Tag Archives: time

“If They Sought Advice from Herod, Were the ‘Magi” Truly Wise? I believe the Answer Is ‘Uncertainly Maybe Possible!’” – Matthew 2:1-12†


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“Epiphany of the Lord”

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

Because of the supportive and positive feedback I received concerning my success of explaining the Advent and Christmas symbols used in the Catholic Church, I decided to address occasionally other symbols used throughout the Church year.  Today I will discuss the Liturgical colors of vestments.

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The Church’s liturgical norms do prescribe specific vestment colors for various celebrations.  The purpose of utilizing different colors for vestments is twofold: first, the colors highlight the particular liturgical season and the faithfull’s journey through these seasons.  Second, the colors punctuate the liturgical season by highlighting a particular event or particular mystery of faith.  The following explanation is based on the norms of “The General Instruction on the Roman Missal”.

White or gold, a color symbolizing rejoicing and purity of soul, is worn during the liturgical seasons of Christmas and Easter.  White vestments are also used for certain other feasts throughout the year.  White may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial and Masses for the Dead to signify the Resurrection of our Lord, when He triumphed over sin and death, sorrow and darkness.

Red has a dual imagery: symbolizing the shedding of blood and is therefore used on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, any other commemoration of the Lord’s passion, the votive Mass of the Precious Blood, the days marking the martyrdom of the apostles (except St. John), and the feasts of other martyrs who offered their lives for the faith.

On the other hand, red also signifies the burning fire of God’s love.  Red vestments are won on Pentecost; for the Sacrament of Confirmation; and for the votive Masses of the Holy Spirit.

Green is used during the liturgical season called Ordinary Time.  We focus on the life Jesus shared with mankind during His time on this earth, the life we share now with Him in the community of the Church and through His sacraments, looking forward to sharing an everlasting life with Him perfectly in Heaven.  Green symbolizes this hope and life, just as the hint of green on trees in early spring arouses the hope of new life.

Violet or purple is used during Advent and Lent as a sign of penance, sacrifice and preparation.  At the midpoint of both of these seasons—Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent—rose vestments are traditionally worn as a sign of joy: we rejoice at the midpoint because we are half-way through the preparation and anticipate the coming joy of Christmas or Easter.  Purple vestments may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial or Masses for the Dead.

Although not seen very frequently in the United States today, black vestments may be worn for Masses of Christian Burial as a sign of death and mourning.  Black may also be used on the Feast of All Souls or for any Mass of the Dead, such as on the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

In all, the colors of the vestments awaken us to the sense of sacred time. They are another visible way to make present the sacred mysteries we celebrate.

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/LITCOLOR.HTM

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Kings may be judges of the earth, but wise men are the judges of kings.” ~  Solomon Ibn Gabirol

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Today’s reflection: The “Magi” seek out Jesus and do him homage.  When have YOU last sought out Jesus, giving Him homage as these “Wise Men”?

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(NAB Matthew 2:1-12)  1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the Catholic Church’s Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Mejesus-and-maryssiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to ‘let His face shine upon’ us through the face of the Mother of God.  We ‘serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.’” (G.K. Chesterton)

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  Historically several moments in Jesus Christ’s early life and earthly ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” as “manifestations” of the divine of this newborn, beginning with His birth in Bethlehem, in the visit of the Magi, in His baptism by His cousin, John – the Baptist, and in His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.

There are some fascinating implications about Jesus in the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s “infancy narrative”: Christmas2012

(1)In Luke’s Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit, includes the Census required for Jesus to be “registered” in their father’s hometown (will say more about this later).

(2) Matthew’s Gospel today focuses on the strange event of “learned” non-Jews, the “Magi”, seeking to visit the prophesied “new king” to be born of Jews, “Israel”.

In retrospect, this text and its story anticipates the future of this “king” on one hand, AND, His acceptance by the non-Jewish “Gentiles” on the other.  We have here a veiled image of the future Church composed of non-Jewish believers, and Jewish believers – – a new “Israel” of faith and worship.

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So, let’s take a deep breath and relax – – and consider this: If Jesus is truly “who” He claims to be – – “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, the prophesied “Anointed One” (Messiah), and the ‘Savior’ of the world’” – – then why was He not recognized by everyone who heard His “Word” and saw His works?  Well, John the Evangelist states in his Gospel that when Jesus came into the world:

The world knew Him not and His own people received Him not” (John 1:10-11).

Hmm, my faith has grown to realize that there is NO neutral stance when it comes to Jesus Christ, during His lifetime, and still today.  Once people hear and see who Jesus claims to be, and what the implications of His coming are for them, they either accept or reject Him outright.  

Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only a few lowly Jewish shepherds were graced to recognize this Jewish infant boy (Jesus) –wisemen3 – as “King” – – at His birth in a lowly place and fashion; however, some “Magi” also found their way, over a short period of time, to Bethlehem, in order to pay “homage” to the newborn “King of Israel”.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in the many “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the true “great” Messianic King when He appeared as prophesied and promised. 

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly order.  However, over a period of time, the word became used more so for anyone regarded as having a “more than human knowledge”. mcconnellwisemen For this reason, the term frequently used for them is: “Wise Men”.  We also get our word “magic” from this specific word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (probably around the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were most likely astronomers and/or astrologers, as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others quite apparently and easily overlooked when viewing the VERY SAME stars and constellations.

We know little about the “Magi”.  We know they came “from the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, via “Jerusalem”, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the “star”) which, in itself, was of some type ofth “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them across the vast desert, by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening”, to the little town of Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  (Can you hear the song “Oh, little town of Bethlehem” in your head.)  The “Magi’s” journey had to be a difficult one indeed. Roads were poor, no road signs in the desert, Inns (CamolTels) were not the best – – even for the camels.  And let’s not forget the thieves and the lack of police intervention.  All they had was a “star”- – but the best “star” in the heavens.

In their diligent search, these “three” Kings were led to the source of true knowledge – – to Jesus Christ Himself, the “Light and Wisdom” of God the Father.  When they found the newborn child Jesus, they humbly worshiped Him, and gave Him “gifts” fitting for a “true King”, even for a “divine king”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this specific – – and uniquely special – – “Messianic King”?  I would like to think it was a confident and assured faith in the promise God gave to the Jews, to them and their people – – and to us.  The prophetic promise was to send a Redeemer – – a “King” – – who would establish God’s reign of peace and righteousness for all peoples: 556238_10151178055187903_1249455228_n

Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for 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 to be given Him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

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My question to you: “Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of ‘strange lands’ to represent the Gentiles’ search for a M11 ADVENTtable_html_m309f20f1essianic Savior?”  I believe so.  In essence, the “Magi” could easily and correctly represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  As such, they are truly representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives and journeys today.

Also, there are a couple of Old Testament verses inferring that the “Magi” were truly “kings” themselves:

May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts.  Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day” (Psalm 72:10, 15).

And,

“Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD” (Isaiah 60:6).

Tarshish and the islands”, in the above verse from Psalm 72, refer to the far western part of the “known world”, and Arabia and Seba [Sheba] in the fProject1ar southern portion.  These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”. 

What did Matthew mean by saying “saw HIS star”?  Well, it was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any significant  ruler’s birth: be it a secular king or religious ruler.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of an Old Testament story in which “Balaam” prophesied:

I see him, though not now; I observe him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, That will crush the brows of Moab, and the skull of all the Sethites” (Numbers 24:17).

The “star” in this case means the physical Messiah King, Jesus Christ Himself; not the astronomical phenomenon in the Middle East the “Mafollow-the-star_t_nvgi” are following all the way to Bethlehem.  In a “Christian” messianic interpretation, the “star”, as also the “scepter” from Israel, would refer to Jesus Christ as “King”:

“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom” (Isaiah 11:1).

In reality, how many “Magi” do you suppose came to give “homage” to the child Jesus?  Where, in Holy Scripture, does it say that “three” Wise Men travelled to Bethlehem?  The answer is NOWHERE!  We actually base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the three “gifts”- – “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” – – but the actual number of “Magi” that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us. 

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the prophesied “Word” being “written” in the heavenly stars.  (They did not connect the twinkling dots in the sky.)  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. until 4 A.D. when he died.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius (a favorite of mine) as:

 “A madman, who murdered his own family, and a great many rabbis.” 

However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects throughout Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the “Second Temple” in Jerusalem (also referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what!” moment upon listening to the “Magi” about what the “heavenly skies” prophesied.  He was confused and also concerned about his lack of knowledge AND for getting NO preemptive warninthCAB77DFPg about this “NEW” king in “his” territory from his own priests, astronomers, and astrologers.  Herod was also worried about his personal future welfare, prestige, and physical life, with a “Messiah” king in “his” territory.  So, Herod immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to an immediate presence before him. (Hmm, first century pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the Temple leaders (the chief priests and Scribes), astrologers, and astronomers of his realm had a very strong similarity to the following “Jewish non-biblical legend” (per a NAB-RE* footnote).  This footnoted story is about a child, later learned to be Moses, in which the “sacred scribes” warn the Pharaoh about an imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt.  In this story, the Pharaoh King makes plans to destroy him.  (WOW!!!!  Moses and Jesus have nearly identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is often called the “New Moses.”) *(NAB-RE is “New American Bible – Roman [Catholic] Edition”)

Herod’s “chief priests and scribes” also reminded Herod of the prophecy found in the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) Book of Micah:

You, Bethlehem-Ephrathaha least among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:1).

The Book of Micah shared with Isaiah the expectation that God the Father will deliver “Israel” through a “king in the line of David”.  “Bethleimage002hem-Ephrathah” is the birthplace of David, and therefore, of his whole “Davidic line”.  Today, it is known to us as simply, “Bethlehem”. 

Herod, and his “chief priests and scribes”, in a somewhat defensive maneuver to what is written in the prophecies found in Jewish Scriptures, asked these “Magi”, these first Gentile believers to be an [unlikely] envoy for King Herod.  So, after meeting with Herod, the “three kings” – – the three “Magi” – – travel to Bethlehem, and away from King Herod’s presence (as his “envoy”):

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:8).

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Continuing to follow the “star”, the “Wise Envoy’s” eventually find the Holy Family still in Bethlehem:  holiness-title-slide

 “On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his motherThey prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

Upon finding Christ, the “Magi prostrate themselves”, an action given ONLY to God.  Thus, Jesus is confirmed to be the true Son of God through their action.  These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home and homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for discovering, and further knowing, this “heavenly” announced “God-King”.  They followed THE “star” in pursuit of a personal quest for finding the desire of their hearts, and their pursuit for a personal relationship with this “new divine king” whose name they learn was – – Jesus Christ.   – – (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it on a Hollywood street corner or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their pilgrimage these “Magi” can serve well as a model for “contemplative listening” today.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, what I mean is that their “actions” flowed directly from their personal – – their focused – – learning and true discernment through divine guidance.  They had set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in a unique “star” announcing:

the newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

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Can you see the three gifts of the “Magi”, given to the Holy Family, as a foreshadowing (prophecy) of Jesus’ role in salvation hichristmasbitters5story?  I believe the meanings of their gifts are “Christological” in nature (representing the spirit, the person, and the actions of Jesus Christ).  “Gold” represents Jesus’ kingship.  “Frankincense” is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And “Myrrh” was used to prepare the dead for burial, and thus, was offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.  Jesus Christ “was”, “is”, and forever “will be”!!

So, “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” are understood to be symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death (for OUR salvation).  In giving these special gifts, the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, to Jesus gold_2Christ Himself (and to us through His nature), the “Magi” – – those unknown “Gentile” men from foreign lands and cultures – – were the first to acknowledge the “who” Jesus was – – FROM BIRTH – – as the Savior KING – – as OUR Savior King!

The journey we take to God is a long one, lasting our entire lives; only ending with our earthly deaths.  Mary, Joseph, and ALL the saints experienced the same long and difficult journey we need to experience. 

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know the Trinitarian Godhead personally.  In today’s story of the “Magi’s” finding and encountering the child Jesus, we see God the Father’s personal plan for salvation to, and for, ALL nations, ALL peoples.  God’s divine plan included giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for ALL mankind (even those from far-away lands).  God gave us His true and full – – both human and divine – – personhood (in the singular), – – not solely for just the Jewish faithful, – – but for ALL people everywhere!! 

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, these three men made a “gift” of their individual, unique, and personal “liveGifts-with-a-Meaning-behind-Them_001-608x456s” with each step taken in the search for the prophesied “Messiah-Savior-King”.  Matthew, by his account of today’s event, eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” searching quest:

They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Matthew2:10).

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires in meeting this “singular” “King of Kings”.

After giving Him “homage” and bestowing “gifts” to the newborn child “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod.  So, they returned to their country by another route:

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way (Matthew 2:12).

Nothing is written or otherwise known about what happened to the “MagiAFTER they left the child-Jesus.  They found Jesus – – so their journey seems to have ended for them.  BUT, their journey actually did NOT end, and neither has ours; it was just a “turning point” for them as it is for us.  Our journeys never end when we finally “find” Christ in our lives; it just puts us on the “proper path” to Him and to everlasting life with Him in paradise..wise01

By their faith, they followed the “star.”  By their faith, they found the true Messiah King of ALL peoples.  And, by their faith, they returned to their “far off” country via a different route.

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F. summarize titleaith is an entirely free gift which God the Father offers to us, and imparts to each of us personally.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – moving in our individual hearts, and opening our individual souls and being – – that we are able to understand, accept, and believe the real divine “truth” which the Trinitarian Godhead reveals to us in personal and unique ways.  With trust, love, and faith, OUR human “will” and “intellect” cooperates with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace” (Thomas Aquinas).

No matter where I am in my personal search of discovery in God’s faith, Christ is present with me – – and within me – – ALWAYS.  I always have the same “star” the “Magi” followed, lighting my way, never leaving me in the dark, distancing me from MY Messiah-Savior-King!!

The visit of the “Magi”, which we celebrate as an “Epiphany”, or manifestation of God’s glory, reveals that the child Jesus whom the “Magi” hailed as the “newborn King of the Jews” (cf., Matthew 2:2), AND who will be crucified under the same title, “King of the Jews” – – is also King of ALL peoples

I sell myself short in my faith-life often.  I don’t always appreciate the power of my faith within me!  I don’t realize my capabilities in knowing God.  Sometimes, I believe my faith is weak, that myencountersThumbnail level of sanctity is low – – in my eyes – – not in His.  To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Trinitarian Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  Jesus Christ came so that both Jew and Gentile might find a true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND with each other. 

We usually do – – and definitely should – – think about God’s goodness to human beings.  Today’s story of the “Magi” has turned such thinking the in the opposite direction, around the goodness of human beings TO God instead.  Three human beings, the Wise Men, the Magi, brought and gave “gifts” to the “Son of God”.  Even though we try to imitate this action in our individual lives, the Son of God is a hard one to shop for.  How does one give gifts to the Son of God, who certainly has everything He needs or wants?  Well, Jesus Christ helped us with this specific inquiry.  He more or less revealed His answer, making it easier for us when He said:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

How can we become a people and nation which defers to God?  We can begin with ourselves. The mysteries of this season invite us to imitate the “Magi”:

They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts” (Luke 2:11).

Let us prostrate ourselves before Christ the true and promised Messiah-Savior-King, worshiping and adoring Him.  Let us offer ALL we have, and listen to His “Word”.  Then we shall be ready to serve Him and His Kingdom in heaven and on earth, here and now!! 

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To. conclusion some people, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed to have been established in remembrance of the gift giving of the “Magi” in today’s Gospel reading.  For this reason, in many cultures even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on “Christmas Day”.  This makes me think: giftofpresence-ckwe should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES” – – our true “Present Self”!!  Our “three” “special” gift offerings should be “praise”, “adoration”, and “thanksgiving” for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do – – in our lives!  Our individual spiritual gifts are much more valuable to Him, and to each other, than the monetary value of ALL the “gold, frankincense, and myrrhin the entire world!!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  How can we offer our very “selves”, our “lives”, more fully to God the Father’s personal and collective love and personal plan He has for each of us?  Hmm, let me know what your thoughts are on HOW YOU can do this task.

Let me please finally pass on a couple of reflection questions to each of you.  “Do you truly bring Jesus Christ to others in your psales-questionsersonal path of life?  Do you actively ‘LOOK’ for Jesus Christ in others you encounter along your path of life; especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?”  God loves it so much when we speak “Words” of love, and perform “acts” of blessing, hope, and encouragement as the norm – – instead of the exception.  He rejoices when our “Words” and “actions” help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes and trees of immense size.  (So, become the “spice” of life; enhance the flavor of God’s working in, with, and through you for and to OTHERS!!)

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift-giving”.  (Yes, I know it just passed a few days aGiftGiving_12-04go for most of us.  But, please, reflect on gift-giving again.)  What was the best gift you have ever received (?), and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special (?), was it the thought that went into it (?), or was it the person who gave it to you which made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress out on the correct answer.)  Do you bring the twinkling “light of Jesus Christ” to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?  Has this specific reflection today been a gift to you?  It has been a gift writing my thoughts on this Gospel reading. gift-keep-giving-13

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impartto others throughout your personal and public route in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of our personal journeys through life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” Wise One’s – – “Camel Jockey’s” – – in OUR search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  So, head towards to the light – – of the “new shining ‘star’”!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

Father,Epiphany 6
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven
by the light of faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen

From:
The Liturgy of the Hours

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“Hey, Let’s Go Fishing; We Have The Best Hook Possible: ‘J’esus!” – Mark 1:14-20†


 

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

It is less than 290 days till the day we elect President of the United States, and many other Legislative positions for Federal and State offices.  I would like to share a prayer I have been praying daily since before our last election for President, in 2008.

An Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA 

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.

Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.

Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.

Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.  Amen.”

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1588 – Pope Sixtus V decrees “Immense AeterniDei” (Reformed curia): Reorganized the Roman Curia, establishing permanent congregations of cardinals to advise the pope on various subjects.
†   1850 – Death of Vincenzo (Vincent) Pallotti, Italian saint, dies at age 54; He was the founder of the Pious Society of Missions (the Pallotines)
†   1913 – Birth of William Cardinal Conway, Northern Irish clergyman (d. 1977)
†   1922 – Death of Benedictus XV(Benedict XV), [Giacomo Markies D Chiesa], pope (1914-22), dies at 67 (b. 1854)
†   2007 – Abbé Pierre, French priest (b. 1912).  He was a French Catholic priest, member of the Resistance during World War II, and deputy of the Popular Republican Movement (MRP). He founded in 1949 the Emmaus movement, which has the goal of helping poor and homeless people and refugees.
†   Feast/Memorial: St. Vincent, Anastasius of Persia.

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus calling “fishermen”: Simon and Andrew, along with James and John, to be His disciples and “fishers of men”.

 

(NAB Mark 1:14-20) 14 After John had been arrested,Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  16 As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  18 Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.  19 He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They too were in a boat mending their nets.  20 Then he called them.  So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

When a “king” had “good news” to deliver to his subjects, he sent messengers throughout his kingdom making a public announcement.  Examples would include the birth of a new king, the winning of a major battle, or the defeat of an invading army.  God the Father sent His prophets (Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist just to name only a few) to announce the coming of His “Messiah” (meaning “anointed one”) “King”.  After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River – – and “anointed” by the Holy Spirit – – He begins His public ministry: teaching and preaching the “Good News” – – the Gospel – – AND proclaiming the “kingdom of God” was NOW at hand for any and ALL ready to receive it.

Mark’s Gospel begins by reporting on the preaching and ministry of the last “prophet” prior to the Messiah, John the Baptist.  He is “the voice in the wilderness” who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord.  Immediately after describing the works and “words” of John the Baptist, Mark reports on Jesus’ “baptism in the Jordan River”, and His “temptation in the desert”.  Mark wants his audience to understand the important connection between the end of John the Baptist’s ministry and the beginning of Jesus’ own earthly ministry.  We need to remember that Mark’s audience was predominately “Gentile” and unfamiliar with Jewish customs, hence:

The Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves.  And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds]. … Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’ (meaning, dedicated to God).”  (Mark 7:3–4, 11).

Jesus preaches the “Kingdom of Godin continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist.  Like John the Baptist, Jesus’ pronouncement of the “kingdom” is a “call to repentance”.  

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Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus called His first disciples.  Today’s reading also stresses the immediacy with which these men dropped everything to follow Him.  We can only begin to imagine what Jesus’ presence must have been like in invoking such a response in these four disciples.  While a few of us might relate to such a radical conversion, many of us would find such a sudden change in ourselves, or in another person, troubling and worrisome (Wow!  Would we say in response to this happening: “He became a ‘bible thumper’”!).  There are very few things for which we would willingly drop everything.  Yet, this is the immediacy with which these first disciples responded to Jesus.  These first disciples were willing to drop everything, making Jesus Christ and the “Kingdom of Godthe most important things in their lives.

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Today’s reading starts with John the Baptist. We are told that he had just been arrested.  In God’s plan, Jesus was not to proclaim the “good news” of salvation prior to the termination of John the Baptist’s “active” mission. (Hmm, think about that one.)  There is very little over-lapping between the two.

The “calling” of the first disciples of Jesus Christ promised them a share in Jesus’ work and entailed abandonment of family, and their former way of life.  Three of the four Disciples, “Simon (Peter)”, “James”, and “John”, are distinguished among all the other “Apostles” in having a closer, more intimate, relationship with Jesus:

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

And

He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee [James and John], and began to feel sorrow and distress.” (Matthew 26:37). 

Andrew is the one disciple from today’s reading not mentioned often in Holy Scripture.  In reality, he is only mentioned three times.  However, when mentioned, Andrew is performing an interesting and especially unique function in his ministry: bringing people TO Jesus, and instituting an important “function” in the Universal (Catholic) Christian Church:

1)  Andrew brings Simon to Jesus, the one to be the leader of the Catholic Church:

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’  He brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).”  (John 1: 40-42);

2)  At the Multiplication of the Loaves, Andrew brings to Jesus the boy having the bread and fish used in instituting the Holy Eucharist and the first Mass:

There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish …” (John 6:9)

And

3) When Andrew and Phillip brought some “Greeks”, who had “come to worship” – – with Jesus – – at the Passover festival.  In actuality, they were probably Gentiles, signifying Jesus’ role of bringing ALL mankind to God the Father, and not just the Jewish “chosen people”.

Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. … They asked, ‘Sir, we would like to see Jesus.’ … Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.” (John 12:20-22)

In today’s reading, the disciples’ response is motivated by Jesus’ personal and direct invitation, an element that emphasizes His mysterious power and divinity.

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The first sentence, the first two verses (14 & 15), have important facts and statements of faith within these few words

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15)   

As I said in my opening, the last “prophet” prior to Jesus Christ: John the Baptist had just been arrested and in prison.  I am sure Jesus was upset, disheartened, and concerned personally for John the Baptist and for His (and John’s) disciples’ welfare.  Both Jesus and John the Baptist were in “Galilee”, the location for the major portion of Jesus’ “public” ministry prior to His arrest, trial, scourging, and death on the cross outside the gates of Jerusalem.  Interesting for me is that John the Baptist’s enemies had sought to silence him.  However, God the Father’s “good news” could not (and cannot be silenced).  As soon as John the Baptist had finished his testimony, Jesus began His testimony in Galilee, His home district.   

Jesus proclaimed the time is “fulfilled” and the “kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus takes up John the Baptist’s message and mission of “repentance”, calling His disciples to “believe in the gospel” – – the “good news” – – which He came to deliver PERSONALLY!!  

What is the “good news” which Jesus is STILL delivering?  It is the “good news” of:

1)  Peace and restoration of OUR personal relationship with God the Father:

Stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15),

2)  The hope of heaven and everlasting life:

Provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am a minister.” (Colossians 1:23),

3)  The truth in God the Father’s “Word” being true and reliable:

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven.  Of this you have already heard through the word of truth, the Gospel” (Colossians 1:3-5),

4)  The promise of reward to those who seek Him:

When you read this you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to human beings in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:4-6),

5)  Everlasting life:

He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10),

And,

6)  The “good news” of salvation: liberty from sin, and freedom to live as children of God the Father:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:13).

The “Gospel” (the “good news”) which Jesus “proclaimed” is God the Father’s “Word”.  It is not only the “good news” from God the Father, but is also “about” God the Father “at work” in Jesus Christ Himself.  

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What did Jesus mean by saying, “this is the time of fulfillment”?  Well, He is expressing the time of “God the Father’s promises” being fulfilled – – in, with, and through – – Jesus Christ, the Messiah Lord.  “Fulfillment” includes not only human obedience to God the Father’s “Word”, but also the triumph of the Godhead over physical and spiritual “evils”; especially over physical and spiritual death.  

Jesus’ preaching is GREATER than John the Baptist’s preaching.  Jesus is beginning the “time of fulfillmentNOW!  The “Kingdom of God” is already here!!  Jesus’ “fulfilling” God the Father’s promises was demonstrated many times by Jesus, both in His “Words” and in His actions.  Jesus’ “healings” and “forgiveness” of sins were (and still are) truly magnificent, exceptional, and revealing signs of the “Kingdom of God”.

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So what is the “kingdom of God”?  The word “kingdom” means much more than a territory or land mass.  It literally means “sovereignty” or “reign”, and the power to “rule”: to employ authority.  The many “prophets” announced that God the Father would establish a “kingdom”, not just for one nation or people, but for the entire world and for ALL peoples!!

Holy Scriptures tell us God the Father’s “throne” is in heaven and His rule and power is over ALL:

Bless the LORD, all you His angels, mighty in strength, acting at His behest, obedient to His command.” (Psalm 103:19).

His “kingdom” is far bigger, greater, and more powerful than anything we can imagine; it is TRULY “universal” (Catholic) and everlasting:

So I issued a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me to give the interpretation of the dream.” (Daniel 4:3).

God the Father’s “kingdom” is full of glory, power, and splendor:

“They speak of the glory of your reign and tell of your mighty works, making known to the sons of men your mighty acts, the majestic glory of your ruleYour reign is a reign for all ages, your dominion for all generations.  The LORD is trustworthy in all His words, and loving in all His works.” (Psalm 145:11-13).

In the Old Testament Book of Daniel, we are told that His “kingdom” will be given to the “Son of Man (Hmm) and to the saints:

He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.  But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingship, to possess it forever and ever.  Until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived for the holy ones to possess the kingship.  Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High, whose kingship shall be an everlasting kingship, whom all dominions shall serve and obey.” (Daniel 7:14,18,22,27).

Jesus goes on to say, “The kingdom of God is at hand ….”  He is literally meaning, “heaven”.  “Heaven” is a Jewish proxy for the name “God”, which was strictly avoided by devout Jews, out of respect and reverence.  The expression, “the kingdom of God”, in reality, means the effective rule of God the Father over His people.

Per Jewish apocalyptic literature, the “kingdom of God” is to be ushered in by a “judgment” in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  This was the message of John the Baptist: to repent for the “kingdom of God” is coming SOON!!  The Christian understanding of the “kingdom of God” is seen as being established in stages, concluding with the “Parousia” of Jesus’ return (the Second Coming).

NO ONE knows when this “Parousia” event will happen, including Jesus Christ:

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

So, we must follow John the Baptist’, AND Jesus’ instruction, “RepentNOW, NOW, NOW!!

Repent, and believe in the gospel”  (Mark1:15).

John the Baptist called for a “change of heart” (a daily “conversion”), and also, a change of conduct.  He called for a turning of one’s life from rebellion, upheaval and revolt to a life of obedience, humility, and trust towards, and in, God the Father.  

How do we enter the “kingdom of God”?  The answer is in announcing the “good news”.  Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do to in order to receive the “kingdom of God”: repent and believe.  When we submit to Christ’s power and rule in our lives, and believe His “good news” message, Our Lord Jesus Christ will give us His grace and power to live a “new” and specially unique way of life – – as residents of His “kingdom”.  

Through repentance and belief in His power and majesty – – His “Word” – – God gives us the grace to renounce the evil and sad kingdom of darkness, ruled over, and powered, by sin and Satan (the father of lies):

You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). 

This is “why” true repentance is the very first step to entering His “kingdom”.  Jesus Christ needs to be the Lord, King, and Master of one’s heart and soul, – – instead of sin, selfishness, and greed.  If we are only sorry for the consequences of our sins, we will very likely keep repeating the sin which is controlling us.  True repentance requires a contrite heart, sorrow for sin, and a firm resolution in order to avoid repeating the sin in the future:

Lord, you will open my lips; and my mouth will proclaim your praise.” (Psalm 51:17).

Jesus gives us grace to see sin for what it really is: a rejection of His love and wisdom in and for our lives, and a refusal to do what is good in accord with His “will”.  Jesus’ grace brings pardon and help for turning away from everything keeping one from His love and truth.  

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In contrast to last week’s Gospel in which the first disciples seek Him out, Jesus takes the initiative in calling His first disciples.  As mentioned last Sunday in the Gospel reading, it was more typical of first-century rabbinical schools for students to “seek out” rabbis, asking to be their disciples.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus breaks with this tradition and “invites” His disciples to learn from Him.  

Jesus is said to have first called four “fishermen”: Simon, Andrew, James, and John (Two sets of brothers).  Jesus promises that He will make them “fishers of men.”  .  Mark does not report Jesus’ words of invitation verbatim, but He does report they left their fishing “immediately”, leaving their father, Zebedee, behind in the boat.  It was obviously an urgent request for these four men to leave everything NOW.  Is it of urgency to you to follow Jesus Christ as well?

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To conclude: to believe is to take Jesus at His “Word” and to recognize that God the Father loves us so much He sent His Only-begotten Son to free us from the dreadful bondage of sin, destructive desires, and everlasting death.  God made the supreme sacrifice of His beloved Son on the holy cross in order to “ransom” us back to a relationship with Him.  

God is our heavenly Father, and He wants us to live as His children.  God the Father loved us first, still loves us dearly, and invites us in, and with love, to surrender our lives to Him.  Do you believe that the Gospel – – the “good news” of Jesus Christ – – has power to free you from the bondage to sin, fear, and death?

When Jesus preached the Gospel message, He “called” many others to follow as His disciples (including each of us).  He gave them (AND US) a mission: “to be ‘fishers of men’ for the kingdom of God”.  

Why did he choose these ordinary people like these fishermen (Smelly, slimy, dirty fishermen!), and even each of us, to be disciples?    In the choice of the first “Apostles”, we see a characteristic feature of Jesus’ work: He purposely chose very ordinary people!!  These first Disciples of Christ were non-professionals, having no wealth or position in society.  They were chosen from the “common people”, doing ordinary things, having no special education, and with no social advantages in life.  

Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well.  He chose (and STILL chooses) individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming with His grace, direction, and power.  When the Lord calls us to serve, we need not think we have nothing to offer.  The Lord takes what we can offer and uses it for greatness in His “kingdom”.  Do you believe that God the Father truly wants to work through, with, and in YOU – – for His glory?

As I just inferred, Jesus Christ is still speaking this same message to us today.  We should strive to “fish”, and “catch” people for the “kingdom of God”.  All we need do is to simply allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine in and through each of us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  God the Father wants others to see the light of Christ in each of us in the way we live, speak, and witness to the joy of the “good news” in our daily lives.  Paul the Apostles says:

Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the odor of the knowledge of him in every place.  For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

Do you “witness” the joy of the Gospel to those you meet?  Do you pray for your neighbors, co-workers, and relatives so they may come to know Our Lord Jesus Christ and to grow in knowing of His love?

Jesus calls us to seek the true “good” and “light” of each person, including those complicit in social sin.  Let us testify that God’s justice flowing through and from us with love and joy:

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way” (Psalm 25:8).

Let us turn from sin and invite others to journey with us on the way to the “fulfillment” of, and in, God’s “kingdom”.

For me, Mark’s Gospel is conveyed with a great feeling of urgency and immediacy.  Jesus Christ is a person of “action”, and events in Mark’s Gospel occur in rapid succession.  Time is of essence; the fishermen “immediately” put aside their livelihood to become Jesus’ first “Apostles”.  The “Kingdom of God” is here and now!!  The “time of fulfillment” is here and now!!  How might your life be different if you more fully shared this sense of immediacy in God fulfilling His “kingdom” with Jesus’ “Second Coming” (the Parousia)?  (The fuse is lit!  Are you ready for the “big bang”?)

Think of circumstances in which you have had to “drop everything.”  It could be the call to pick up a sick child from school, the cry of a hurt or angry child, or something else.  How did you feel about having to change your plans in each of these situations?  How do you feel when someone asks you to drop everything to help him or her?  For many, it is not easy to drop everything in order to respond to the needs of another.

Imagine what Jesus’ presence and invitation to these first followers must have been like.  Remember, they “immediately” responded by leaving their business, their occupation, and their livelihood, to become one of His disciples.  How might OUR life change if we understood the “Kingdom of God” to be as important and immediate in our lives as did these first disciples?  Let’s ask God to help each of us personally experience and encounter the “Kingdom of God with such immediacy as these first disciples.

Here I am Lord!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Our Father

“Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

Christ’s Divinity, Part 1:

 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’” (Isaiah. 9:6). RSV

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah. 9:6). KJV

*

“Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16-17).  RSV

“Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17). KJV

*

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). RSV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. (John 1:1). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Vincent (d. 304)

When Jesus deliberately began his “journey” to death, Luke says that he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem.  It is this quality of rocklike courage that distinguishes the martyrs.

Most of what we know about this saint comes from the poet Prudentius.  His Acts have been rather freely colored by the imagination of their compiler.  But St. Augustine, in one of his sermons on St. Vincent, speaks of having the Acts of his martyrdom before him.  We are at least sure of his name, his being a deacon, the place of his death and burial.

According to the story we have (and as with some of the other early martyrs the unusual devotion he inspired must have had a basis in a very heroic life), Vincent was ordained deacon by his friend St. Valerius of Zaragossa in Spain.  The Roman emperors had published their edicts against the clergy in 303, and the following year against the laity.  Vincent and his bishop were imprisoned in Valencia.  Hunger and torture failed to break them.  Like the youths in the fiery furnace (Book of Daniel, chapter three), they seemed to thrive on suffering.

Valerius was sent into exile, and Dacian, the Roman governor, now turned the full force of his fury on Vincent. Tortures that sound like those of World War II were tried.  But their main effect was the progressive disintegration of Dacian himself.  He had the torturers beaten because they failed.

Finally he suggested a compromise: Would Vincent at least give up the sacred books to be burned according to the emperor’s edict?  He would not.  Torture on the gridiron continued, the prisoner remaining courageous, the torturer losing control of himself.  Vincent was thrown into a filthy prison cell—and converted the jailer.  Dacian wept with rage, but strangely enough, ordered the prisoner to be given some rest.

Friends among the faithful came to visit him, but he was to have no earthly rest.  When they finally settled him on a comfortable bed, he went to his eternal rest.

Comment: The martyrs are heroic examples of what God’s power can do.  It is humanly impossible, we realize, for someone to go through tortures such as Vincent had and remain faithful.  But it is equally true that by human power alone no one can remain faithful even without torture or suffering.  God does not come to our rescue at isolated, “special” moments.  God is supporting the super-cruisers as well as children’s toy boats.

Quote: “Wherever it was that Christians were put to death, their executions did not bear the semblance of a triumph.  Exteriorly they did not differ in the least from the executions of common criminals.  But the moral grandeur of a martyr is essentially the same, whether he preserved his constancy in the arena before thousands of raving spectators or whether he perfected his martyrdom forsaken by all upon a pitiless flayer’s field” (The Roman Catacombs, Hertling-Kirschbaum).

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:

 

Prayer

Create an image, in your mind, of St. Francis in prayer.  What is he offering in prayer in your image?

St. Francis does not picture himself alone in loving God.  He sees himself as a partner with all the members of the whole “Communion of Saints”.  Is this a wholesome way to approach prayer and living the Christian faith?

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

 

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

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

“FedEx or UPS May Have Been Easier, But Not As Fulfilling!” – Matthew 2:1-12†


 

The “Epiphany” of the Lord

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Blessing of a Home at Epiphany

 

Leader: Peace be to this house.

All: And to all who live here.

Leader: Bless, O Lord, this household and family, and allow all of us who live in this home to find in it a shelter of peace and health.  Inspire each of us to develop our individual talents and to contribute wisdom and good works for the benefit of the whole family.  Make our house a haven for us all, and a place of warmth and caring for all our friends who come to visit us.  Enlighten us with the brilliance of your Epiphany star, so that, as we go into the world, we might clearly see our way to You and discover You in our work and play.  This we ask to your glory and in the power of your kingship. All: For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory now and forever, Amen.

Then, bless the house with the sign of the cross.

After the blessing, the initials of the Magi (traditional names: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) are written with chalk over the main door way of the house, like this: 20 + C + M + B + 12 (the + is a cross; the “12” stands for 2012; change the year accordingly).

Adapted from commonly used parish prayer

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Today in Catholic History:

†   482 – Death of Severinus, German monastery founder/saint, dies
†   1100 – Death of Antipope Clement III (b. 1029)
†   1198 – Death of Coelestinus III (aka, Pope Celestine III), [Giacinto Bobo], pope (1191-98)
†   1198 – Lotario di Segni elected Pope Innocentius III
†   1456 – Death of St Lawrence Justinian, Italian bishop and first Patriarch of Venice (b. 1381)
†   1635 – Birth of Luis Manuel Fernández de Portocarrero, Spanish Archbishop of Toledo (d. 1709)
†   1735 – Birth of John Carroll, American Roman Catholic archbishop (d. 1815)
†   1892 – Death of John Heykamp, old-catholic archbishop of Utrecht, dies at age 67
†   1894 – Birth of St Maximilian Kolbe, Polish martyr (d. 1941)
†   1904 – Pope Pius X banned low cut dresses in the presence of churchmen
†   1905 – Birth of Franjo Cardinal Seper, Croatian Catholic cardinal (d. 1981)
†   1932 – Death of Eurosia Fabris, Italian Catholic (b. 1866) †   Feasts/Memorials: Our Lady of Prompt Succor in the Roman Catholic Church.

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 “The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Magi seeking out the child Jesus and doing Him homage

 

(NAB Matthew 2:1-12) 1When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the “official” Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Messiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to ‘let His face shine upon’ us through the face of the Mother of God.  We ‘serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.’” (G.K. Chesterton)

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  Historically several moments in Jesus Christ’s early life and earthly ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including His birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, His baptism by His cousin John, and His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.

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In Matthew’s Gospel, the visit of the “Magi” occurs immediately prior to the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  It is apparent Matthew tells a different version (actually, just a different viewpoint or emphasis) of Jesus’ life than what is written in Luke’s Gospel.  Of the infancy narrative – – covering the actual birth of Jesus Christ, – – Matthew barely tells us little more than:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod.” (Matthew 2:1)

Other differences in covering Jesus Christ’s infancy event, between Matthew and Luke, are found in the:

(1) Census being addressed only in Luke’s Gospel, and
(2) Visit of the “Magi” only being confirmed in Matthew’s Gospel (today’s reading).

The future rejection of Jesus by His own people, “Israel”; AND Jesus’ acceptance by the “Gentiles” (the perceived “heathens” by Jewish faithful) are projected backwards (actually, retrojected) into the scene and circumstances of today’s reading.

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If Jesus truly is who He claims to be, “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, and ‘Savior’ of the world”, then why was He not recognized by everyone who hears His “Word” and sees His works?  John the Evangelist states that when Jesus came into the world:

The world knew him not and His own people received him not.” (John 1:10-11)

 Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only the lowly shepherds recognized Him at His birth.  However, some “Magi” also found their way to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn “King” of Israel.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the “great” Messianic King when He appeared.  

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly social order at one time.  However, over a period of time the word became used generally for anyone regarded as having “more than human knowledge” (Hence, the term the term frequently used for them: “Wise Men”).  We get our word “magic” from this root word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (possibly the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were probably astrologers as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others seemingly – – and apparently – – quite easily overlooked.

We know little about the Magi.  We know they came from “the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the star) which was of some type of “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening” across the desert to the little town, Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  In their diligent search these “three Kings” were led to the source of true knowledge — to Jesus Christ, the Light and Wisdom of God the Father.  When they found the newborn King they humbly worshiped Him and gave Him gifts fitting for a “King”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this Messianic King?  It was a confident and assured faith in the promise God the Father gave to send a Redeemer, a “King” who would establish God the Father’s reign of peace and righteousness:

“Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for 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 to be given him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

 

We base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the “three gifts”, but the actual number of magi that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us.  My question: Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of “strange landsto represent the Gentiles’ search for a Messianic Savior?  In essence, the Magi represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  In such, they are representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives.

There is a couple of Old Testament verses which may be used to infer the “Magi” as being “kings”.

May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts.  Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day.” (Psalm 72:10, 15)

And,

Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.” (Isaiah 60:6)

These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”.  It was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any ruler’s birth: be it secular or religious.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of the Old Testament story in which Balaam had prophesied:

A star shall advance from Jacob, & a staff shall rise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17)

However, the “starin this case means the Messiah King Himself [Jesus Christ], and not an astronomical happening in the Middle East.

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the “Word” being written in the heavenly stars.  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, who is an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”  However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what” moment upon listening to the “Magi”.  He was confused and concerned about his lack of knowledge AND getting no preemptive warning about this “NEW” king in “his” territory.  He was also concerned about his future welfare, prestige, and life, with a “Messiah” king, again, in “his” territory.  So, he immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to his personal presence. (Hmm, Biblical pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the Temple leaders (the chief priests and Scribes), astrologers, and scientists of his realm had a very strong similarity to the following “Jewish non-biblical legend” (per NAB footnote).  This story is about a child (later learned to be Moses), in which the “sacred scribes” warn the Pharaoh about an imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt.  In this story, the Pharaoh king makes plans to destroy him.  (WOW!!!!  Moses and Jesus have nearly identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is oft called the “New Moses.”)

The “three kings” travel to Bethlehem, from King Herod’s presence, in response to prophetic Hebrew Scriptures, which the “chief priests and scribes” also shared with these first Gentile believers through an unlikely envoy: Herod:

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the childWhen you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:8).

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Let’s Continue.  Verse 11 from today’s reading offers a huge amount to ponder in itself:

And on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.(Matthew 2:11)

These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home, their homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for knowing this “heavenly” announced “God”.  They “followed a star” in pursuit of their personal quest of discovering and knowing true divinity — Jesus Christ.   (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it in Hollywood or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their activity, the three “Magi” serve as a model for contemplative listening.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, their action flowed directly from their personal – – and focused – – discernment of divine guidance.  The “Magi” set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in the star which announced:

The newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

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Can you see the three gifts the “Magi”, brought to the Holy Family, as being a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation history?  I believe the meanings of their gifts are “Christological” (representing the spirit, character, and actions of Jesus Christ) in character, and as found in nature.  “Gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  “Frankincense is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And “Myrrh was used to prepare the dead for burial, and thus offered in anticipation of Jesus’ deathJesus Christ “was”, “is”, and forever “will be”!!

So, “gold”, “frankincense”, and “myrrh” are understood as symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death (for OUR salvation).  In giving these special gifts, the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, to Jesus Christ Himself (and to us through His nature), the “Magi” (those unknown “Gentile” men from foreign lands and cultures) were the first to acknowledge “who” Jesus was [from birth]: our Savior KING!

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know the Godhead (Divine Trinity) personally.  In the story of the “Magi” encountering the infant Jesus, we see God the Father’s personal plan for salvation to ALL nations and ALL peoples.  This divine plan included giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for ALL mankind (even those from far-away lands).  God gave to us His truly and fully – – both human and divine – – personhood (in the singular), – – not solely for just the Jewish faithful, – – but for ALL people everywhere.  

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, they made a gift of their individual, unique, and personal “lives” with each step of their journey in search for the “Messiah King”.  Matthew’s account of this event eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” search and quest:

They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Matthew2:10).

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires to meet this singular “King of Kings”.

 

And, after giving homage and gifts to the newborn infant “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them, in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod and “they departed for their country by another way“:

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way” (Matthew 2:12).

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Faith is an entirely free gift that God the Father makes and imparts to us.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – who moves the individuals heart and opens the individuals soul and mind – – that we are able to understand, to accept, and to believe the real divine “truth” which the Godhead reveals to us personally, and uniquely.  With “trust”, “love”, and “faith”, OUR human will and intellect cooperate with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace(Thomas Aquinas).

To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  In the encounter of the Magi “Wise Men” “Kings” – – with and towards Jesus Christ – – we see the divine plan of God the Father giving His only-begotten Son as the Messiah King and Savior, – – not just for the Jewish people – – but for ALL the nations and ALL peoples.  Jesus Christ came so both Jew and Gentile might find true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND each other.  

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In conclusion, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed by some to have been established in the gift giving of the “Magi”.  For this reason, in many cultures, even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on Christmas Day.  This makes me think, we should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES”!!  Our three “special” gift offerings should be praise, adoration, and thanksgiving for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do in our lives!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  Interiorly (and exteriorly), how can we offer our very “selves” more fully to God the Father’s love and personal plan He has for each of us, personally and collectively?  

My question to each of you: Do you truly bring Jesus Christ to others in your personal path of life?  Do you actively “LOOK” for Jesus Christ in others you encounter along your path of life, especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?  God loves it so dearly when we speak “Words” of love, and perform acts of blessing, hope, and encouragement as the norm instead of the exception.  He rejoices when our “Words” and actions help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes and trees of immense size.  (So, become the “spice” of life; enhance the flavor of God’s working in, with, and through you to OTHERS!)

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift giving”.  What was the best gift you have ever received, and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that making it special, was it the thought that went into it, or even the person who gave it to you making it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress.)  Do you bring the “light of Jesus Christ to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impart” to others throughout your personal and public path in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of their personal journeys path of life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” in search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

“Father,
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven
by the light of faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen”

The Liturgy of the Hours

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

Faith and Works

 

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

So faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.(James. 2:17). KJV

*

 “Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? (James. 2:20). RSV

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James. 2:20). KJV

*

 “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James. 2:24). RSV

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James. 2:24). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Maximilian Kolbe

OFM Conventional (8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941)
Feastday: August 14

 

Maximilian was born in 1894 in Poland and became a Franciscan.  He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. Before his ordination as a priest, Maximilian founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Our Lady.  After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled “The Knight of the Immaculata” and helped form a community of 800 men, the largest in the world.

Maximilian went to Japan where he built a comparable monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement.  In 1936 he returned home because of ill health.  After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time.  But in 1941 he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

On July 31, 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner’s escape, ten men were chosen to die. Father Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father.  And he was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect.  He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. His feast day is August 14th.

from Wikipedia:

Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity.  He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.  Pope John Paul II declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.

In Italian he is known as “San Massimiliano Maria Kolbe”; his given name in Polish is “Maksymilian”, in French, “Maximilien”.

Due to his efforts to promote Consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.

From “Catholic Online” Website
http://www.catholic.org/saints

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Our Mother Mary

Reflect on the following Franciscan prayer”

Antiphon to Mary

“Holy Virgin Mary, among women there is no one like you born into the world: you are the daughter and the servant of the most high and supreme King and Father of heaven: you are the mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ, you are the spouse of the Holy Spirit.  Pray for us with Saint Michael and the Archangel and all the powers of the heavens and all the saints to your most holy beloved Son, the Lord and Master. Amen”

 

What points of honor does Saint Francis call our attention to in his esteem of Mary? … And, in this antiphon?

Do you know how often this Antiphon to Mary was indicated to be used by the friars?

What does our SFO Rule, article 9 tell us?

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Are You Ready To Meet Jesus’ Expectations?! Are You Watching?!” – Mark 13:33-37†


 

First Sunday of Advent

  

 Today’s Content:

 

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

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  Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the “National Day of Listening”.  I have come to realize that though we all “listen”, many of us have lost the grace of actually “hearing”.  I compare listening and hearing to another great sense: peripheral and central vision.  “Listening” is our peripheral auditory sense, making us able to navigate the verbal/audible environment subconsciously and with little effort.  “Hearing” is like our central vision, able to be focused and pinpointed.  Hearing is an active sense that needs to be honed through usage and training.  Remember, God gave us two ears and one mouth.  Use the ears twice as often as the mouth.

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I attended an excellent meeting/program last Saturday, put on by the Secular Franciscan, St. Clare Region, Executive Committee (REC), titled “Servant Leadership”.  I highly recommend all SFO’s take this program when it becomes available to you.  We had Franciscans participating from all three Franciscan Orders, and from three states (Missouri, Illinois, and Southern Indiana).  The Regions Justice and Peace Commissioner, Mike DePue, SFO, wrote a very excellent synopsis of this training program, which I would like to share below: 

 “Servant leadership” is a [daily] reflection on a conversion-based, Gospel-centered life.  Our models for “servant leadership” include Jesus, Saint Francis (with his characterizations of being detached, patient, fraternal and ‘in solidarity’, and flexible), and Saint Clare (being reverent, steadfast, and prayerful). [Put all 7-8 characterizations together, and you get a ‘parent’]  The three essential characteristics of Franciscan “servant leadership” are: 

1)  Having a call or commission,
2)  Commitment, and
3)  Vision.  

Leadership should be based on prayer, which flows from – – and results in – – conversion.  Servant Leadership requires a fundamental and genuine dialogue and focused listening skills [See the above article on hearing versus listening.].  The ability to share leadership tasks through delegation should be emphasized.  We should recognize the diversity of gifts, aptitudes, and talents that exists among us all, and be quick and creative in utilizing these graces.  Leaders come in different “flavors,” with each leadership style having certain advantages.  Remember,  a leader’s style will flow from background, personality, etc. ~ from Mike DePue, SFO

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I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Day.  With my wife’s work schedule (she is an Emergency Department Nurse in a large metropolitan area), our families “Turkey Day” is actually today (Sunday).  For me however, every day with her and my children is “Thanksgiving Day”; I love them all more each and every day – – even on the “fowl” [sic] days.

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 Today in Catholic History:    

†   399 – St Anastasius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope

†   640 – Death of Acharius, a 6th-century bishop in Gaul. Bishop of Noyon/saint

†   1095 – Pope Urban II declares the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont.

†   1775 – Birth of Joachim G le Sage ten Broek, Dutch notary/catholic foreman/publicist

†   1894 – Birth of Amphilochius of Pochayiv, Ukrainian Orthodox saint (d. 1971)

†   1934 – Birth of Lawrence Martin Jenco, Servite priest, taken hostage in Beirut by five armed men in January 1985, while serving as director of Catholic Relief Services there, being held for 564 days  (d. 1996)

†   1970 – Pope Paul VI wounded in chest during a visit to Philippines by a dagger-wielding Bolivian painter disguised as a priest

†   2004 – Pope John Paul II returned the relics of Saint John Chrysostom to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Roman Catholic); Barlaam and Josaphat, Apostle Philip, and Gregory Palamas  (Eastern Orthodox—Revised Julian Calendar)

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

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Watch a child.  If a little boy falls in the park and scrapes his elbow, he instinctively runs to his father or mother to make it better.  More often than not, the parent can do nothing except gently kiss the bruised elbow and tell the little one that it is going to be OK.  The amazing thing is that often this is all the child needs.  The kiss doesn’t “fix” it; it just lets the little one know that he is loved, he is not alone, and he is going to be OK.  Sadly, as we grow up we begin to believe that a little kiss or a mere hug isn’t going to fix anything, so we stop asking.  God the Father is inviting you to run to Him with your cut elbows, broken heart or shattered dreams.  No hurt is too little and none is too great.” ~ Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, “Spiritual Freedom: God’s Life Changing Gift”, Servant Books

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning His disciples to be watchful and alert, so that they will be ready when the Son of Man comes.

 

(NAB Mark 13:33-37) 33 Be watchful! Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.  34 It is like a man traveling abroad.  He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.  35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today we begin the season of Advent, which marks the start of a new liturgical year for the Church.  The readings for Sunday Mass are arranged on a three-year cycle.  Each year features a different Gospel—Matthew, Mark, or Luke, with readings from the Gospel of John interspersed throughout all three years.  With this year’s first Sunday of Advent, we begin Cycle B of the Lectionary, focusing our attention on the Gospel of Mark throughout the year.  

Since this the first week of the new Liturgical Year (cycle “B”), let me give a little history on Mark’s Gospel, based on the introduction to his book from the NAB Bible.

Mark is the shortest of all four Gospels, and is most likely the first of the four to have been written.  His Gospel recounts what Jesus Christ did in a vibrant and dramatic style, where one incident follows directly upon another.  With Mark, Jesus is portrayed as immensely popular with the people in Galilee during His ministry (cf., Mark 2:2; 3:7; 4:1).

The framework of Mark’s Gospel is partly geographical: Galilee (cf., Mark 1:14 – 16:8).  Only rarely does Jesus go into “Gentile” territory (cf., Mark 5:1–20; 7:24–37).  Mark’s Gospel is more oriented toward Christology: Jesus being the “Son of God” (cf., Mark 1:1- 11; 9:7; 14:61; 15:39).

Although the book is anonymous, apart from the heading “According to Mark” in manuscripts, it has traditionally been assigned to John Mark, in whose mother’s house (in Jerusalem) Catholic Christians assembled:

When he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer.” (Acts 12:12).  

This “Mark” was a cousin of Barnabas (cf., Colossians 4:10), and accompanied Barnabas and Paul one of his missionary journeys (cf., Acts 12:25; 13:3; 15:36–39).  Traditionally, Mark’s Gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome, at a time of impending persecution, and when destruction by the Roman Armies loomed over Jerusalem and the Jewish people.  Mark’s audience seems to have been Gentiles unfamiliar with Jewish customs, as shown in the following verses:

“They [the Pharisees] observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].)  (Mark 7:2–4).

Mark was intended to prepare Catholic Christians to be faithful in the face of persecution (cf., Mark 13:9–13), while proclaiming the Gospel in Galilee (cf., Mark 13:10; 14:9).  In this difficult time, it helped to recall that Jesus had foretold of such difficulties, which Mark does.  Early Christian communities took courage from Jesus’ warning to remain alert and watchful, and they found in His words a way to persevere through suffering.

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To begin my reflection on today’s reading I’d like to start with two important Advent themes running though both this week’s and next week’s reading.  Today’s theme is about the Lord’s return at the end of time; and next week’s theme is centered on John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus.

Today’s reading is taken from the end of Mark’s Gospel, the chapter that immediately precedes Mark’s account of Jesus’ Passion.  Having been recently questioned repeatedly by the Scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus is now questioned by His disciples—Peter, James, John, and Andrew—who are seeking details about His prediction of the destruction of the Temple.  Jesus answers them with many warnings about the difficulties disciples and their followers and their followers will face in THEIR lives.

This portion of Mark’s Gospel is an “eschatological” discourse (dealing with the coming of the new age – the “eschaton” – in its fullness the “final stage”) about specific events which will precede it.  This Gospel deals also with how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves while awaiting that event which is as certain to happen as its exact time is unknown to all but God the Father:

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

Therefore, Jesus is teaching us the necessity for a continual – – and actively persistent – – alertness, attentiveness, and preparedness for His promised return.  

This vigilant waiting, emphasized in this reading, does not mean an ending of ordinary activity, with a concentration only on what is to come.   Instead, Jesus’ message reveals a continued and faithful accomplishment of present, ongoing, ordinary, day-to-day duties and responsibilities, with a continued and persistent awareness of the coming end, for which all (we ALL) must be ready – – continuously, persistently, and faithfully.  This “time to come” will initiate the “great judgment” (Parousia) in which the everlasting destiny of ALL will be made known to ALL!!

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For me, vigilance is another way of saying “LOVE”.  Let me explain what I mean by this statement.  A person who keeps God’s commandments, (big “C” and little “c”), and continuously looks forward to Jesus Christ’s return, rarely looking backward at his past life, is doing exactly what our “Trinitarian God” wishes for us to do!  Our lives are, and should be, a period of faithful hope and waiting, vigilantly: vigilance IS “the way, the truth, and the life” towards our encounter with Jesus Christ our Lord. 

The first Catholic Christians often repeated tenderly the hope, desire, and longing for His return.  That’s why they prayed so frequently:

Come, Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelations 22:20).

By expressing their faith, charity, and longing in this way, early Catholic Christians found the interior “core” strength, optimism, and confidence necessary for fulfilling their family and societal duties and responsibilities, while at the same time, interiorly detaching themselves from earthy (materialistic) goods, with the “self-mastery” which comes from the faith and the hope of eternal life (cf., 1Peter 1:3-9).  Remember, Mark’s audience lived in a time of trial and tribulation, at the cusp of the Temple’s destruction by the Roman Armies, and the severe persecution of any and all Jews and Jewish Christians believers.  I pray daily to grow into their “self-mastery”, their interior “core” strength, and their hope, desire, and longing for Christ’s return.  Eight hundred years ago, St. Francis called this “Daily Conversion”.  Today, Franciscans, indeed, all Catholic Christians, are being called, through this Gospel reading, to “Daily Conversion”.

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Jesus Christ entrusts us with His gifts and grace, and He expects us to be ready for action – – prepared for the future.  Our call is not only to believe, but also to watch; not only to love, but also to watch; not only to obey, but also to watch!  So, what are we to watch for?   Answer: the greatest event to come, and ever to happen – – the promised supernatural magnificent return of our Lord Jesus Christ – – when He comes again “in glory” at the end of the age (the Parousia).  

This type of watching which Jesus Christ has in mind is NOT a passive activity.  It is not a “wait and see what happens” approach to, and in, our lives.  Jesus urges us to be ever vigilant and persistent in “active” prayer that His “kingdom may come” and His “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (cf., the “Our Father”). 

We are not only to watch for Christ, but also, we are to watch with Christ!!  The Lord wants us to have our hearts and minds fixed on Him and His “Word” daily.  He wants us to be ever-ready for His action and grace in our present lives, and in our present world.  

Those who “wait” for the Lord will not be disappointed.  (That’s a promise: cf., Psalm 27:14, 37:7, and 40:1.)  He will surely come with His sanctifying grace and saving help.  Do you watch for Jesus Christ’s action in your present life? – – with a faith and joyful hope for your future? – – with vigilance and patient awareness?  Are you aware of yourself having “everlasting life” within you – – NOW?  If you’re curious about watching for Jesus in your present life, look up, read, and reflect on what John says in John 6:54, 56* (will be posted at the end of this reflection).

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To conclude, today’s Gospel reminds us that Advent is about more than OUR preparation for the Catholic Church’s celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas.  Advent is also about preparing ourselves for Christ’s RETURN “in glory” at the end of time: the Parousia!  Like the disciples and the faithful in Mark’s first-century community, we must also stay continuously and persistently vigilant, alert, and watchful for His return.  Our faithfulness to our Trinitarian God, through the good times, and especially through the difficult times, shows us to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In our lives, we try to prepare ourselves for many future events: the next vacation, a marriage, a child’s education, retirement, and so on.  We are careful not to allow ourselves to be caught by surprise.  We prepare so that we can handle any challenges we may face.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are called to be just as attentive and alert to the coming of the Son of Man so that event will not catch us by surprise and unprepared.  This means we are to attend to our spiritual life as carefully as we attend to other important matters we may encounter!!

Try to remember a time when you received surprise visitors at your house.  It could be a neighbor who stopped by, or a relative who arrived unannounced.  Were you prepared to receive this unannounced guest?  What might you have done differently, if you knew ahead of time that this visitor was going to arrive?  Jesus told His disciples that “no one knows when the Son of Man will return, except the Father”.   Are you prepared?!  Pray that through this Advent season you will become more prepared to receive Jesus Christ (in Holy Communion *) AND when He comes again “in glory” – – at the end time.  

 

(*)  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6: 54, 56)

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

“Optional Closing Prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet”

“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.  Amen”

 

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New Translation of the Mass

(This is the Last “New Translation of the Mass” segment.  It will be replaced with a new segment titled, “Catholic Apolgetics” next week) 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

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

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

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

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Francesco Antonio Fasani  (1681-1742)

 

Born in Lucera (southeast Italy), Francesco entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1695.  After his ordination 10 years later, he taught philosophy to younger friars, served as guardian of his friary and later became provincial.  When his term of office ended, Francesco became master of novices and finally pastor in his hometown.

In his various ministries, he was loving, devout, and penitential.  He was a sought-after confessor and preacher.  One witness at the canonical hearings regarding Francesco’s holiness testified, “In his preaching he spoke in a familiar way, filled as he was with the love of God and neighbor; fired by the Spirit, he made use of the words and deed of Holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance.”  Francesco showed himself a loyal friend of the poor, never hesitating to seek from benefactors what was needed.

At his death in Lucera, children ran through the streets and cried out, “The saint is dead!  The saint is dead!”  Francesco was canonized in 1986.

Comment:

Eventually we become what we choose.  If we choose stinginess, we become stingy.  If we choose compassion, we become compassionate.  The holiness of Francesco Antonio Fasani resulted from his many small decisions to cooperate with God’s grace.

Quote:

During his homily at the canonization of Francesco, Pope John Paul II reflected on John 21:15 in which Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other apostles and then tells Peter, “Feed my lambs.”  The pope observed that in the final analysis human holiness is decided by love.  “He [Francesco] made the love taught us by Christ the fundamental characteristic of his existence, the basic criterion of his thought and activity, the supreme summit of his aspirations” (L’Osservatore Romano, vol. 16, number 3, 1986).

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:

 

Virtues and Vices

What is a VIRTUE?

Can you name them? (Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

How are the virtues tied together?

What are the vices contrary to these virtues?

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

 In the name of the Lord!

 Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


 

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

   

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 Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

  

Prayer Intentions of Pope Benedict XVI for October, 2011

General Intention:

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

Missionary Intention:

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

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

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

When will violence among God’s creations end?!

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

  

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 Quote of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark continues by sending “many others”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

In saying this, they condemn themselves.

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

 

Act of Contrition

  

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

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

  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

  

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New Translation of the Mass

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

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

 

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

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

  

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

  

Saint Francis and the Sacraments

 

How “Catholic” would you consider Saint Francis?

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

♫“Sow, Sow, Sow Your Faith, Gently Down His Path!”♫- Matthew 13:1-23†


 

 

Fifteenth Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Starting next Wednesday, July 13th, I will begin my yearly “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”, popularized and created by St. Louis de Monfort.  I will be posting the prayers for the four sections on both my blog and Facebook sites.  All you need to add is the 10 or so minutes each day, and a proper heart and soul.  So, please join me.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   983 – Death of Benedict VI, Italian Pope (974-83)
†   1086 – Death of Knut IV, the Saint, king of Denmark (1080-86), murdered
†   1609 – Catholic German monarchy forms Catholic League
†   1900 – Birth of Sampson Sievers, Russian Orthodox Christian monk, priest and wonder-worker (d. 1979)
†   1998 – Roman Catholic sex abuse cases: The Diocese of Dallas agrees to pay $23.4 million to nine former altar boys who claimed they were sexually abused by former priest Rudolph Kos.

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

“When GOD solves your problems, you have faith in HIS abilities; when GOD doesn’t solve your problems HE has faith in your abilities.” ~ Unknown author

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that the kingdom of heaven is like a seed that has been sown on good soil.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 13:1-23) 1 On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.  2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.  3 And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  5 Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, 6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  8 But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  9 Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  10 The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  12 To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’  14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  15 Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’  16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  17 Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  18 “Hear then the parable of the sower.  19 The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  21 But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  22 The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  23 But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

 

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Gospel Reflection

 

Today’s Gospel marks the beginning of a lengthy teaching or dialogue (His third discourse in Matthew) given by Jesus.  Over the next few weeks at Mass, the Gospel readings will cover of the whole of Matthew’s 13th Chapter. 

 

What was (and still is) the best and easiest way to help people understand God’s kingdom?  Like the Temple leaders and Rabbis of first-century Palestine, Jesus very often used “parables” – – short stories and images taken from everyday life – – to communicate “unknown” truths about the kingdom of God.  Jesus was a skilled artist of speech and imagery; a great orator and teacher.  Through His words, He etched in the listeners mind, vividly brilliant and unforgettable images.

A well-constructed image can speak more loudly and clearly than many words.  (Remember the old adage: “A picture says a thousand words.”)  Jesus epitomized this saying by using the ordinary everyday well-known images of everyday life and nature as a way to point to a different (and hidden) order of reality.  Jesus, through the use of parables, points to a different, visible order of reality for those who had “eyes to see” and “ears to hear“, and those who heard with faith.  

Jesus communicated His teachings with vivid and dramatic images, such as soil conditions, plants, and trees.  These images, these parables, grabbed ahold of the imagination of His audience more powerfully than any nonfigurative talk ever could.  His parables were like a “buried treasure” waiting to be discovered:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44).

(Note the inspiration of that salesman – – his “JOY”!)

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In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ teaching of “parables” is known as the “third great discourse” of His ministerial life.  It makes up the second of three parts of Matthew’s Gospel as well.  Matthew used only two of a set of three, and this one is number two of the three.  Matthew uses five other parables taken from other sources known collectively by Biblical Scholars as “Q” and “M”.  The authors of these two documents are unknown; that’s why they are indentified as “Q” and “M”.

In addition to Matthew’s seven parables, Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 13: 1-53, gives the reason why He uses a “parable” approach to teaching the faith and way of God:

“The disciples approached him and said, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’  He said to them in reply, ‘Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because “they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.”  Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: “You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.”’” (Matthew 13: 10-15).

Jesus declares the “blessedness” of those who understand His teaching:

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Matthew 13: 16-17):

He then goes on to explain the “parable of the sower”:

“Hear then the parable of the sower.  The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”  (Matthew 13: 18-23):

In verse 24 through 53 (not included in today’s reflection), Jesus explains the parable of the weeds, and ends with a concluding summary statement of teaching to His disciples.  He is stating in His summary that we are all to be “Scribes” in the new kingdom of God:

Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Matthew 13:52)

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What can a parable about “seeds” and “roots” teach us about the kingdom of God?  Well, any successful farmer (I am not one!  I have a black thumb – even killing a cactus once) will attest to the extreme importance for the need of “good soil” to supply the necessary nutrients for growth and fruit production.  After all, a plant gets all necessary food, water, and other nutrients by its roots?  

Holy Scripture repeatedly uses the image of “fruit-bearing” plants or trees to express the principles of spiritual life and spiritual death.  Here are just two examples from the Old Testament:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”  (Jeremiah 17:7-8);

And,

They are like a tree planted near streams of water that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

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There are different ways of accepting God’s “Word”, which, hence, produce different kinds of “fruit” as a result.  There is the opinionated “hearer”, who shuts one’s mind to differing views.  Such a person is, in reality, non-teachable, and “deaf” to what ne could hear, and blind to what lies behind what he sees.

Then there is the “shallow” hearer.  This person fails to meditate, reflect, and think things out completely.  They lack a “depth” of faith, knowledge, and openness to God’s “Word”.  They may initially respond with even a strong emotionally charged reaction; however, when this feeling wears off, their mind begins wandering to something else which will give them another “charge” without much effort.

A third type of hearer is the person who has many interests or concerns, but who “lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important”.  Such people are too “busy” to pray, or too “pre-occupied” to study and meditate on God’s “Word”.  Their focus is totally on the “here and now”.

Finally, there is “the one whose mind is open”.  This person, this disciple, is willing to listen and to learn – – AT ALL TIMES, ever looking for the spiritual truth lying beneath the surface of what they heard and see.  They are never too “proud” or too “busy” to learn the message and teachings of God; instead they listen with anticipation to His Word, in order to understand Him and His kingdom they will inherit.  

God gives a great gift, a great grace, to those who search for, yearn for, and hunger for His “Word”.  They are “consumed” in Him so that they may understand His will, His way, and His truth.  And, through His “Word”, they have the strength to live according to God the Fathers plan for salvation and redemption.   

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In Palestine, sowing (sort of loosely planting the seeds) was often preceded by plowing.  In “sowing” seeds, the seeds are literally thrown from the hand (similar to spreading salt/calcium on an icy driveway).  Much of the seed is thus oft times scattered on ground unsuitable for any growth.

Yet while many of the seeds are “wasted”, the seed which falls on “good” ground bears “fruit” in an exceptionally large amount.  The point of Jesus’ parable of the “Sower” is that, in spite of some failure, (usually because of opposition and indifference to His message), the trusting and hopeful “true” message of Jesus Christ, about the coming of His kingdom, will have an enormous success – – in those who, like little children, hear Him with faith:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)

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The word “parable” (from the Greek, “parabole”) is used to translate the Hebrew word, “mashal”, a designation for a variety of literary forms such as axioms, proverbs, similitude’s, and allegories.  What these literary forms have in common is a “hidden message” for the receiver.  The New Testament authors, and Jesus Christ Himself, consciously use “mashal” and “parable” to designate and illustrate comparisons and inter-relatedness of “kingdom truths” and everyday life events.  Sometimes, these everyday life events have a strange element quite different from an otherwise “usual” experience of everyday life: for instance, in the parable of the yeast, Matthew 13:33, the enormous amount of dough was produced by adding a small amount of yeast.  Thus, “parables” are meant to sharpen and hone the curiosity and interest of the hearer to leads them to internalize the “true” meaning of the parable.

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In today’s reading, Jesus told His disciples that not everyone would gain an understanding of His parables.  Do you think He was deliberately confusing and/or hiding the meaning of His parables, His stories, His message, from His listeners?   I don’t believe so.  

Jesus was speaking from experience – – past, present, and future experience!  His “experience” is not only internal, but His awareness of “experience encompasses ALL time at ONCE!  He is aware of all things and all times.   He is aware that “some” who hear His parables would refuse to understand them.  It isn’t that these people could not understand them; but rather that their hearts would be hardened, shut, closed, and blinded to what Jesus Christ was really saying.  In reality, they had already made up their minds NOT to believe.  What a pity, as God can only reveal the hidden truths of His kingdom to those who are not blinded spiritually.   God can only reveal the hidden truths to those individuals who have a deep hunger for Him and His “Word”, and humbly submit to His truth and Word.  As He Himself said to them:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Also, in last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father the following prayer of praise:

I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”  (Matthew 11:25)

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Since a parable is “figurative speech” requiring an amount of reflection for its understanding, only those who are open and prepared to explore and discover its true meaning can come to know it, and to internalize its meaning.  To understand Jesus’ teachings and parables is a gift (a grace) of God Himself, “granted” to His disciples, yet, not to those in the crowds when Jesus said:

“… it has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.”Matthew 13:11)  

In reading this verse, it is evident that both Jesus’ disciples’ understanding of His parables and the crowd’s ignorance to their meanings are both attributed to God’s will.  The question of human responsibility for a lack of knowledge is asserted in Matthew 13:13:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13). 

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Jesus mentions the “mysteries” in verse 11.  This word can also be found in Luke and Mark’s Gospel:

“Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.’” (Luke 8:10);

The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you.” (Mark 4:11).

And, the word “mystery” can even be found in the Old Testament:

They might implore the mercy of the God of heaven in regard to this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision, and he blessed the God of heaven. In the king’s presence Daniel made this reply: ‘The mystery about which the king has inquired, the wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers could not explain to the king but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what is to happen in days to come; this was the dream you saw as you lay in bed..’” (Daniel 2:18, 19, 27-28);

The word “mystery” is used to designate a divine plan or declaration affecting the course of history; which can only be known and understood when revealed by God.  Knowledge of the “mysteries” of the kingdom of heaven means recognizing God’s kingdom present in the person of Jesus Christ, and in His ministry.

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 “To anyone who has, more will be given” (verse 12).  Throughout the New Testament this axiom of practical “wisdom” is used several times:

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29);

To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mark 4:25);

“Take care, then, how you hear.  To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” (Luke 8:18);

And,

“I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Luke 19:26).

Its reference goes beyond one’s original gaining time, talent, and treasures.  In essence, God declares a granting of a further understanding of His kingdom to all who accept His “revealed” mystery.  And, from the one who does not accept or use His graces, He takes it away (The ultimate “use it or lose it” principle!)

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Jesus speaks in “parables” so that the non-believing crowds may not understand:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13);

 And,

They may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12),

Making the parables so that the non-believers cannot understand them is looked at by me as a form of discipline to the “crowds” (non-believers).  This “lack of understanding” is allowed them, by God, because He respects their “free will” in choosing not to accept His teachings.  

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In verse 14, Jesus’ cites Isaiah:

“Go and say to this people: Listen carefully, but you shall not understand!  Look intently, but you shall know nothingYou are to make the heart of this people sluggish, to dull their ears and close their eyes; else their eyes will see, their ears hear, their heart understand, and they will turn and be healed.”  (Isaiah 6: 9-10).

The “old” truly lives in the “new”, and the “new” truly FULFILLS the “old”!!

 

I find it interesting and confusing that there are people who are, or become, fruitless and/or uncaring of God’s “Word”!!  Differing priorities, believed more important than God, can distract some from what is truly important and worthwhile.  Allowing our hearts, minds, and souls to be consumed with material items and secular ideals can easily weigh us down, drawing us away from God’s eternal heavenly “treasure”.  

We all need to realize and keep current in our minds that God’s “Word” can only take root in a receptive and humble heart, mind, and soul; a heart, mind and soul, ready and willing to “hear” what God has to say to each of us, personally and intimately.  The parables of Jesus make clear to us what we need to know in order to grow in faith and life.  We need to approach His teachings with an attitude ready to let His teachings challenge us. (No pain, no gain!)  Can you submit to God’s “Word” with the love, trust, and obedience He wishes for you to have?

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Gross is the heart of this people …” (verse 15)!  “Gross” is a strong word that can mean the following: disgusting, unpleasant, foul, vulgar, nasty, uncivilized, repugnant, and grotesque.  This is definitely NOT a pleasant or hopeful image for the person who chooses to be blinded to the “mysteries” and “wonders” of a true and total faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Unlike the non-believing “crowds” of people accompanying Jesus, His true disciples, – – His true followers of the way, – – have seen the reality, revelation, and fulfillment of the prophets and the “righteous” people of the Old Testament (the Old Covenant).  These “chosen” people searched and yearned to “see”, without having their search and yearning being fulfilled during their “earthly” time of life.

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The four types of persons visualized in today parable of the “Sower and the Seed” are:

  • Those who never accept the word of the kingdom (Matthew 13:19);
  • Those who believe for a while but fall away because of persecution (Matthew 13:20-21);
  • Those who believe, but in whom the word is choked by worldly anxiety and the seduction of riches (Matthew 13:22);
  • Those who respond to the word and produce fruit abundantly (Matthew 13:23).

Jesus’ emphasis on the various types of soil on which the seed falls is an explanation on the “dispositions” with which one “sees” and “hears” Jesus’ preaching’s and teachings.  Similar stories and emphasis of the “Sower Parable” can be found in Mark 4:14-20 and Luke 8:11-15.

 

Let’s look at the second and third types of “sown” seeds from Matthew’s parable:

Seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21)

And,

Seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.” (Matthew 13:22)

These two can be explained in such a way as to support views held from many bible scholars that these examples derive not from Jesus Christ directly, but from an early Christian “reflection” on apostasy (a refusal to accept religious beliefs anymore) from the Catholic faith.  This “apostasy” became a major real-time consequence of first-century Christian persecutions, and the secularism of human society at that time.  

However, other scholars maintain that the explanation of these two situations comes from Jesus even though it was developed in the light of later Christian experience.  (Can we say, “Grace of the Holy Spirit!”)

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In conclusion, throughout Jesus’ teachings or dialogues (called a discourse), He offers several “parables” to His followers, illustrating in their (and our) minds what He means by the “Kingdom of Heaven”.  He begins His teaching in Chapter 13 of Matthew with what appears to be a rather straightforward parable of the “Sower and the Seeds”. 

Even “urban dwellers” (such as me) know seeds grow best in good soil.  Seeds which miss the soil, sown on rocky ground, or sown among other plants will not grow to harvest.  However, even with the loss of so many “seeds”, there is still a great and overwhelming “yield” from seeds sown on good soil.

 Jesus explains why He uses parables.  He suggests that He uses “parables” to teach because the meanings of parables are not self-evident without some reflection to find the true meaning.  Those who are willing to engage themselves in the effort to understand, willing to open themselves up to the Holy Spirit, will be rewarded with the discovery – – the revelation – – of the message, yielding much fruit.

Jesus interprets the parable of the sower to His disciples in order to show what can be revealed in His teachings via parables.  The different types of soil in which “seeds” are sown are metaphors for the disposition with which each individual hears the teaching about the kingdom of heaven. Some will be easily swayed away from the kingdom of heaven. Some will receive it for a time but will lose it when faced with difficulties. Some will hear the word but will then permit other cares to choke it out. Yet some will receive it well, and the seed will produce abundant fruit.  (AND THAT’S US!! – – Hopefully!!)

 

One lesson from today’s parable is made clear to all of us, even today: a great “harvest” is sure to come!  While some “seed” will fall away, never to bloom or fully grow to fruition, a harvest will most certainly come (at a time unknown to us):

But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”  (Matthew 24:36).

The seed that falls on good soil, – – on one’s heart, mind, and soul receptive to His “Word”, – – will produce bountiful fruits.  God is continuously ready to speak to each of us, personally and intimately, wanting so dearly to share with us an understanding of His “Word”.  

 

Today’s Gospel reminds us that in order for God’s “Word” to take root in us and produce abundant fruit, we must strive to be like the good soil in today’s parable.  Families, friends, peers, spouses, and the Catholic Church all have a responsibility for “preparing ‘your’ soil” so that the seeds of God’s Word can grow strong in you, producing a great harvest.  How can we “prepare the soil”?  Hold true to our Faith and Traditions in which our faith is celebrated, prayed, and fed by reading Holy Scripture (the Bible – it doesn’t bite), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  In these ways, you will fulfill the promises made at your Baptism when you received the lighted candle:

For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism.” (CCC, Paragraph 1254).

Please reflect on today’s Gospel reading and also on the Sacrament of Baptism for a short time.  Look at any pictures that may have been taken of the event.  Remember that one of the promises made at one’s Baptism is to grow in the practice and tenets of our Catholic faith.  How important is this promise to you?  How do you practice your faith (daily prayer, Mass attendance, religious instruction, etc.)?  We do these things and actions as a “family of God” in order that God’s “Word” can take root in our lives and produce an abundant awesomely tasteful fruit.  

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 “Psalm 65

 A prayer of praise to God for his abundance

 

“You visit the earth and water it, make it abundantly fertile.  God’s stream is filled with water; with it you supply the world with grain.  Thus do you prepare the earth: you drench plowed furrows, and level their ridges.  With showers you keep the ground soft, blessing its young sprouts.  You adorn the year with your bounty; your paths drip with fruitful rain.  The untilled meadows also drip; the hills are robed with joy.  The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys blanketed with grain; they cheer and sing for joy.  Amen.” (Psalm 65:10-14)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

The Gloria

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

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)

 

Veronica’s desire to be like Christ crucified was answered with the stigmata.

Veronica was born in Mercatelli, Italy.  It is said that when her mother Benedetta was dying she called her five daughters to her bedside and entrusted each of them to one of the five wounds of Jesus.  Veronica was entrusted to the wound below Christ’s heart.

At the age of 17, Veronica joined the Poor Clares directed by the Capuchins.  Her father had wanted her to marry, but she convinced him to allow her to become a nun.  In her first years in the monastery, she worked in the kitchen, infirmary and sacristy and also served as portress.  At the age of 34, she was made novice mistress, a position she held for 22 years.  When she was 37, Veronica received the stigmata. Life was not the same after that.

Church authorities in Rome wanted to test Veronica’s authenticity and so conducted an investigation.  She lost the office of novice mistress temporarily and was not allowed to attend Mass except on Sundays or holy days.  Through all of this Veronica did not become bitter, and the investigation eventually restored her as novice mistress.

Though she protested against it, at the age of 56 she was elected abbess, an office she held for 11 years until her death.  Veronica was very devoted to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart.  She offered her sufferings for the missions.  Veronica was canonized in 1839.

Comment:

Why did God grant the stigmata to Francis of Assisi and to Veronica?  God alone knows the deepest reasons, but as Celano points out, the external sign of the cross is a confirmation of these saints’ commitment to the cross in their lives.  The stigmata that appeared in Veronica’s flesh had taken root in her heart many years before.  It was a fitting conclusion for her love of God and her charity toward her sisters.

Quote:

Thomas of Celano says of Francis: “All the pleasures of the world were a cross to him, because he carried the cross of Christ rooted in his heart.  And therefore the stigmata shone forth exteriorly in his flesh, because interiorly that deeply set root was sprouting forth from his mind” (2 Celano, #211).

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:

 

Holy Scripture

 

How do you use Holy Scriptures in your daily life?

Have you read the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (presented to us at Vatican Council-II)?  Here is the link: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

Have you come to know the differences of Catholic interpretation of the Bible from that of Christians of other faith traditions?  What are the differences?

What is the difference between Divine Revelation and Sacred Scripture?

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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


 

Fifth Week of Easter

 

 

Today’s Content:

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

  OR,

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:


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

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

 

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

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

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

And,

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

At another time:

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

And again Paul declares:

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

And finally,

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

“in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Jesus had just finished telling those assembled disciples:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Wow!! God the Father is:

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

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

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

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

In today’s reading, Jesus assures them:

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

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

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

Jesus Christ will never leave us behind!

 

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

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

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

And,

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Jesus says, in today’s Gospel:

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Please meditate on the following, before answering:

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

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

 

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Our Father

 

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

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

 

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

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

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

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

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

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Joachima (1783-1854)

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscan Spirituality

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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