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


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“Epiphany of the Lord”

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for David; as king He shall reign and govern wisely, He shall do what is just and right in the land.  In His days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.  This is the name to be given Him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

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

From:
The Liturgy of the Hours

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“Is There Anything To Eat?; This Past Weekend Has Been A Trying One For Me!” – Luke 24:35-48†


 

Third Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Today in Catholic History
  • ·        Joke of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer
  • ·        Catholic Apologetics
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I wish to extend a SUPER happy birthday Pope Benedict XVI and Mother Angelica.  To Octogenarians who are still young in heart ans faith.

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Today in Catholic History:     

 

†   296 – Death of Pope Caius (or Gaius)
†   536 – Death of Agapitus I, Italian Pope (535-36),
†   536 – Death of Pope Agapetus I
†   1073 – Pope Alexander II buried/Ildebrando chosen as Pope Gregory VII
†   1164 – Raynald of Dassel names Guido di Crema as anti-pope Paschalis III
†   1610 – Birth of Alexander VIII, [Pietro Ottoboni], Italy, lawyer/Pope (1689-91)
†   1994 – Death of D. Nauta, theologist/church historian/lawyer, at age 96

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus appears to His disciples [again] and shares a meal with them.

 

(NAB Luke 24:35-48) 35 Then the two [men on the road to Emmaus] recounted [to the disciples hiding in Jerusalem] what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  36 While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  37 But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  38 Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”  40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  41 While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  42 They gave him a piece of baked fish;43 he took it and ate it in front of them.  44 He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On the third Sunday of Easter, we continue to hear Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances to His disciples following His Resurrection.  Luke’s Gospel, like each of the other Gospels (cf., Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–15; John 20:19–23), focuses on Jesus appearing to His disciples in Jerusalem and their commissioning for their future ministry.  Luke goes further in having the risen Jesus appear to two men traveling back to their home, probably in or near Emmaus.  These two men, no longer blinded to the risen Christ hurried back to Jerusalem, sought out Jesus’ disciples, and told them of their experience.

Jesus then (as in any good mystery story) miraculously and suddenly appears before all those assembled in this “faith-filled” hiding space.  Standing amongst them, Jesus lovingly states:

Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36).

Their response to Jesus, per today’s reading, was one of “startling terror”, thinking “they were seeing a ghost”!  These are the VERY FIRST words Jesus says to His disciples AFTER they had abandoned Him to His accusers, torturers, and crucifiers.  His first words were one of “peace” and not “What happened to you?” or “Where were you?” or “You abandoned me, why?”

I am sure Jesus’ disciples felt like they had betrayed Him, and knew and felt that they should have had a royal “chewing out” from Jesus, at a minimum.  However, Jesus is God, who is pure love, and responded with a pure love for His disciples.  How relieved and gratified were these startled, terrified men to know Jesus Christ not only DID rise from the dead, but also wished only “peace” for them personally – – AND for all that believed in Him.

Peace be with you.” was a most appropriate greeting for a loving Jesus Christ.  The disciples truly had the experience and shock of the death of someone they loved, and feared for their own safety and lives as well.  “Peace” is what they needed more than anything else.  Along with this greeting of “Peace”, Jesus gave another grace, another gift: “forgiveness”. The inherent linking of “peace” and “forgiveness” is quietly made in the final verses of today’s reading.

They thought they were seeing a “ghost”; yet the figure before them is not a “ghost”.  Jesus invites them to experience His resurrected body with their senses, to look and to touch.  The figure standing before them is truly flesh and bone, still bearing the marks of His crucifixion.  Although the disciples cannot forget His suffering and death, “peace” begins to take root in their hearts, with their fears and turmoil turning to feelings of joy and amazement instead.

Jesus was NO “ghost”!!  He is STILL as human NOWTODAY – as He was on that day, and on the day he was crucified.  He is the physical (and scriptural) proof that there truly is a “life after death” (physical death anyhow).  He IS NOT just a divine memory; AND we are disciples of the LIVING Jesus, not just disciples of our memory of Him!

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The disciples last saw Jesus as a weak and beaten man, who died – – as a human – – on the cross in a most humiliating and torturous way.  Jesus seemed to be “powerless” over the events leading to His ultimate death.  He certainly did not meet the expectations of who the Messiah was to be per Jewish tradition.  If He WAS the Messiah, why did He allow this to happen to Him?  Why would He allow Himself to be as humiliated and embarrassed as He was?

As further proof of His identity and of His resurrected body, Jesus eats with His disciples.  The disciples have known Jesus best through the meals which He has shared with them.  Descriptions of these meals are a defining element of Luke’s Gospel.  By eating with his disciples after his Resurrection, Jesus recalls all these meals, and most importantly, he recalls the Last Supper.

Luke’s report of this Last Supper and the meals which Jesus shared with them after His Resurrection unveils for us the uniquely important significance of the Holy Eucharist.  Having shared a meal with His disciples, Jesus Christ now uncovers for them the significance of what was written about Him in the Scriptures.  Our celebration of the Mass is ALSO an encounter with Jesus – – in fact, the same uniquely important encounter as the disciples!!  So, we encounter Him, this same Jesus, through the Liturgy of the Word and the Sacrament of the Eucharist which is literally the Sacrament of Thanksgiving.  As Jesus commissioned His disciples to be witnesses to what Holy Scriptures foretold, OUR celebration of the Eucharist ALSO commissions US today.  Like the first disciples, we too are sent to announce the “good news” of Jesus Christ, truly risen from the grave.

With His appearance to them, and eating with them, the disciples were given a grace and gift of a revelation in their individual and communal faiths.  They were now able to believe more fully because they had seen the proof of Jesus’ new resurrected life, which they came to understand Jesus’ victory, thus overcoming sin, Satan, and death!

Luke is the only evangelist to mention Jesus’ eating with His disciples.  Jesus didn’t come solely to be seen, to be touched, or to be heard; He came and ate with His disciples just as He did the night of His arrest.  Jesus, still today, does not wish to be simply seen and heard, He wants to converse with each of us; He wants to share a meal with each of us – – personally, uniquely, and intimately – – ALWAYS!!

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We are like the Apostles, especially Matthew; we don’t usually believe unless we see with our own eyes.  The Gospels attest to the true reality of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.  Jesus goes to great lengths to prove to His disciples that He is no mere ghost or illusion – – no trick of the eye.  He shows them the marks of His crucifixion, explaining how Holy Scripture foretold His suffering death AND rising.  (Please read 1 Peter 1:10-12.  It has a “glorious” connection to this last sentence.)  

Jerome, an early church bible scholar, comments:

As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them … Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (From a letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)

Jesus, on the Holy Cross, is one of the central aspects of the Gospels, but it DOESN’T JUST STOP there!  Through His death on the cross, Jesus truly defeated our enemies – death, sin, and Satan; and won mercy & pardon for our sin.  Jesus’ cross then, is the bridge to heaven and the way to paradise.  So, the way to glory IS through the cross.

When the disciples saw the “Risen” Lord, they did not react to Him with “joy”; they reacted with “startle” and “fear”!  After all, how can a death lead to life?  How can a cross lead to glory?  Well, only Jesus Christ could reveal to us the “joy” and “glory” of enduring suffering with faith to a new life.  He gives each of us the power to overcome the fear, worry, and even despair caused by sin, Satan, and death.  Just as the first disciples were commissioned to bring the “good news” of salvation to ALL the peoples of ALL the nations, both Jew and Gentile alike, so we too are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to all among whom we live – – EVERYWHERE and at ALL times.  

Have you truly witnessed to the “joy” of the Gospels personally?  Do you truly witness to the “joy” of the Gospels to those around you?  As the Franciscans say, do you take the:

“Gospel to life and the life to Gospel”?

Hmm, is this something to think about for you?

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To conclude, Catholic Christian life is sustained by God’s “Word” in Holy Scripture and by Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.  We are especially sustained in our faith through our attendance and PARTICIPATION at our weekly (and hopefully daily) celebration of Mass.  Today’s Gospel should remind us that Holy Scripture and the Eucharist are given to us so that OUR words and deeds of bearing witness to Christ might be strengthened.

Jesus came to His followers, not the inverse (other way around) – – AND He Still does today and will in the future!!  Jesus took (and still takes) the initiative in overcoming sin, Satan, and death with us!  Jesus provided (and still provides) His reassurance and promise of everlasting life!  Jesus comes to us in the Holy Eucharist and through the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through each of us personally, intimately, and uniquely.  All we have to do is to receive Him, to allow Him to dwell in us, and to let Him work through us each and every day.  Really, all we have to do is simply to BELIEVE and to be His WITNESS in today’s society!!  How?  Well, as Saint Francis said to his brother friars:

“Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

This week, think about the importance of memories and the importance of the meals you have shared together with family and friends, and will share in the future.  Both, these memories and the anticipation of future meals, will strengthen the love you share for ALL involved.  In a similar way, our Catholic Christian life is also strengthened by sharing God’s Word (memories) and the Eucharist (meal) at Mass.  Recall the “mission” which Jesus gave to His disciples after their shared meal in today’s reading.  The Holy Eucharist also sends us to be Christ’s witnesses in the world today.  Pray that you, and each of us, will be strengthened by God’s “Word”, and by Jesus’ “presence” in the Holy Eucharist in order to be more faithful “witnesses” to our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Tantum Ergo 

Saint Thomas Aquinas

“With heads bowed let us now worship a sacrament so great;
And let the old teaching give way to the new;
Let faith reinforce our belief where the senses cannot.

To the Father and the Son let there be praise and jubilation,
Salvation, honor, virtue, and also blessing;
To the Holy Spirit let there be equal praise.  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.

Honor Due to the Virgin Mary

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

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“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.  For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name’” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 23 & 24 of 26:

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

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24.  To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups.  It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity.  The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

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“Dying Is The Easy Part. The “New Life” Is the Hard Part!” – John 12:20-33†


Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

We are already in the fifth week of Lent already.  Just a little bit longer till Easter Sunday and celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Birth.  Easter doesn’t end on April 8th.  Easter Sunday is followed by a fifty-day period called Eastertide or the Easter Season, ending with Pentecost Sunday, May 27th

Easter Sunday follows Holy Week.  Easter also follows the third and final day of the “Paschal Triduum”.  The Paschal Triduum is also called the Holy Triduum or Easter Triduum, and begins the evening of Holy Thursday, and ends the evening of Easter Day. It commemorates the heart of our faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

More about the Paschal Triduum will be discussed in next week’s blog.

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Today in Catholic History:

    708 – Constantine begins his reign as Catholic Pope
    
752 – Death of Pope-elect Stephen (died before taking office)
    
1297 – Birth of Arnost of Pardubice, Archbishop of Prague (d. 1364)
    
1347 – Birth of Catherine of Siena, Italian saint (d. 1380)
    
1409 – The Council of Pisa opens.
    
1571 – Catholic Italian businessman Roberto Ridolfi leaves England
    
1593 – Birth of Jean de Brébeuf, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
    
1634 – Lord Baltimore founded Catholic colony of Maryland
    
1655 – Protestants take control of the Catholic colony of Maryland at the Battle of the Severn.
    
1847 – Pope Pius IX publishes encyclical “On aid for Ireland”
    
1917 – The Georgian Orthodox Church restores its autocephaly abolished by Imperial Russia in 1811.
    
1939 – Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli becomes Pope Pius XII.
    
1954 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Sacra virginitas” (On consecrated virginity)
    
1991 – Death of Marcel Lefebvre, French Catholic prelate (b. 1905)
    
1995 – Death of Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest, dies at 73
    Feasts/Memorials: March 25th is typically celebrated as the day of the Annunciation so long as it does not fall on a Sunday, during Holy Week, or Easter Week; Saint Dysmas, the ‘Good Thief’; Saint Humbert  

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching His disciples about the way in which He will be glorified by God, and a voice from heaven is heard to affirm this teaching.

(NAB John 12:20-33) 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast.  21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.  25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.  26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.  The Father will honor whoever serves me.  27 “I am troublednow.  Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”  29 The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.  31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world  will be driven out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from John (Probably my most favorite of the Gospel writers).  Chapter 12 of John’s Gospel is a preparation for the “Passion” narrative to soon follow.  Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), a truly important “sign” (and miracle) in John’s Gospel.  The miracle involving Lazarus inspired many Jews and Gentiles alike to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  

The “Lazarus” event also marks the turning point in Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish authorities.  John’s Gospel relates to us how the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish judicial, ecclesiastical, and administrative council in ancient Jerusalem) met after Lazarus’ resurrection, creating plans to kill Jesus, whom threatens their materialistic way of life.  This 12th chapter of John has Jesus previously being “anointed” at Bethany, and then entering Jerusalem “in triumph”.  We also see allegorical evidence of the significance of the raising of Lazarus in today’s incident.  Keep in mind, John reported crowds gathering to “see” Lazarus in Chapter 11:

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother” (John 11:19).

These “many Jews” became witnesses to the “glory” of Jesus’ divine being though Lazarus’ being resurrected.

Today’s Gospel Reading is about the coming of Jesus’ hour.  This announcement of “glorification” by death is a revelation of “the whole world” going after Jesus Christ.

So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after Him.” (John 12:19)

There is much hidden, and needing to be explained and discussed, in today’s reading, so grab a cup of coffee and find a comfortable seat.

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In verse 20, the word “Greeks” was not used in a nationalistic sense, those who came from Greece itself.  They were probably simple Gentile proselytes (new converts) to Judaism;

So the Jews said to one another, ‘Where is He going that we will not find Him?  Surely He is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks to teach the Greeks, is He?” (John 7:35).

In the next two verses (12:21–22), “Philip went and told Andrew …”, we see an approach made through Jesus’ Disciples who had distinctly Greek names.  Could this suggest that access to Jesus was mediated to the Greek world through His disciples?  Philip and Andrew were from Bethsaida (which means “house of fishing”) in the most northern part of Galilee:

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.” (John 1:44);

(Trivia time: Galileans were mostly bilingual.)

These men who were “new” to the Jewish religion asked Philip:

  “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” (John 12:21)

The word “see” seems to mean “have an interview with Jesus”, and not just merely observing Him.  Why?

Well, it may be that following His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus predicted His suffering, death, and Resurrection.  He also prepared His disciples to believe in the “salvation” that His death would accomplish, allowing them (and us) entry into God’s Kingdom, the paradise of heaven.  

Using the image of “the grain of wheat”, Jesus presented the idea that His dying would be beneficial for those believing in Him.  He also taught disciples that they must follow His example of personal sacrifice.  This theme of “personal sacrifice” will be repeated in John’s account of the “Last Supper” when Jesus washes the feet of His disciples (John 13) as an example of how they must serve one another:

Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” (John 13:8).

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Jesus’ response to these new converts to Judaism (verse 23) suggests that only after His Crucifixion could the Gospel – – His WORD – – encompass Jew and Gentile alike; ALL nations and ALL peoples.

Jesus described His approaching death on the cross as His “hour of glory”:

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (John 12:23).

He would then be “lifted up from the earth” and would “draw all men to himself”:

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32).

Jesus saw His death on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation as a triumph over the powers of sin and darkness: Satan, Sin, and Evil.  Jesus illustrated an image of the “grain of wheat” to those hearing in order to show how this principle of dying to live truly works in God’s kingdom.  Seeds cannot produce new life by themselves.  They must first be planted in the soil, and DIE, before they can grow, then “producing much fruit”.  

Some may still ask: what is the spiritual comparison Jesus is conveying to His audience (then and now)?  Is this simply a veiled reference to His own impending death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead? … Or, is Jesus imparting to us another kind of “death and rebirth” for His disciples?  I believe Jesus had BOTH meanings in mind.  Jesus’ obedience to God’s plan for OUR salvation by His death on the cross obtains for each of us – – individually and intimately – – a freedom and “new” life in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ death on the Holy Cross truly frees us from the tyranny and destruction of sin and death (both physical and spiritual), and shows us the way of (and to) perfect love for God, each other, and ourselves.

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You know, I have come to learn that when Jesus says “Amen, Amen” (Verse 24), He is going to say something profound and usually mind (and soul) bending.  In today’s Gospel, He says:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24)

This verse reveals a profound truth: through His death, Jesus Christ will be accessible to ALL who seek Him and believe in Him.  (I cannot repeat this enough!)

But what does Jesus mean by His saying, “it remains just a grain of wheat” (verse 24).  I believe this particular saying is found all through Synoptic Scripture.  The wheat dying and then “producing much fruit” symbolizes that through His death, Jesus will be accessible to all:

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39);

“ For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25);

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35);

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”  (Luke 9:24);

And finally,

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” (Luke 17:33).

John however adds the phrases “in this world and for eternal life”.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (John 12:25).

I love John’s Poetic nature of writing.  His additions truly make Holy Scripture JUMP to life in my mind, heart, and soul.

In these multiple verses from the Synoptic and John’s Gospels, “His life” (verse 25) is a translation of the Greek word “psyche”, referring to a person’s natural life; and not meaning “soul”.  Hebrew anthropology (the study of humankind culture and development) did not imagine a “body versus soul” dualism (two distinct parts or aspects, which are often opposites) in the way familiar to us.  For first century Hebrew, the Body and soul were intertwined.

With this little fact in mind, what does it mean to “die” to oneself?  For me, it means that what is in opposition to God’s will and plan for each of us must be crucified, put to death.  God gives us an extraordinary gift, a grace to say “YES” to His will and plan; to reject whatever is in opposition to His loving plan for our lives.  

Jesus also promises we will “produce much fruit” for Him, IF we choose to deny ourselves for His sake.  In today’s reading, Jesus used powerful words to describe the kind of self-denial He wanted from His disciples.  

Using this powerful speech I just mentioned, what did He mean when by saying one must “hate” himself?  (I hate the word hate!)  Jesus says nothing should get in the way of our preferring Him or with the will and plan of our “glorious” Father in heaven.  Our hope is not in an earth-based, materialistic world, but rather one of a heaven-bound hope.  St. Paul reminds us that:

What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 15:42) RSV.

Do you hope and trust in the Lord, and follow joyfully on the path He has chosen for you to follow?  Are you truly following in Jesus’ example in ALL you do and say?  I, at least, try!!  I hope and pray that you do as well!   

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Let us continue on with John’s Gospel reading.  In verse 27, Jesus states, “I am troubled”!  Jesus is perhaps giving a foretelling of what He will endure later: agony at Gethsemane:

I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” (John 6:38);

Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its scabbard.  Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (John 18:11).

Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews of Jesus’ troubles in a very direct way:

“In the days when he was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.  Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered” (Hebrew 5:7–8).

This final section of today’s Gospel should be read as John’s parallel to the “agony in the garden”.  Unlike the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John does not record Jesus’ anguished prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, prior to His arrest.  It is interesting and comforting that Jesus gives a confident response to the question He raises when asking God to save Him from His impending death.

What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27-28)

After announcing His conviction of “glorifying” His (and our) Father’s name IS the reason, the purpose that He came, a voice from heaven speaks, as if in answer to Jesus’ prayer:

Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again.’” (John 12:28).

This “voice”, like the one heard at Jesus’ baptism and at Jesus’ Transfiguration – – both reported in the Synoptic Gospels, but not in John’s Gospel – – affirms that God the Father welcomes the sacrifice Jesus will make on behalf of each of US – – PERSONALLY!!  In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches this “voice” was sent for the sake of those who would believe in Him.

At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the “Ruler of this world”.  Surprising for some, it is not God; it is instead Satan.  Remember, though God is everywhere, He is not “OF” this world, but is IN this world to save us.  Remember, there are no worldly items in paradise.  You can either be of this world, or of His kingdom, but not both:

My [Jesus’] kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”(John 18:36)

Satan and his angels (a “third of the stars”), were “thrown to earth”:

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon (Satan).  The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels (the “third of the stars” – – the “fallen” angels) were thrown down with it.” (Revelations 4:7-9)

They had “free will”, as we do, and chose to turn their back on God.  For such a choice, they were barred from everlasting paradise.

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In today’s Gospel, we “hear” Jesus speak about the “worldly” framework against which we are to understand His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Through His death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ conquered Satan, “the ruler of this world” (verse 31).  In this way the “world” is judged, yet, the judgment is NOT necessarily one of condemnation.  Instead, through Jesus’ dying and rising from the dead on third day, “salvation” is lovingly and “gloriously” brought to the world for OUR sake.

If we want to experience the “new” life Jesus offers, then the outer shell of our old, sinful nature must be broken, rejected, and put to death.  In Baptism our “old nature”, enslaved by the darkness of sin, is buried with Jesus Christ.  We then rise as a “new creation”, also in Jesus Christ.  This process of death to the “old sinful self” is both a one-time event such as in our personal baptism, and a continuous – – daily and on-going – – cycle in which God buries us more deeply into Jesus’ death to sin, so we might rise anew and bear more fruit for God.  This concept is my impression of the Franciscan notion of “Daily Conversion”.  WOW, have you realized yet that there is a great, and on-going, paradox presented to us today: “death leads to life”.  When we “die” to OUR – – individual, sinful, and “worldly” – – selves, we “rise”, with Christ through the Holy Spirit, to brand new and more fulfilling life in Jesus Christ.  Again, WOW!!

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To conclude, our lives are often balancing acts in which we “prioritize” and attend to a variety of sometimes overwhelming and competing needs.  In time, most of us learn the value of putting others’ needs ahead of our own when necessary.  We also learn that when we make personal sacrifices to serve others, we gain so much more than we may have lost.  In these times, we are living up to what Jesus asks of us: to follow His example of personal sacrifice.  

Reflect on how important it is to you to gladly serve one another, especially those you do not know or personally like.  Consider the last time someone asked for help.  What was your response?  Did you “cheerfully” try to honor their request, or, did you ask, “Why me?”  How do you think Jesus would want us to respond when someone asks for help?  Realize “the help” may not be the “help” the requester wanted; it may be helping in a way they NEED instead.  Make a commitment for the next week (or more) to try to respond cheerfully to requests for help.  Ask for God’s help with this commitment; He WILL respond in a way which may surprise you!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

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

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.”

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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.

The “Papacy”

“‘Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32) RSV.

“’Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) KJV.

***

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (John 1:42) RSV.

He brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone. (John 1:42) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The feast of the Annunciation, now recognized as a solemnity, goes back to the fourth or fifth century.  Its central focus is the Incarnation: God has become one of us.  From all eternity God had decided that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity should become human.  Now, as Luke 1:26-38 tells us, the decision is being realized.  The God-Man embraces all humanity, indeed all creation, to bring it to God in one great act of love.  Because human beings have rejected God, Jesus will accept a life of suffering and an agonizing death: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Mary has an important role to play in God’s plan.  From all eternity God destined her to be the mother of Jesus and closely related to him in the creation and redemption of the world.  We could say that God’s decrees of creation and redemption are joined in the decree of Incarnation.  Because Mary is God’s instrument in the Incarnation, she has a role to play with Jesus in creation and redemption.  It is a God-given role.  It is God’s grace from beginning to end.  Mary becomes the eminent figure she is only by God’s grace.  She is the empty space where God could act. Everything she is she owes to the Trinity.

She is the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined.  She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38).

Together with Jesus, the privileged and graced Mary is the link between heaven and earth.  She is the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the possibilities of human existence.  She received into her lowliness the infinite love of God.  She shows how an ordinary human being can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life.  She exemplifies what the Church and every member of the Church is meant to become.  She is the ultimate product of the creative and redemptive power of God.  She manifests what the Incarnation is meant to accomplish for all of us.

Comment:

Sometimes spiritual writers are accused of putting Mary on a pedestal and thereby discouraging ordinary humans from imitating her.  Perhaps such an observation is misguided.  God did put Mary on a pedestal and has put all human beings on a pedestal.  We have scarcely begun to realize the magnificence of divine grace, the wonder of God’s freely given love.  The marvel of Mary—even in the midst of her very ordinary life—is God’s shout to us to wake up to the marvelous creatures that we all are by divine design.

Quote:

“Enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendor of an entirely unique holiness, the virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, 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).  Thus the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly and impeded by no sin to God’s saving will, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God” (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)

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’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.

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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.

♫“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.

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


 

Fifth Week of Easter

 

 

Today’s Content:

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

  OR,

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:


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

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

 

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

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

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

And,

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

At another time:

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

And again Paul declares:

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

And finally,

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

“in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Jesus had just finished telling those assembled disciples:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Wow!! God the Father is:

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

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

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

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

In today’s reading, Jesus assures them:

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

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

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

Jesus Christ will never leave us behind!

 

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

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

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

And,

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Jesus says, in today’s Gospel:

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Please meditate on the following, before answering:

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

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

 

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Our Father

 

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

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

 

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

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

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

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscan Spirituality

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

 

“Lazarus Came Out Of the Tomb and Saw His Shadow. We Now Have Two More Weeks Of Lent!” – John 11:1-45†


 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

Today’s Content:

  

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Yippee, the Government did not screech to a halt in such a way as to throw the earth off its rotational axis, as many feared.  Yet sadly, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) caved in on his promise to defund Planned Parenthood.  Anti-abortion lawmakers did succeed however in blocking taxpayer-funded abortions in the District of Columbia (only 50 States to go).  

President Obama succeeded in forcing Boehner, and other Republicans in Congress, to cave in on dozens of items including Planned Parenthood, while protecting favored programs like education, clean energy and medical research.  Representative Boehner, I consider defunding Planned Parenthood as a favored endeavor, and of the utmost urgency!

Yes, the mutually agreed upon bill will remove close to $40 billion from the day-to-day budgets of certain domestic agencies over six months, – – the biggest rollback of such government programs in history.  And yes, it will put the Cabinet operating budgets on a track closer to levels before President Obama took office in 2009.  Yet we (the USA) are throwing God’s miracle in trashcans 3700 times daily, 1.37 million yearly (42 million worldwide)!  Again, how SAD!!

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    
†   847 – St Leo IV begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1512 – Pope Julius II opens 5th Council of Lateranen
†   1585 – Death of Gregory XIII,  [Ugo Buoncampagni], (b. 1502), Italian Pope (1572-85)
†   1704 – Death of William Egon of Fürstenberg, Bishop of Strassburg (b. 1629)
†   1821 – Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople is hanged by the Turks from the main gate of the Patriarchate and his body is thrown into the Bosphorus.
†   1921 – Birth of Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Fulbert of Chartres; James, Azadanus and Abdicius; Saint Paternus

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

 

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Joke of the Day:

 

Ben: Dad, why doesn’t the bible say anything about the other three persons that Jesus raised from the dead at the same time as Lazarus?

Dad: Where did you learn that there were three other persons? Lazarus was the only one in that bible story.

Ben: Well Dad, in the bible it says that there were at least four people.

Dad: Where does it say that in the bible?

Ben: Right here Dad (showing him his bible), it says “Lazarus came forth”!

 

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Today’s reflection is about the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

 

 (NAB John 11:1-45) 1 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.  3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”  4 When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.  7 Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”  8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”  9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day?  If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  10 But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”  11 He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”  12 So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”  13 But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.  14 So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died.  15 And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.”  16 So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”  17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.  19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.  20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.  21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  22 (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”  24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”  25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”  28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”  29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.  30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.  31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”  35 And Jesus wept.  36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”  37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”  38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.  39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”  41 So they took away the stone.  And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.  42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.  So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”  45 Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

 

Today’s the second longest continuous Gospel narrative in John’s Gospel read at Mass throughout the Liturgical year.  The only Gospel reading longer is the passion narrative.  This reading invites us to reflect upon what it means to call Jesus the “Resurrection and the life”.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead is also the climax of Jesus’ signs (miracles) before His own death and resurrection.  This Gospel reading directly leads up to the decision by the Sanhedrin to eliminate (kill) Jesus out of fear and jealousy and precipitated the literal fulfillment of Hebrew prophesies found in Isaiah and elsewhere.

A theme of “life” predominates throughout this reading.  Lazarus (His name means “God is my help”) is a symbol of the real “life” that Jesus – – through His death and resurrection – – will give to all who believe in Him.  Just think of the irony in the Lazarus story: Jesus’ gift of life to His friend (and to all of us) will ultimately and directly lead to His own death on the Holy Tree of redemption.

Through Lazarus’ sickness and subsequent death, God brought glory in, and to, Jesus, His only begotten Son.  Jesus, who raised His friend from the dead, did so in an anticipation of His own death and resurrection.  We should remember these two events (Lazarus’s and Jesus’ resurrections) this week in our participation at the Eucharist, which was given to us as a foretaste of Jesus’ “transfiguration” of OUR bodies, at the Parousia, His appearing and full presence – – His second coming. 

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The background of today’s story, – – the raising of Lazarus, – – is the Jewish leaders’ growing animosity toward Jesus.  He had been in Jerusalem, taking part in the “feast of the Dedication”, which we now call, “Hanukkah”, the “feast of Lights”.  The Jewish people had been pushing him to declare plainly whether or not He was the true “Messiah” prophesized.  Jesus tells them to look to His works (and not faith alone), which will testify to His coming from God (for our sake).  Many do not believe Jesus, and a number of them try to stone Him for the [false] sin/crime of “blasphemy”, claiming equality with God the Father.

While Jesus is evading those choosing to do Him harm, word is sent to Him that His friend is ill; yet He delays His journey, purposefully, for two days.  The delay heightens the drama when He eventually arrives in Bethany.  The delay also shows Jesus’ obedience to God, who is to be glorified through Jesus’ delay and Lazarus’s eventual resurrection.  

 

The story of the raising of Lazarus is not found verbatim in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  However, Luke does record another example of Jesus Christ demonstrating His compassion and His divine authority over life and death, as found in Luke 7:11-17: 

“Soon afterward he journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.  As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  A large crowd from the city was with her.  When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’  He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’  The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, ‘A great prophet has arisen in our midst,’ and ‘God has visited his people.’  This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.” (Luke 7:11-17).  

There is another parallel between the Lazarus story and Luke’s parable of the rich man and a “poor man” also named Lazarus:

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.  When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’  Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.  Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’  He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’  But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’  He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.‘” (Luke 16:19-31).

In both stories, a man named Lazarus dies.  However, in Luke, there is a request that Lazarus return from the dead in order to convince his contemporaries of the need for faith and repentance, while in John, Lazarus does return inspiring a belief in the resurrection, and in Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”, in some among them.

 

Bethany was “about two miles” from Jerusalem as stated in verse 18 of today’s reading.  In the original Greek, it was actually about fifteen “stades“.  A stade was a measurement of 607 feet, so with using simple math, this would equate to 9105 feet, or just a tad bit over 1.7 miles.  (Yes, I do love math, and yes I can be a little type “A” when it comes to the subject of math.)

Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters as dear friends, and He often stayed in their home at Bethany.  So, why did Jesus delay in coming to Lazarus’ side when He knew that His friend was gravely ill?

In verse 4, upon hearing of Lazarus’s malady, Jesus says his illness “is not to end in death”.  Do you think this statement was misunderstood by Jesus’ disciples as referring to a “physical”, human death of the body?  In reality, Jesus meant a “NOT – – ending in death”, referring to another kind of death: spiritual death.     

Jesus’ two day delay must have confused and mystified His followers.  However, they seem to be more startled and upset when Jesus finally announced that He was going to Bethany, a town very close in proximity to Jerusalem.  They saw this action as a “suicide” mission of sorts.  Jesus’ followers (and most certainly Jesus) knew the religious authorities (the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) were set on eliminating the threat to them from Jesus.  

For Jesus to come to a place as dangerous for Him as Jerusalem was, at this Passover time was, an act of courage and an act of total trust and love in His heavenly Father.  Jesus’ explanation given to His disciples was simple and challenging at the same time:

“Are there not twelve hours in the day?” (John 11:9)

To paraphrase (a potentially dangerous thing to do with Holy Scripture), Jesus said: “There are enough hours in the day to do what one must do.”  A day, in a chronological form, can never be shortened, lengthened, hurried, or slowed, for it is a fixed period of measurement.  We each have our “day”, or “time”, whether it be short or long (even if it is only “15 minutes of fame”), if we look at a “day” as in the sequential form. 

While time is limited chronologically, there is always enough time for us to accomplish what God intends for us to finish.  Remember, God knows all, and gives each of us an allotted measure of human – – mortal – – life to do what is our part of God’s plan.  So, the choice for us is either to waste it through personal self-gratification, or use it to the greatest ability for God’s glory in all we do and say. 

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Lazarus was “sick”.  Sickness can befall us for a variety of reasons.   Jesus attributed Lazarus’ sickness to the glory of God.  The glory which Jesus had in mind, however, was connected with the Holy Cross – – The Holy Tree of Redemption.   He saw the Holy Cross as His supreme glory – – and the path to glory in the kingdom of God.  For Jesus there was no other path to glory except through the cross; this was God the Father’s plan for salvation, for Jesus Himself, for the whole family of Abraham, and for all people of all nations.. 

Jesus knew that if He went to help Lazarus He would expose himself to grave danger from those in Jerusalem who were plotting His destruction.  Jesus was willing to pay that price to help His friend; to give His life for another.  Jesus would explicitly declare this truth in what would be written a few chapters later in John’s Gospel:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Are you ready to give help – – to give your own life – – for your friend?  That may seem like a relatively easy thing to do (emphasis is on the word “may”!).  Now, let me throw out the proverbial “ringer”: as a Catholic, as a Christian, are you ready to give help? – – to give your own life? – – for one’s enemy?!! 

Jesus did not segregate the two groups; and neither should we!

 

Jesus did not let circumstances or pressure dictate what He would do.  Nor did He permit others to determine His actions or plan for salvation.  He took actions on His own initiative and on His own schedule.  How often do we try to get God to do things in our way and on our self-determined period of time?  One of my favorite old-time sayings which I just made up is:

“We are on God’s time, and His pocket watch sticks occasionally!” (DEH, 2011) 

 

Let’s go back to the reference about 12 hours in a day.  Both the Romans and the Jews divided the day into twelve equal hours from sunrise to sunset.  We would think of this division as starting around 6 AM and ending at 6 PM – – in accord with God’s natural sequence of light and dark.  The day’s work and travel ceased when the daylight was gone – – when darkness fell over the earth.  Jesus made a spiritual analogy using this concept of light and dark in our relationship with God. 

Jesus is the “Light of the World”!  He is the Son Shine that makes the Sunshine.  Remember the words, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).  For those who do not believe in Him, “the light is not in him”!  In the pre-modern scientific world of Jesus’ time, people apparently did not understand clearly the concept of light entering through the eye.  They seem to have thought of light as being in the eye, as illustrated in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels:

If your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.  And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.” (Matthew 6:23).

And,

The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness.” (Luke 11:34);

While the light of Christ is with us, and actually within us and surrounding us, then, as Paul says, we must live and walk in the truth and grace of His life, which is His light within us.  Sometimes the light within us is darkness when we are not following Jesus Christ as we should, and we then experience the need to be reconciled with God the Father.  There’s a perfect time to be reconciled with God – – NOW!!   

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When Jesus announced that when He was going to the region of Jerusalem after hearing of Lazarus’ death, Thomas showed remarkable courage, as shown in His words recorded by John:

Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.” (John 11:16)

This courage, however, was not tempered with faith, trust, and hope in God’s promise to bring a victory out of defeat – – a resurrection out of death.  The proof for this statement is that even though Thomas was a witness to Lazarus’ resurrection, he later abandoned his master, teacher, and dear friend when Jesus was arrested.  He doubted his master’s resurrection until Jesus appeared to him and showed him, directly, the wounds in His hands, feet, and side.  (Hence, how the origin of the description “Doubting Thomas” came about.).  

It is through faith, courage, trust, and love that we get the strength we need to persist through any worldly trial and/or suffering which confronts us in this human and mortal exile.  If we embrace our personal crosses with faith, courage, trust, and love in God, we too will have the assurance that we will see victory and glory made possible through Jesus Christ, our personal and familial Savior.

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When Martha and Mary met Jesus with weeping, they declared to Him that if He had been there, their brother Lazarus would not have died.  They also expressed confidence and faith that God would do whatever Jesus would ask NOW.  They TRUSTED God!  They still TRUSTED Jesus Christ!  They clearly affirmed their belief in Jesus Christ and in the resurrection of the dead “in the last days”.

Martha says that she believes Jesus to be “the Messiah”, “the Son of God”, and “the One”.   All of these titles from verse 27 are a summary of the titles given to Jesus found in all the Gospels.  As in any good book (get the pun), there is always a summary of facts just prior to the climax of the story.  The use of these titles summarizes Jesus’ role as the “one” prophesized by Moses, coming to save the “chosen” people of God.

 

Interestingly for me, the shocking phrase, “became perturbed”, in the original Greek, literally means “He snorted in spirit“.  Jesus’ “snort” is defined by Encarta Dictionary as a harsh sound produced by forcing air through the nostrils in order to express feelings, especially feelings of contempt or impatience.  Jesus’ contemporaries were upset with His delay and His slow arrival in Bethany.  But, Jesus too, was upset.  He was obviously impatient at the presence of the evil of physical death present at this scene, and at the “professional” mourners who came from Jerusalem to cry attentively at Lazarus’ tomb.  You know the old adage, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature”, and I think it is even more ill-advised to get Jesus “perturbed” at you!  A perturbed Jesus may even trump a perturbed wife; something I personally know well (without even trying most times)!

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Throughout all four Gospels, Jesus regularly refers to God as His “Father”, a translation of the Aramaic word, “abba”.  Jesus regularly addresses God with a concept of filial intimacy as a son’s relationship with, and feelings toward, His parent.  The word “abba” seems not to have been regularly used in earlier or contemporaneous Jewish sources to address God.  Other occurrences of this Aramaic word are only found in the New Testament, in the books of Romans and Galatians:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:15);

And,

As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6)

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Jesus asks to be brought to Lazarus’s tomb where He prays and calls Lazarus out from the tomb.  At this sign, – – this miracle – – many come to believe in Jesus, but others take word of the miracle to the Jewish authorities, who begin their plans for Jesus’ death.

Our Lord “cried out in a loud voice” and Lazarus came out of the tomb.  In the drama of this event, I think back to an earlier verse in John’s Gospel:

The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” (John 5:28)

Lazarus was still wrapped in his burial strips, and his face was still covered.  This man could not remove his bindings, nor could he remove what blinded him.  He needed the assistance of another, Jesus Christ, to remove his darkness and oppressive wrappings.  SO DO WE!!

In a short time, Jesus Himself will be wrapped in bindings and a cloth will be placed over His face.  However, in three days, those bindings will be found in His rock-hewed tomb untied.  Their magnificent Lord and Savior vanished from the tomb.  The cloth that was draped over His face (I believe it was the tallit, a Jewish religious prayer shawl/robe) was found folded and placed carefully (and reverently) on the shelf which Jesus laid upon, while dead.

 

What a stark difference between the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus Christ.  Lazarus was resurrected to fulfill Jesus’ ministry, God’s plan of salvation for him.  Jesus was resurrected to fulfill completely God’s plan of salvation and redemption for all of us.  

Remember, Lazarus needed help to remove his oppressive and sight-blinding bindings.  Jesus is the “authority” who instructed others to remove such bindings from Lazarus.  He will do the same for us as we allow Him more fully into our lives.   Jesus Christ is the “light of the world” who will open our eyes to the beauty of God’s creation, here on earth, and in heaven.  (Never to be blinded again.)

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Lazarus may be the luckiest and most blessed person that I can think of right now.  He had a personal, direct, and physical relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ on a daily basis.  Yet, why can’t we as well?  He lives in us in the form of the Holy Spirit, and we can personally, directly, and physically receive Him in the Eucharist at Mass and at Eucharistic Adoration on a daily basis.

Lazarus also gets to experience the gift and beauty of resurrection to bodily form twice.  He experienced a bodily resurrection, as reported in this story; and will again experience a bodily resurrection, at the Parousia.  Twice, he will experience a unique, personal, and extreme love which is emitting from his Creator and Redeemer – – Jesus Christ!  We will be privileged to experience this grace once, yet he gets a double dose!  You know what?  Once will be good enough for me!  And, in a sense, I can’t wait!  (I hope my ticket is stamped “non-smoking”, – – and is up-front, first class.  I’ve had enough of coach.)

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Set against the background of Jesus’ looming death, many elements of the raising of Lazarus prefigure the “good news” of Jesus’ own Resurrection.  Soon to face the tension and clash with Jewish authorities, Jesus acts in complete obedience to God the Father.  In raising Lazarus, Jesus shows His power over death so that when Jesus dies, those who believe in Him might remember, and take hope in His promises.  Just as Jesus calls for the stone to be rolled away from Lazarus’s tomb, so too will the disciples find the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.

Today, reflect on Baptism as a dying and rising with Jesus.  In Baptism we die to sin’s power over us, rising as children of God.  In Baptism, Jesus joins us to Himself.  As He conquered death once and for all so that we – – who believe in him – – may have eternal life, we are freed from fear of death.  With Martha and Mary, we are called to profess our belief that Jesus is indeed the Resurrection for each of us personally.  Our future will be enjoying completely the unending life in His light.

 

In Summary, Jesus’ promise of eternal life is a fundamental element of our Catholic faith.  Today’s Gospel reading encourages us to recognize, accept, and respond to Jesus’ triumph, power, and victory over death as demonstrated in the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  During this Lenten Season, we need to anticipate and to praise in Jesus conquering death – – once and for all – – by His own dying (never to be repeated), and by His Rising (in a miracle), which each of us will experience on that glorious day, the Parousia.  

We sometimes use examples from nature to help describe this miracle, this gift, this mystery of our faith.  Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself talked about the seed that dies when planted in the ground in order to produce new life:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24).

Using this image of the “grain of wheat dying to produce much fruit”, we find hope and confidence in “Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life”.

Remember Jesus’ promise from today’s Gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  What does Jesus mean by this promise in your life?  Are you confident in this promise from Jesus Christ?  Pray that you will be, and will remain confident in Jesus’ promise of eternal life.  Remember what Pope St. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:3-4: It is by believing “the precious and very great promises” that we “participate in the divine nature” of God.  (We call this Sanctifying Grace.)

The Christian creed, which is the profession of our faith, is a profession, a belief, in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and in the saving power of the Holy Trinity as demonstrated in the Resurrection of Jesus the Son.  That’s why we also proclaim a belief in a resurrection of the dead on the last day, and in an everlasting life.  This IS OUR faith and hope:  This is a biblically based statement of faith declared through today’s Gospel:

“If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11).

God gives us the power of His Holy Spirit that we may be made alive in the light of Jesus Christ.  Through the Holy Spirit, we can even experience the power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in our personal lives – – NOW – – even today!  The Holy Spirit is ever ready to change, to convert, and to transform us into people of faith, hope, and love; into faith filled sons and daughters.  Amen, and Amen.

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The Creed

(From the “New” Missal starting with Advent, 2011)

 

 

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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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.

Currently, the priest says, “The Lord be with you” five times: at the Entrance Rite, before the Gospel, when the Eucharistic Prayer starts, at “the sign of peace”, and finally at the dismissal. The new response from the congregation will be:

“And with your spirit

instead of “And also with you”.

This is a more direct translation of the Latin and matches what many other language groups have been using for years.  It will obviously take some adjustment, since we have been used to saying, “And also with you,” for so long.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Magdalen of Canossa (1774-1835)

 

Wealth and privilege did nothing to prevent today’s saint from following her calling to serve Christ in the poor.  Nor did the protests of her relatives, concerned that such work was beneath her.

Born in northern Italy in 1774, Magdalen knew her mind—and spoke it.  At age 15 she announced she wished to become a nun.  After trying out her vocation with the cloistered Carmelites, she realized her desire was to serve the needy without restriction.  For years she worked among the poor and sick in hospitals and in their homes and among delinquent and abandoned girls.

In her mid-twenties Magdalen began offering lodging to poor girls in her own home.  In time she opened a school, which offered practical training and religious instruction.  As other women joined her in the work, the new Congregation of the Daughters of Charity emerged.  Over time, houses were opened throughout Italy.

Members of the new religious congregation focused on the educational and spiritual needs of women.  Magdalen also founded a smaller congregation for priests and brothers.  Both groups continue to this day.

She died in 1835. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1988.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Sickness/Death

 

What impression is created by St. Francis calling death his “sister”?  How did St. Francis face death?  What was his mindset?

How does St. Francis’ attitude toward sickness and death compare to your own, and/or the Catholic Church’s?

Why do we act sometimes as if it’s not right that we should be getting sick?

What virtues does Francis ask us to practice when we are sick?

Why do Christians sometimes have the idea that sickness is a punishment for having done things wrong?  Some seem to say: “If I do not picture myself as a big sinner, why should I be suffering this way”? (Reflect on Jesus’ powerful message to the apostles in John’s Gospel, chap.9:3.)

 

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


 

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

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

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

“Are We There Yet? We Left the Receipts for the Gifts At Home; Hope He Likes ‘Em!” – Matthew 2:1-12 †


 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for
JANUARY 2011

 

General Intention:

That the riches of creation be preserved, valued, and made available to all, as precious gifts from God to mankind.

 

Missionary Intention:

That Christians may achieve full unity, bearing witness of the universal fatherhood of God to the entire human race.

 

 

 

 

 

Epiphany Proclamation 2011

(to be read after the Gospel at Mass today)

 

“Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated between the evening of the twenty-first day of April and the evening of the twenty-third day of April,
Easter Sunday being on the twenty-fourth day of April.

Each Easter — as on each Sunday — the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death.  From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the ninth day of March.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the second day of June.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the twelfth day of June.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the twenty-seventh day of November.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, forever and ever.  Amen.”

 

 

 

“Home Blessing”

 

There is a custom that has developed over time for commemorating the Magi’s visit to Jesus’ birth “home”.  It is to bless one’s home during the week of the Epiphany.

The blessing includes marking the first initials of the three magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) at the top frame of the home door (possibly with holy water), along with the year, plus crosses between the numbers and letters.  This year’s marking would look like this:

20 + C + M + B + 11

Here is an example of a prayer that can be used during the blessing, if you wish:

“Be my shelter, Lord, when I am at home, my companion when I am away, and my welcome guest when I return.  And at last receive me into the dwelling place you have prepared for me in your Father’s house, where you live forever and ever.  Amen”

From the “Little Blue Book”
Diocese of Saginaw, MI

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   533 –
Mercurius becomes Pope John II, the first pope to adopt a new name upon elevation to the papacy.
†   1585 – Spain & Catholic France sign Saint League of Joinville
†   1873 – Birth of Thérèse de Lisieux, French Roman-Catholic nun and saint (d. †1897)

(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:

 

(Starting with this first reflection of 2011, I will be posting 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.) 

 

Part 01 of 13 Parts

“The letter of the 6th of May [2010] from His Eminence Card. Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, addressed to the Minister General, Encarnacion del Pozo and to the entire Secular Franciscan Order, is a document of great importance and merits, therefore, the particular attention of each and every member of the SFO.”

“It should be remembered that the SFO is directly dependant on the Holy See, and the Pope in particular, through the CICLSAL.  In Cardinal Rodé’s letter, therefore, it is this same Hierarchical Church which speaks to the Order and does so in consistent continuity with the Magisterium of the Popes for the SFO.”

(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 the Magi (the Three Kings) seeking out Jesus, and paying homage to Him.

 

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

 

 

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

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

In Matthew’s Gospel, the visit of the Magi occurs immediately prior to the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  As is not totally unusual or unique, Matthew’s Gospel tells a different version (actually, just a different viewpoint or emphasis) of Jesus’ life than what is written in Luke’s Gospel.  Of the part of the infancy narrative covering the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew barely tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod” (Matthew 2:1).  Other examples of the difference in coverage of the infancy events between these two Gospels are found in (1) the census only being addressed only in Luke’s Gospel, and (2) the visit of the Magi only being confirmed in Matthew’s Gospel.

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

King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.  Per Wikipedia, he made have been an “Edomite”, who is an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  He was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”  He was also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple).

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

We know little about the Magi. We know they come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following a “heavenly” astrological sign of some type of importance to them.  We base there being “three” Magi solely on the naming of their three gifts, but the actual number of magi that paid “homage” is truly unknown.  My question: Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of strange lands to represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior?  In essence, the Magi represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  In such, they are representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have come to consider the gifts they brought as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation history. We believe the meaning of the gifts to be “Christological” in nature.  Gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  Frankincense is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And myrrh was used to prepare the dead for burial (offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death).

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are understood as symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death.  They are made special to Him (and to us) because in giving them, the Magi (those unknown men from foreign lands and cultures) acknowledged who Jesus was to be: our Savior!  

The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is believed by some to have been established in the gift giving of the Magi.  For this reason, in many cultures still today, gifts are exchanged on the Feast of the Epiphany instead of on Christmas Day.  We can still offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY in the future!  Our three special gift offerings should be praise, adoration, and thanks-giving!

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know God personally.  In the Magi encountering Jesus, we see God’s plan for salvation.  This plan was (and is) to give his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for all mankind.  God gave to us this truly and fully – – both human and divine – – person (in the singular), for not just solely the Jewish faithful, but for all people everywhere.    Do you bring Jesus Christ to others in your path?  Do you actively LOOK for Jesus Christ in others along your path, especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?  God loves it so dearly when we speak words, and performs acts of blessing, hope, and encouragement.  He rejoices when our words and actions help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes of immense size.

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of gift giving.  What was the best gift you have ever received, and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special, or was it the thought that went into it or even the person who gave it to you that made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”)

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “give off” to others.  

We Three Kings

 

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to rein

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Pray’r and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

[Refrain for after each verse]
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen (329-379)

 

Basil was on his way to becoming a famous teacher when he decided to begin a religious life of gospel poverty. After studying various modes of religious life, he founded what was probably the first monastery in Asia Minor. He is to monks of the East what St. Benedict is to the West, and his principles influence Eastern monasticism today.

He was ordained a priest, assisted the archbishop of Caesarea (now southeastern Turkey), and ultimately became archbishop himself, in spite of opposition from some of his suffragan bishops, probably because they foresaw coming reforms.

One of the most damaging heresies in the history of the Church, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, was at its height. Emperor Valens persecuted orthodox believers, and put great pressure on Basil to remain silent and admit the heretics to communion. Basil remained firm, and Valens backed down. But trouble remained. When the great St. Athanasius (May 2) died, the mantle of defender of the faith against Arianism fell upon Basil. He strove mightily to unite and rally his fellow Catholics who were crushed by tyranny and torn by internal dissension. He was misunderstood, misrepresented, accused of heresy and ambition. Even appeals to the pope brought no response. “For my sins I seem to be unsuccessful in everything.”

He was tireless in pastoral care. He preached twice a day to huge crowds, built a hospital that was called a wonder of the world (as a youth he had organized famine relief and worked in a soup kitchen himself) and fought the prostitution business.

Basil was best known as an orator. His writings, though not recognized greatly in his lifetime, rightly place him among the great teachers of the Church. Seventy-two years after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described him as “the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth.”

Comment:

As the French say, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Basil faced the same problems as modern Christians. Sainthood meant trying to preserve the spirit of Christ in such perplexing and painful problems as reform, organization, fighting for the poor, maintaining balance and peace in misunderstanding.

Quote:

St. Basil said: “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

 

Gregory Nazianzen (329-390). After his baptism at 30, Gregory gladly accepted his friend Basil’s invitation to join him in a newly founded monastery. The solitude was broken when Gregory’s father, a bishop, needed help in his diocese and estate. It seems that Gregory was ordained a priest practically by force, and only reluctantly accepted the responsibility. He skillfully avoided a schism that threatened when his own father made compromises with Arianism. At 41, Gregory was chosen as bishop of a diocese near Caesarea and at once came into conflict with Valens, the emperor, who supported the Arians. An unfortunate by-product of the battle was the cooling of the friendship of two saints. Basil, his archbishop, sent him to a miserable and unhealthy town on the border of unjustly created divisions in his diocese. Basil reproached Gregory for not going to his see.

When protection for Arianism ended with the death of Valens, Gregory was called to rebuild the faith in the great see of Constantinople, which had been under Arian teachers for three decades. Retiring and sensitive, he dreaded being drawn into the whirlpool of corruption and violence. He first stayed at a friend’s home, which became the only orthodox church in the city. In such surroundings, he began giving the great sermons on the Trinity for which he is famous. In time, Gregory did rebuild the faith in the city, but at the cost of great suffering, slander, insults and even personal violence. An interloper even tried to take over his archdiocese.

His last days were spent in solitude and austerity. He wrote religious poetry, some of it autobiographical, of great depth and beauty. He was acclaimed simply as “the Theologian.”

COMMENT: It may be small comfort, but turmoil in the Church today is a mild storm compared to the devastation caused by the Arian heresy, a trauma the Church has never forgotten. Christ did not promise the kind of peace we would love to have—no problems, no opposition, no pain. In one way or another, holiness is always the way of the cross.

QUOTE: “God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God’s greatness.”

Patron Saint of: Russia

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.