,” and it refers to the armies of angels who serve God.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Isidore the Farmer (1070-1130)

Isidore has become the patron of farmers and rural communities. In particular he is the patron of Madrid, Spain, and of the United States National Rural Life Conference.

When he was barely old enough to wield a hoe, Isidore entered the service of John de Vergas, a wealthy landowner from Madrid, and worked faithfully on his estate outside the city for the rest of his life. He married a young woman as simple and upright as himself who also became a saint—Maria de la Cabeza. They had one son, who died as a child.

Isidore had deep religious instincts. He rose early in the morning to go to church and spent many a holiday devoutly visiting the churches of Madrid and surrounding areas. All day long, as he walked behind the plow, he communed with God. His devotion, one might say, became a problem, for his fellow workers sometimes complained that he often showed up late because of lingering in church too long.

He was known for his love of the poor, and there are accounts of Isidore’s supplying them miraculously with food. He had a great concern for the proper treatment of animals.

He died May 15, 1130, and was declared a saint in 1622 with Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila and Philip Neri. Together, the group is known in Spain as “the five saints.”

Comment:

Many implications can be found in a simple laborer achieving sainthood: Physical labor has dignity; sainthood does not stem from status; contemplation does not depend on learning; the simple life is conducive to holiness and happiness. Legends about angel helpers and mysterious oxen indicate that his work was not neglected and his duties did not go unfulfilled. Perhaps the truth which emerges is this: If you have your spiritual self in order, your earthly commitments will fall into order also. “[S]eek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,” said the carpenter from Nazareth, “and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33).

Quote:

“God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…. See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food’” (Genesis 1:28a, 29–30a).

Patron Saint of: Farmers, Laborers

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Franciscan Spirituality

 

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

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

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

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

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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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“Floods and Thieves Cannot Keep Jesus Away; Only ‘SIN’ Can!” – Matthew 24:37-44†


 

Today is the first day of Advent, and only 27 days till CHRIST-mas.  Woo-Hoo!!  Yippee!!  We are looking forward to both Jesus’ birth and His final return at the “End Time:” the Parousia.  At this time He will bring us into His kingdom fully and personally.  Can anyone get a better gift than this?

 

 

 

Prayer for Lighting the Advent Wreath Candles for the First Week 

 

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

http://www.loyolapress.com/family-advent-wreath-blessing.htm

 

 

Today in Catholic History:
    

  
†   741 – St Gregory III ends his reign as Catholic Pope with his death

†  1095 – On the last day of the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II appoints Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy and Count Raymond IV of Toulouse to lead the First Crusade to the Holy Land.
†  1880 – Death of Aires de Ornelas e Vasconcelos, (Portuguese) Archbishop of Goa (b. 1837)
†   1944 – Death of Camille Looten, Belgian priest/literature historian
†   1959 – Pope John XXIII publishes encyclical Princeps Pastorum
†   Feast Day: Pope Gregory III; Catherine Labouré
† Eastern Orthodox Church: Using the “Julian Calendar.” it is the beginning of the Nativity Fast; Repose of Saint Herman of Alaska;  Venerable Paisius Velichkovsky; Martyr Stephen the New of Mount Saint Auxentius;  Basil; Stephen; two Gregories; John; Andrew; Peter; Anna; and many others.

(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:

 

“Do what you can and pray for what you cannot yet do.” – Saint Augustine

Edited by Raymond Arroyo: The Prayers & Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica, Doubleday

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling His followers that the coming of the Son of Man (the Parousia) will find many people not prepared, and that His disciples should always be ready for the day of the Lord.

 

37 For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  38 In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.  39 They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.  So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man.  40 Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.  42 Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  43 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.  44 So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.  (NAB Matthew 24:37-44)

 

Wow!  What a weekend we had this year.  My wife and kids were up at four a.m. to go shopping this past Friday (Black Friday).  I was laughing as they excitedly, but still very sleepily, walked out the front door on their “little excursion” with craziness of “the good kind.”  In today’s Gospel reading we are advised to “stay awake and to be prepared.”  Would all these shoppers stand in line in the late night/early morning as willingly to do the same thing outside the local parish Church to grasp a “spiritual” gift from God?  Would they be willing to lose sleep for something that can’t be purchased anywhere in this universe, yet still must be accepted at whatever cost, and used daily in order to “live”?  Now is the time to be alert, to “stay awake,” and to prepare for His gifts, and His coming.

Let’s use this Advent season to remind us that we are already living in the “end times”.  It began with the “FIRST” coming of Jesus Christ, with His incarnation and birth in that cold manger.  It will be fully completed with His return at the Parousia.  This second “coming” is guaranteed; only the time that it will fully occur is unknown.  Also guaranteed at the Parousia is a swift judgment, which for many will be unexpected.  Oh, how sad, for Jesus frequently warned His followers not to be caught unprepared when that day finally arrives.  

Today is a new beginning in the Church year and a new beginning for us as well.  It is never too late to start living in Jesus’ footsteps – – to follow His path.  This “Advent season,” the next four Sundays, will end with the birth of Jesus.  For Catholics, this season is a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord, the Messiah.  Now is the time to remember two crucial elements of our faith: the “final coming” of the Lord in glory (the Parousia), and “the Incarnation” of the Lord in the birth of Jesus Christ.  Vigilant waiting, preparation, and justice are the important lessons of any Advent.

Good role models for the Advent season or Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38).  Like sentinels at the Temple, they patiently awaited the “Messiah”.  Their faith, hope, and trust never failed them.  They waited for the fulfillment of God’s promises with perseverance unequalled by anyone.  The Holy Spirit lived in them, and exuded from them, in their eagerness to see God’s salvation fully realized with His glorious entrance to this sinful world in human form.  Their prayer and steadfastness allowed them both to see the “Messiah” when brought to the Temple by His Holy earthly parents.  God’s view and behaviors became their views and behaviors, and His life became their lives.

The Gospel of Matthew will be the principal Gospel read this Liturgical year (Cycle A).  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speak about the need for “staying awake”, for “watchful waiting”, for the “coming of the Son of Man”.

Matthew’s Gospel was probably written about or after 70 A.D.  Scholars believe that Matthew wrote for a mostly Jewish population, yet a population that wasn’t centered on the Temple in Jerusalem.  Remember, the Temple (and a large portion of Jerusalem itself) was destroyed around this time in history.  These Jewish Christians tried to come to terms with their relationship towards Judaism and “The Way” (an early name for “Christians”) that Jesus established and preached.  There were many Christians who believed that the events of the world surrounding them, such as the destruction of the Temple, gave evidence of the imminent return of the Lord – “in glory” (the Parousia).

Let’s go WAY back in history.  The people in Noah’s time ignored the Lord’s warning of judgment.  They missed the boat, literally!  The Old Testament account of the flood put little emphasis on what was vital for Matthew when he said that the unexpected flood befell on those who were not prepared for the deluge of water (verses 37- 39).  Luke also had a corresponding passage, in Chapter 17:26-27: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”   

What does Jesus mean when he says that one will be taken and another left? Associating with “desirable” friends and acquaintances (especially those who are very pious) does not guarantee anyone an “E-ticket” to heaven.  No matter how close someone may be to God, we cannot hitch a ride with them.  God offers to each of us a personal invite and relationship.  One only needs to simply accept Him, or reject Him; there is no neutral territory when it comes to the final judgment.  

In today’s reading, those “taken” meant “taken into God’s kingdom”, with “will be left” meaning “left for destruction”.  As is very prevalent and typical throughout the New Testament, people will be dealt with, in an opposite way to their present condition, in God’s Kingdom.  In the context of today’s reading, God’s judgment will be based on how ready we are for the coming of the Son of Man (the Parousia).  Luke’s corresponding verses can be found in Chapter 17:34-35: “I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.”   

Matthew’s primary theme of alertness, eagerness, and preparedness is assisted in the telling with the daring contrast of the “Son of Manto a “thief” who comes to break into a house.  Luke’s counterpart is in Chapter 12:39-40: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” 

If you knew that a thief wanted to steal your possessions, wouldn’t you guard it with your life?  God promises each of us an inheritance and reward which he calls a “treasure beyond measure” (Matthew 13:44-46) – – the Lord himself!!  The kingdom he offers us is a kingdom of true and everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.  

It is uselessness to look for signs of the return of the “Son of God”; there will be none!   As a thief sneaks in during the night so will the Lord’s glorious coming be.  So, how do we prepare for the Parousia?  It is about the “waiting” and what to do while waiting!  Jesus compared the vigilance required of His followers to that of the vigilance a homeowner has when he knows the thief’s plan.  If one knows that the thief’s deed is looming, one remains alert and vigilant.  In kind, if we become lax in our Catholic life, practices, and worship, we may be caught unprepared.

My brother used to run in marathons.  My nephew and his wife regularly participate in bi- and triathlons.  For them, preparation is essential.  It took months to achieve their goal.  In the same token, we have an entire season to get ready for Christ’s entrance with His human birth.

Runners need to eat a healthy in a healthy way for the energy needed to finish the race.  They pace themselves, working mile by mile or minute by minute, and not trying to hurry up the process unwisely.  Runners travel light, with no extra baggage weighing them down. 

Our Advent “meal” is prayer, Sacraments, and Holy Scripture.  We can lighten our load as well by examining our consciences every day; to repent of our sins.  We should approach this Advent season with the same sense of patience as the long-distance runner.  Just put one step in front of the other on God’s path, and deal with the obstacles as they come, knowing the end is just ahead of you.  With each step you get a little closer to your goal of salvation and eternal paradise with God.  The awesome thing is that God is at your side, running with you all along the way, pacing Himself to your tempo.  He will help you if you stumble on His path, and He will encourage you if you allow Him.

The holiday season is upon us full-blast.  Many feel the pressure to get EVERYTHING ready for Christmas – – TODAY, if not yesterday.  With the readings today, we get a stark reminder to be ready for something much more important than the secular aspects of Christmas.

What does it mean to be ready for the Parousia?  Reflect on how you can help others be a better Catholic.  Commit to one thing that you will do this Advent season to help another be a better Catholic.  Write your commitment down on a piece of paper in large print and post it in a prominent place (i.e., on the front door of the refrigerator, the coffee pot, or the television); a place where you will see your commitment note multiple times each day.  Pray to God daily for His help in your commitment.  On Christmas day, reflect on how well you succeeded in your commitment, and how well you are prepared for God’s coming and judgment.

God knows our struggles, and he gives grace and help wherever we need it.  God’s judges each of us individually according to how we have responded to his gracious invitation.  He gives us fresh hope each day so that we can keep our eyes on an eternal reward waiting for each of us.  Now that is true love!!

 

A Family Prayer for the First Week of Advent

 

Father in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love, and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.  Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth.  We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.  Amen.”

http://www.loyolapress.com/advent-family-prayer.htm

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. James of the Marche (1394-1476)

 

Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop!

James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances.

James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence.

With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the “four pillars” of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching.

To combat extremely high interest rates, James established montes pietatis (literally, mountains of charity) — nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects.

Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James was canonized in 1726.

Comment:

James wanted the word of God to take root in the hearts of his listeners. His preaching was directed to preparing the soil, so to speak, by removing any rocks and softening up lives hardened by sin. God’s intention is that his word take root in our lives, but for that we need both prayerful preachers and cooperative listeners.

Quote:

“Beloved and most holy word of God! You enlighten the hearts of the faithful, you satisfy the hungry, console the afflicted; you make the souls of all productive of good and cause all virtues to blossom; you snatch souls from the devil’s jaw; you make the wretched holy, and men of earth citizens of heaven” (Sermon of St. James).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the Rule:

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“The Boss Is Away; It Is Time To Play!” – Luke 12:39-48†


            

Today in Catholic History:

   
    
†   1536 – Danish/Norway King Christian III leads reform in Catholic possessions
†   1587 – Battle at Coultras: Henri van Navarra beats Catholic League
†   In Christianity, it is the feast day of Andrew of Crete, a Martyr

(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:

 

Life is worth living. Heaven is worth fighting for.

   

 

http://www.thebricktestament.com

 

Today’s reflection is about faithfulness to God’s wisdom.

 

39 [Jesus said to His Disciples] Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  40 You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  41 Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”  42 And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute (the) food allowance at the proper time?  43 Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.  44 Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.  45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.  47 That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; 48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly.  Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. (NAB Luke 12:39-48)

 

What can a thief in the night teach us of God’s desire for us?  Can you imagine a thief notifying us ahead of time, and telling us when he would raid our “treasures?”  What does this parable tell us about the treasures God has handed over to each one of us?  What is Jesus actually saying in this Gospel reading today? 

This parable is a lesson in faithfulness for me.  Jesus, our “Lord,” loves faithfulness and abundantly rewards those who are faithful to him.  I believe Jesus is telling us that His (and our) heavenly Father is expecting much more from us than we usually give to Him AND to others around us!  In verse 48 above it is written, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”  We are to be held responsible; to be answerable to God Himself for our ability to share, and how we did share our resources!

What is meant by this word, “faithfulness?”  Simply, it’s keeping one’s word, promises, and commitments, regardless of how rough, hard, dangerous, demanding, or difficult it becomes.  God loves the virtue of faithfulness.  He expects us to be faithful to all His creations.  God gives us the grace of faith, and the free-will to remain faithful – as we choose! 

Everyone has something to share; to give to those in need.  Each one of us can be generous in sharing a “time, talent, or treasure.”  If you can’t give financially, maybe a meal to someone home bound or homeless can be you forte.  The arts; finances; cooking; driving; and teaching, are all excellent talents that can be shared relatively easily.  And everyone is always in need of smiles and prayer!

My master is delayed in coming” from verse 45, indicates that the early Christians anticipation for an imminent return of Jesus had undergone some modifications.  Jesus’ followers expected Him to return within days of His assumption into heaven.  Like children waiting near the Christmas tree on a snowy Christmas morning, they waited with baited anticipation to open our gift from God: a new and everlasting world of beauty in paradise with our magnificent Lord, Jesus Christ.  But Luke, in today’s Gospel, wisely advices his readers against counting on a lag in time, and then acting foolishly.  A parallel warning can be found in Matthew 24:48, “But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed…’” 

The concept of one being delayed is found in other stories in Scripture as well.  In Matthew 25:5, it is written, “Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep,” and in Matthew 25:19, “After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.”  Both deals with the delay of a noteworthy and important person: the bridegroom and the master.  Both also warn against imprudent actions.

The fact is, everyone has something they can do for others.  God expects us all to share with those that have less than us; and not to just squander our gifts He has given us.  The more He gives, the more He requires!  The temptation to “put off for tomorrow” what we know God expects for us to do today is a very dangerous practice for our everlasting souls!  After all, where do you want to spend eternity: smoking or non-smoking?  Are you faithful to God, and ready to give him an account of your actions?  And finally, remember that Jesus gave the ultimate gift to all of us: His human life!  The least we can do is to share a portion of our excess with others of God’s creation!

 

“Act of Faith”

 

“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because you revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin (1888-1922)

 

If anyone knew rejection, ridicule and disappointment, it was today’s saint. But such trials only brought Maria Bertilla Boscardin closer to God and more determined to serve him.

Born in Italy in 1888, the young girl lived in fear of her father, a violent man prone to jealousy and drunkenness. Her schooling was limited so that she could spend more time helping at home and working in the fields. She showed few talents and was often the butt of jokes.

In 1904 she joined the Sisters of St. Dorothy and was assigned to work in the kitchen, bakery and laundry. After some time Maria received nurses’ training and began working in a hospital with children suffering from diphtheria. There the young nun seemed to find her true vocation: nursing very ill and disturbed children. Later, when the hospital was taken over by the military in World War I, Sister Maria Bertilla fearlessly cared for patients amidst the threat of constant air raids and bombings.

She died in 1922 after suffering for many years from a painful tumor. Some of the patients she had nursed many years before were present at her canonization in 1961.

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.

 

 

 

 

“Me Prepared? Nope, But There Is Plenty of Time – Isn’t There?!” – Luke 12:32-48†


One week to go till the finish of my yearly devotion: St. Louis de Monfort’s “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.”  It has been an awesome journey of faith.  It ends next Sunday, when I renew my consecration of the Marian Feast of “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” 

As a side note, completion of the devotion and consecration, —   along with the Sacrament of Reconciliation attained yesterday, attendance at Mass on the day of consecration, and reception of the Holy Eucharist on that day, — will grant me a plenary indulgence: a total wiping clean of any imperfections on my soul from the abuses I have earned through my own sins – and that’s some serious wiping!  This is the ultimate in being prepared for the Parousia.  (If you do not understand what “parousia” is, you will after reading this reflection today.)

 

 

** A mini-reflection: (You get two reflections, for the price of one today!)
  

For those did not know their Church Calendar backwards and forwards, this past Friday was the feast of the “Transfiguration of the Lord.”
     

The Transfiguration of Christ is related in detail in the Synoptic gospels: Matthew 17:1-6, Mark 9:1-8, and Luke 9:28-36.  Six days after His stopover in Cæsarea Philippi, Jesus took Peter, James and John to Mount Tabor where He was “transfigured” before their eyes.  His face shone as the sun, and his garments became snow white.  The dazzling brightness which emanated from His whole Body was produced by an interior shining of His Divinity. 

This sounds a lot like what happened with Moses on Mount Sinai, as written in Exodus:  “The glory of the LORD settled upon Mount Sinai. The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.  To the Israelites the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop.  But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights. As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord.”  (NAB Ex 24: 16-18, 34: 29)

Previously, we learned from Exodus 3:14 — “God replied, ‘I am who am.’ Then he added, ‘This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.’” — that God revealed His glory in the bush that was burning bright, but not consumed.  Then, at a later time as written above, the bush blazed and the cloud became luminous on the mountain top, as God gave Moses the Law of the Covenant.  On another mountain top, Jesus like the bush before, again revealed His glory in Jesus, and the glory of His Father shining threw His whole body, and even His garments.

In this manifestation, Moses and Elijah not only encouraged Jesus, but also adored Him as the promised one of God.  And, for the second time (the first being at His baptism in the Jordan River), God spoke and proclaimed Him His only-begotten and well-loved Son.  Jesus’ speaking with Moses and Elijah about the trials which awaited Him at Jerusalem strengthened His faith, and the growing faith of his three friends, preparing them ALL for the terrible struggle they were to endure at Gethsemane.  After all, in witnessing this beautiful manifestation, Peter, James, and John received a foretaste of the glory and heavenly delights to come.        

Have you been transfigured?  Are you burning with God’s love and revelation?  Have you ever received Jesus in Holy Communion?

PS – See if you can find the link between the “Transfiguration” and today’s Gospel reading.

 

Does anyone have access to a few free “used but still usable” 1 volume Divine Office books (“Christian Prayer”)?  We have several new Inquirers and Candidates in our SFO Fraternity.  If you know of one collecting dust, please let us use it for the glory of God.  Will pick up if in St. Louis metro area, or will gladly pay for postage.  Please let me know if you can help.  We need a minimum of three, but can use 10 if possible.

Our SFO Fraternity has decided to try to get hold of donated “Christian Prayer” books that have been used in order to save trees, and to continue the good works from Religious that have died or left the order.  When using the original owner’s book, we will also be praying for their soul and intentions. (What’s a better payment than praying for one’s soul and intentions?!)
      

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

“What I desire most is to be faithful and to finish the race. It doesn’t matter if I finish running or crawling; all I want is to finish and to hear God the Father say to me, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:23). I can’t give up; I must keep going.”

— Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR,
Hiking the Camino:
500 Miles with Jesus,
Servant Books

 

  

    

Today’s reflection is about being prepared, for when we do not know or expect, the Son of Man will come.

 

32 Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.  33 Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.  34 For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.  35 “Gird your loins and light your lamps 36 and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.  37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.  38 And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.  39 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  40 You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  41 Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”  42 And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute (the) food allowance at the proper time?  43 Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.  44 Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.  45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.  47 That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; 48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.  (NAB Luke 12:32-48)

 

God desires to give us His Kingdom.  He wants to take us to be with Him forever in paradise.  But we MUST wait, and be Prepared.  Sounds like a “scouting” thing to me.  Maybe the scouts have it right in their “Scouting Oath and Law:”

“On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

The “Scout Law” is to be: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent (12 virtues).  What else can you ask for in being a Catholic?  Our entire Catechism and focus of our faith are possibly summed up in these two promises that “children” pledge routinely throughout the world.  Didn’t Jesus say we are to be like children to enter the kingdom?  Kind of makes you think; doesn’t it!?

Today’s Gospel Reading is a collection of quips and sayings related to Luke’s understanding of the “end time” and “the return of Jesus.”  Luke emphasized the importance of being faithful to the instructions and teachings of Jesus in the period before the “parousia.”  What the heck is “parousia?”

Parousia is the return of Jesus Christ to end the current period of human history and existence on earth, and to open the new era of paradise here for some, and eternal torment, also here, for others.  This “time” when Jesus will return has been given many names: the Day of the Lord, the Parousia, the end time, and the Second Coming of Christ.  I might even call it the “Oops – Too Late” time for some.

Why do we have to wait for the Parousia?  The Jewish people knew and trusted they would defeat their many enemies, but had to endure many plagues and tribulations before they were released by the Pharaoh, after the first “Passover.”  Abraham and Sarah had to wait a very long time before Isaac was born: and ditto for Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth.  I, for one, never joke about my wife and I being too old to get pregnant: God does have an awesome and surprissing sense of humor after all!  Waiting is a necessary component of faith in God: it is a virtue called patience.

God has bequeathed to us paradise with Him.  He just asks us to be prepared, by doing a few simple things.  First, forget about the materialistic things of this world, and instead embrace the spiritual things of His kingdom.  Secondly, use the resources available to you to help others in need.  After all, as is written in today’s Gospel reading, “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be (Luke 12:34).” 

“Gird your loins and light your lamps … ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks ….”  I yelled out this phrase to my teenage children, and then almost fell out of my chair laughing after seeing their faces.  I honestly believe they thought I went off the deep end!  This phrase simply means to be dressed and ready to go, day or night; for when He comes, no one knows.  I’ll go even further and say that the “dressed” part of this phrase is to be dressed in God’s graces and virtues; and the “light” is the illumination present in us (we call this “Sanctifying Grace”).  This transfigured grace guides us in walking in the brightness of Jesus’ footsteps.

Peter asks if this parable is meant just for the Apostles, or for the large crowd that had gathered to listen to Jesus.  Without answering Peter’s question, Jesus responds with yet another parable (I love Jesus’ style) about servants awaiting the return of their master.

This new parable adds to the theme of vigilance and caution.  It explains how to wait, and reminds us of the reward for the faithful follower at the heavenly banquet in paradise.  If it was addressed to the Apostles, then it was addressed to the leadership of the “early” Catholic Church; and the “Church body” of today: the faithful individuals and community, in union with the Magisterium.  

Those faithful followers and servants whom God finds observant will be sanctified on His return: the Parousia.  God so dearly wants to oblige himself to us.  He desires to have us recline at His table, and wishes to wait on us as He hosts the divine feast in heaven.  I suspect God will be the perfectly gracious host, at a meal of a lifetime!

“My master is delayed in coming” is a statement that indicates that the early Christian expectation for the impending return of Jesus had undergone some modification.  Luke warns his readers against depending on such a delay and acting irresponsibly, and may I say unwisely.  A similar warning can found in Matthew 24:48-51: But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”  Two warnings in the hand are better than one soul in hell! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Is this time of preparation and waiting going to be an easy wait?  Hell NO! – Literally.  Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.  The “Peter Principle” states that “we rise to our highest level of incompetency.”  The “Jesus Principle” states that we can rise to the highest level of sanctification and perfection.

God’s kingdom is unfolding in this world and in our hearts and souls – TODAY!  We actually see a hint of the kingdom at every Mass and Liturgical Sacrament.  We catch sight of the kingdom every time we gather in His name.  We make out His kingdom in every person we help, we forgive, and to whom we ask for forgiveness.

We are not to be like the greedy rich fool in last Sunday’s Gospel reading who planned to store his great harvest in barns rather than share it.  We are instead to share our wealth with anyone we encounter in need.  We need to see Jesus in all humans, regardless of their earthly predicaments.  The solution for the angst or fear brought on by Jesus’ return and the coming judgment is to surrender our greed and dependence for material possessions, and to provide for the needs of others as our circumstances allow us. Our immense treasure will instead be in heaven, where it cannot wear out, be stolen, nor destroyed (Luke 12: 33).

How many clocks are in your home?  If you’re like me, you have a timepiece everywhere: the kitchen and living room walls; on the microwave and oven, on the DVD/DVR device(s), on both sides of the bed, on the cell phone(s), and maybe even on your wrist.  With all of these time reminders, are you (or a loved one) still repetitively late to appointments, breaking my “11th Commandment: “Thou shall never be late!”?

FYI, I don’t believe you really want to be late, when the Parousia occurs.  Place a symbol such as a crucifix, Rosary, or picture of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus,” near your clocks as a reminder that it is always “time” for us to be acting like Disciples of Christ.  Another easy thing that I have recently started doing is to set an alarm on my cell phone (that is ALWAYS with me) for 3 p.m. (that’s 1500 hours for the military mind set).  At this time each and every day, when the alarm alerts me, I pray a very simple and short prayer: “Jesus, I trust in you.”  This literally puts Jesus into my thoughts and heart at least once in the middle, and probably the busiest point, of every day.

Another major way to be ready for the coming judgment is to simply be on continuous alert.  We must be like the servants waiting for the master’s return from a wedding banquet that (even now) usually lasts for days in the Middle East.  (And we complain about a couple hours of bad food and cash bars.)  We need be watchful, so that even if Jesus comes in the middle of the night, we will be ready for Him.  We ought to be found doing our Catholic and sacred jobs when Jesus arrives at the time of the Parousia.  If we are doing our jobs, our reward will be great.  But if we relax and neglect our duties, acting like the greedy rich man, we will not have a place in God’s kingdom: eternal paradise.  This requires that we be living in a consistently moral and obedient way, so that we are always ready and prepared to give a first-rate account to God of how we have lived.

It can be an easy wait for those that maintain their faith and Christian practices.  Here is the secret: Just live every day as you want to live in God’s Kingdom.  If you do, Jesus will surely wait on you!  He’ll honor you for helping others, and for walking in His footsteps.

There is a great hope and joy in today’s Gospel reading.  God is never outdone in generosity!  God ALWAYS wins: and He picked all of us to be on His team!

 

 “The Apostles Creed”

 

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
     

*****
    

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Holy Father Dominic 1170-1221
   
  

Dominic was born to wealthy Spanish nobility.  At his baptism, his mother saw a star shining from his chest.  Dominic, though of noble stature, eventually turned his back entirely on material possessions and wealth.

He studied theology at Palencia, and became the “Canon” of the church of Osma.  As a Priest and Augustinian, Dominic lived a lifelong apostolate among heretics, especially the Albigensians in France.  He founded the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans) in 1215.  The Dominicans were a group who live a simple and austere life.  Dominic also founded an order of nuns dedicated to the care of young girls.  He was a true visionary, and associated with friends such as Saint Amata of Assisi (a Poor Clare Nun).

At one point Dominic became discouraged at the stalled progress of his mission; the heresies remained.  He received a vision from Our Lady who showed him a wreath of roses, and told him to say the Rosary daily, and to teach it to all who would listen.  Eventually the true faith won out over the heretics. Dominic is often erroneously credited with the invention of the Rosary, but the Rosary predated his life.  It had been prayed long before his birth by those who could not read, as a substitute for reading and praying the Psalms.

Through St. Dominic and Blessed Alan, it is a widely accepted belief that our Blessed Mother Mary granted fifteen promises to all those who recite the Rosary:

1.  Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.

2.  I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.

3.  The Rosary will be a powerful armor against hell. It will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies.

4.  It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things.  Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

5.  Those who recommend themselves to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.

6.  Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred Mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune.  God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an un-provided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.

7.  Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

8.  Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death, the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.

9.  I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.

10.  The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.

11.  You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.

12.  All those who propagate the holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

13.  I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.

14.  All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son, Jesus Christ.

15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

Legend says that Dominic received a vision of a beggar who, like Dominic, would do great things for the Faith.  Dominic met the beggar the next day, and he embraced him saying, “You are my companion and must walk with me.  If we hold together, no earthly power can withstand us.”  The beggar was Saint Francis of Assisi.

Quote:

“A man who governs his passions is master of his world.  We must either command them or be enslaved by them.  It is better to be a hammer than an anvil.” – Saint Dominic

Based on: 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 #8 of 26:
   

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

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist.

Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

 

 

“Jesus Wants to Know: Are You a Good or Baa’d Sheep!” – John 10:1-10†


It’s a beautiful day in the large metropolis of Hazelwood, Missouri.  I had a very spiritual and enjoyable weekend.  Someone sent me this thought of our “priorities in life,” and I would like to share it with you as well.  I pray everyone has a beautiful day.

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone? 
What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets? 
 What if we flipped through it several times a day? 
 What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it? 
   What if we used it to receive messages from the text? 
   What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it? 
 What if we gave it to Kids as gifts? 
   What if we used it when we traveled? 
 What if we used it in case of emergency? 
   This is something to make you go….hmm…where is my Bible? 
  Oh, and one more thing. 
Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being 
disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill. 
  Makes you stop and think ‘where are my priorities? And no dropped calls! 
  When Jesus died on the cross, he was thinking of you!

Today in Catholic History:
†  121 – Birth of Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (d. 180)
†  1467 – The miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Counsel appears in Genazzano, Italy.
†  1478 – The Pazzi attack Lorenzo de’ Medici and kill his brother Giuliano during High Mass in the Duomo of Florence.
†  Liturgical Feasts: Our Lady of Good Counsel, Saint Alda (d. 1309), Richarius or Riquier (d. 643), Paschasius (d. 865), Saint Cletus (Pope Anacletus) and Marcellinus (Popes and martyrs), Lucidius (4th century), Trudpert (Irish monk martyred in Germany in 607).

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus being the good shepherd

Quote or Joke of the Day:

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. — Henry Ford

Today’s Meditation:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.  But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.  So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.  (NAB John 10:1-10)
 

This “good shepherd” dialogue continues the theme of attack on the Pharisees from the preceding verses. The hired hands are symbolic of the Pharisees who excommunicated the cured blind man.  The Pharisees do not recognize Jesus for His role on earth, but the people of God (symbolized by the blind man) do recognize Jesus as the true Shepherd prophesized in the Old Testament.

The “figure of speech” that John used is a different word for illustrative speech than the “parable” of the synoptic gospel, but the idea is similar.  This quasi-parable illustrates that Jesus keeps those “outside” His teachings and belief from understanding, while His disciples know what He is talking about.

The crowds present are compared to sheep without a shepherd who must watch out for the wolves of false prophets in their community.  The righteous are the sheep that are saved from these false prophets by following Jesus as their shepherd.

In verses John 10:7-8, Jesus is the shepherd’s gate to come to His flock: the sheep.  In the next verses, John 10:9-10, Jesus is the shepherd’s gate for His flock: the sheep, to come in and go out.  Jesus is the gate: the “good shepherd.”  This symbolic gate, along with the symbol of the shepherd, is of messianic origin; and routinely found throughout the Old Testament.

What does this gospel reading mean to me?  The Lord, Jesus Christ, promises to go and gather His sheep, who are scattered throughout the lands, and bring them back to good pastures.  Jesus is the only source for salvation.  In referring to the Jewish teachers and to their traditions, He rejects them as thieves: they cannot bring salvation.  Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” who came so that we sheep may have life for eternity, in paradise with Him.  Jesus is the way, truth, and life!

“Jesus; swing that gate open wide.  I do not want any misses as I aim for your safety and your good pastures.  Please help me enter.  Amen.”

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Cletus

St. Cletus Popes, Martyrs April 26 A.D. 91     St. Cletus was the third bishop of Rome, and succeeded St. Linus, which circumstance alone shows his eminent virtue among the first disciples of St. Peter in the West. He sat twelve years, from 76 to 89. The canon of the Roman mass, (which Bossuet and all others agree to be of primitive antiquity,) Bede, and other Martyrologists, style him a martyr. He was buried near St. Linus, on the Vatican, end his relics still remain in that church.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.

“What is the Name of That Great Perfume You Have On? It Is Just ‘Salvation #3’ foot oil!” – Jn 12:1-8†


Happy Holy Week!
  

The Knights of Columbus was founded on this day, 128 years ago.  
   

On the news this morning, it was reported that the insurance companies are denying children with pre-existing illnesses, even though this portion of “Obamacare” is now being enforced as of today.  The reason: It is a new law, so it is not retrograde, and does not include anyone with pre-existing conditions, born before today!  Don’t you love laws passed rapidly, and without severe scrutiny?!
  

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ dirty feet!?

Quote or Joke of the Day:
  

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission.” –John Henry Cardinal Newman 
 

Today’s Meditation:
  

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.  Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.  Then Judas the Iscariot, one (of) his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?”  He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.  So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”  (NAB Jn 12:1-8)

   

Lazarus, Martha, and Mary were strong friends of Jesus.  Jesus’ only time He cried, that I can remember was at the death of Lazarus; but He also performed a sign (miracle) in restoring Lazarus back to life.  These three disciples were with Jesus, even at the cross.  I believe the “other Mary” at the foot of Jesus’ cross, was this specific Mary.

There are some slight differences in this story, between the three synoptic gospels (see Mk 14:3-9, Mt 26:6-13).  In Matthew 26:6, Mary anoints Jesus’ head as a sign of a regal, messianic anointing.

Washing and anointing the feet has a specific message in it, itself.  In just a few days, Jesus will, Himself, wash the feet of the Apostles.  To the Jewish people, the feet seemed to be the dirtiest part of the body.  The feet touch the ground, and were always in contact with dirt, bugs, human and animal excrement and feces, and who knows what else: I don’t believe they had “boots” back then, so the feet got pretty dirty!

To wash someone’s feet was the lowliest of positions one could assume.  Mary, and Jesus in a few days, place themselves in this position of the lowest of servants, in order to praise and honor those they serve.  This gospel reading alludes to Mary being a true friend and disciple; whereas, Judas appears as a false disciple, and thief.  I wonder if Judas would wash anyone’s feet?

Nard was used as a perfume, and as scented oil for burial purposes.  It was made from the roots of a plant grown in the mountains of northern India.  Nard had to be imported, which was a major factor in its high price.  A denarius was a day’s wage, and it took 200 denarius to purchase a liter of nard.  So this oil cost the buyer more than a half-year of pay.  I wonder if Judas even smelled the fragrance of that perfume that most assuredly filled the house!?  A physically sweet smell that accompanied the physical and spiritual presence of God, in your sight!

The poor will always be with you, but I won’t!  Jesus made a prophetic statement of fact.  Jesus knew what His role on earth was.  I think it was apparent He was not happy, and was probably even fearful, about what was going to happen at the end of this week; but He was obedient to His role as our “Savior!”   How hard it is to follow in His footsteps!  How much He did love us; but to give up His life in a horrible and humiliating way!

“Lord, I wish to wash your feet.  I am giving my “self” to you, to use as you will.  I am your servant for you to do with as you wish.  Please allow me to work through you to save others.  Amen.”
  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Berthold
   

Considered by some historians to be the founder of the Carmelite Order. He was born in Limoges, France, and proved a brilliant student at the University of Paris. Ordained a priest, Berthold joined his brother, Aymeric, the Latin patriarch of Antioch, in Turkey, on the Crusades. On Mount Carmel he found a group of hermits, joined them, and established a rule. Aymeric appointed Berthold the first Carmelite superior general. Berthold tried to reform the Christian soldiers in the region, having had a vision of Christ, and headed the Carmelites for forty-five years.  Feast day is March 29th.

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

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

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

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