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♫“Mary, did you know …?♫ – – She Certainly Did Indeed Know!!” – Luke 1:39-45†


 

4thSunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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. pencilDan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Nativity Scene

The nativity scene (also known as a crèche, manger scene, or crib) is a depiction of the birth of JeNativity-Scenesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Nativity scenes display figures representing the infant Jesus, His mother Mary, and His Step-father Joseph.  Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, the Magi, and angels may be displayed near the manger in a barn (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals.  A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, as well as the camels belonging to the Magi.  (The symbolism of the animals of the crèche will be covered later)

A nativity scene takes its inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Luke’s narrative describes an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who then visit the humble site where Jesus is found lying in a manger, a trough for cattle feed (cf., Luke 2:8-20).  Matthew’s narrative tells of “wise men” (in Greek: “magoi”) who follow a star to the house where Jesus dwelt, thus indicating that the “Magi” found Jesus some time later (within two years after Jesus’ birth), rather than on the exact day of His birth (cf., Matthew.2:1-23).  Matthew’s account does not mention the angels and shepherds, while Luke’s narrative is silent on the Magi and the star.  The Magi and the angels are often displayed in a nativity scene with the Holy Family and the shepherds although there is no scriptural basis for their presence (cf., Luke 2:7-17).

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 (and a “living” one at that) intending thereby to cultivate the worship of Christ after being inspired by his 220px-Giotto_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_-13-_-_Institution_of_the_Crib_at_Grecciorecent visit to the Holy Land where he had been shown Jesus’ traditional birthplace.  Francis wanted to place an emphasis for Christmas being more on the “worship of Christ” than upon the secular materialism and gift giving as the priority. 

Acted out in a cave near Greccio, Italy, St. Francis’ nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles.  Pope Honorius III gave his blessing to the exhibit.  Such “nativity” performances became hugely popular and spread throughout all of Christendom.  The scene’s popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes. 

Within a hundred years of St. Francis’ act of piety and faith, every Catholic Church in Italy was 5_free_christmas_wallpaper_nativity_sceneexpected to have a nativity scene at Christmastime.  Eventually, figurines replaced the living human and animal participants.  Over time, static scenes grew to elaborate affairs with richly robed figurines placed in intricate landscape settings. 

The scene’s popularity inspired much reproduction and replication in Catholic countries throughout the world.  In the early modern period (1500 – 1700), sculpted cribs were set up in Catholic Church’s and homes, often exported from Italy.  By the end of the 1800’s, nativity scenes became popular beyond Catholic settings, and many versions of various sizes – – and in various materials such as terracotta, paper, wood, wax, and ivory – – were marketed, often with a “stable-style” backdrop setting.  In some Catholic countries still today, the nativity scene is more popular than the Christmas tree.

Animals in nativity scenes

A donkey (or ass) and an ox typically appear in nativity scenes.  Besides the necessity of animals for a manger, there is a biblical reference to Isaiah:

An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger; but Israel does not know, my people has not understood” (Isaiah 1:3).

The Gospels, however, do not mention an ox and donkey – – or any other animal – – with Jesus in the “manger”.  XMAS11-nativity-set-2-3

The ox traditionally represents “patience”, the “nation of Israel”, and the Old Testament “sacrificial worship”.  The ass represents “humility”, “readiness to serve”, and “Gentiles”.

The ox and the ass, as well as other animals, became well-entrenched as part of the nativity scene tradition.  Other animals introduced to nativity scenes – – over time and societal culture – – include camels, sheep, and even elephants.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things.  From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone.  From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God.” ~ Pope John Paul II

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Today’s reflection: Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.  How beautiful are YOUR words (prayers) to Mary?

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(NAB Luke 1:39-45)  39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lordshould come to me? 44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today is the last Sunday before Christmas.  Our Gospel reading this day prepares us to witness Christ’s birth.  We are shown in this reading “how” Jesus was recognized as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, even before His AdventWreathbirth.  Today’s Gospel turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist – – to events preceding John’s birth.  The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are reported only in Luke’s Gospel.  In reporting this event, Luke connects the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, thus establishing John’s early relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.

Today’s Gospel recalls Mary’s “actions” after the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the Archangel, “Gabriel”.  Mary travels to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who is also six months pregnant.  Elizabeth greets Mary with a true and full recognition of the “roles” that they, and their unborn children, will play in God the Father’s redemptive plan for salvation.  If we continue to read the verses following today’s reading, in Luke’s Gospel, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth’s greeting with her own beautiful song of praise, the “Magnificat”.  Both women – – Mary and Elizabeth – – recall, repeat, and endorse God’s past history of showing favor upon the people of Israel, testified to in their individual “songs of faith and praise”.

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Mary, in the early stages of her pregnancy, is in a hurry to see Elizabeth.  Mary is taking Jesus – – the “Good News”mary goes to elizabeth, the “Word” Incarnate – – to her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth – – a few days’ journey away.  Why?  I don’t believe she is motivated by a personal human fear of her pregnancy and subsequent labor & delivery, and of the fear of caring for and nurturing her soon-to-be newborn infant “king”.  However, she is a young teenager (most believe around age 14), and being pregnant is pretty overwhelming experience for ANYONE, much less a child-woman.  

Mary knows that she needs calming and wise guidance in her life.  She is probably eager and excited to see Elizabeth, and to learn from her.  This whole experience can’t help but be exciting, for both women.   Mary, in travelling to Elizabeth, will certainly help in the delivering and care of Elizabeth’s newborn, just prior to experiencing a similar event herself. 

Mary enters Elizabeth’s home, and greets Elizabeth.  The instant Elizabeth hears the pregnant-virginal Mary, Elizabeth becomes “filled with the Holy Spirit”:1-eisbacher

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit out in a loud voice (Luke 1:41).

In a charismatic moment – – talking through the divine influence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within her – – Elizabeth spontaneously erupts with a beautiful bouquet of words – – a song – – directed at Mary:

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joyBlessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45).

luke1_42_blessed_art_thou_among_women_postcard-p239058946011173125baanr_400Why is Mary “blessed”?  The word “blessed” [“makarios” in Greek] literally means “happiness” or “beatitude”.  It describes a kind of JOY which is serene, untouchable, self-contained, and independent from chance or changing circumstances of life.  

Mary is “blessed” because she heard the “Word” of God and responded to this “Word” with the gift of her WHOLE being and life!!  We too have hear the “Word” of God and are invited to join with Christ in HIS complete and total offering to God the Father as well.  Are you responding? 

In Luke, even before His birth, Jesus is identified – – as the true Lord of God’s “chosen people”.  Both Mary and Elizabeth are carrying children of destiny – – then, in the future, and forever and ever.  Kind words of love and praise are exchanged between these two women.  Together, their children, Jesus and John the Baptist, will praise God and bless each other as well – – through THEIR words and actions. 

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Elizabeth, the wife of a Temple high-priest, knew Jewish scripture well; probably better than most women of that time.  She was familiar with the verses from Deuteronomy and from the prophetess, Judith:724

Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks!” (Deuteronomy 28:4);

“Then Uzziah said to her [Judith], ‘Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies’” (Judith 13:18).

By reporting that Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you who believed”, Luke is portraying Mary as a true “believer”.  MBeliever_ary’s faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Elizabeth’s husband):

“Now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” (Luke 1:20).

Mary’s role as a true “believer” – – in Luke’s infancy narrative (Chapter 2) – – should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believedafter the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as found at the beginning of the book, the “Acts of the Apostles”:

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Mary “believed” – – from the beginning – – and never wavered!!  Can any of us claim this fact as true in our own lives?  I know I can’t – – but I definitely know and BELIEVE it is true now!! 

These few words from today’s Gospel, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45) truly characterizes Mary’s whole, entire, life.  Later in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus will VirginMary2say:

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21).

In Cana, at a wedding feast, she asks her son to intervene when the wine supply ran short.  Even though Jesus never promises to do anything, she says:

Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5)

Finally, at the Holy Cross, though she did not – – could not – – understand why Jesus, her beloved son, was being Virgin-Mary-Desktop-Backgroundtreated in such a way, she remained (and remains still) the ever-faithful disciple, staying by His side when nearly all others abandon Jesus at His greatest time of need.

Mary truly – – and fully – – “believed!!  Mary was in the thick of human life with Jesus; yet, she was “one-of-us” as well!!    She is THE model for each of us in our individual lives.  Hmm, when I believe as Mary does, I will be blessed indeed!!

To be “chosen” by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow when she said, “your will be done”.  Howe51TERX4XTRL__SL160_ver, her joy was not diminished by her sorrow – – because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and in His promises.  God gives us too, a supernatural JOY, enabling us to witness to any sorrow or pain: a JOY neither life nor death can take away.  

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The . summarize titleHoly Spirit helps reveal Jesus’ identity as the saving “God” to those who believe.  Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and “sings” to Mary her praise – – because Mary bears the promised Lord Savior, the true Messiah.  We “sing” thesehailmary-1 words of praise to Mary when we pray the “Hail Mary”.  Even John the Baptist – – the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb – – is said to recognize the presence of the Lord, showing signs of his own “voiceless” song of praise, by leaping for JOY in Elizabeth’s womb.

I sometimes feel just as Elizabeth felt when Mary arrived to her home with the unborn Lord: a total awe that our heavenly Mother AND – – Jesus Himself – – would come TO me, and to stay WITH me!  It’s is challenging for why-me1me to believe that Mary, and the Trinitarian God, can love me – – a SINNER – – with a love more than I can ever imagine!  How can this happen TO ME; I do not deserve this type and amount of love?!! 

Like Elizabeth in today’s Gospel reading, I feel honored, surprised, and in total awe with what is happening in my faith life.  However, I know that it is by God’s grace that I get everything I need in this life – – His forgiveness, an awareness, love, knowledge, and the tools and abilities I need to do good works for HIM.  Everything I possess, obtain, experience, and produce in life is a blessed gift – – a grace – – from, and to, God Himself.

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It is appropri. conclusionate in this Advent season for each of us to consider the “role” of Mary in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  Elizabeth describes Mary as the “first disciple” – – as the one who “believed” God’s “Word”, as told to her, “would be fulfilled”.  Mary’s faith enabled arc_magnificather to recognize the work of God throughout, and within, her people’s history AND in her own personal life.  Her willingness and openness to God’s “Word” and “action” in her life, allowed God to work in and through her so that salvation might come to everyone – – FOREVER!!  Because Mary abandoned her “SELF” to God as His instrument, she becomes (and is) a pure and true model and symbol of the Catholic “Universal” Church still today.  May we each be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan for salvation, allowing God to work in, with, and through each us to bring others to His redemptive salvation!

In the coming together of Mary and Elizabeth, as described in today’s Gospel, we can learn that other’s can help us recognize 00000000000000066193God’s presence and action in our own lives.  The young and pregnant Mary traveled to her cousin, Elizabeth, because Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a divine sign that everything said to Mary, by the Archangel Gabriel, would truly happen.  Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her (and ALL Israel’s) Lord in view of the fact that her unborn child, John the Baptist, leapt at the sound of Mary’s greeting.  Elizabeth and Mary rejoiced together at the wonderful things God was doing in their lives.  They each sang songs of praise; they were truly ReJOYSing!!  We too are “blessed” when we have people who help us recognize God’s “Word” and “action” in our lives.  We can be, and are, God’s instrument for others among us, Re-JOY-Sing in God’s plan for us.

Think about the times you helped others, or when other’s helped 2809861_300you, in some way.  We actually need the help of others in order to recognize God’s presence and action in our own lives.  After all, we are a “COMMUNITY OF FAITH”!!  Pray that as we share our faith with others (this is called “evangelization”), we may help others recognize God’s presence and action in their own lives.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary,
Full of Grace, Mother-Mary-and-Angel-02
The Lord is with the you.
Blessed art you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/mary3.htm#ixzz2FQ8t95t0

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♫“Mary, Did You Know …!”♫ – Luke 1:26-38†


 

Fourth 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
  • Catholic Apologetics
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am still on the road to recovery, and feeling better each day.  Thanks for all the prayers, and please continue.  I, in return, am also praying for each of your intentions.

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 Today in Catholic History:    

†   821 – Death of Theodulf, Bishop of Orléans
†   1352 – Etienne Aubert elected as Pope Innocentius VI †   1442 – Death of Pierre Cauchon, French Catholic bishop (b. 1371)
†   1837 – Birth of Adolf Daens, Belgian priest/Dutch party founder (CVP)
†   1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Optissima Pax
†   Feasts/Memorials: Gatianus of Tours; O Adonai; Our Lady of Expectation; Greek Orthodox Church – Feast of Sebastian the Martyr

(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:

 

“If there’s one sign or mark of living love it is selflessness.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One

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Today’s reflection is about the Archangel “Gabriel” visiting Mary to announce her conception and the Incarnation of the “Word” to be made flesh: Jesus.

 

(NAB Luke 1:26-38) 26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read the story of the Archangel “Gabriel’s” announcement to a young teenager, Mary, about the birth of her only son, Jesus.  This story, as presented today, is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Mark (This liturgical years Gospel writer) does not even cover the infancy narratives as well.  

On this last Sunday of Advent, the liturgy shifts from a two-week focus on John the Baptist to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Both John and Mary serve as important figures for our reflection during this season of Advent.  They each played active, involved, and instrumental roles in preparing the way for Jesus Christ.  Last week we reflected on John the Baptist’s announcement that the “Savior” was among us, although not yet recognized.  This week we reflect upon Mary’s example of faith, love, and obedience to God the Father.  These traits permitted her to receive the angel’s message that God’s Son would be born to her, as a human person, and as one of us.

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I love the infancy narratives found in Luke’s Gospel.  I have read it to my children many times throughout their CHRISTinMASS Seasons.  Reading Luke’s narrative while sitting around the home nativity scene, with its simple crib, can be a helpful way of presenting our Catholic faith to family and friends.  The symbolism of the crib brings to my mind the “mystery” and “action” of God’s love being made visible and revealed – – manifested – – in the simple poverty of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem city.  

Along with the mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation, Saint Francis loved this same infancy narrative so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223.  His “Nativity scene” (though not live) has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRISTinMASS decorations, both outside and inside the home.  What better way is there to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTinMASS?!”

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the CHRISTinMASS Nativity Scene:

It still retains its value for evangelization today. Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true CHRISTinMASS because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Corinthians 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Luke 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium. There is no other Christmas.

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Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, and carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood. We learn for instance, five things:

(1) Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.

(2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”

(3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and complementary terms possible, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she had with God (This is known, I might add, from the perfect past-participle part of speech Gabriel used.  This form was what caused Mary to be “greatly troubled” – – because that form states something special happened to her way in the past, and is now still present within her.)

(4) The son Mary will give birth to is described in “messianic” terms, learned from her famous ancestor, King David.

And finally,

(5) Her son [Jesus] will be called both the “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

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Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God (the angel) telling you that God is pleased with you??!  Mary’s initial reaction to this angel we know of as “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God”), was naturally one of surprise, and also with some obvious initial fear.  Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe.  Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.

I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction to Gabriel’s acclamation.  She places her whole self: body, heart, and soul into the hands of God.  She trusts God, and now His messenger, accepting God’s grace, gift, and responsibility – – immediately!  I believe that she is believing the message ordaining her to the Motherhood of God Himself, to become manifest in the human form of her baby boy, Jesus.  In doing so, Mary became not only the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to ALL mankind.  Now that is “awesome” indeed!!

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The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message given by the (same) Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah about the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both events, the Archangel Gabriel appears to the “future parents,” who are at first unsettled by the vision:

Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.” (Luke 1:12)

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29)

Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel NOT TO FEAR!

But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’” (Luke 1:13)

Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’” (Luke 1: 30-31)

And, after his announcement he declares:

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Both Zechariah and Mary initially objected to Gabriel’s announcement:

Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’” (Luke 1:18)

But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’” (Luke 1:34)

Finally, a sign is given to each as a confirmation of his announcement of God’s decision or purpose and plan:

But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:20)

And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.” (Luke 1:20)

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Mary questions Gabriel of “how this is possible”, for she never had any sexual relations.  Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response.  Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus.  The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the “power” of God.  Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He IS the “Son of God!”

Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, then why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!

Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence for the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God the Father.  Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God the Father.  Mary is thus the true model of discipleship for all Catholics.  She believed God!  We should believe God!  She learned to “have no fear”!  We should learn to “have no fear”!

 

Gabriel puts a particular focus and emphasis on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of DavidANDSon of God”.  In verse 32 of today’s reading, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”.  Later, in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.”  ”Most High” is a title for God which was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts).  You can see each of these references by reading Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.

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In my thirty plus years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting. All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear in regards to delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital.  (Thank God they didn’t realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times than them – – but I could bluff well.)  Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age.  Once, I even took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years old (YES, 13!); she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home.  To make the matters worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ended in an abortion.  (You do the math!)  Now, surprisingly, this young mother was probably only a year or two younger than Mary when she became pregnant with Jesus!

I am sure Mary had some fear – – what woman wouldn’t!  I have yet to see a woman in labor without some fear; and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control).  I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age mind.  Examples: How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy?  How would her own family treat her?  Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know that she used cloth because the Holy Family was “eco-friendly.”)  What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph?  Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery? (This was his right per Jewish law.)  Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?  

She was a young girl of about fifteen.  Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood?  I would think not.  Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child! (Hee, hee! – – Just had to laugh on this one.)

There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle.  Yet Mary said “YES” with little hesitation! She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body!  Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new “covenant” of God – – coming to fruition with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her unique Divine Son.

I have to believe that God is not only a benevolent, merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment. Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.”  Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity.  Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment?  Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you?  Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise.  Others, including the “tepid” (lukewarm) of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell.  (I am saying “yes” too, and am looking forward to a crown for me as well – – have you?)

In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Mystery” of the Rosary.  It is called the “Annunciation”, wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel.  In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth.  Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Luke says these specific words when Gabriel appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth, Mary, for a specific purpose – – to offer Mary an insight about her cousins husbands strange infirmity of not being able to speak since his time of priestly service six months ago; and to alert her to something marvelous: her cousin, Elizabeth, is also pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit – – and is already in her “sixth month”.

This information inspired Mary to go help her cousin in the last three months of her “elderly” pregnancy. (This, by the way, is the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.)

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Now, one of the challenges of our Catholic faith is to recognize the mysteries of God’s plan for each of us and to inspire us to remain open to God’s “will” and God’s actions in our personal world experience.  Filled with God’s grace, Mary models for us the kind of faith needed (and desired by our Lord for us) to cooperate in God’s personal plan of salvation for each of us.  Like Mary, we are given the awesome opportunity to cooperate in God’s saving plan.  On this final Sunday of Advent, our Gospel invites us to consider how our preparations for CHRISTinMASS are making us more aware of God’s grace working in our lives today.

Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility?  To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion.  This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God.  She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us!  Yet, think about this – – realize that each of us is chosen by God in very specific and important ways as well.  We all have been given many gifts, graces, and talents from God the Father.  AND, importantly, we are expected to share them with the world.  As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others – – to help them serve God to their fullest.

Please identify some of the talents and treasures God has given you.  In what ways could, and should, these talents be used in helping others?  Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her.  Will you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did – – without question or pause?!

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To summarize: We have all probably been familiar with the story of the Annunciation for some time.  It is fitting that we recall how God the Father announced the birth of Jesus as we make our final preparations for our celebration of the coming birth of Jesus Christ.  The Archangel Gabriel visited Mary, a virgin “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.  Mary greeted the angel’s news with wonder and awe.  She asked how it could be possible that she could give birth to a child.  In his reply, the angel Gabriel announced the seemingly impossible reality: the child to be born would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and would be God the Father’s own, and only-begotten Son.  Gabriel informs Mary of another miracle; her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant despite having been thought to be “barren” due to her old age (some say in her 80’s).  Mary’s response to the angel is her personal fiat, (means “Let it be done” – -used also as a formal or official authorization of something).  Her response is the best example of complete faith, trust, love, and obedience to God the Father.

For me, the story of the “Annunciation” should bring to one’s mind God the Father’s amazing and supernatural action in salvation history.  God the Father chose a young human person, Mary, to give birth to His Son so that ALL humanity would know God’s kindness, mercy, and salvation.  Thus, Jesus was born as one of us, fully human AND yet, also fully divine.  This is the “mystery” we prepare to celebrate this and every CHRISTinMASS Season, the mystery of His Incarnation, becoming truly human.  In the model of our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, pray that all of us will come to recognize God’s saving plan for us and respond with obedience, trust, hope, and love as she did!

What have you been doing to prepare for CHRISTinMASS?  How have these preparations helped you to celebrate better the “central mystery” of CHRISTinMASS, the Incarnation?  The Gospel today talks about how Mary was prepared for her role in Christ’s birth.  What enabled Mary to say “yes” to God?  Please pray that God’s “grace” will enable you to be more faithful and obedient to God.  This is mt CHRISTinMASS wish for each of you.

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Magnificat

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.  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.

 

“Oral Tradition” Found in Holy Scripture

 

You, then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2). RSV

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2) KJV

 

“‘Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1: 12). RSV

“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” (2 John 1:12).KJV 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Poverty

 

Why do Catholics today find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

Why did Catholics in Saint Francis’ time find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

What do you know of Saint Francis’ “romance and marriage” with Lady Poverty?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 18 & 19 of 26:

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

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19.  Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.  Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others.  Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.

“Well, Well, Well, Let Me Tell You Woman!” – John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42 (5-42)†


 

   

“Third Sunday of Lent” 

 

 

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 have been chosen to be on another “ACTS” retreat team at my local parish.  For those that do not know, ACTS is a parish-based retreat similar to cursillo-type retreats.  ACTS is an acronym meaning Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service.  They are some of the most moving and spirit based movements one can experience.  I have been on many and each one hits me differently.  I can’t wait for the retreat.  

 

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The latest about Fr. Corapi on his forced leave of absence.  I received an e-mail from Santa Cruz Media.  Their official “Statement” relative to Fr. Corapi’s suspension included the following paragraph:

“We have consulted with a number of canon lawyers.  They have assured us that the actions of the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas are, on several points of canon law, illicit.  It is our fervent hope that The Dallas Charter will be changed because of false accusations like this.  There is no evidence at this time that Fr. Corapi did anything wrong, only the unsubstantiated rant of a former employee, who, after losing her job with this office, physically assaulted me and another employee and promised to “destroy” Father Corapi.  We all continue to pray for this person, and we ask you to do the same.”

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1191 – Death of Pope Clement III
†   1309 – Pope Clement V excommunicates Venice and all its population.
†   1329 – Pope John XXII issues his ‘In Agro Dominico’ condemning some writings of Meister Eckhart as heretical.
†   1378 – Death of Gregory XI, [Pierre R the Beaufort], last French Pope (1370-78)
†   1642 – The sixth Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Joseph takes his office.
†   1935 – Birth of Fr. Stanley Rother, Roman Catholic Priest, Martyr and Missionary to Guatemala (d. 1981)
†   1962 – Archbishop Rummel ends race segregation in New Orlean Catholic school
†   Memorial/Feasts: Rupert of Salzburg

(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 greatest kindness one can render to any man consists in leading him from error to truth.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus revealing himself to the Samaritan woman at the well, as recorded in John. (The “shorter” form: John 4:5-15,19b-26,39a,40-42)

 

 

(NAB John 4: 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42) 5 Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. 

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.  9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”  (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.)  10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  11 (The woman) said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?  12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”  13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

I can see that you are a prophet.  20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”  21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews.  23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.  24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”  25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.”  26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” 

39 Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.  40 When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  41 Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 42 and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

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Today, and for the next two Sundays, we read from John’s Gospel instead of from Matthew’s at Mass.  The Gospel of John is the only Gospel not assigned to a particular liturgical year (A, B, or C). Instead, readings from John’s Gospel are interspersed throughout our three-year liturgical cycle and calendar. (We are presently in Cycle A; predominately Matthew’s Gospel.)

Also, for today’s Mass, the Deacon or Priest has the option of reading a long and short form of the Gospel.  I have chosen to comment predominately on the short form of the reading, otherwise, this reflection would be twice as long.

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Let me give you a little history and geography lesson for the three places in today’s reading/reflection that may be unfamiliar to you.

“Sychar” is a place that St. Jerome identified with “Shechem”.  St. Jerome, in his research while translating Holy Scripture to Latin from the original Greek discovered this link between the two names Syriac manuscripts.

Per biblical scholars, the mountain in verse 20 of today’s Gospel is believed to be Mount Gerizim.  A temple was built on the mountain in the fourth century B.C. by Samaritans.  

“Jacob’s well” was about a mile and a half from the nearest town (Sychar).  The well was located in a strategic fork of the road between Samaria and Galilee.  It wasn’t easy to draw water from this well as it was over a hundred feet deep, and Jesus did not bring a rope or bucket. 

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In today’s Gospel, the dialogue between Jesus and a Samaritan woman is among the most surprising for me.  A conversation between a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman rarely, if ever, happened.  Jesus, a devoutly observant Jew of that time (DAH!), was expected (almost required by law) to avoid conversations with any woman in public, regardless of their nationality.  

On top of the societal norms barring men from talking to women in public, the long-held dislike and hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans should have prevented conversation between the two as well.  The woman herself alludes to the break from Jewish tradition:

How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (John 4:9)

However, not only does Jesus talk with the woman, He also asks to share her drinking vessel.  Touching her cup, or her, is an action that would make Him unclean according to Jewish law.  (Samaritans must have had major “Kooties”!)

The history of the Samaritan people is quite interesting.  They originated in the period of the conquest of Samaria by the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C., as found in 2 Kings 17:

“The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. They took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities.  When they first settled there, they did not venerate the LORD, so he sent lions among them that killed some of their number.  A report reached the king of Assyria: ‘The nations whom you deported and settled in the cities of Samaria do not know how to worship the God of the land, and he has sent lions among them that are killing them, since they do not know how to worship the God of the land.’  The king of Assyria gave the order, ‘Send back one of the priests whom I deported, to go there and settle, to teach them how to worship the God of the land.’  So one of the priests who had been deported from Samaria returned and settled in Bethel, and taught them how to venerate the LORD.  But these peoples began to make their own gods in the various cities in which they were living; in the shrines on the high places which the Samarians had made, each people set up gods.  Thus the Babylonians made Marduk and his consort; the men of Cuth made Nergal; the men of Hamath made Ashima; the men of Avva made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the men of Sepharvaim immolated their children by fire to their city gods, King Hadad and his consort Anath.” (2 Kings 17:24-31)

Samaritans shared Jewish ancestry, but Samaritans had intermarried with the Jewish inhabitants and “foreigners” during their rule under the Assyrians.  Like the Jews, the Samaritans believed that a Messiah would come.  However, Samaritan religion not only included the worship of Yahweh, it was also influenced by the worship of other gods.  

The Samaritans did integrate rather quickly with the Jewish people of the region in a very limited and somewhat precarious way.  After the Babylonian captivity, they tried to ally themselves with the Jewish people for political reasons, and to contribute to the rebuilding of the Temple, but the Jewish people refused.  These two groups of people seemed to be always unfriendly, and sometimes hostile towards each other.

 

The initial dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is better understood if we recognize the importance of water, especially in an arid climate such as Palestine.  First, the Samaritan woman comprehends Jesus’ promise of “living water” in the literal sense, as “flowing” water.  There was no flowing water in her area that was easily accessible.  The daily trip to the well by the women of the community was of vital importance. Most women normally trekked to the water well in the early morning when the day was much cooler. 

Why did this woman come to the well at the hottest time of the day – – noon?  A realistic expectation for her late arrival at the well, when all the other women had already gone, is that she is an outcast within her own Samaritan community (She was an adulterer).  She, in essence, tells Jesus that she is an outcast because of her “many husbands.”

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Water in the arid land of Palestine was extremely scarce.  And we all know that water brings about life in its beauty.  When the Israelites complained about lack of water in the wilderness, God instructed Moses to “strike the rock” and a stream of fresh living water gushed out:

“I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.  Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.” This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus17:6).

The image of “living water” is used throughout Holy Scripture as a symbol of God’s wisdom, a wisdom that imparts life and blessing to all who receive it.

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 13:14). 

Jesus offered this woman His “living water”, the water of life: the revelation that Jesus brings.  This Samaritan woman thinks Jesus is talking of “flowing” waters instead, which is so much more desirable – – “sweeter” – – than the stagnant cistern water which she had to use every day.  The water she used had to be collected the few rains they experienced in the area, and then sat gathering sand, dirt, parasites, trash, and other waist products.  However, the “flowing” water this woman considered so supreme and sweet is not anywhere near as supreme and sweet as God’s revelation within us, nor is it as refreshing to the soul.

For me, it is interesting that John’s method of recording such a misunderstanding in what the Samaritan woman understood from the words of Jesus’, reminds me of another verse from earlier in John’s Gospel:

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’” (John 3:3.)

One can’t truly “see”, or understand the kingdom of God – – along with Jesus’ words and actions in His kingdom, – – unless “born again”.  The word attached to “born” (again) is a Greek adverb that means both “from above” and “again.”  Jesus meant this word to be understood as “from above”, – – as with and in the Holy Spirit – – and not “again”, as being born “twice”.  I am sure there are a lot of Protestants saying, HMM right now. 

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As I said earlier, Samaritans and Israelites did not trust or like each other. (It seems this still is the case between the Palestinians and Jewish people in the Middle East areas still today.)  

For the woman to say, “sir” toward Jesus is impressive for me.  “Sir” comes from the Greek word “kyrios” meaning “master” or “lord”.  The word “sir” is a respectful mode of address for either a human being or a deity, and the Samaritan woman’s meaning is further revealed in verse 19 of today’s reading:

The woman said to him, Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.” (John 4:19).

Sir” is a word sometimes used in the Septuagint (the Torah) for the Hebrew “adonai”, substituted for the tetragrammaton “YHWH”.

 

Jesus captures the woman’s attention with His reply to her question about Him being greater than Jacob of the Old Testament.  He IS greater than Jacob!  Jesus Christ is capable of quenching her thirst – – once and for all!  Jesus offers a “drink” of changed through sanctifying grace; a grace that works in each of us through the Holy Spirit.  Sanctifying grace allows us the ability to share in God’s own life, and Him in ours, through the presence of the “Advocate” – – the Holy Spirit – – in our individual souls and hearts.  What a supreme and great gift to receive from Him, to be in Him, and Him in us!

 

This Samaritan woman became aware that she was speaking to someone of authority.  So, she asks an important question indirectly that affected the religious life of the two groups of people:

“Where was the right place to worship God?”

The Jewish people said “only Jerusalem would do”!  The Samaritans believed the shrine on Mount Gerizim was also legitimate, basing their claim on verses from Genesis:

“The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’  So Abram built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7)

“Then God said: ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.’” (Genesis 22:2)

He set up a memorial stone there and invoked ‘El, the God of Israel.’” (Genesis 33:20)

Jesus not only answers her question, but also confirms the teachings of the prophets, and, further affirms His revealed truth.  The Samaritans, not being Israelites (God’s chosen people) are in the dark about many of God’s plans.  (They were not “in-the-know”!)  The Samaritans do not accept any revelation that is NOT found in the first five books of Holy Scripture – – the Law of Moses – – The Torah.  On the other hand, the Jewish people are closer to the truth since they accepted the whole, the entirety, of the Old Testament. 

Both, the Samaritans and the Jewish people, needed to open themselves to the new revelation found in, and of Jesus Christ.  Both religious communities were awaiting the “Messiah” – – the true dwelling place of God among men.  Jesus is the Messiah, the new Temple for both communities:

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’” (John 2:19)

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The mountain in verse 20 of today’s Gospel is believed to be Mount Gerizim.  A temple was built on the mountain in the fourth century B.C. by Samaritans.  The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy mentions this mountain and the building of a structure:

“When, moreover, you have crossed the Jordan, besides setting up on Mount Ebal these stones concerning which I command you today, and coating them with plaster” (Deuteronomy 27:4).

Mount Ebal in Deuteronomy is the Jewish peoples’ term for Mount Gerizim. 

Under King’s David and Solomon, the Temple in Jerusalem was designed, funded, built, and worshipped in.  Neither Temples in Gerizim and Jerusalem exist any longer, nor are they needed!  As I just said, Jesus is the new Temple of God.  By accepting Him in body, blood, soul, and divinity, we are offering to Him worship from the heart; an offering the Holy Spirit of God stirs people to bestow. 

 

Being “in Spirit and truth” (verse 23) is not a reference to an interior and personal worship within one’s own mind and body.  The “Spirit” is THE Holy Spirit, given by God to us as a grace, which reveals His truth to us and enables us to worship God in appropriate ways.  The evangelist John qualifies this concept and “truth” in two consecutive verses found in the long-form of today’s Gospel reading:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate  to be with you always, the Spirit of truth,  which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it.  But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17).

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Due to their different paths in history and religious focus, the Samaritans expected a “prophet” Like Moses to come, and take them on a new “exodus” to paradise,  They did not expect a “Messianic” king from the house of David.  Their expectations of a new “prophet” stems from their tradition, history, and a particular verse in Deuteronomy:

“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen.” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

 

This “adulteress and outcast” Samaritan woman becomes a “disciple” of Jesus Christ!  Even with her past history as an outcast in her community, and her not being a Jew, as Jesus is, she still gains the courage to return to her town telling others of her revelational discovery in the Jewish Jesus’ words.  This Samaritan woman then leads other non-Jew Samaritans to Jesus.  Though Jesus does not meet her initial expectation, thinking He is a prophet, she’s now knows she had truly found the “Messiah”.  Her belief was so strong and convincing that members of the Samaritan community return with her to meet Jesus personally and many of them come to believe in Him, and follow Him.

 

The Samaritan woman in today’s story not only comes to acknowledge Jesus Christ being someone of importance, but also acknowledges her sins.  She accepts the “true” teaching about worshipping God the Father in “spirit and truth”.  Though she shows and demonstrate favorability to Jesus Christ, she still had to grow to recognize Him as the “Messiah”.  Seeing this favorability emitting from her, Jesus reveals that He IS the “Messiah” she and her people had been awaiting:

 “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” (John 4:26)

 

Jesus could not be more direct in verse 26, when He declares, “I am He”!  These three simple words is rooted in the well-known Old Testament name of Yahweh – – I am”.  Jesus declares He is the Messiah, AND He evokes the words Yahweh used to reveal Himself to Moses:

“God replied, “I am who am.”  Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14),

These words by Jesus are used to indicate a revelation not only of His being the Messiah, but also of His divinity:

But he said to them, ‘It is IDo not be afraid.’” (John 6:20),

“That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.  For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.  So Jesus said (to them), When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me.” (John 8:24, 28),

“Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.’” (John 8:58),

“From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.” (John 13:19),

“They answered him, ‘Jesus the Nazorean.’ He said to them, ‘I AM.’  Judas his betrayer was also with them.  When he said to them, ‘I AM,’ they turned away and fell to the ground.  Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’” (John 18:5-6, 8). 

Mark even makes a reference to “I AM” and His divinity in an indirect way:

They had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’” (Mark 6:50).

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Jesus Christ is displaying and teaching to us “evangelization at work” in His conversation with a lowly Samaritan Woman.  She was enthusiastic to His words and eager to learn. 

St. Augustine understood Jesus’ role as an Evangelist when he wrote:

“The same thing happens today with those who are outside, who are not Christians: they receive tidings of Christ through Christian friends; like that woman, they learn of Christ through the Church; then they come to Christ, that is, they believe in Christ through this report, and then Jesus stays two days among them and many more believe, and believe firmly, that he indeed is the Saviour of the world” (St. Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 15, 33).

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There are several reasons for the importance of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  First, the woman changed in heart, mind, and soul.  She gained a belief in Jesus Christ as the true “Messiah”.  Through Jesus, she came to recognize her sins.  

This woman, who was deemed to be so immoral as to be an outcast in her own society, becomes a stout and fervent evangelist to her own people.  She went from being a “sinner” to a believer and messenger of God’s word; goes from being a “foreigner” to a loved member of the family!

Finally, the dialogue from the Samaritan people that came to see this “prophet named Jesus” is a foretaste of the type and beauty of the “open” community that will be created among those who believe openly and truly in Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”.

The Samaritan woman gained a gift – – a grace – – based on faith.  Faith comes from the Holy Spirit indwelling in each of us, and acting in and through each of us, individually.  I came across a nice little comment about faith that I would like to share:

“Faith comes to us as a grace, a gift from the Holy Spirit.  We do not earn faith or create it out of our own efforts and talents.  The Holy Spirit plants an attraction to God in our hearts as well as the faith we need to come to God.  It is a strong yet gentle impulse that honors our freedom and fills us with gratitude.”  (Alfred McBride, Truth for Your Mind, Love for Your Heart, Our Sunday Visitor)

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In Summary, why do we have this reading at this time of the year?  Our Lenten season is one of repentance.  It is a season during which we are called to reflect upon, and to live acutely and respectfully, the promises of Baptism.  The water well, and all the talk about water in today’s Gospel reading, should immediately call to mind in us the Sacrament of Baptism.  As the Samaritan woman was changed in heart, mind, and soul, – – “converted,” – – and then sent on a mission to her community as an evangelist, we too are converted and sent by our Baptism to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to others on a daily basis.

The Catholic Church’s Magisterium teaches that we become true worshipers of God through Baptism:

“By baptism men are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ: they die with Him, are buried with Him, and rise with Him; they receive the spirit of adoption as sons ‘in which we cry: Abba, Father’ (Romans 8 :15), and thus become true adorers whom the Father seeks.” (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 6)

 

Do you thirst for God and for the life of the Holy Spirit within you?  Reflect upon the importance of Baptism to you.  How is Jesus’ discourse with the woman at the well like Baptism?  (Hint: Jesus knows the woman’s sin and forgives her. The woman comes to know Jesus as the Messiah.  And, the woman invites others to meet Jesus.)  

Jesus broke through the obstacles, impediments, and walls of prejudice, hatred, aggression, and conviction to bring peace, love, and reconciliation to all people – – Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles – – alike.  He demonstrated the universality (Kathlicos – Catholic) of the Gospel in word AND deed.  No one is barred from the love of God and His grace of salvation.  There is only one thing that can keep us from God and His redeeming love – – OURSELVES, by turning away from Him.

 

 

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Psalm 95
 “Sing joyfully in the presence of the Lord.”

 

“Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; cry out to the rock of our salvation.
Let us greet him with a song of praise, joyfully sing out our psalms.
Enter, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For this is our God, whose people we are, God’s well-tended flock. Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert.
There your ancestors tested me; they tried me though they had seen my works.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Francis Faà di Bruno (1825-1888)

 

Francis, the last of 12 children, was born in northern Italy into an aristocratic family. He lived at a particularly turbulent time in history, when anti-Catholic and anti-papal sentiments were especially strong.

After being trained as a military officer, Francis was spotted by King Victor Emmanuel II, who was impressed with the young man’s character and learning. Invited by the king to tutor his two young sons, Francis agreed and prepared himself with additional studies. But with the role of the Church in education being a sticking point for many, the king was forced to withdraw his offer to the openly Catholic Francis and, instead, find a tutor more suitable to the secular state.

Francis soon left army life behind and pursued doctoral studies in Paris in mathematics and astronomy; he also showed a special interest in religion and asceticism. Despite his commitment to the scholarly life, Francis put much of his energy into charitable activities. He founded the Society of St. Zita for maids and domestic servants, later expanding it to include unmarried mothers, among others. He helped establish hostels for the elderly and poor. He even oversaw the construction of a church in Turin that was dedicated to the memory of Italian soldiers who had lost their lives in the struggle over the unification of Italy.

Wishing to broaden and deepen his commitment to the poor, Francis, then well into adulthood, studied for the priesthood. But first he had to obtain the support of Pope Pius IX to counteract the opposition to his own archbishop’s difficulty with late vocations. Francis was ordained at the age of 51.

As a priest, he continued his good works, sharing his inheritance as well as his energy. He established yet another hostel, this time for prostitutes. He died in Turin on March 27, 1888, and was beatified 100 years later.

Comment:

It wasn’t Francis’ lack of scholarly ability or deep-down goodness that almost kept him from the priesthood, but his bishop’s distrust of “late vocations.” Until the later part of the 20th century, most candidates for the priesthood entered the seminary right out of grade school. Today no bishop would refuse a middle-aged applicant—especially someone whose care for people in need is constant. Francis is a holy reminder that God’s call to reassess our life’s direction can reach us at any age.

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

God of hosts”.

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

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Eucharist I

 

What kind of nourishment do you seek when you receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist?

How do you use “Communion” to renew your pledge to sacrifice for the Body of Christ?

How do you use “Communion” to renew your pledge to accept the Body of Christ, with all her limitations and weaknesses?

While we speak of receiving the Consecrated Bread and Wine, do we include adoration of the Divinity in our prayers at Communion?

In what way(s) is the Eucharist for healing?

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:


 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold, Jesus Christ is Eight Days Old!” – Luke 2:22-40†


  

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2011

 

General Intention: That the family may be respected by all in its identity and that its irreplaceable contribution to all of society be recognized.

 

Missionary Intention: That in the mission territories where the struggle against disease is most urgent, Christian communities may witness to the presence of Christ to those who suffer.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   672 – Death of Saint Chad
†   962 – Translatio imperii: Pope John XII crowns Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, the first Holy Roman Emperor in nearly 40 years.
†   1119 – Guido di Borgogna elected Pope Callistus II
†   1613 – Birth of Noël Chabanel, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
†   1649 – Birth of Benedict XIII, [Pierfrancesco Orsini], Italy, 245th pope (1724-30)
†   1769 – Death of Clement XIII, [Carlo Rezzonico], Pope (1758-69), at age 75
†   1854 – Pope Pius IX encyclical “On persecution of Armenians”
†   1882 – The Knights of Columbus are formed in New Haven, Connecticut.
†   1906 – Pope encyclical against separation of church & state
†   1925 – Birth of David Abell Wood, priest
†   1974 – Pope Paul VI encyclical “To Honor Mary”
†   1983 – Pope John Paul II names 18 new cardinals
†   1986 – Dalai Lama meets Pope John Paul II in India
†   1995 – Death of Andre Frossard, French publicist (Defense of Pope), at age 80
†   Feasts/Memorials: Candlemas; The Presentation of the Lord; The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; St. Adelbald; St. Cornelius
†   Eastern (Byzantine) Catholic Church: Encounter of our Lord with Simeon – Major Feast Day
†   World Day for Consecrated Life (also February 3 in the United States).

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Catholic Church’s are prayer-conditioned for your (eternal) enjoyment!”

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 10 of 13 Parts

John Paul II, in his Message in 2002, questions this and challenges us to see to it that we never fail in our faithfulness to our vocation and Profession:

If you are truly driven by the Spirit to reach the perfection of charity in your own secular state, “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity marked by a minimalist ethic and superficial religiosity” (Nove millennio ineunte 31). You must be sincerely committed to that “high standard of ordinary Christian living” to which I invited the faithful at the end of the Great Jubilee of 2000 (Ibid).

Let us be called, brothers and sisters, by these exhortations to renew our commitment and walk with courage and humility in the ways of the Lord.

It is all about, dearest brothers and sisters:

  • examining our own faith
  • examining our faithfulness to our vocation and Profession of Evangelical Life
  • examining and renewing the authenticity of our permanent “conversion”
(Continued on next published blog)
From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ presentation in the Temple.

 

22 When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” 24 and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.  25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.  26 It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.  27 He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, 28 he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: 29 “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.  38 And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.  39 When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.  (NAB Luke 2:22-40)

 

The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows that Joseph and Mary were devout Jews and faithful followers of the Mosaic Law (Like we really need more proof!).  Just as John [the Baptist] had been incorporated into the Jewish faithful of Israel through his circumcision (just a few months earlier), the infant Jesus becomes a member of God’s “chosen people” through the same action of His own “sacred” circumcision.   By Mosaic Law, it is at this time that a Jewish baby received his name:  in this case, “Jesus”, meaning “God Saves.”   Jesus is now considered part of the “chosen people” of God, in the same respect and distinction religiously as Simeon, Anna, and even the parents of John:

Both [John’s parents] were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly” (Luke 1:6)

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”  (Luke 2:25)

“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.”  (Luke 2:36-37).

 

Any woman who gave birth to a boy was unable to touch anything sacred (except her husband – [he, he]), or to enter the temple area by reason of her “legal” impurity for forty days according to the Mosaic Law:

 ”Tell the Israelites: When a woman has conceived and gives birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, with the same uncleanness as at her menstrual period.   On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in becoming purified of her blood; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled.  If she gives birth to a girl, for fourteen days she shall be as unclean as at her menstruation, after which she shall spend sixty-six days in becoming purified of her blood.  “When the days of her purification for a son or for a daughter are fulfilled, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent a yearling lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering.  The priest shall offer them up before the LORD to make atonement for her, and thus she will be clean again after her flow of blood.  Such is the law for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl child.  If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, the one for a holocaust and the other for a sin offering.  The priest shall make atonement for her, and thus she will again be clean.”  (Leviticus 12:2-8)

At the end of this period she was required by Mosaic Law to offer a year-old lamb as a burnt offering, and a turtle-dove or young pigeon as an atonement of sin.  The Holy Family could not afford the customary offering of a lamb.  According to today’s Gospel, Mary’s offering instead was two turtle-doves or two young pigeons (as allowed by Mosaic Law).  So, is this proof of Mary and Joseph led a humble and austere life?

 Yep, Jesus was born in an ordinary home without many (if any) extras or luxuries. Like all God-fearing parents, Mary and Joseph raised Jesus in a belief, fear, and wisdom of God through their Judaic religious faith, practices, and traditions.  With such devout parents, Jesus, being obedient to His mother and stepfather, grew in wisdom and grace.

 

They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem (which means “city of peace”) to present him to God.  As the firstborn son, Jesus was consecrated to God as the Law required:

Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.  You shall dedicate to the LORD every son that opens the womb; and all the male firstlings of your animals shall belong to the LORD.”  (Exodus 13:2, 12) 

 

The “Law” further stipulated that any firstborn son should be redeemed by the parents through a payment of five shekels. 

You shall take five shekels for each individual, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel.   Give this silver to Aaron and his sons as ransom for the extra number.” (Numbers 3:47-48) 

Five shekels amounted to just about 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of pure silver.   The probable reason for the Temple obligation of “redeeming” the firstborn son through the giving to the Temple expressly “five shekels” is found in the Book of Numbers:

“Every living thing that opens the womb, whether of man or of beast, such as are to be offered to the LORD shall be yours; but you must let the first-born of man, as well as of unclean animals, be redeemed.   The ransom for a boy is to be paid when he is a month old; it is fixed at five silver shekels according to the sanctuary standard, twenty gerahs to the shekel.”  (Numbers 18:15-16)

I found a couple of possible explanations for “five shekels” of silver being used for the regulation just mentioned above.  One of which I found elsewhere in Holy Scripture, and the other in Wikipedia.  

First, let’s look at Holy Scripture.  In Genesis, Rachel’s firstborn son, Joseph (You know, the one with the fancy coat) was sold by his brothers for twenty silver pieces (which is equivalent of “five shekels” per my Bible commentaries).

“They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt.”  (Genesis 37:28)

This may have established that the “standard price” for a firstborn son being “five shekels” for the ransom to “redeem” the child.  Interesting for me is that “twenty pieces of silver” was the exact price paid to Judas for betraying Jesus.  Could this infer the payment required to redeem us?!

The Second source for this amount of money comes from the “Zohar”, a book from a Jewish “mystical” belief known as Kabbalah.  Per the “Zohar”, the number five (5) is symbolic of the Hebrew letter “hei”, which was added to Abram’s name (becoming Abraham) when the time came for him to father Isaac, – – and the Jewish nation – – as written in the Book of Genesis:

No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations.”  (Genesis 17:5)

God’s choosing of the Jewish people as His “nation”, and the consecration and redemption of the firstborn alludes to Abraham.  Thus, FIVE (5) shekels is the price for redemption.

 

What we DO know for certain, is that Jesus is presented to God at the Temple in Jerusalem as a baby; paying for the privilege of being consecrated to the service of God, as was all firstborn sons of the Jewish faithful.  Jesus however, also paid for OUR privilege of being saved from sin and death through His human pain, suffering, and death on that Holy Tree some thirty odd years later into His human and earthly life.  He will again be presented in this same place, this SAME Temple, at the end of His earthly ministry.  At this time Jesus will be presented not as the newborn infant, but instead as the “Messiah Christ!!”  Still a consecrated servant of God, Jesus offered far greater than a few coins to pay for His privilege of servicing God, and redeeming His people.  He offered His life and death – – for our “redemption”. 

Simeon (His name translates to “God has heard” – WOW!) was not a priest, but instead simply just a devout worshiper, always in the Temple.  He reminds me of an elderly gentleman I know (named John) whom I see at my local parish church nearly every single time I am there.  This man is always observed picking up little pieces of trash, straightening books, cleaning the parking lot, pruning the church and grotto flowers, dusting,  – – and of course praying! 

Though not a priest, Simeon obviously was close to his (and ours) loving God in the simple and miraculous fact that he received a prophetic vision that very few fellow “sinful humans” are privileged to experience.  This vision was given to him directly from God (no messenger here), and it was about the “Messiah”.  Simeon here (and Anna later) speaks about the child “Savior” that all faithful Jews were awaiting with anticipation.  Jesus is the ONE awaited “child” who is the “Redeemer” of Jerusalem as prophesized in the Old Testament.  Simeon recognized Jesus as “a sign that will be contradicted” – – a Messiah “destined for the fall and rise of many.” (Luke 2:34)

Simeon and Anna represent the hopes and expectations of faithfully devout Jews who were looking forward to the full and true restoration of God’s rule in Israel.  The birth of Jesus joyfully and gloriously brought these hopes to fulfillment for these two faithful servants of God (and for many others also).

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Simeon prophesied that Jesus was to be “a light for revealing to the Gentiles“.  Five centuries earlier Malachi prophesied such an event (Malachi 3:1).  The Holy Spirit always reveals the presence of the Lord to those who are open, receptive and ready to receive him.  Do you recognize the presence of the Lord within and working through you?

How exciting it would be to actually see someone of a divine nature you had actually hoped and prayed for over many years, and to actually recognize that divinity in the infant child fully and truly alive and present before you.  In his excitement Simeon extols openly and publicly a beautiful prayer:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:29-30)

He is now ready to die – – ready to be with God in paradise – – because he has found “salvation” in his very presence on earth.  A salvation he had awaited his entire life.

I still remember the instance I looked at my wife on our wedding day, and each of my new-born children in the delivery room.  The excitement and happiness I felt at those moments was so elating.  Would not gazing upon the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord, have to be many times greater than these most profound moments I witnessed in my life?  I cannot wait to gaze upon you, my Lord and my all

The Jewish “Presentation” ritual, along with the associated circumcision of males, and the redemption of the first-born, points to the fact that children are truly and fully gifts from God. So why are large numbers of infants killed daily in an infanticide erroneously called “therapeutic abortions”?  There is absolutely NOTHING “therapeutic” about this tragedy! 

Remember, Simeon was not alone in recognizing the Lord’s presence in the temple.  Anna, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Anna was a beautifully spiritual woman.  Through her faith and actions, she presents a model of devoutness, righteousness, and saintliness to the trust, hope, and faith in God as we advance in age, especially into the elder years.  Advancing age, and the tragedies and disappointments of life, can easily make us sad, cynical, and hopeless if we do not have our hope and trust in eternal paradise with God firmly rooted into our soul.  Anna’s hope and trust in God and His promises grew in her with age.  It resulted in a bountiful harvest of spirituality blossoming in, through, and out of her soul and heart.  She never ceased to worship God in faith and to pray with a hope and trust in God’s plan of salvation.  

 

When reading Simeon’s prophesies, they are so somber to me.  “Many will reject Jesus.”  Even in His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus (and the Holy Family) was ostracized by neighbors who may have thought Jesus was simply an illegitimate child of Mary, whom herself was merely thought of by many “neighbors” as an “adulterer” while still only “betrothed” to Joseph.  Jesus brought a new “covenant” to all people (including His town-folks) regardless of their status, nationality, or even beliefs, past actions, and/or behaviors. 

 “And you yourself a sword will pierce” (from verse 35) is so dismal, depressing, and prophetic for me!  Who would want their mother to be in pain?  However, Mary herself will not be untouched by the various reactions to the life and teachings of her loving child, Jesus.  Her gift of being the mother of the Lord will be challenged by her son, Jesus!!  Jesus Himself describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it.”

“While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.  He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’   (Luke 11:27-28)

“He was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.’  He said to them in reply, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.’”  (Luke 8:20-21).

Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph.  He prophesied to Mary about the destiny of Jesus, and the suffering she would undergo for His sake.  The Virgin Mother was given the “blessedness” of being the true mother of the Son of God (and thus the mother of God as well).  That blessedness was also a two-edged sword, piercing her heart as her beloved Son suffered and died upon the Holy Tree.  She received simultaneously – – a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow – – as her son received a crown of thorns.

Jesus did not come wielding a sword, or destructive weapon of any kind.  Yet, He dies at the hands of others.  Weapons of evil and destruction are wielded against Him.  Instead of a destructive weapon, Jesus wielded a CON-structive weapon against evil – – His “good news” – – the Gospel of salvation!  Loyalty to Jesus leads each of us to a pointed sword pressing against our “hearts” and souls: – – our relationships, our reputations, our ambitions, and even our monetary and earthly treasures.

 

The Jerusalem Temple is long gone, leaving a simple piece of one wall as its only physical remnant to the past.  However, Jesus is now the NEW temple: (John 1:14; 2:19-22).  

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)   

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’  The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking about the temple of his body.  Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:19-22)   

In the Old Testament God manifested his presence in the “pillar of cloud” by day and the “pillar of fire” at night as He led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness.  God’s magnificent and supreme glory came to dwell in a visible way over the ark and tabernacle:

Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling, the Israelites would set out on their journey.  But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward; only when it lifted did they go forward.  In the daytime the cloud of the LORD was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud by the whole house of Israel in all the stages of their journey.”  (Exodus 40:34-38)

When the first temple was built in Jerusalem God’s glory came to rest there (cf., 1 Kings 8).  After the first temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw God’s glory leave it (cf., Ezekiel 10).  But God promised one day to fill it with even greater glory (see Haggai 2:1-9; Zechariah 8-9).  That promise is fulfilled when the “King of Glory” himself comes to his temple:  

“Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.  Who is this king of glory?  The LORD, a mighty warrior, the LORD, mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.  Who is this king of glory?  The LORD of hosts is the king of glory.”  (Psalm 24:7-10)

“I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.  Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1)

Through Jesus’ coming in the flesh along with His saving death, resurrection, and ascension we are made living temples for his Holy Spirit:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”  (1 Cor. 3:16-17) 

Open the doors to your heart, soul, thoughts, and actions for the Holy Spirit to dwell in, and to work in and through you.  Welcome Him in with open arms.  Grasp God in a bear hug of love and want.  Give Him your best in everything.

 

What a radical departure from ‘traditional’ JudaismJesus awakened and probably scared some people in His teachings, approach, and life style.  There appeared to be many reasons for not wanting to be “around” this man named Jesus, or to follow Him.  However, when condensed, all these reasons were simply and purely out of plain, simple fear; a fear that I believe stemmed from ignorance.  This ignorance could be seen throughout Holy Scripture in the fear emanated from the watchful eyes of the Temple priests and elders; and in the fear from the Roman government who was concerned about civil unrest and uprisings stemming from Jesus’ teachings and activities.

The model believer of trust and hope, the model disciple of Christ – – was Mary.  She had to decide what her role was going to be in salvation history: either to follow God’s plan or her own.  Though she was truly the faithful mother of God, Mary still had ‘free will.’  Family ties do not create faith – – only faith creates faith

She did not want to leave her homeland any more than Joseph wanted to leave.  However, according to God’s plan, Mary would have to escape to Egypt in order to protect her baby Jesus.  She would have to experience the fear of losing a child for three days in His youth.  And, Sadly, Mary would have to witness the devastation and despair of Jesus’ trial, scourging, crucifixion, and burial.

Mary, and Jesus, had to tread a rough and treacherous path hewed out for her by God, but isn’t sacrificing the “language” of love?  It is because of her sharing so much in the pain, suffering, and humiliation of Jesus, that she is called the “co-redemptrix” – – the co-redeemer – – in the Catholic Church.

Through all of these trials of faith – – Mary never faltered.  I believe she handled all these “sorrows” because she knew what was needed, and expected from herself, and from her son.  More importantly, Mary trusted in God’s providence at every stage in hers and Jesus’ life.  Even prior to Jesus’ birth, the teenage Mary had already surrendered her soul, her heart, and her body to God.  She allowed the Holy Spirit to dwell in her – – and act through her.  Mary had NO doubts about God in her life, and in her priorities.  Even in the worst of times for her and her son on this earth, she never lost her faith, love, and trust in God’s plan for her.  We can, and we need, to learn from her example.  Please help me Lord to find the strength and fortitude to love, trust, and follow you as did your blessed mother, Mary, so perfectly demonstrated for us all.  

Do you know the joy of submission to God? Do you seek to pass on the Catholic faith, helping others to grow in wisdom, grace, and obedience to His word?  What do you hope for in your life, and in your families’ future?  How can you grow in hope?  We all must place our total faith, hope, and trust in the promises of Jesus Christ.  We must rely on the love, grace, and support of the Holy Spirit.  Does your hope and fervor for God grow with age?

Jesus promised that “no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).  God gives us a mysterious grace of joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain, and which neither life nor death can take way.  One of my favorite short prayers highlights this mystery:

Jesus, there is nothing that is going to happen today that you and I can’t handle together.”

Ask Jesus Christ to renew your faith in the presence of His Holy Spirit living within you, and working through you for His glory.  Give Him thanks and praise for coming to you and each of us individually.  Thank Him for making His home (and place of business on earth) with and within you – – and through you!

 

Morning Offering

 

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, and for the intentions recommended by our Holy Father for this month.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours.

O Mary, my Queen, my Mother, I give myself entirely to you, and to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being without reserve.  Wherefore good Mother, as I am your own, keep me, guard me as your property and possession. 

St. Joseph, model and patron of those who love the Sacred Heart, pray for me.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Presentation of the Lord

 

At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the Epiphany (January 6), the observance of Christ’s birth, and the gala procession in honor of his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later—February 15. (Under the Mosaic Law, a woman was ritually “unclean” for 40 days after childbirth, when she was to present herself to the priests and offer sacrifice—her “purification.” Contact with anyone who had brushed against mystery—birth or death—excluded a person from Jewish worship.) This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple more than Mary’s purification.

The observance spread throughout the Western Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. Because the Church in the West celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25, the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas.

At the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession; at the end of the same century the blessing and distribution of candles which continues to this day became part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name: Candlemas.

Comment:

In Luke’s account, Jesus was welcomed in the temple by two elderly people, Simeon and the widow Anna. They embody Israel in their patient expectation; they acknowledge the infant Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Early references to the Roman feast dub it the feast of St. Simeon, the old man who burst into a song of joy which the Church still sings at day’s end.

Quote:

“Christ himself says, ‘I am the light of the world.’ And we are the light, we ourselves, if we receive it from him…. But how do we receive it, how do we make it shine? …[T]he candle tells us: by burning, and being consumed in the burning. A spark of fire, a ray of love, an inevitable immolation are celebrated over that pure, straight candle, as, pouring forth its gift of light, it exhausts itself in silent sacrifice” (Paul VI).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 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.

 

 

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. 

“Capernaum – If You Can Make it Big There, You Can Make It Big Any Where! – – OR – – Jesus Loved To ‘Stir the Pot!’” – Mark 1: 29-39†


 

It is exactly one year ago today that Haiti experienced the “Great Earthquake”.  The challenges are still ever present throughout this poor and devastated country.  Please remember them in your prayers.  They are still hurting in all but faith!

            

Today in Catholic History:


    
†  689 – Death of Benedict Biscop, English saint
†  1167 – Death of Aelred of Hexham/Rievaulx, English abbot/saint, at age of about 56
†  1390 – Death of Peter van Herenthals, Dutch theologist/church historian, at age 67
†  1598 – Pope Clement VIII seizes duchy of Ferrara on death of Alfonso
†  1700 – Death of Marguerite Bourgeoys, saint (b. 1620)
†  1777 – Mission Santa Clara de Asís is founded in what is now Santa Clara, California.
†  1817 – Death of Juan Andres, Spanish Jesuit (b. 1740)
†  1781 – Death of Richard Challoner, English Catholic prelate (b. 1691)
†  1915 – Birth of Joseph-Aurèle Plourde, Catholic archbishop of Ottawa
†  1995 – Pope John Paul II begins visit to SE Asia
†  2006 – Turkey releases Mehmet Ali Ağca from jail after he served 25 years for shooting Pope John Paul II.

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

The good Lord didn’t create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close.

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 04 of 13 Parts

 

The Cardinal’s letter underlines some key points and expresses a strong exhortation, centered on the evangelical word parrhesia in combination with the missionary mandate, to all Secular Franciscans, singularly and collectively as an Order in all its forms: local, regional, national and worldwide.

The key points are the following:

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRULY FRATERNAL LIFE
  • THE REDISCOVERY  AND CONSOLIDATION OF ONE’S OWN IDENTITY AND MISSION  IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD
  •  AWARENESS OF BEING PRESENT ALL OVER THE WORLD, EVEN WHERE THE CHURCH IS PRESECUTED
  • INVOLVEMENT WITH AND SUPPORT OF FRANCISCAN YOUTH

 

(Continued on next published blog)

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

 

 

  

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus healing Peter’s Mother-In-Law, His curing of many others, and expansion of His mission on earth.

 

29 On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.  30 Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.  They immediately told him about her.  31 He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.  Then the fever left her and she waited on them.  32 When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.  33 The whole town was gathered at the door.  34 He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.  35 Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.  36 Simon and those who were with him pursued him 37 and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”  38 He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”  39 So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.  (NAB Mark 1: 29-39)

 

Each of the Gospel writers tells Jesus’ life, mission, and love for us in just a little different way or focus.  In today’s Gospel story, Mark shows Jesus as being close and easily approachable to us.  Jesus is found to be deeply and truly concerned for the well-being of others.  Mark present’s the kingdom of God as a sudden, surprising, and somewhat unsettling happening.  Finally, with Mark, Jesus is not the humble, gentle teacher of serene peace we often picture in our minds.  Rather, Jesus is pictured as an unstoppable “disturber” of the status quo; Jesus “stirred the proverbial pot” in Mark’s viewpoint!

In Contrast, Matthew highlights the fulfillment of Hebrew prophesies in relation to the coming Messiah.  And Luke focuses on the value of community and fellowship, with Jesus as the head and focus of the community.

Today’s reading is told as an “eyewitness account”, or “third person” type of story.  Jesus was still in Capernaum where He had been teaching.  He performed an exorcism in the synagogue that could not be kept quiet from the general population.  Jesus was apparently teaching and/or praying, when He was interrupted and received word of Simon [Peter] having a very sick Mother-In-Law in his home.  (Was it a penance or plenary indulgence for Simon Peter to have his In-Laws living with him?)

Jesus leaves the synagogue with James and John (the brothers’ fishermen) and “entered the house of Simon and Andrew”.  An EWTN special recently showed that the synagogue was literally only a few yards from Simon Peter’s house.  Thus, people that were listening to Jesus teaching at the time of His interruption could easily follow Him to the house.  Others leaving the synagogue a little later would see the group of men looking in the door and windows of Simon’s house and then possibly also gathered around, just to see what was happening and what all the commotion was about.

Per today’s reading, Simon was obviously married.  Just as in my marriage, I bet he “wore the pants” in his home.  And just as in my marriage, his wife told him which ones to put on!  Do you wonder if his wife traveled with her husband, Simon Peter, on his journey with Jesus?  I believe so, as evidenced is in what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians:

Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor 9:5)

“Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.”  We do not know the cause of the fever, but fever in adults is usually due to an infection of some type.  Remember, there were no modern-day antibiotics in Jesus’ time, so an infection of such nature as to cause one to be bed-ridden routinely ended with the death of the person.  Jesus, – – the human flesh and bones “Christ” – – destroyed the power of sin and death then, now, and forever and ever.  Amen!

Jesus “approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.  Then the fever left her and she waited on them.”  Simon’s and Andrew’s “Momma” was suddenly, completely, and miraculously cured through the actions and laying of hands of Jesus Christ.  Jesus fulfilled prophesy from Isaiah, in part, in performing this action:

“Our infirmities He bore, our sufferings He endured.”  (Isaiah 53:4)

The “laying of hands” is an important and special sacramental within the Catholic Church.  The Priest and Bishop (in Persona Christi) lays his hands on the head of the sick in a “Healing” service, and the Sacrament of the Sick; and the Holy Spirit, through the Bishop, bestows a special mark on the soul of the newly ordained priest with the laying on of his hands.

Can you even imagine Jesus standing next to your bed?  I don’t believe anyone would just lie there if they saw “God” standing before them – – with a smile on His face!  I think anyone would immediately spring out of bed (if at all possible) in His presence.  I can picture my reaction to this possible event vividly.  I would jump out of bed, give Him a big hug, and then fall to my knees to kiss His feet.  I so love the Lord, and cannot wait to see Him (but I’m not rushing things either)!

 

 

Jesus had already healed a man in the synagogue, and now He heals Simon’s mother-in-law.  That “evening” He continues to heal large numbers of sick and possessed people from the town of Capernaum and surrounding areas.  To see Jesus and what He was doing “the whole town gathered at the door” of Simon and Andrew.  There was no keeping Jesus’ ministry and power quiet to the masses, and word spread like “fire”.  (Could this be the Holy Spirit working already?  I believe so.)  

Simon’s and Andrew’s home became the “headquarters” for Jesus’ public ministry.  Can you picture Jesus having a small office in a back room of the Simon Peters house, a calendar on the wall, a desk with an in/out basket set on top of it, and memo pad at hand?  I so love picturing what it was truly like being with Jesus in His HUMAN and divine natures.  I bet He had one helluva sense of humor!! (Excuse the sort-of-pun.)

The first (1st) to know of Jesus’ divinity and power were not these pious people of a small fishing village in Galilee called Capernaum.  In actuality, it was Satan and the evil spirits processing the inhabitants in the area.  These “spirits” and supernatural immoral beings know fully and truly who Jesus is, even before His actions in this small fishing town.  The followers and disciples of Jesus have yet to get a fuller and more complete picture of Jesus.  Then they will “know” Him as the dying and rising “Messiah”.  I believe this is why Mark wrote:

“He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and He drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew Him.” 

 

 

After all of this excitement, teaching, and healing Jesus felt it necessary to withdraw temporarily.  He needed some quiet time, and some “one-on-one” time with His heavenly Father.  “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”  

One of my favorite things to do when possible (and always on vacation or retreat) is to wake early, sit outside, and pray my morning office and rosary while observing nature around me.  All my senses become alive, and I feel so much closer to God in these special times.

 

 

Jesus was on “God time” and knew of the plan of salvation that He had embarked on.  On the other hand, His disciples really had no clue of their futures.  (I wonder if they would have stayed with Him if they knew of their future fate?!)  They thought Jesus could “make it big” in Capernaum, and were concerned with His leaving.  So, “Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’”  Simon and others wanted Jesus to do more in Capernaum.

Jesus wanted to broaden His Mission of preaching and teaching to the whole of Galilee.  In saying, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also”, Jesus was not throwing His mission to Capernaum in the trashcan, or even saying that His mission in Capernaum was complete.  Rather, Jesus wanted to spread His mission of proclaiming the salvation and kingdom of God to as many as He could possibly do in His human form.  Jesus was planting as many mustard seeds of faith as He could!  “So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.”  

 

 

Today, there are three versions – – three Gospels – – for this one story.  Each one is a little different and unique: a different focus or viewpoint about Jesus’ life and His love for us in regard to the inhabitants of Capernaum.  God gave us the 73 books of the Bible – – His living Word – – our Holy Scripture.  With, in, and through it, we can grow closer to Jesus and grow to love Him even more!  We can get an even richer and fuller understanding of Jesus through the “eyes” of four “inspired” writers of the Gospels.  So, don’t just read one Gospel for the day; find the same story in each Gospel, and read them together to get a more complete picture.

Yesterday’s Gospel reading, along with todays, totals 24 hours in Jesus’ life.  When you read a Gospel like this one, or the similar one’s in the other three Gospels, you see how Jesus spent His time.  You see how humble, generous, and loving He was.  Do you wish to walk in Jesus’ path and be like Him?  Well, you cannot walk in His path for He was perfect and divine, and WE ARE NOT.  But, Jesus most certainly can walk with you in your own path to salvation, if you allow Him!  What better of a travel companion can any have!!!

Do you ask Jesus to heal you; to heal your family, friends and others; to heal your community, your country, and your world? God’s power to heal restores us to health physically, mentally, and spiritually.  His power to heal also draws us to serve and care others in need (which is everyone).  There is nothing that God cannot handle or do! He can do anything, including the impossible!!  So take you’re your problems, take your concerns, take your infirmities to Jesus, through prayer, faith, and trust – – and He will help you!!  Caution: It may not be the help you expected, but it will be the help you need!

 

 

Prayer in Time of Trial

 

“St. Maximilian [Kolbe], we thank God for the good example of your life.

You teach us to love and thus overcome our hatred of those who harm us.  You teach us to hope and thus conquer the depression and despair that so often overwhelm us.  You teach us courage by your daring enterprises for God and sacrifice of self as the Immaculata’s instrument.

Pray for us now that Mary, our Mother; and Jesus, her Son will bring to our troubled spirit peace, calm, and joy.  Amen.”

(Spend two minutes thinking of the good things that God has done for you during your lifetime.)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700)

 

“God closes a door and then opens a window,” people sometimes say when dealing with their own disappointment or someone else’s. That was certainly true in Marguerite’s case. Children from European as well as Native American backgrounds in seventeenth-century Canada benefited from her great zeal and unshakable trust in God’s providence.

Born the sixth of 12 children in Troyes, France, Marguerite at the age of 20 believed that she was called to religious life. Her applications to the Carmelites and Poor Clares were unsuccessful. A priest friend suggested that perhaps God had other plans for her.

In 1654, the governor of the French settlement in Canada visited his sister, an Augustinian canoness in Troyes. Marguerite belonged to a sodality connected to that convent. The governor invited her to come to Canada and start a school in Ville-Marie (eventually the city of Montreal). When she arrived, the colony numbered 200 people with a hospital and a Jesuit mission chapel.

Soon after starting a school, she realized her need for coworkers. Returning to Troyes, she recruited a friend, Catherine Crolo, and two other young women. In 1667 they added classes at their school for Indian children. A second trip to France three years later resulted in six more young women and a letter from King Louis XIV, authorizing the school. The Congregation of Notre Dame was established in 1676 but its members did not make formal religious profession until 1698 when their Rule and constitutions were approved.

Marguerite established a school for Indian girls in Montreal. At the age of 69, she walked from Montreal to Quebec in response to the bishop’s request to establish a community of her sisters in that city. By the time she died, she was referred to as the “Mother of the Colony.” Marguerite was canonized in 1982.

Comment:

It’s easy to become discouraged when plans that we think that God must endorse are frustrated. Marguerite was called not to be a cloistered nun but to be a foundress and an educator. God had not ignored her after all.

Quote:

In his homily at her canonization, Pope John Paul II said, “…in particular, she [Marguerite] contributed to building up that new country [Canada], realizing the determining role of women, and she diligently strove toward their formation in a deeply Christian spirit.” He noted that she watched over her students with affection and confidence “in order to prepare them to become wives and worthy mothers, Christians, cultured, hardworking, radiant mothers.”

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 12 & 13 of 26: 

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

♫“We’re Off To See the Desert, the Wonderful Desert of Egypt!”♫ – Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23†


 

 

Today is “Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph”

 

 

 

73 Days till Ash Wednesday and the Start of the Lenten Season!

& only 364 days till Christmas
I had too – sorry (kinda)!

            

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   268 – Death of Dionysius, Pope/saint
†   418 – St Zosimus ends his reign as Catholic Pope with his death
†   795 – St Leo III begins his reign as Catholic Pope with his death
†   1350 – Death of Jean de Marigny, French bishop
†   1574 – Death of Charles of Guise, French cardinal (b. 1524)
†   1751 – Birth of Clement Hofbauer, Austrian hermit, missionary, and patron saint of Vienna; known as the second founder of the Redemptorist Congregation (d. 1820)
†   1862 – Four nuns serving as volunteer nurses on board USS Red Rover are the first female nurses on a U.S. Navy hospital ship.
†   1948 – Cardinal Mindszenty (March 29, 1892—May 6, 1975) is arrested in Hungary and accused of treason and conspiracy.
†   St. Stephen’s Day, a public holiday in Alsace, Austria, Catalonia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Ireland.
†   Synaxis of Theotokos and feast of St. Joseph, King and Prophet David and St. James the Just (Orthodox Christianity).
†   The first of the twelve days of Christmas in Western Christianity.

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans are called not only to change themselves but also to be agents of change in the larger community.

Francis began his conversion in the Church of San Damiano, when he heard the crucifix challenge him, ‘Francis, repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.’  Throughout the course of his life, he realized that the ‘house’ that was in need of repair was his own contemporary society and Church.  Today Franciscans are still called to evangelize by their example, both in society and in the Church.  Following the examples of those who have gone before us, we accomplish this task in a spirit of service and humility, giving ‘testimony in word and work that there is no all-powerful one but the Lord’ – (Letter to the Whole Order, 9).

(From the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website:
http://www.franciscanaction.org)

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about God telling Joseph in a dream to flee Israel, and his going to Egypt in order to protect Jesus from King Herod the Great.

  

13 When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.  Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”  14 Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.  15 He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”  19 When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”  21 He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.  22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there.  And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.  23 He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”   (NAB Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23)

 

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Joseph was given a unique task as the guardian and protector of Mary and Jesus.  But as a Dominican Priest (unknown to me) said of their escape and journey to Egypt with the infant Jesus, “What they guarded, guarded them.”  This Gospel reading encourages us to consider Jesus’ step-father’s protection of his “adopted” child who was brought forth into this world – and immediately placed in the face of danger from a cruel and ruthless King.  Just as happened with the announcement of Jesus’ birth (the Annunciation of Joseph), the archangel Gabriel appears to Joseph in yet another dream.  Gabriel warns Joseph of Herod’s plan to kill the infant Jesus if he can find Him.  Joseph follows Gabriel’s command and escapes with Jesus and Mary, taking flight to Egypt some 250 (or so) miles away.  They only return to their homeland after receiving word in yet still another dream telling him that it was now safe to do so.

The “Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” has always been a part of the Christmas season liturgical celebrations for as long as I can remember.  As such, we should look at today’s Gospel about the “Holy Family” in the context of what Holy Scripture tells us about Jesus’ birth.   Today’s reading directly follows the story of the Magi’s visit, and continues with Joseph (and not Mary) as the primary character in Matthew’s infancy narrative story.  So, what can we learn from the example, witness, and faith of Joseph?

Among several themes in Matthew’s infancy story, Jesus being the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies in regards to the “Messiah” is paramount.  In Matthew’s approach to chronicling the Holy Family’s “flight to Egypt” story, he is also figuratively recalling, and renewing, the exodus story of Moses found in the Book of Exodus.

Traditions about Moses applies to the child Jesus in the in today’s reading presented here, though the vital or essential  focus of the Old Testament “Biblical typology” – – (a method of biblical interpretation wherein an element or verse found in the Old Testament is seen to prefigure one found in the New Testament) – – is not Moses, but instead on “Israel” itself.

Other than because of being told to do so by the Archangel Gabriel, why does the Holy Family “flee to Egypt”?  Well, I can think of two.   Egypt was known as the “long-established” area of sanctuary and a safe haven for anyone escaping from danger in Palestine.  Examples in Old Testament Scripture can be found in the books of 1 Kings and Jeremiah:

“When Solomon tried to have Jeroboam killed for his rebellion, he escaped to King Shishak, in Egypt, where he remained until Solomon’s death.”  (1 Kings 11:40)

“When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and princes were informed of his words, the king sought to kill him. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt.”  (Jeremiah 26:21)

 However, the primary reason why the Holy Family is told to go to Egypt is because Jesus (and us) must relive and experience again the “Exodus” incident of Israel.  Remember, the Old Testament lives in the New Testament, and the New Testament fulfills the Old (something a lot of Catholics either forgot or was never taught).  The fulfillment reference in verse fifteen (15) is taken directly from Hosea 11:1; the basic experience of salvation, the exodus from Egyptian bondage.

“When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1)

The nation of Israel, God’s “chosen son”, was called out of Egypt at the time of the Great Exodus through Moses.  Jesus, the true “Son of God”, was similarly called out of that same Egypt in a “NEW” Exodus: a new migration.  The father-son relationship that exists (still today) between God and the nation of Israel was taken to a far higher and more divine level of importance with the relationship of God to Jesus – – (His Only Son) – – who even still today represents the beginning of the return, and the renewal of all Israel for all times (The Alpha and Omega).

 “Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  (Matthew 19:28)

 “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)

Here the “son” is not a nation adopted as a “son of God,” – – but the child Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit in a unique and especially divine relationship to and with God.  Jesus is a son of David, and of Abraham, and of Mary, and of Joseph, BUT, – – above all, – – is THE Only Son of God!  Solely in Jesus Christ, the history, the people, and the institutions of all Israel (of all faithful followers)are concentrated and condensed, taking aim and beginning on the next (and final) era of salvation.  The flight of the infant Jesus with the Holy Family is a new exodus – – with a new and greater Moses found only in Jesus Christ.

In Exodus 2:15, Moses fled from Egypt because the Pharaoh sought to kill him.

“Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put him to death.  But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian.”  (Exodus 2:15)

In Exodus 4:19, He was told by God to return to Egypt, ‘for all the men who sought your life are dead.’

“In Midian the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go back to Egypt, for all the men who sought your life are dead.’”  (Exodus 4:19)

 

After Herod (the Great’s) death, his kingdom was divided between his three sons.  With the agreement of the Roman Emperor Augustus, “Archelaus” received about half of his father’s kingdom which included Samaria, Edom, and Judea.   He had been given the titleethnarch” (a national leader of a province) and named as Herod the Great’s successor.  His reign was from 4 B.C. to 6 A.D., with him dying about 18 A.D.

His brothers “Antipas” and “Philip II” were given the lesser titles of “tetrarchs” (similar to a governor).  Antipas ruled over Galilee (north of Jerusalem) where Jesus was brought up and carried out most of His public ministry.  Antipas also had charge over the east bank of the Jordan River.  Philip II ruled over the “Golan Heights” area northeast of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis.

 

The Holy Family did not want to be around the ruthless Herod Archelaus in Judea/Samaria, so when they settled in Galilee (the area ruled by Antipas), they set up their household in a small, obscure, and easily unnoticed village of about 200 people, called Nazareth.    

Jesus “shall be called a ‘Nazorean’”.  The tradition of Jesus’ residence of youth is firmly established by scholars as being in the town of “Nazareth.”  His public ministry “headquarters” though (at least His human one on earth) was in the seaside town of Capernaum instead.  In recently watching a special on EWTN, I learned that his headquarters was actually in a “back room” of the Apostle John’s (and John’s mother) home.  Jesus was literally a “back room” Prophet-Priest-King- Savior!! (Doesn’t that little tidbit just put a smile on your face?)

Matthew sees the quaint town of “Nazareth” as being in synchronization with God’s plan, though Nazareth is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament – even once.  Nor can any such prophecy regarding Nazareth be found in the Old Testament either.  Matthew may have perhaps inserted this little “detail of residence” here in his Gospel, to provoke his readers to consider several possibilities or elements:

T   First, simply just as a reference to a little town that just so happens to have never been mentioned in the Old Testament (though it had existed since at least the 7th century B.C.), or,

T   As a reference to the Messiah as the “branch” (neser) found in Isaiah 11:1, or finally as,

T   A reference to Jesus as a “nazir”, a “consecrated person”, in the same line as that of Samson and Samuel.

The seemingly vague expression “through the prophets” (verse 23) may be due to a connection Matthew saw between Nazareth and other texts having words remotely similar to the name of “Nazareth”.  In Isaiah 11:1, the future “Davidic king” will be “a bud”, and that this bud will blossom from the “root of Jesse.” 

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

The connection between “Nazareth” and Isaiah’s verse above is that “neser” (pronounced nay-tser) is the Hebrew word for branch or sprout.   It could sound like the name Nazareth – – if said fast, and with a ton of crackers in your mouth – – I guess.   Matthew saw the connection anyhow (even if I don’t).  Isaiah’s prophecy about the sprout (neser) could definitely be interpreted to mean that Jesus the “Messiah” would have a simple and humble beginning.   

To Matthew the very word “neser” from Isaiah’s prophecy finds its true and totally full meaning and realization in Jesus being a “Nazarene”.  Read the rest of Isaiah 11, to its end, for further proof of this fullness and realization.  To paraphrase Isaiah 11, this lowly “Nazarene” is prophesized to become a great and righteous King, empowered by the Holy Spirit, yet ruling in a simple and peaceful way of, and with, LOVE! 

 

In Judges 13:5 and 7, the future deliverer of Israel will be one who is consecrated (a “nazir”) to God.

“As for the son you will conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.  It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.  But he said to me, ‘You will be with child and will bear a son.  So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean.  For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb, until the day of his death.’”  (Judges 13:5, 7)

A Nazirite (an alternative spelling is “Nazarite”), from the Hebrew word, “nazir” means “consecrated”.  The term refers to individuals who consecrated their lives to God; taking ascetic vows (someone who is self-denying and lives with minimal material comforts).  In taking these vows, it required of them to abstain from wine, refrain from cutting their hair, and avoiding any contact with the dead, graves, and tombs in any manner (see Numbers 6:1-21).  Three well known “Nazirites” found in Holy Scripture include Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist, (and some say perhaps Jesus himself).  In taking Nazirite vows, Jesus could be called a “Nazarene”, which may be derived from the word “Nazirite” rather than “Nazareth”. 

I see “nazir” as people who would be very strong, very direct, and very demanding in stature and speech – – such as the aforementioned Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.  Though the word nazir is closer to the word Nazareth than neser (for me anyway), I am having some difficulty seeing Jesus (even though He was consecrated to God’s service) in an “expectedly direct” role of this type.  Remember Jesus broke the mold for being unconventional in His abilities, ways, and nature.

In reality, the Holy Family probably settled in Nazareth because Joseph could find abundant work in the neighboring city of Sepphoris (about 4 miles from Nazareth), which Herod Antipas was rebuilding as his capitol at the time.  I have been given unconfirmed information that Herod Antipas was revitalizing Sepphoris – using “tax increment financing funds” (TIFF’s) to build many inns, restaurants, and Wal-marts.  It seems Antipas liked to dabble in cooking and he was well known for his “Caesar” salads & “Antipas-tas”!

 

It should also be realized that today’s reading from Mass skips over, – – totally omits – – verses 16, 17, and 18, that relates Herod the Great’s order for the massacre of the “Holy Innocents”, the infant boys (2 years of age and under) living in and around Bethlehem around the time of Jesus’ birth.  This sad event will be remembered in the Catholic Church on the “Feast of the Holy Innocents” occurring this year on Tuesday, December 28 (in just two days).

 

Today’s Mass readings should remind all of us of the complex reality and yet simple truth of Jesus’ human birth.  While the story of the Magi’s visit will be recalled at Masses on the “Feast of the Epiphany” (Sunday, January 2nd), our Christmas celebration is tempered by recognizing the fact that not everyone in Jesus’ time period (and sadly still today – I believe) received Christ’s birth with joy,celebration, respect, or submission.  

Herod’s profound greed, jealousy, and hatred fully contrasts with Joseph’s humble generosity, trust, and love for God, as well as for his obedience to God’s words relayed to him by Gabriel – the archangel messenger.  The Holy Family’s escape to Egypt – – and from the massacre that Jesus is saved from in his infancy – – could, and should, remind us that struggles and sacrifices are often required as part of the preparation for God’s salvation.  If God (in the second person of the Godhead, and divinely human nature of Jesus) is not immune from trials, persecutions, and sufferings, why do we think we should be?!

 Joseph courageously and valiantly sets aside his own preconceived plans when God called him to “get away – escape now”.  Without hesitation or question, he leaves his familiar surroundings and home lands: his home, friends and relatives.  Joseph also left behind his trade and business, his self-assured security in a livelihood of known work.  He leaves all of this, solely in order to pursue a hidden mission that God Himself entrusted to Joseph: becoming the “guardian” of the long awaited newborn King and “Messiah”!  

 

The infancy narrative, – – the birth story of Jesus Christ, – – comes to an end here.  After this Gospel reading, Joseph simply disappears, never to be seen or mentioned again.  Joseph is the only “main character” in Holy Scripture (that I know) who does not actually speak a single word in the entire Bible.  Yet he still makes his relationship, his love, his trust, and his dynamic obedience to God’s plan known without speaking “that single” word.  St. Francis most certainly had to love Joseph, for St. Joseph “preached” the Gospel without using any words!  God bless St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Do you want to know something uniquely special?  God has a specific goal, plan, and task for each one of us!  With your individual action plan, God also gives you the grace and the assurance of His guidance and His loving trust and support.  Do you trust God’s plan for your life?  Are you willing to sacrifice your own private and/or public plans for God’s plan?  Are you willing to give God your total faith, trust, and service (Your ALL) to follow whatever mission or task He gives to you, without hesitation or questioning

On this beautiful Sunday, it is quite apropos that we are asked to linger for a short time and think about the Holy Family, – – and to do this only one day after Jesus’ birth celebration.  Today, we reflect on how Joseph protected his step-son, Jesus, from imminent danger by relocating the Holy Family to Egypt; and doing so in absolute and trusting obedience to God’s word.  

Using the “Holy Family” as a perfect model for all families, we should use this feast day to recall the responsibility each family member has for each other in the family as a whole, and for your responsibility to contribute to the “good” and “needs” of the family individually.  Use today’s message in the Gospel reading as a way to recommit yourself to each other in your immediate and extended families.  After all, to be present is the greatest “Present” one can give to anyone else.

 

A Christmas Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson

 

“Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.  Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.  Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.   Amen.”

http://www.prayerguide.org.uk/christmas.htm

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Stephen (d. 36 A.D.?)

 

All we know of Stephen is found in Acts of the Apostles, chapters Six and Seven.  It is enough to tell us what kind of man he was:

At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenist (Greek-speaking) Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.  So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.  Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”  The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit…. (Acts 6:1-5)

Acts says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people.  Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke.  They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him.  He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.

In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience.  He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit.  “[Y]ou always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors” (Acts 7:51b).

His speech brought anger from the crowd.  “But [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God….’  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him…. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…. Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b).

Comment:

Stephen died as Jesus did: falsely accused, brought to unjust condemnation because he spoke the truth fearlessly.  He died with his eyes trustfully fixed on God, and with a prayer of forgiveness on his lips.  A “happy” death is one that finds us in the same spirit, whether our dying is as quiet as Joseph’s or as violent as Stephen’s: dying with courage, total trust and forgiving love.

Patron Saint of: Bricklayers; Deacons; Hungary

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

 
    

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

 

25.     Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 


 

“Oaky- Doakie! Get Me Pregnant; My Son Will Grow Up To BE a GOD, Or a Doctor, Or a Lawyer, Or a … !!” – Luke 1:26-38†


 

“The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary”

 

 

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

 
 †   1626 – Birth of Christina, queen of Sweden who abdicated after becoming Catholic
†   1768 – Death of Jean Denis Attiret, French Jesuit missionary (b. 1702)
†   1854 – Pope Pius IX proclaims dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which hold the Blessed Virgin Mary free of “Original Sin”
†   1864 – Pope Pius IX publishes encyclical Quanta cura (“Syllabus errorum”)
†   1869 – 20th Roman Catholic ecumenical council, Vatican I, opens in Rome
†   1965 – Pope Paul VI signs 2nd Vatican council
†   Eastern Christianity Major Feast Day: Conception of the Theotokos (Mother of God) by Anna
†   Feast Day: The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (Holy Day of Obligation in Ireland, U.S.); Saint Eucharius, first bishop of Trier 

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans acknowledge that life is sacred and are dedicated to a consistent ethic of life

 

“Since life is the first gift given us by God, Franciscans have a profound respect for human life.  The itinerancy which is part of the Franciscan vocation helps the followers of Francis and Clare understand better the fragility of life and to support the most vulnerable in society. Because of this, the Franciscan family, from its earliest moments, embraced active non-violence and articulated a theology and ethics centered in love.  This spiritual perspective includes respect for those who disagree with us, as shown in the dialogue between Francis and the sultan.” 

“When I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me turned into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I delayed a little and left the world.”  St. Francis, The Testament, 1-2.

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

On the sixth day, God created the platypus. And God said: let’s see the evolutionists try and figure this one out.

 

Today’s reflection is about the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, and Mary responds, “Let it be done to me as you say.”

 

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived  a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.”  38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.  (NAB Luke 1:26-38)

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  This feast day celebrates God’s choice of Mary to be the Mother of Jesus (and us all).  In preparation, God preserved Mary from the stain or mark on her soul from original sin.  This reprieve from original sin was from the moment of her conception.  Thus, Mary’s role was prefigured from the very beginning of time!  Our Blessed Virgin Mary was also the first to receive the benefits and graces from the salvation that her Son – – Jesus Christ – – would secure for all mankind.

I love the infancy narratives in Luke’s Gospel.  I have read it to my children many times throughout the years of CHRIST-mas Seasons.  The home nativity scene, with its simple crib can be a helpful way of presenting our faith to family and friends.  The crib helps us to think about, and consider, the mystery of God’s love revealed in the poverty and simplicity of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem.  Saint Francis loved these same infancy narratives, along with the mystery of the Incarnation, so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223.  The Nativity scene has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRIST-mas decorations as well, both outside and inside the home.  What better way to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTmas!”

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the Christmas Nativity Scene:

“It still retains its value for evangelization today.  Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true Christmas because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Cor 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Lk 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium.  There is no other Christmas.”

Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood.  For instance, we learn (1) that Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.  (2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”  (3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and esteemed of terms, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she has found with God.  (And, with a perfect past-participle part of speech at that, I might add!)  (4) The son Mary is to conceive is described in messianic terms.  And, finally, (5) He [Jesus] will be called “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God telling you that God is pleased with you?!  Mary’s initial reaction to this angel, called “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God.”), was naturally one of surprise, and also probably with some fear attached to his appearance.  Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe.  Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.

I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction.  She places her body, heart, and soul into the hands of God.  She accepts His grace, gift, and responsibility.  God is granting to her the Motherhood of God Himself, in the human form of Jesus.  In doing so, Mary not only became the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to all mankind.  Now that is “awesome!!”

The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message from the archangel Gabriel to Zechariah of the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both, Gabriel appears to the “future parent,” who is at first unsettled by the vision.

Luke 1:12: “Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.”

Luke 1:29:                “         But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”

Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel not to fear.

Luke 1:13: “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’”

Luke 1: 30-31: “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’”

And, after the announcement is made,:

Luke 1:14-17: “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”

Luke 1:31-33: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

 both Zechariah and Mary initially objects (Luke 1:18, 34),:

Luke 1:18: “Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’”

Luke 1:34: “But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’”    

and finally, a sign is given to confirm the announcement (Luke 1:20, 36).

Luke 1:20: “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

Luke 1:36: “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.”

Mary questions Gabriel “of how” is because she has never had any sexual relations.  Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response.  Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus.  The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the power of God.  Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He is the “Son of God!”

Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!

Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence to the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God.  Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God.  Mary is the true model of discipleship for all Catholics.

Gabriel puts a particular focus on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of David” and “Son of God”.  In verse 32, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”.  Further on in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.”  “Most High” is a title for God that was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts).   You can see each of these references by going to Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.

In my thirty years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting.  All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear with the situation of delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital.  (If they only realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times; but I could bluff well.)  Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age.  Once though, I took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years of age (YES, 13!), and she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home.  To make the matter worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ending in an abortion.  (You do the math!)  Now realize, this child was probably only a year or two younger than Mary!

I am sure Mary had some fear.  I have yet to see a woman in labor that hasn’t, and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control).  I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age, head.  How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy?  How would her own family treat her?  Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know she used cloth because the Holy family was “eco-friendly.”) What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph as of yet?  Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery?  (This was his right per Jewish law.)  Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?  She was a young girl of about fifteen (15).  Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood?  I would think not.  Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child!  (He, he!  I had too.)

There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle.  But Mary said “YES” with little hesitation!  She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body!  Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new covenant of God – – coming to fruition through Jesus Christ.  She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, through Jesus Christ.  Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – through Jesus Christ.  

God is a benevolent and merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment.  Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.”  Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity.  Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment?  Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you?  Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise.  Others, including the “tepid” of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell.

In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Rosary Mystery” called the “Annunciation” wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel.  In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth.  Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Gabriel says these specific words when he appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth—Mary, for a specific purpose.  

Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility?  To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion.  This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God.  She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us!  

Yet, realize each of us is chosen by God in many specific and important ways.  Each of us are given many gifts, graces, and talents by God; and we are expected to share them with the world.  As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others; to help them serve God to their fullest.

Today, identify some of the talents that God has given to you.  In what ways should these talents be used in helping others?  Mary was given a special task by God.  Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her.  Can you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did?! 

 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of god, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Feast of the Immaculate Conception

 

A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern Church in the seventh century. It came to the West in the eighth century. In the eleventh century it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. In the eighteenth century it became a feast of the universal Church.

In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

It took a long time for this doctrine to develop. While many Fathers and Doctors of the Church considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, they often had difficulty in seeing Mary as sinless—either at her conception or throughout her life. This is one of the Church teachings that arose more from the piety of the faithful than from the insights of brilliant theologians. Even such champions of Mary as Bernard and Thomas Aquinas could not see theological justification for this teaching.

Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They point out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset.

Comment:

In Luke 1:28 the angel Gabriel, speaking on God’s behalf, addresses Mary as “full of grace” (or “highly favored”). In that context this phrase means that Mary is receiving all the special divine help necessary for the task ahead. However, the Church grows in understanding with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led the Church, especially non-theologians, to the insight that Mary had to be the most perfect work of God next to the Incarnation. Or rather, Mary’s intimate association with the Incarnation called for the special involvement of God in Mary’s whole life. The logic of piety helped God’s people to believe that Mary was full of grace and free of sin from the first moment of her existence. Moreover, this great privilege of Mary is the highlight of all that God has done in Jesus. Rightly understood, the incomparable holiness of Mary shows forth the incomparable goodness of God.

Quote:

“[Mary] gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and she was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.

“It is no wonder, then, that the usage prevailed among the holy Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, fashioned by the Holy Spirit into a kind of new substance and new creature. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the splendors of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is, on God’s command, greeted by an angel messenger as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28). To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38)” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

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

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

8.     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.

 

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