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


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3rd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

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

 

The Christmas Tree

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, from Malachi – – refiners-fire-c

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

An Advent Prayer

 

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

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“Love Doesn’t Calculate; It Spends Lavishly Instead – – And Boy, Does My Wife ‘LOVE’ Spending!” – Mark 12:38-44†


32ndSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Now that the elections are over, it is our duty as Catholic Christians to help bring all people – – all our brothers and sisters in Christ together in peace and HARMONY.  Let us all pray for our country’s leaders, for our country itself, and for each of US. 

A friend gave me the following intentions for prayer during the election period; however, I tweaked it to be used as a way of praying daily.  Please let me know what you think about the following set of various bible verses:

SCRIPTURE VERSES TO PRAY FOR OUR NATION

It is critical that Christians pray for our nation.  There is amazing power in united prayer.  Pray with others whenever possible.  The power of prayer can overcome any obstacle or ungodly influence and, indeed, do great things!

II Chronicles 7:14– If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, will heal their land.
Acts 17:30 – Pray for repentance for yourself and for our nation.

Psalm 32:6-7
– Pray that Christians will be motivated to pray faithfully for our nation and that the Lord would deliver us from the wrong leaders.
Proverbs 16:13
– Pray that our nation will listen to the truth and not be led astray.
Psalm 125
– Pray that those who trust in the Lord will not be shaken.
Psalm 86:14-17
– Pray that the Lord would defeat those who have no regard for Him in this election.
II Kings 13:16
– Pray that the Lord would put His hands on the president (and his team) and guide them.
Daniel 2:20-22
– the Bible tells us that God sets up kings and God deposes kings. God is in control.
Luke 12:54-57
– Pray that our nation will do what is right.
Psalm 16:7-8
– Pray that the Lord would give wise counsel and guidance to the president.
Proverbs 1:5-6
– Pray that the President will listen with discernment, add to his knowledge, and receive wise counsel.
John 16:33 – Pray that the President would be given wisdom and ability from the Lord to overcome any obstacle or difficulty.
Philippians 4:13
– Pray that the President will have special strength and unusual ability from God.
Psalm 18:32-36
– Pray that the Lord would arm the President with strength; would guide him in battle; and would sustain him and give him victory.
2 Corinthians 12:9
– Pray that the Lord would empower and enable the President in any area of weakness.
Habakkuk 1:5 and 3:2
– Pray that the Lord would do something that would utterly amaze us and grant the country true freedom.

 Please print out this prayer guide and pray daily.  Please forward this to every Christian you know!

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 Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus notices a poor widow’s offering and commends her great sacrifice.  What’s your commitment to “tithing”?

(NAB Mark 12:38-44)  38 In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums.  42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The context for today’s Gospel continues to be one of mounting tensions between Jesus and the Jewish authorities.  In today’s reading, Mark tells of Jesus’ teaching specifically in the Temple area where He could observe His Jewish brethren putting in their offering to the Temple treasury.  

Today’s Gospel reading is what my children call a “twofer”: the denunciation of the Scribes, and the poor widow’s contribution, combined into one teaching.

In the first part, we hear Jesus warn the crowds to not follow the example of the Scribes in seeking honor and coveting attention from others by their actions and religious behavior.  It is important for us to recall that Jesus taught these things while in the vicinity of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Scribes “home court” territory.  Mark, in this first part of his Gospel today, is setting the stage for Jesus’ arrest, passion, and crucifixion.  While the tradition of a deep hostility between the Pharisees and Jesus is well founded, this reading reflects a growing animosity which goes beyond that of Jesus’ personal ministry to that of the bitter conflict between Jesus, His followers, and the Temple leaders, in their religious practices.  

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Jesus’ first teaching is about the Scribes (and, I am sure, the Pharisees and Sadducees as well), and their very public and overt attention which they purposely bring onto themselves.  The Scribes’ narrow, legalistic, and external practices of piety in matters of public worship, and observance of the commandments, with their own interpretations, places them in opposition to Jesus’ teaching of the TRUE moral intent of God the Father’s divine law.   

Per Jesus and divine law, the following practices and tradition of the Temple leaders are dubious, questionable, and untrustworthy:

    •  going around in long robes
    • accept greetings in the marketplaces,
    • having seats of honor in synagogues, and
    • holding places of honor at banquets”.  

So, Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes for their lack of humility.  In their misguided zeal, the Scribes desired and sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”.  They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and religious “rulers”.  They unfortunately made the practice of their faith one of a place of honor rather than “humbly serving” the “chosen people” of God.

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues (humility and piety) actually leads one to increased greed and further separation from God the Father.  Mark actually warns of the consequences of greed and arrogance in today’s reading:

In the course of his teaching he [Jesus] said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation’” (Mark 12:38-40).

The Scribes are “acting” in order to impress others and earn praise.  Their actions were solely for the purpose of making their “piety” more noticeable.  The hypocrisy of the Scribes (and the Pharisees and Sadducees) is in their “long prayers” and public actions – – in their purposeful, very public demonstrations of “piety” – – having no other purpose than to enhance their ego’s and reputations as the paramount and BEST religious persons in the area (and beyond).

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The Scribes “place of honor and worship” was the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was the center of Jewish worship from the time Solomon built it in 957 BC – – and rebuilt after its first TOTAL destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC – – until shortly after the time of Jesus when it was destroyed completely by the Romans in 70 A.D. and never rebuilt.  Jesus observed how Jewish “pilgrims” were making their required contributions to the Temple treasury.  It was expected that observant Jews would make pilgrimages to the Temple to offer prayer and sacrifices.  These visiting pilgrims also were expected to make a financial contribution to the Temple treasury.  (See, Catholics aren’t the only ones who are expected to contribute financially to their “parish”!)

As we would expect, Jesus observed that those who were rich contributed large sums to the treasury, while those with less funds made smaller contributions.  A similar situation exists in most of our parishes as well today, especially in our financially depressing times which we are currently experiencing now.  

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Jesus, in His second teaching from today’s reading, calls attention to a “poor widow” who makes the smallest of contributions – – a paltry sum of money, just two coins of very little value.  Jesus give His approval to the poor widow’s offering, commending her because her small offering was an act of profound love and generosity.  She was giving from “her livelihood” rather than from her surplus.  WOW!!  Do you trust God enough to do such an act?  I admit, I have difficulties in doing this quite often.  (This is something to truly work on for me.)

Jesus says of her that she is “blessed”, not only for her actions, but especially for her attitude, intentions, and because she gave “from her poverty”.  This “poor widow” had “contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”.  This “widow” is an example of the poor ones – – such as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis of Assisi – – who detached from material possessions, showed her dependence on God; which led to her (and their) blessedness (and the wonder & admiration from Jesus Himself):

Calling His disciples to Himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury” (Mark 12:43).

Her simple offering provided a striking contrast to the pride and pretentiousness of the Scribes who were “censured” by Jesus in the preceding verses (Mark 12:38-40).

Jesus is extolling the fortunate condition of this poor woman who is, at the same time, favored with the blessings of God the Father because of her true, deep faith.  She was a REAL disciple of Christ who appreciated the real values of God’s kingdom.  The present condition of this “poor widow” will ultimately be reversed in God’s kingdom.  She will inherit the riches of eternal life – – in the everlasting presence of God – – at the bountiful and eternal banquet in heaven.

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In Jesus’ denunciation of the Scribes, He warns against three things: 

  • the desire for prominence rather than selfless service;
  • the desire for admiration and recognition (seeking esteem from others) rather than seeking to promote the good of others through humble service and love;

and thirdly,

  • attempting to use one’s position (even a religious position) for self-gain and self-advancement.

True faith means relating to God – – and to one’s “neighbor” – – with love, honor, and reverence.  God places the Holy Spirit within each of us, filling us with the joy of His presence, the joy of true worship, and the joy of selfless giving and love for, and to, others.  This true love, honor, and reverence for God frees our heart to give freely, generously, and abundantly both to God AND to neighbor.

To give from our livelihood is not only an act of love and generosity, it is also an act of trust in God’s mercy, love, and providence.  We can only give from our need if we trust in God providing for us.  Jesus Himself demonstrated the ultimate act of loving generosity and trust in God when He gave His life – – for US – – on the Holy Cross.

Jesus, through His Passion and death, taught His disciples a dramatic lesson in giving with love.  Love doesn’t calculate; it spends lavishly instead!  (And boy, does my wife “LOVE” spending!!)  Jesus drove this point of “love giving more than it takes in” home to His disciples while sitting in the Temple, observing and commenting on the people offering their contributions to the Temple treasury.  

Jesus’ teaching seems to be very simple: this “poor widow” trusted with all she had, believing God would provide for her.  Jesus reveals to her that love for God is more precious than any amount of money!  Jesus taught that real giving must come from the heart.  A “gift” which is given – – for show or with conditions – – loses most of its value.  However, Jesus reveals that He is impressed by a gift given out of love, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice, is truly invaluable – – priceless – – in God’s eye and His kingdom.  

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The amount or size of the gift doesn’t matter as much as the cost to the giver.  The “poor widow” could have kept one of her coins, but instead she gave away ALL SHE HAD!!  Jesus praised this person who gave the Temple barely anything of monetary value, solely because it was everything she had in life, “her whole living”.  

What we have in life to offer to God and neighbor may look very small and not worth much in our eyes, and even in others’ eyes; but if we put ALL we have towards God’s will and plan, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you and others, God will certainly do with it – – and with us – – what is beyond our feeble consideration and understanding.  

Today’s Gospel leads us to think about our family’s financial contributions to our personal parish communities, the diocese we live in, other Church-sponsored organizations, and even other charitable groups.  Good stewardship (the way in which someone organizes and takes care of something) invites us to share our time, talents, and treasures.  

Sometimes, our decisions about charitable giving are made without the knowledge of others in our family.  However, we need to remember that we can teach a valuable lesson when we make family members aware of HOW we are contributing to our Church and to other charitable organizations.  We can pass on our knowledge of God’s gifts for others imparted to us in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.

Think about your family’s financial contributions to your parish and to other Church functions and activities, as well as other charitable organizations.  Think about why it is important for you to share your resources with these organizations.  Finally, reflect on what Jesus observed in the generosity of the “poor widow”.  In what ways might you make a sacrificial gift to support your parish or other charitable organization through a donation of time, talents, or treasures (it does NOT have to be money!).  Then, participate in the action you choose to take for the organization you chose to support.  Finish your reflection on the generosity of the “poor widow” with a prayer, asking for God’s help to be “generous” like the generous “poor widow” in today’s Gospel.  Thank you.

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 Reflection Prayer:  

STEWARDSHIP PRAYER

Generous God, I give thanks to you for the gifts you have given me: my life, my family, my friends; my time, talents, and material possessions.  All that I have comes from you. Help me to remember this and rejoice in your goodness.

Walk with me, my God. Help me on my spiritual journey, so that I may constantly renew my relationship with you and all the good people in our parish and throughout the world.

Renew in me your Spirit.  Give me the strength and courage to become a better follower of Jesus, to be a disciple.  Help me hear the call to “Come, Follow Me.”

I give glory to you, my God, as I make stewardship a way of life.  Amen.”

http://www.stewardshipli.org/main/prayer.html

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“You Cannot Mention My Father’s Name. However, I Truly Want You To Use MINE!” – Mark 9:38-48†


 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

As Catholics, we are to achieve a “unity of life”, letting our faith form our political decisions as we prepare to vote this November:

“We have important obligations as citizens.  But we have to carry out those obligations always in light of our duty to God” (Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles).

We, per Jesus’ “Word”, are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”  We are called to work for the common good of society, to obey just laws, and to respect society and government.  These responsibilities are what we render unto Caesar. 

What we render unto God – – IS FAITH. This means that “we can’t forget about the Church’s teachings and the demands of God’s law.  We have to make sure our participation and our contributions ALWAYS reflect the moral and religious values we find in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church.

When Catholics go to the voting booth, there are NON-negotiable aspects of Catholic social teaching.  Abortion, euthanasia, and marriage between a man and a woman, are among those that are non-negotiable!!

However, many issues ARE, and can be, debatable among Catholics.  Such issues include the economy, taxes, government spending, immigration, foreign affairs, and helping the poor and marginalized.  All these topics are matters for careful judgment – – careful CHOICE.  In such areas, we are always going to have legitimate differences of opinion over how best to apply the Church’s moral principles and teachings among members of our faith community.

So, what is a Catholic to do this November when we go to vote for our future?  What is important to remember is that we are always think and act with the mind of Christ and the mind of the Church in voting and in other civic responsibilities.

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We want with all our hearts to love, to BE “love”.  When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them.  God sees Christ, His Son, in us and loves us.  And so we should see Christ in others.” ~Dorothy Day, “My Wounded Hands“, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that whoever is not against Him – – is FOR Him.  Are YOU a fan, or a follower?

(NAB Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48)  38 John said to him, l “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  39 Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  40 For whoever is not against us is for us.  41 Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.  42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.  45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.  47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last week we heard Jesus rebuke His disciples for their arguing about who among them was the greatest.  Jesus taught them that the greatest among them will be those who serve the least among us.  Today, Jesus’ closest disciple, John, questions Jesus about an “unknown exorcist”, driving out demons in Jesus’ name.  John’s question to Jesus, in today’s reading, looks to have been motivated by simple jealousy:

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us (Mark 9:38). 

I believe John’s question is evidence that Jesus’ disciples have not completely grasped the meaning of Jesus’ “Words”.  These twelve extremely close followers of Jesus continue to compare themselves to others, especially others who appear to have greater healing powers than they possess.  They DO NOT want to share the power of Jesus’ name with others.  John and the other “disciples” even try to stop the man “because he was not following us“.

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Jesus’ reply is, in itself, filled with wisdom:

Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me (Mark 9:39).

Jesus strongly warns against jealousy and intolerance toward others who do not follow in His and our particular ways of faith, and leading to making false judgments.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian’s:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Let me ask you all a question: “Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to stand out more than us?”  I remember as a child being told by the Nuns teaching at my parochial school that ONLY Catholics would go to heaven.  All others would go to Hell, purgatory, or the infamous “limbo” (with the un-baptized infants), and going no further towards a full glory found in heaven.  Thank God (literally) that our closed-minded misunderstanding of dogma no longer exists in the Catholic faith today. 

All of us have to keep in mind that the Catholic Church was established by Christ Himself, at the “Last Supper”, and it has continued without a break in Apostolic Succession to the present day.  Yet, this “perfect” Church is filled with imperfect, sinful souls.  All can achieve the glorious perfection of heaven through their individual actions in this world, even without ever hearing the “Words” of Christ.  Christ knows all of us BY our works:

I [God] know your works (Revelations 3:15);

Christ knows all of us BY our faith and HOW we show our faith through our works:

“Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

With this in mind, there are many Catholics walking on the much easier road to Hell than much more difficult path to paradise.  These materialistic, jealous, judgmental people think they will be saved simply because they attend Mass when necessary, by sending their children to a parochial school, and by supporting their parish and diocese.  At the same time, they cheat, steal, tell lies, look at pornography, and so on.

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In today’s more medically advanced society, the “demon possession” described in Mark, might be seen as only a form of mental illness.  However, the need for healing, including for those with mental illness, was as real for them in the first-century, as it is for us still today.  “Exorcism” was a common practice during Jesus’ time on earth.  We know some people had the power to heal the symptoms of possession then, just as priests are able to do so now.  One of the strategies used in “driving out demons” was, and is still, by invoking the name of a person or figure believed to have the divine power and authority to heal: e.g., Jesus Christ.

The disciples observed that the “unknown exorcist” invoking Jesus’ name was potentially successful in his healing of others (hot-diggity-dogma!!).  This unknown healer recognized the power of Jesus’ name as truly having a divine power in itself, even though this “healer” who was not a member of the clan following of Jesus.  Even though this “healer” was an “outsider”, he must have believed in Jesus, by the fact of using His name. 

In Jesus’ reply to His disciples, He acknowledges that deeds of faith certainly can – – and DO – – precede the words of faith.  Our actions are more powerful than words alone.  Jesus continues teaching His disciples that they should not be reluctant to share Jesus’ healing powers with others.  In other words, we should “spread the wealth” of His grace and its power!!

In Mark 9:40, Jesus’ axiom truly demonstrates a broad attitude, belief, and tenet found in displaying His divine patience, lenience, and charitable tolerance toward others:

Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).

Even the smallest of considerations are shown to those who teach in Jesus’ name: – – and they will not go unrewarded!!  This axiom, this saying, compels a warning: there is NO position for a “neutral” stance where Jesus is concerned.  He Himself states to ALL present that they are either for or against Him – – they are either hot or cold.  NO lukewarm faith is allowed in His Kingdom:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot.   So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Revelations 3:15-16).

Jesus goes on further to speak about the positive effects in works of faith; in other words, those who act their faith in their love for God and others are those who are “hot”:

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward (Mark 9:41).

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Was Jesus’ exaggerating when He urged His followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences found in the last half of this reading (Mark 9:42-48)?  (I believe not.)  The last six verses (Mark 9:42-48) of this Gospel relate to the consequences of sin on one’s life.  Tying a heavy stone and being thrown into the sea, cutting your hand or foot off, or plucking your eye out, in order to save yourself from Hell, is an extremely vivid and morbid image to contemplate.  These images make me think of the idea of ALL of His children being part of His Church body.  If one of us sins, it truly affects ALL of us.  If a “sinner” remains unrepentant, they separate themselves from the Church body (Self-excommunication, which means they are out of fellowship with Christ – – until they choose to acknowledge their sin and repent). 

Just as a doctor might remove a limb, or some other part of the body, in order to preserve the life of the whole person, so too must we be ready to part with anything causing us to sin, leading to a spiritual death.  Jesus warns His disciples of the terrible responsibility of not putting stumbling blocks in the path of another.  Jesus warns us to not give offense or bad example, which may lead another to sin.  Even the first-century Jews understood that giving offense, or giving a bad example, is sinful since leads another TO sin.  If we lead another to sin, that person in turn may lead still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end – – and with assured devastation occurring – – unless someone harkens to an inspired conscious and grace, then to acknowledge their behavior as sin, and finally, to ask God’s forgiveness and mercy. 

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Remember: Christ came to heal; He was the first “medic” coming into – – and onto – – the field of battle: the Jewish nation, PLUS, ALL our individual souls, i.e., the whole human race.   His salves and bandages are the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.  They all heal our wounds of sin and strengthen our moral character.  Jesus treats ALL who come to Him (His practice is open 24 hours per day) with a pure love.  He expects us to treat people with His healing example of love.

With Jesus, there is no longer a need to cut off, or pluck out, anything to gain entrance to heaven.  Instead, we are to put on a great gift which Jesus gave to each and every one of us: the sanctifying grace of Himself and His Spirit!!  Through a proper faith in Jesus, we no longer have to worry about eternal misery with Satan.  After all, “Gehenna” does not sound like a fun place to be:

 “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

Ironically, it is interesting the number of people who end up going to Hell, even though they are aware of the consequences to their earthly actions.  There is not much, if anything, written about Hell that is positive.  So, why do we sin, knowing our action puts us on this road?  The answer is “Satan”  Satan is always wanting another soul – – NOT – – to go to paradise in heaven, but instead, to come to eternal misery and pain in HIS kingdom.  This is his only goal: JEALOUSY – – to take a soul away from GOD!!

The word, “Gehenna” (Mark 9:44, 46), is an interesting word indeed.  It refers to a valley just southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  To the Hebrew’s, this valley is known as the “Valley of Hinnom” (pronounced “gê-hinnōm”), or the “Valley of the son of Hinnom” (“gê ben-hinnōm”).  Gehenna was at one time the center of an idolatrous cult during a monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice.  This specific place is mentioned in two books of Jewish Scripture, our present-day Old Testament:

The king also defiled Topheth [a place of torment and punishment where the wicked are sent after death] in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be any immolation [killing; sacrifices] of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech [a Semitic deity]” (2 Kings 23:10);

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they go on building the high places of Topheth to sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire, something I never commanded or considered”(Jeremiah 7:31).

The concept of punishing sinners by fire, either after death, or after the final judgment, is found in Jewish apocalyptic literature:

Seventy shepherds were judged, and found guilty, and they also were thrown into that abyss of fire.  And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned.  And that abyss was on the south of that house. (Enoch 90:25-26**)

** (The “Book of Enoch” is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah.  It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from a group known as “Beta Israel”.  It is regarded however, as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church, but no other Christian group. ~ From Wikipedia)

“Gehenna” is traditionally used as an image of the invisible reality of the place of eternal punishment written about in the New Testament – – HELL!  Saying either Gehenna or Hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”, reminds me of another morbidly vivid description found in the book of Isaiah:

 “They shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against me; For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be extinguished; and they shall be an abhorrence [revulsion] to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24).

Per Isaiah, God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the “New Jerusalem” – – understood to be heaven.  As in the time of Isaiah, Jesus’ time on earth also had huge cemeteries of dead and decaying corpses, filth of every type, and societal/human waste scattered about in this “Valley of Hinnom” – – Gehenna – – JUST outside the city.  There still are many of God’s enemies surrounding us today – – the “living dead” who have rejected Jesus Christ.

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Jesus teaches us NOT to create obstacles for those who are just beginning to have faith, but to encourage even the smallest signs of faith.  In the vivid terms of today’s reading, Jesus teaches His disciples the consequences of putting obstacles before people on their road to faith.

The second part of today’s Gospel (Mark 9:42-48) contains a strong message for those sharing the responsibility of fostering faith in Jesus to others, an AWE-some responsibility.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that “FAITH” is a continuous, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, lifelong journey toward happiness – – which is God Himself!!  We don’t always understand our journey, or even stay on-track at times.  However, we should pray daily for the grace – – His grace – – to acknowledge and build upon even the smallest signs of faith, in ourselves, and in others.  This is what HOPEIS for Catholic Christians.   In today’s world, there are plenty of obstacles preventing the growth of faith in many individuals.  Pray you are not contributing to the obstacles, thus hindering another person’s continuously growing faith in Jesus Christ; instead continue to choose to encourage and strengthen that faith in others as well as ourselves.

We have a calling to confront obstacles to faith.  In dealing with obstacles confronting you, you may be called upon to use courageous, bold, outspoken word, and unpopular actions in order to surmount and break down that obstacle.  Perhaps God is calling YOU to break down that obstacle for another.  Saint Francis, a loyal member of the Catholic Church, and a radical challenger to Church of his day, broke down many obstacles in his public ministry, always with a sincere love, and with definite actions of faith and love.   Saint Francis routinely said:

Preach the Gospel, and at times, use words”.

Are you being called for a “challenge”, just as Saint Francis was called?  In a little, dilapidated, weathered chapel known as San Damiano, Jesus Christ spoke to him with the following words:

Francis, rebuild my church”!

What is Christ saying to YOU?!

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There are many people and things in our daily lives nurturing our faith, and, also attempting to hinder our faith.  Those nurturing our faith include: healthy family relationships and friendships, good literature, EWTN, Healthy Church life, retreats, and so on.  Those things that might be obstacles to our faith may include: improper relationships, scandals, bad habits, sin, and so on.

Jesus teaches us, in today’s Gospel, that we are to do everything possible to help another HAVE faith in Jesus Christ.  We are also to do everything possible to avoid creating obstacles hindering another’s faith life.  Pray that you will be a faith-filled Catholic Christian, helping others grow in faith, that you do not create obstacles for others obtaining or growing in faith.  YOU ARE the next “unknown exorcist” to proclaim God’s Word and Plan by your actions, and by passing on your faith to the next generation!

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

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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“5 Loaves + 2 Fish = 5000+ Meals?! It Just Doesn’t Add Up!, OR, Does It? This Sounds Fishy To Me!” – John 6:1-15†


Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

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 OFS Rule 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For August, 2012

General Intention (For Prisoners):

For prisoners, that they may be treated with justice and respect for their human dignity.

Missionary Intention (Youth Witness to Christ):

For young people, that they may be called to follow Christ, and willing to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel “to the ends of the earth”.

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I just finished reading a new book on prayer (for me at least).  I conscientiously try to read at least one or two books on prayer, church history, liturgy, peace and justice, the various religious orders, or so on each month.  My all time favorite book (not including the Holy Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church) is “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” by Vinny Flynn.  I have literally given away at least 50 copies, at my own expense, in the past few years.

This “new” book, which I have just completed, is by Bruce Wilkinson and David Kopp, titled:

“Prayer of Jabez: Break Through the Blessed Life”

I was awed and captivated by this inspiring, scripturally based, and motivating book of faith and prayer.  Though it is not a book written by a Roman Catholic, it was truly a work of inspiration from the Holy Spirit.  It is an easy book to read and not full of what I call “those 10 dollar words” which have a tendency to turn people off.

Jabez is the name of a person listed in the long list of people from the genealogy of the kings’ tribe of Judah.  The author of 1 Chronicles paused in this long list to give Jabez a place of honor in this very long list of Kings and their associated lineage.  Jabez prays to God for blessing and was answered.  It is said God answered his every prayer when using his unique prayer:

 

Please do not take my word for the great message of this book.  Take some time and either get on-line and search for this book, check it out from the library (if available), or buy a copy (you will eventually anyway; you won’t want to read it just once!), and READ IT.  It is transformative and will “enlarge” your capabilities.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1099 – Death of Pope Urban II [Odo van Lagery], French Pope (1088-99)(b. 1042)
†   1179 – Lando Sittino proclaimed (anti-)pope Innocent III
†   1644 – Death of Pope Urban VIII [Maffeo Barberini], Pope (1623-44), (b. 1568)
†   1968 – Pope Paul VI, in an encyclical entitled “Humanae Vitae” (Of Human Life), declares any artificial forms of birth control prohibited
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Eugenius, king [Magdeburg]; Saint Felix I, pope, and companions (Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix, (siblings)), martyrs; Saint Ladislas, king, confessor [Hungary];  Saint Lupus, bishop of Troyes, confessor [Cologne, Constance, Metz, Paris, France]; Saint Olaf II of Norway, king of Norway, martyr, patron of woodcarvers [Sleswig, Scandinavia] – celebrated in Norway as Olsok (St. Olav’s Day); Saint Pantaleon [Paris]; Saint Beatrice of Nazareth; Saint Martha, host of Christ, sister of Lazarus, patron saint of cooks, domestic staff and dieticians; Saint Serafina

(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: Jesus feeds the crowd of more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish (and they were hungry – – physically and spiritually).  Christ physically fed them with food in the form of bread and wine.  Scripturally, Christ was revealing (and still reveals today) the special nature of His love and power.

 

(NAB John 6:1-15) 1 After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee [of Tiberias].  2 A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.  3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.  4 The Jewish feast of Passover was near.  5 When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”  6 He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do.  7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit].”  8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”  10 Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.  So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.  11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.  12 When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”  13 So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.  14 When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”  15 Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Over the past two Sundays, in Mark’s Gospel, we heard how Jesus sent His disciples to share in His mission on earth.  We leave Mark’s Gospel for the next several weeks and instead present events from the Gospel of John, starting with a great fish story.  Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and the fishes is presented as a sign of His authority and divinity, signifying the multiplication miracle as a sharing of Jesus’ “Body and Blood”: the true Eucharist.  For this reason, John’s sixth chapter is sometimes called the “Bread of Life Discourse”.

In many important ways, John’s Gospel uses the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes to teach about the Eucharist.  Like the Last Supper, this miracle occurs near the time of the Jewish feast of Passover.  Also, Jesus’ language in today’s reading is similar to the language He used at “the Last Supper” as reported in the three Synoptic Gospels:

Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them” (John 6:11).

John’s description of this event anticipates the Messianic banquet of heaven, with the crowd reclining and all hungers satisfied, with an abundance remaining.  This connection of Jesus and the Messianic banquet is further amplified by the response of the crowd, who wants to make Jesus a “king”.  John, through today’s reading, is teaching us that each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we are truly anticipating the eternal banquet of heaven.

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Today’s story of the multiplication of the loaves is the fourth of seven signs or miracles found in John’s Gospel attesting to Jesus’ divine nature and His claim to be Israel’s true Savior Messiah:

1. Turning water into wine in Cana (John 2:1-11);
2. Healing an official’s son in Capernaum (John 4:46-54);
3. Healing an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (John 5:1-18);
4. Feeding the 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee (John 6:5-14);
5. Walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:16-21);
6. Healing a blind man in Jerusalem (John 9:1-7); and:
7. Raising dead Lazarus in Bethany (John 11:1-45).

Today’s related sign (or miracle) is the ONLY “miracle” story found in all four Gospels (and occurring twice in the Gospels written by both Mark and Matthew).  The principal reason for this sole “sign” being told in all four Gospels can be seen as an anticipation of both the “Holy Eucharist” and the “final banquet in the kingdom” and is the central core common belief among all disparate (different or distinct) Christians:

“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven … I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.”  (Matthew 8:11; 26:29).

Today’s story not only looks forward, but backward as well: to the feeding of Israel in the desert, with the heavenly supplied manna, at the time of the Exodus (cf., Exodus 16).  The feeding with “manna” was a miracle, which in some contemporary Jewish expectations would be repeated in the “Messianic age” (to come):

** “And it shall come to pass at that self-same time that the treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years, because these are they who have come to the consummation of time” (2 Baruch 29:8).

**(2 Baruch, “THE BOOK OF THE APOCALYPSE OF BARUCH THE SON OF NERIAH”, is a Jewish text believed to have been written in the late 1st century AD or early 2nd century AD, after the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD.  It is attributed to the Biblical Baruch, and thus associated with our Old Testament.  Yet, it is not regarded as scripture by Jews or by most Christian groups; however, it is included as part of the Bible of the Syriac Orthodox tradition.)

The feeding of the 5000, in today’s reading, may also be meant to recall Elisha’s feeding of a hundred men with very small provisions:

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing the man of God twenty barley loaves made from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear.  Elisha said, ‘Give it to the people to eat.’  But his servant objected, ‘How can I set this before a hundred?’  Elisha again said, ‘Give it to the people to eat, for thus says the LORD: You will eat and have some left over.’  He set it before them, and when they had eaten, they had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.” (2 Kings 4:42–44).

The loaves of bread remind us that God the Father feeds and nourishes us, fulfilling our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs.  So, the “loaves and fish” in today’s reading symbolize the “food” really available through Jesus, both physically and spiritually.  The miracle of multiplication of the loaves of barley bread and fish truly signals the NEW Exodus; definitely having Eucharistic overtones meant for all of God’s people.

John’s Gospel notes a significant detail; the loaves of bread – – blessed and shared with the crowd – – are “barley loaves”, a food of the poor.  So, the New Exodus and the Eucharist is given to us for Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, man and woman alike.

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Today’s reading reveals the second of three times John mentions the “Passover” in his Gospel:

The Jewish feast of Passover was near (John 6:2).

The other two are found in the following two verses:

“Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (John 2:13);

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.  He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

Taken from a literal viewpoint, these three specific “Passovers” prove that Jesus’ earthly ministry was at least two years in length chronologically.

In the Synoptic Gospels, the disciples take the initiative of asking about feeding the crowd.  In John’s Gospel however, Jesus takes the initiative:

He [Jesus] said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?’” (John 6:5)

For many of the crowd present with Jesus at this sign, He was the embodiment of the “New Moses” returning for a “New Exodus”:

When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world” (John 6:14)

However, this time, the Exodus will not be physical in nature necessarily, but spiritual instead.  It won’t cost anyone money for this travel; it will only cost your life, given up to God instead.

Speaking of money, a day’s wage (mentioned in verse 7) during Jesus’ time was a “denarii”, a Roman coin:

After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard” (Matthew 20:2).

So, for Jesus and the disciples to feed all the people present there on this mountain (or hill) – – the bare minimum: just “a little [bit]” – – would cost more than half a year’s wages for this ONE meal!  Wow, that is even more than the taxes the IRS takes in today’s time (but barely)!!

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This 10th verse relates “5000” men were present at this event:

“Jesus said, ‘Have the people recline.’  Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.  So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.” (John 6:10).

This number of 5000 only included adult males, and not females or children.  I personally believe there were probably at least double that number present (anecdotally), making the true number somewhere in the area of 10 – 12 thousand actually present.  That is a LOT of people Jesus preached to, taught to, and ultimately fed.  An attendance of this magnitude of people – – present at one event – – is rare, only occurring within the Catholic faith at such major events such as a Pope’s visit, major conferences such as the annual youth conference, and Eucharistic conventions, wherein people travel from area to area and/or country to country.  (Jesus, in Bethsaida where this event took place, truly had the first recognized “mega-church” EVER!!)

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To change the subject (and miracle) slightly, please recall from the Lenten Season that John’s Gospel tells the story of “the Last Supper” differently than the three Synoptic Gospels.  Instead of describing the meal and Jesus’ actions with the bread and cup, John describes how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.  In both stories about the Eucharist in John’s Gospel – – the washing of the disciples’ feet and the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes – – Jesus (through John) teaches us that the true Eucharist is “an action” – – an active and living Sacrament of the Church.  Our word “Eucharist” is actually taken from the Greek, describing an action: “to give thanks.”  In the Eucharist, we are fed by Jesus Himself, AND we are also sent to serve othersIn the Eucharist, “WE” are sent to serve the poorest among us!!  (Whoa, how many knew this part of our faith?  I bet, not many!)

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Verse 14 of today’s reading talks about Jesus being “truly the Prophet” as prophesized by Moses:

“When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world’” (John 6:14).

They saw Jesus as being a prophet like Moses.  Their seeing Jesus as the “prophet” reminds me of an earlier verse in John’s Gospel:

So they asked him, ‘What are you then?  Are you Elijah?’  And he said, ‘I am not.’  ‘Are you the Prophet?’  He answered, ‘No.’” (John 1:21).

So, is He (?), or isn’t He, the promised “prophet”? 

On top of calling Jesus a “prophet”, by saying that He was “the one who is to come into the world”, they became more specific, stating He was “Elijah”, as promised in Malachi:

“Now I am sending my messenger — he will prepare the way before me; And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; The messenger of the covenant whom you desire — see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts.  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

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Finally, the last verse tells of the crowd wishing to make Jesus their “king” after this miraculous “multiplying” sign was revealed to them.  However, it was not yet His time or place to be “king”.  Jesus will not be the worldly “king” they expected!! 

“Jesus answered, ‘My 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.’” (John18:36).

Jesus will be “king” of heaven, including His heaven on earth; however, not in a worldly, governmental, or materialistic way.  He is a “king” of something much greater and grander than found in these human limits.  He is the “king” of the paradise called heaven, constantly with God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, the angels, the celestial court, and the community (communion) of saints.  His kingdom is truly, totally, and fully AWESOME indeed!!!

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To summarize, the story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes recalls a particular aspect of our Catholic Mass, the Eucharist.  In today’s Gospel miracle, Jesus transforms a young boy’s offering of five barley loaves and two fish into a “meal” for ALL.  In the offertory at our Mass, we present the fruits of our labors, represented by the bread and wine given to the priest at the altar.  These gifts, given to us first by God as grain and fruit, are transformed and now returned to God by our offering of thanksgiving.  God, in turn, transforms our gifts, making the gift of bread and wine the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself.  At the same time this happens, we also offer ourselves in a divine exchange (A transformation of us individually and in communion, at the very moment of the  transubstantiation, by the miraculous changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ!).  We are, in fact, transformed by the Eucharist we receive, thus making us fully-filled, with the grace of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ Himself, for a unique moment of time – – thus experiencing a supernatural heaven on earth here and now!!  This is why the “Eucharist” is truly the “Source and Summit” of all our experiences we can have on this earth – – (and in heaven).

Later on in this sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus makes a claim only God the Father can make:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heavenI am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:32,35)

Jesus is the “true bread of heaven”, satisfying the deepest hunger we can ever experience.  The feeding of the five thousand shows the remarkable generosity of God AND His great care and kindness towards us.  When God gives, He gives abundantly!!  He gives more than we ever need for ourselves so that we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what is needed in their lives.  God takes the little, the miniscule amount we have and multiplies it multifold for the good of others.  God’s provision for you is enough to always share freely with others, especially those who lack!! 

While inadequate food seems to be the cause of hunger, solutions are provided by a providential God, a God not of scarcity, but a God of abundance.  With what people have to offer, insufficient as it may be – – through a willingness to share and trust in God’s compassionate power – – there will not only be enough, but more than enough to share.  Our abundant God teaches us to give from our own abundance, even if it is only five loaves and two fish:

The hand of the Lord feeds us; God answers all our needs” (cf., Psalm 145:16).

In today’s world, if we focus on scarcity, we will be tempted to hoard and not share.  However, if we are generous in sharing with a neighbor in need, or with hungry people across the world, there IS enough for all to be fed.  Of course we must address the challenges of poverty (along with that of violent conflicts, climate change, and refugees) in our society and world; however, at the same time, we need to trust in God’s abundance, care about the hungry in the world, and act to share what wehave with others.

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In conclusion, I think we can all empathize with the disciples’ protests about feeding the humungous crowd when Jesus asked where food might be bought.  I believe we can actually empathize with Philip’s and Andrew’s feeling of inadequacy as they assessed their meager and limited food resources, especially in the face of such great need.  We sometimes share these same feelings when facing of our family’s and friends’ needs, in regards to our own material possessions, and our emotional and spiritual resources.  For me, John is a Gospel of “hope” in times of inadequacies, which is all too frequent in today’s parenting/family life.

As Jesus made the “five barley loaves and two fish” sufficient to easily meet the needs of more than five thousand people (with leftovers), He also will work with what “we have” in order to provide for our personal needs.  When we offer our efforts to God, we are asking Him to transform these efforts, and thus become more than adequate for the tasks and needs at hand in our lives.  Think about the things you need, starting with the basics – – food, shelter, safety, and so on.  Continue by naming other things needed to be happy and healthy – – time together with friends and family, cooperation, patience, and so on.  Reflect that sometimes we can feel as if we don’t have enough of the time and things we need or want.  Remember, Jesus provided plenty of food for the crowd with just five barley loaves and two fish.  With faith, Jesus will take what we have and make it enough to satisfy and fill all our needs and the needs of others.  While praying your morning prayers, ask for a personal blessing when offering to God the work and words of each day.  Ask God to make fruitful your works and words (and ours) each and every day.  (You can use the “Jabez Prayer” I mentioned at the beginning of this blog today as a good starting place.)  (I hope you do!)

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Reflection Prayer:

 

“O God, protector of those who hope in you,
without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy,
bestow in abundance your mercy upon us
and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide
we may use the good things that pass
in such a way as to hold fast even now
to those that ever endure.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”

(Prayer for the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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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 who 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, Laying on of hands for healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination. 

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

Christ’s Divinity

I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) RSV.

I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) KJV.

**

“For in him [Christ] the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians. 2:9) RSV.

“For in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians. 2:9) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Martha      

 

Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus were evidently close friends of Jesus.  He came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee.  The sisters feel free to call on Jesus at their brother’s death, even though a return to Judea at that time seems almost certain death.

No doubt Martha was an active sort of person.  On one occasion (see Luke 10:38-42) she prepares the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests and forthrightly states the obvious: All hands should pitch in to help with the dinner.

Yet, as biblical scholar Father John McKenzie points out, she need not be rated as an “unrecollected activist.”  The evangelist is emphasizing what our Lord said on several occasions about the primacy of the spiritual: “…[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear…. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:25b, 33a); “One does not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4b); “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6a).

Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death.  “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?’  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’” (John 11:25-27).

Comment:

Scripture commentators point out that in writing his account of the raising of Lazarus, St. John intends that we should see Martha’s words to Mary before the resurrection of Lazarus as a summons that every Christian must obey.  In her saying “The teacher is here and is asking for you,” Jesus is calling every one of us to resurrection—now in baptismal faith, forever in sharing his victory over death.  And all of us, as well as these three friends, are in our own unique way called to special friendship with him.

Quote:

“This great company of witnesses spurs us on to victory, to share their prize of everlasting glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Preface of Holy Men and Women I).

Patron Saint of: Housewives, waiters, waitresses

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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Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Go, Get Out of Here! Go Get Some Fish For Me To Clean!” – Mark 6:7-13†


 

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I love today’s readings immensely.  For me, it’s proof that Jesus not only wanted, but insisted on each of us to go out to the masses – – the very people we meet on our daily journeys through life – – and preach the Gospel, and to spread the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (the charisms, from which the word “charismatic” originates): Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and the Fear of the Lord [an awe confirming hope in the Lord].  This last charism is a hard one to understand for most of us.  Simply speaking, “fear” is not the fear of being harmed.  Biblical fear is the desire not to offend God, an awareness and certainty that God will supply us with the grace (the gift) which we need in order to keep from offending Him (Some call it “piety”).

The seven gifts (charisms) of the Holy Spirit are spelled out in the prophetic Old Testament book of Isaiah:

“The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.  Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide” (Isaiah 11:2-3).

(Per NAB Bible footnote: The Septuagint and the Vulgate read “piety” for “fear of the Lord” in its first occurrence, thus listing seven gifts.)

These graces, gifts, or charisms, are present in their fullness in Jesus Christ Himself.  However, these special gifts from God the Father are found in all Christians who are in a state of grace.  We receive them when infused with “sanctifying grace”, the life of God within us, at the moment of each Sacrament!!  You can read more about charisms of the Holy Spirit throughout the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” especially paragraphs 688, 798 – 800, and 2003 specifically.  To learn more about “sanctifying grace”, read paragraphs 1266, 1999-2000, and 2023-2024, among others.  There is a whole section in the catechism dedicated solely to the Holy Spirit; please review.

If you do not own a copy of the catechism, my question is, “WHY NOT?!!”: it is the Catholic “rule book”, a living part and parcel with the Catholic “instruction manual”, the Catholic Bible (73 book edition).  However, to save the day, there is an online edition available here: http://old.usccb.org/catechism/text/.

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Today in Catholic History     

†   1099 – First Crusade: Christian soldiers take Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem after the final assault of a difficult siege.
†   1205 – Pope Innocent III states Jews are doomed to perpetual servitude and subjugation due to crucifixion of Jesus.  (This was corrected by John XXIIII)
†   1274 – Death of John F Bonaventure, Italian/French Theologian. A Dominican and a Saint of the Catholic Church
†   1823 – A fire destroys the ancient Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
†   1850 – Birth of Francesca Xavier Cabrini, [Mother Cabrini], 1st US saint
†   1898 – Death of Jean Baptiste Salpointe, the first Bishop of Arizona and the second Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico. (b. 1825)
†   1944 – Death of Marie-Victorin, French Canadian  De La Salle Christian Brother and botanist (b. 1885)
†   1953 – Death of Servant of God Archbishop Mar Ivanios, founder of the Bethany Ashram order of monks [India]. (b.1882)
†   1992 – Pope John Paul II hospitalized for 3 weeks to have tumor removed

(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:

“Once you become a good steward of the graces God has given you, then you are in a position to extend them to others.  There is no better way to live your life.  It will then be said of you, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21).” ~ Sr. Anne Shields, S.G.L., “To Be Like Jesus“, Servant Books

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Today’s reflection: Jesus instructs His disciples, and then sends them to preach repentance.

 

(NAB Mark 6:7-13) 7 He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.  8 He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.  9 They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.  10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there.  11 Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”  12 So they went off and preached repentance.  13 They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The readings at Mass tell a story about God calling His “prophets”, and later “apostles”, to go out and spread the good news, the Word of God, and the Gospel of the Lord.  In the first reading, the Lord appears to Amos, and commands him to go and prophesy to the people of Israel in Bethel, under the authority of Amaziah, the priest of Bethel.

I find it truly interesting that like most of the men and woman whom God “calls”, Amos did not consider himself a prophet or even worthy of God’s grace.  It is often said:

“God does not call the qualified but God qualifies the called.”

That’s why Amos declares to Amaziah:

I am not a prophet, nor do I belong to a company of prophets.  I am a herdsman and a dresser of sycamores, but the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” (Amos 7:14-15).

This week’s Gospel, and the one for next week (cf., Mark 6:30-34), relates to us the “how” Jesus sends and commissions His twelve disciples to minister – – in His name – – and of their return to Jesus afterwards.  Interestingly, these two passages (this next week’s) are not presented together in Mark’s Gospel.  Inserted between these two stories is the report of Herod’s fear that Jesus is actually John the Baptist himself, somehow reincarnated back from the dead.  (Did Herod believe in zombies?) 

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ ministry is presented in connection with the teaching of John the Baptist – – and John’s rejection and death.  Jesus’ public ministry begins after John the Baptist is arrested.  So, John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ – – the Savior Messiah – – who preached the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God which John the Baptist heralded during his prophetic ministry of baptizing as a sign of a true conversion and repentance (a “metanoia”).

While we do not read the details about John the Baptist in our Gospel this week or next week, our Lectionary sequence stays consistent with Mark’s theme: the close connection between John’s and Jesus’ ministries.  Recall that last week we heard how Jesus was rejected in his hometown of Nazareth (cf., Mark 6:1-6).  Mark’s insertion – – NOW – – of a reminder about John the Baptist’s ministry, and his death at the hands of Herod, makes a similar point: John was also rejected, imprisoned, and murdered for his faith and obedience to the “Word”!  Mark reminded his readers about this dangerous context of rejection with regard to Jesus’ ministry for Himself AND for His disciples: preaching, metanoia, repentance, and the Kingdom of God, was a dangerous business for both.  Mark wanted his readers to remember that we, too, may (and will) find resistance as we choose to be disciples of Jesus, following our own personal “Way of the Cross”.

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Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus sent out specifically the “Twelve”.  These twelve were selected from among all of Jesus’ disciples; they are named by Mark in chapter three of his Gospel:

Simon, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot. 

Mark notes that these twelve are also called “apostles” (meaning “one who is sent”).  But why did Jesus choose “twelve”?  Well, the number twelve is a symbolic number, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  By naming “twelve apostles”, Jesus is showing His mission to be in continuity with the intention, will, and plan of God the Father for His “chosen” people, Israel.

This preparation for the mission of Jesus’ “Twelve Apostles” is seen in the two-fold call:

(1) They are the first disciples, called to be “fishers of men” – – “sent out” to preach and heal in His name:

“As He passed by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.  Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  Then they abandoned their nets and followed Him.  He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They too were in a boat mending their nets.  Then He called them.  So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed Him” (Mark 1:16–20);

and:

(2) The “Twelve Apostles” are set apart – – to be with Jesus in a new, unique, and intimate way – – to receive authority to preach and expel demons:

“He went up the mountain and summoned those whom He wanted and they came to Him.  He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with Him and He might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: [He appointed the twelve:] Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom He named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.” (Mark 3:13–19). 

Now these twelve closest and most intimate disciples of Jesus Christ are given the specific mission to exercise God’s authority – – in word and power – – as representatives of Jesus during the time of their formation.

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Jesus’ instructions to the apostles are very specific.  He repeats that mission to “preach”, “to share His authority”, “to heal”, and “to drive out demons” (No easy task – – then – – or NOW!).   Jesus sends them in pairs, establishing His mission as a communal endeavor.  There are NO “independent” Catholics.  We ALL make up the ONE, Holy, Catholic (Universal), and Apostolic Church; we are ALL part of Christ’s body.  When one sins, it literally affects every other part of the body of the Church, just as an injury affects the entire human body.  When one part is “redeemed”, the body is healthier.

Interestingly so, in Mark, the use of a walking stick (Mark 6:8) and sandals (Mark 6:9) is permitted, but not so in Matthew nor in Luke:  

Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.  The laborer deserves his keep.” (Matthew 10:9-10);

Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.” (Luke 10:4).

Mark does not mention any prohibition against visiting pagan territories or entering Samaritan towns.  These differences indicate a certain adaptation to the unique conditions of Christian communities in and outside of Palestine; they also suggest in Mark’s account a later activity in his particular church.  

Jesus also instructed the “apostles” to travel lightly, without the customary food, money, and extra set of clothes normally taken on trips.  These instructions obliged the Twelve to be dependent on the hospitality of others they met along their journey of faith, preaching, and healing.  They were to do no more than that of Jesus Himself, for Jesus also depended on others to provide for His needs.

Jesus required His “apostles” (and other disciples) a total and absolute desire for, and dependence upon God the Father for food and shelter, which He would provide through other people and the Holy Spirit:

“By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, ‘This is a deserted place and it is already very late.  Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’  He said to them in reply, ‘Give them some food yourselves.’  But they said to him, ‘Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?’  He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?  Go and see.’ And when they had found out they said, ‘Five loaves and two fish.’  So He gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass.  The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties.  Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to [His] disciples to set before the people; He also divided the two fish among them all.  They all ate and were satisfied.  And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish.  Those who ate [of the loaves] were five thousand men.” (Mark 6:35–44);

And,

“In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, He summoned the disciples and said, ‘My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.’  His disciples answered him, ‘Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?’  Still He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ ‘Seven,’ they replied.  He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.  Then, taking the seven loaves He gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to His disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd.  They also had a few fish.  He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also.  They ate and were satisfied.  They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets.  There were about four thousand people.” (Mark 8:1–9).

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These twelve men, sent in pairs,  were also instructed to remain in the same house where they were accepted, and stayed as guests as long as there was a need (Mark 6:10).  This instruction kept them from moving to another home offering greater comfort, better food, and more luxurious shelter; this helped them avoid any impression of seeking advantage for themselves, and prevented dishonoring any host.  

“Shaking the dust off one’s feet” (Mark 6:11) functioned as visual and external sacramental act of sorts, testifying against those who rejected the call to repentance, those who rejected an internal belief, and the redemption offered through faith in, through, and with Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah.

By “shaking the dust frpm one’s feet”, these apostles of Christ were indicating a complete disassociation – – a disclaimer of any connection or involvement — with such unbelievers.  These non-believers did not want to have what these apostles of Christ had to offer to them; Christ is never to be forced on anyone.  After all, not everyone is going to be open to accept or believe what the Apostles came to say and to perform in their midst.  However such refusals did not – – could not – – stop their (Christ’s) mission on earth.

Interestingly, this concept of refusing to accept or believe is not only for strangers with whom we come into contact in our lives; it very well (and often) does include neighbors, coworkers, fellow parishioners, and even those within our own immediate families.   I recall personally, my attempts to get men and women I KNOW who would love the experience and divine encounter from attending an ACTS retreat (a type of Catholic “Cursillo” retreat).  I, at times, became SOooo frustrated at the lack of enthusiasm and outright refusal by others, (sometimes even indignantly), at my invitation to this time of fellowship, community, spirituality, theology, and enjoyment.   I must add no one who has attended, ever was disappointed by participating in an ACTS retreat.  It wasn’t I making their experience and encounter so awesome and enjoyable; it was the Holy Spirit awakening and being set free within them which creates all the joyful emotions, and renewed faith, one encounters on such a retreat. 

It has taken me a few years of such bad exposures and experiences while evangelizing to realize that, when we “rub someone the wrong way”, when we fail to “connect” with someone the first time when evangelizing, I learned the need for giving them some time and space to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through them for a change of heart.  After all, we are ultimately on God’s time, not ours.

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Jesus sent these brave and devoted men out to drive off demons as they:

Anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mark 6:13).

Using oils of various types was a common medicinal remedy during Jesus’ time on earth.  However, the use of oil as an instrument (a sacramental) to facilitate a cure, is seen – – in this particular case – – as a vessel of divine power, a divine grace, for healing.

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In Summary, when Jesus spoke of power and authority, He did something truly unique: He married “power” and “authority” with “love” and “humility”.  The “world” and the “flesh” seek power for selfish gain; However, Jesus teaches us to use it for the good and welfare of our neighbors – – our communities.  

Jesus, today, still continues to send us into the world as His disciples – – His little apostles.  However, like the first disciples, we are not, nor ever will be, sent out alone.  Jesus gave us a great gift, a great grace, the community of the Church.  The Church (not the building, but the people) strengthens our life and desire for discipleship.  The Christian message can only be authentically proclaimed in, with, and through the community of faith – – and faith-full – – the true Church of Christ.  In our work and words with others, we build this community of faith; and we should be inviting others to share in this great gift from God the Father Himself!  I challenge you to ask someone to attend Mass with you this week, next week, and so.  As any “fisherman” knows, you throw in the hook and sometimes nothing happens; and occasionally a great catch is “taken home”!

Why does Jesus tell the apostles to “travel light” – – with little or no provisions needed for their journey?  Why did Jesus want them to live in poverty?  Answer: to live in His Holy Spirit: “Poverty of spirit” freed them (and frees us) from greed, materialism, and preoccupation with possessions, thus making more than enough room for God’s wants, needs, and provisions to fill us completely and fully.  Jesus wants His disciples (still today) – – US – – to be dependent UPON HIM and not on one’s self.  Jesus wants to work in, with, and through, each of us for His glory.

Every day we are called to prophesy (to encourage) and to preach (to testify).  By right and power of our Baptism we are called to be priest and prophet.  Many times when I felt unqualified when asked to perform a task, I felt inadequate for the task at hand.  However, I learned that, if I just said “yes”, surrendering to the Holy Spirit, God the Father would “qualify” me, the unqualified.   He would give me the tools and knowledge to complete the task He has called me to complete in His name. 

So how do we spread the good news?  St. Francis made it very clear:

“Preach the Gospel and use words only when necessary”.

St. Francis also made it clear that we should preach the Gospel to all of God’s creation.  (So, talk to your dogs and cats about today’s Gospel.)

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In conclusion, families who work together, accomplishing the humdrum, routine household tasks, know the benefits of cooperation are more than simple efficiency.  In sharing daily tasks, we accomplish more; AND, we also build lasting, enjoyable, relationships.  So, Jesus sent His disciples in pairs to preach, teach, and heal in His name.  Perhaps the work of the apostles was accomplished more effectively in pairs; and more importantly, Jesus’ own mission was actually accomplished – – more authentically! – – (Whoa, think on this last statement.  It is pretty heavy theologically and philosophically).  Jesus’ message can only authentically be proclaimed in, with, and through His/OUR “community” of faith – – a Universal (“Catholic”) Church [in the singular].  

Think about some household tasks which are more easily accomplished when done with two or more people working together.  Why does working together not only make the job easier, but also make the task more fun?   Well, probably because you and the others helping are able to spend time together in “community”.  

Knowing the advantages and capabilities of “community”, why do you think Jesus sent out His disciples in pairs?  Jesus STILL continues to give us “communities” with which we intimately share our life of discipleship: our family AND the community of the local and universal Church.  The Lord Jesus Christ entrusts us with His gifts and talents.  Are you eager to place yourself at His service (?), to do whatever He bids of you (?); to witness His truth and saving power to whomever and wherever He sends you?

Please pray we ALL continue to rely on the support of the community of the Church in our life of discipleship.  The Holy Spirit is the oxygen for our souls, and for the living universal Church community, breathed into us by Christ Himself!  Wow, let me finish with this UNIQUE analogy of the community of the universal (Catholic) Church:

The Catholic Church is a:

SOLE             (meaning “singular” or “ONE”, and, a type of white “fish”)
COMMUNITY
OF

SOULS
           (meaning “fishers of men”)!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

“O God, who show the light of your truth
to those who go astray,
so that they may return to the right path,
give all who for the faith they profess
are accounted Christians
the grace to reject whatever is contrary to
the name of Christ
and to strive after all that does it honor.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.  Amen.”

(Prayer for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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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 who 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, Laying on of hands for healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

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

Christ’s Divinity

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

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

***

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Bonaventure (1221-1274)

 

Bonaventure, Franciscan, theologian, doctor of the Church, was both learned and holy.  Because of the spirit that filled him and his writings, he was at first called the Devout Doctor; but in more recent centuries he has been known as the Seraphic Doctor after the “Seraphic Father” Francis because of the truly Franciscan spirit he possessed.

Born in Bagnoregio, a town in central Italy, he was cured of a serious illness as a boy through the prayers of Francis of Assisi.  Later, he studied the liberal arts in Paris.  Inspired by Francis and the example of the friars, especially of his master in theology, Alexander of Hales, he entered the Franciscan Order, and became in turn a teacher of theology in the university.  Chosen as minister general of the Order in 1257, he was God’s instrument in bringing it back to a deeper love of the way of St. Francis, both through the life of Francis which he wrote at the behest of the brothers and through other works which defended the Order or explained its ideals and way of life.

Comment:

Bonaventure so united holiness and theological knowledge that he rose to the heights of mysticism while yet remaining a very active preacher and teacher, one beloved by all who met him.  To know him was to love him; to read him is still for us today to meet a true Franciscan and a gentleman.

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 (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

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

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

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“We are ALL ‘Talent-ed’ Children of God!” – Matthew 25:14-30†


 

 

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

  

There are only a few more “New Translation of the Mass” portions left for my blog.  I have been posting, and reposting, these new translations of Holy Scripture to be used at Mass for about a year.

With the new Liturgical year, I will be deleting this section, and adding a new section titled, “Catholic Apologetics”.  It will be a simple listing of Scripture verses and Catechism references to explain such things as Papal Authority, Purgatory (yes, it is still a Catholic belief), and so on.  Let me know what you think.

  

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   354 – Birth of Saint Augustine of Hippo, North African theologian (d. 430)
†   866 – Pope Nicholas I answers the envoys of Boris (Ad consulta vestra) about the individual Churches or Rites of the Catholic Church
†   867 – Death of Nicholas I, (the Great), pope (858-67), at age 67
†   1004 – Death of Abbo van Fleury, [Floriacensis], French abbott/saint
†   1565 – Pope Pius IV publishes degree Professi fidei
†   1938 – America’s 1st saint, Mother Frances Cabrini, is beatified
†   1964 – Pope Paul VI gives tiara “to poor”
†   Feasts/Memorials: Bricius of Tours; Mother Cabrini; Saint Homobonus; Stanislaus Kostka, All the Saints of the Premonstratensian Order; St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople

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

 

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 Quote of the Day:

  

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” ~ Erma Bombeck

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable “of the talents”, in which He teaches about the importance of using the gifts that God the Father has given to each of us for use in service to the Kingdom of Heaven.

  

(NAB Matthew 25:14-30) 14“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  15To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.  Immediately 16the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five.  17Likewise, the one who received two made another two.  18But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.  19After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.  20The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five.  He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.   See, I have made five more.’  21His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.’  22[Then] the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents.  See, I have made two more.’  23His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.’  24Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; 25so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.  Here it is back.’ 26His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter?  27Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?  28Now then!  Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.  29For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  30And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

  

This week’s Gospel is the example of how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves as they wait for God’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Remember, last week’s reading taught that there is no way to predict the coming of God’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus’ disciples must, therefore, remain ever vigilant, and ever ready, to receive the Son of Man at any time.

Today’s parable talks about Catholic Christian discipleship using economic metaphors: something we can understand, see, and feel in order to show a moral point.  Before he leaves on a journey, the “master” entrusts to his servants a different number of “talents”, giving to each “according to their abilities.   Upon the master’s return, he finds that the first and second servants have doubled their money; both are rewarded.  The third servant, however, has only preserved what was given to him because he was afraid to lose the money, so he risked nothing.  This servant is punished by the master, and his talent is given to the one who brought the greatest return.

Recalling, and keeping last week’s parable in mind (the “Ten Virgins” about being ever ready for the Parousia), today’s parable goes on to teach that God’s judgment will be based on the service we render to God and to one another in accordance with the gifts and graces God has given to us.  Our gifts, or “talents”, are given to us for the service of others, NOT for our own personal use!!  If we fail to use these gifts, God’s judgment – – on us – – will be severe.  On the other hand, if we make use of these gifts in service to God’s Kingdom of Heaven, we will be rewarded and entrusted with even more responsibilities.

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Today’s parable makes it clear, from the very first verse (Verse 14), a parabolic comparison exists between “a man who was going on a journey” and “the kingdom of heaven”.  Being faithful users of one’s unique and divinely given “gifts” leads to a fuller participation in God’s kingdom.  At the same time, laziness and inactivity to God’s graces and gifts could also exclude one from paradise.

Today’s reading reminds us that Catholic Christian spirituality is neither passive nor inactive in attitude and works.  Let us remember that prayer helps us to discern His gifts, the “talents we have”, given to us freely by God the Father, and to be used for others.  Prayer and discernment should lead us to use our gifts (Time, Talents, and Treasures) in the service of God and our neighbor.  God’s uniquely personal gifts of grace, our “talents”, allow us to share in the work of serving His Kingdom of Heaven.

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So, what is a talent anyhow?  There are two distinct and correct answers to this question.  From a literal and historical viewpoint, a talent was a unit of coinage of high but varying value depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin.  It is mentioned in the New Testament only here and in Matthew 18:24 (The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant).

The other is from the anagogical viewpoint.  This viewpoint involves an allegorical interpretation of a passage in the Bible as a foreshadowing of people or events in the New Testament.  So, the term “talent” is taken in the literal sense, meaning: “an unusual natural or divinely inspired ability to do something well”.  We all have talents.  Some have many little ones, like wiggling their ears and dancing.  Some have big ones, like remembering everything they see, hear, read, or touch.  Most of us have a wide range of “talents”, from the least useful to the greatest needed in society. 

I know I personally have an uncanny ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, with relative ease.  I am a “people person”.  My wife says I have a great “gift of throwing the bull!!”  I simply consider myself “well-learned”.  In reality, I have been given a strong sense of curiosity, which has landed me in trouble occasionally throughout my many years.

Now, let’s get back on track and go back and read verse 15 of today’s reading again:

To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.” (Matthew 25:15)

Was Jesus talking about pieces of money, special abilities to be imparted to others, or both?  I believe He is more interested in the later than the former.  Jesus Christ was not a materialistic person, and money has no use in His kingdom.

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Two of the master’s servants used their “talents”, and in the process gained many more.  The last servant, out of fear, chose not to use his “Talent”.  Instead, he:

Dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.”  (Matthew 25:18)

This may seem strange to us, but in the unsettled and often violently ruthless conditions of Palestine during Jesus’ earthly time, it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground.  They did not have banks with safety deposit boxes back then, and the modern mattress had yet to be invented as well.

 

Although the first two servants received large sums, doubling the amount given to them initially, their faithful trading was regarded by the “master” as faithfulness, reliability, and devotion in small matters.  So, he rewards them with “great”, yet unspecified, responsibilities.  I believe Jesus’ statement in this parable:

Share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:23)

is reference to the joy of God the Father’s banquet of the heavenly kingdom, as reported earlier in Matthew’s Gospel:

“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

Luke offers a parallel verse for verse 21 in Matthew’s Gospel, “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities” (Matthew 25:21):

 “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” (Luke 16:10).

Interestingly, Luke seems to go a little bit further in his proclamation.  He adds a second part, recommending a constant fidelity to those with positions of responsibility.

Т

Have you ever been “called on the carpet” for doing something poorly, or creating a bad outcome for your employer?  I have a few times, but chose to use these “experiences” as a learning tool.  I firmly believe we learn more from our mistakes, than from our successes.

The last servant in today’s parable is “called on the carpet” in a big way; he truly messed-up.  He is called a “wicked, lazy servant”.  His sin is He did not even TRY!!  This foolish man’s “inactivity” is not insignificant, financially, but he is still seriously blameworthy for his lack of action.  He failed to use the “talent” he was given to him – – TO USE – – from his “master”.  The result: he loses the gift he had received; it going to the first servant, whose possessions are already great.

Т

What are the results of using YOURtalents” in the service of God?  Jesus says in verse 29:

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

Matthew has a nearly identical application of this proverb earlier in His book:

“To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 13:12)

The reference to “more” being given to those who use their talents transcends a basic understanding or wisdom we have of God’s kingdom.  Matthew is indicating that God the Father gives a further and greater understanding to those who accepts the revealed mystery; and from the one who does not, he will take it away.

This saying or proverb about giving more and taking away is found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels:

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

And,

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

Our “talents” truly respond to the “Word of God”!  Those who “hear” the word must “become a light to others” (Luke 8:16).  Our generous and persevering response to the “Word of God”, through our “talents”, leads us to an even further, more perfect response to His “Word”; a beautiful and continual circle of enlightenment.

Т

The last verse of today’s reading (verse 30) is very similar to a verse much earlier in Matthew’s book:

I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

This “wailing and grinding of teeth” is a phrase used frequently in Matthew’s Gospel to describe the “Final Condemnation” (cf., Matthew 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30).  “Wailing and grinding of teeth” is something I believe no one is truly looking forward too; being placed outside the kingdom and not even able to look in.

Т

To conclude, in today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the correlation between faithfulness and responsibilities.  Our lives provide many opportunities to illustrate this connection.  As we prove ourselves “trustworthy”, we are trusted to take on greater responsibilities.  Jesus teaches us, in this parable, that when we show ourselves to be trustworthy in small matters; we can be trusted to participate in greater matters of responsibility.

Why is Jesus telling this parable?  I believe it tells us something about how God the Father deals with us, His servants.  The parable speaks first of the “master’s” trust in his servants.  While he goes away he leaves them with his money to use as they think best.  While there were no strings attached, this was obviously seen to be a test in order to see if his servants would be productive and reliable in their use of the “talents” entrusted to them.  God the Father, OUR “Master” will reward the hard-working, productive, active, and faithful.  And, he will punish those who sit idly by, and who do nothing with His “talents”, which he has entrusted to us – – TO USE – – in accordance with our abilities.  The essence of this parable seems to lie in the servants’ conception of “responsibility”.  Each servant was faithfully entrusted with the master’s talents, and was faithful to his master’s will, to a certain end-point. 

Sadly, the servant who buried the master’s talent was deemed “irresponsible”.  One can bury seeds in the ground and expect them to become productive; they obey natural laws.  Coins and Talents (big “T” and little “t”), however, do not obey natural laws.  These gifts (graces) obey economic and supernatural laws, becoming productive only when in circulation.  Would it not be presumed then, that the “master” in today’s Gospel reading expected his servants to be productive in the use of his money?

God the Father entrusts His disciples with gifts and graces.  He gives His disciples the freedom to use them as they think best (free will).  With each gift, each talent, God the Father gives sufficient means (grace and wisdom) for using them in the most fitting and appropriate way: 

Faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God …  this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:5,10) 

I believe we “turn away” from God by our indifference and attitude; saying to Him, “it’s not worth trying”. 

God honors those who use their talents and gifts for doing “good deeds” for others.  Those who are faithful – – with even a little – – are entrusted with more!  But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have been given.  There is an important lesson for us to learn here for us.  We either get more OR we lose what we have; God’s kingdom is dynamic and not static in any way.  We either advance towards God or we slip back, out of the picture.  As Peter learned in the boat one stormy night, to walk towards God one must go “overboard”!!  Do you sincerely, seriously, and industriously seek to serve God with the gifts and graces (time, talents, and treasures) He has given to you?

Take some time to recall how you have matured, and how you can NOW be trusted with greater responsibilities (hopefully).  Our “trustworthiness” in small matters shows that we can also be trusted to share in the work of serving the Kingdom of Heaven. We share in the work of serving the Kingdom of Heaven when we use our talents to help and serve others.  So, as a gift to God, choose something to do this week to serve others; and repeat doing this gift-giving action every week.  

 

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  Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.  And kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And you will renew the face of the earth.
Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful.  In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation.  We ask this
through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

ТТТ

 

New Translation of the Mass:

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

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

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

The “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely.  More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal.  It will now say, “I have greatly sinned” and later adds “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that
I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

ТТТ

 

  A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917)

  

Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first United States citizen to be canonized; she became a U.S. citizen in 1909.  Her deep trust in the loving care of her God gave her the strength to be a valiant woman doing the work of Christ.

Refused admission to the religious order which had educated her to be a teacher, she began charitable work at the House of Providence Orphanage in Cadogno, Italy.  In September 1877 she made her vows there and took the religious habit.

When the bishop closed the orphanage in 1880, he named Frances prioress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.  Seven young women from the orphanage joined her.

Since her early childhood in Italy, Frances had wanted to be a missionary in China but, at the urging of Pope Leo XIII, Frances went west instead of east.  She traveled with six sisters to New York City to work with the thousands of Italian immigrants living there.

She found disappointment and difficulties with every step.  When she arrived in New York City, the house intended to be her first orphanage in the United States was not available.  The archbishop advised her to return to Italy. But Frances, truly a valiant woman, departed from the archbishop’s residence all the more determined to establish that orphanage.  And she did.

In 35 years Frances Xavier Cabrini founded 67 institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick.  Seeing great need among Italian immigrants who were losing their faith, she organized schools and adult education classes.

As a child, she was always frightened of water, unable to overcome her fear of drowning.  Yet, despite this fear, she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times.  She died of malaria in her own Columbus Hospital in Chicago.

Comment:

The compassion and dedication of Mother Cabrini is still seen in hundreds of thousands of her fellow citizens, not yet canonized, who care for the sick in hospitals, nursing homes and state institutions.  We complain of increased medical costs in an affluent society, but the daily news shows us millions who have little or no medical care, and who are calling for new Mother Cabrini’s to become citizen-servants of their land.

Quote:

At her canonization on July 7, 1946, Pius XII said, “Although her constitution was very frail, her spirit was endowed with such singular strength that, knowing the will of God in her regard, she permitted nothing to impede her from accomplishing what seemed beyond the strength of a woman.”

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

  

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

 

Is Reconciliation an act of faith on my part?

How can I better determine my characteristic fault?

How does spiritual blindness hurt us?

Do we need to offer satisfaction for our own sins and those of others?

 

ТТТ

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 13 & 14 of 26:

 

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

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

Т

14.  Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.

 

 

 

“The Restaurant Is Now Open. Please Come In and Be Saved!” – Matthew 14:13-21†


 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

 

ТТТ

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is day nineteen of St. Louis de Monfort’s “Consecration to Jesus Through Mary”.  We are more than half-way done with this special grouping of prayers.  How are you doing?  Please let me know.

 Т

Let us all please pray for those among us suffering greatly from this prolonged heat-wave. Many have died, and sadly, many more will die due to lack of air conditioning.  What a pity in today’s “modern” society.

 

ТТТ

 

    

Today in Catholic History:

    

†   432 – St Sixtus III begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   768 – [Philip] begins & ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1498 – On his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) becomes the first European to discover the island of Trinidad.
†   1556 – Death of Ignatius Loyola, Spanish priest and founder of the Jesuits
†   1702 – Birth of Jean Denis Attiret, French Jesuit missionary and painter (d. 1768)
†   1811 – Death Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Mexican hero priest, executed by Spanish
†   1892 – Joseph Charbonneau, French Canadian Roman Catholic Archbishop of Montreal (d. 1959)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Germanus (d.448), bishop of Auxerre, confessor [Bruges; Paris]; Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits

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

 

ТТТ

 

 

Quote of the Day:

 

 

“We cannot live without joining together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist.  We would lack the strength to face our daily problems and not to succumb.  Christ is truly present among us in the Eucharist.  It is a dynamic presence that grasps us, to make us His own, to make us assimilate Him.  Christ draws us to Him, He makes us come out of ourselves to make us all one with Him.  Communion with the Lord is always also communion with our brothers and sisters.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI, “Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI”, Magnificat

 

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus feeding the crowd with five loaves and two fish.

 

 (NAB Matthew 14:13-21)  13 When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.  The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.  14 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  15 When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”  16 (Jesus) said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”  17 But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”  18 Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” 19 and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  20 They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full.  21 Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

ТТТ

 

 

Gospel Reflection:

 

Last week we heard Jesus conclude His sermon and teachings, with “the crowds’, about the Kingdom of Heaven.  In Matthew’s narrative, Jesus then leaves the crowds and returns to His home town, Nazareth, where he is rejected by the people who knew Him since birth.  Matthew then recounts the story of John the Baptist’s arrest and execution at the hands of Herod.  Today’s Gospel reading begins at this point.

Upon hearing the news of the death of His cousin and friend, John “the Baptist”, Jesus seeks to withdraw, probably to reminisce and pray for the last prophet before the appearing Messiah.  However, the crowds continued to follow Jesus earnestly.  Jesus then reaches out to them in compassion, even healing the sick among them.  

Т

How do you treat those who make unexpected demands on you?  When Jesus and the disciples sought a lonely place to regroup and rest, they instead found a crowd of more than five thousand people waiting for them!  Did you think they resented this intrusion on their hard-earned need for rest and privacy?  At the end of this very long and overwhelming day, His disciples encouraged Jesus to send the crowds away so they can find provisions “for themselves”.  

However, Jesus welcomed the crowds with open-arms.  Jesus put their (and our) human needs ahead of everything else including His, and the Apostles, desire for privacy.  His compassion showed the depths of God’s love for the “crowds”, and a concern for all who are truly needy.  Inspired by God the Father’s compassion for the crowd before Him, Jesus tells His disciples to provide food for the crowd of “5000 men”, plus women and children.  They reply to Jesus with a concern about the meagerness of their own provisions: only “five loaves and two fish”.  The miraculous outcome of this event, as demonstrated in this story, is the very familiar “miracle or sign” of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  All were completely satisfied, and there were leftovers.

 

Here is a real awesome bit of trivia: the feeding of the five thousand men (plus women and children) is the only miracle of Jesus recounted in all four Gospels.  The principal reason is the anticipation of the Holy Eucharist in the eternal banquet we will experience in God’s kingdom:

I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven.  I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.”  (Matthew 8:11; 26:29).

However, the “miracle” or “sign” looks not only forward, but also backward, to the feeding of Israel with manna in the desert during the Exodus (cf., Exodus 16).  Today’s reported miracle is one which some contemporary Jewish believers anticipate would be repeated in the “Messianic age” (- – and even some contemporary peers of our day still anticipate this coming miracle of the Messiah):

And it shall come to pass at that self-same time (in the days when the Messiah comes) that the treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years.” (*2 Baruch 29:8).

(*) 2 Baruch 29:8 is used in this reflection because it is found as a footnote in the NAB-CE Bible.  “2 Baruch” is a Jewish text thought to have been written in the late 1st century AD or early 2nd century AD, after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.  It is attributed to the Old Testament book of Baruch, but not regarded as Holy Scripture by Jews or by most Christian groups.  It is, however, included in some editions of the Peshitta, the official Bible of the Church of the East, and is part of the Bible in the Syriac Orthodox tradition.   “2 Baruch” is also known as the “Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch”.

This miracle/sign may also have been meant to recall Elisha’s feeding a hundred men with relatively small provisions:

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing the man of God twenty barley loaves made from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear.  “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said.  But his servant objected, ‘How can I set this before a hundred men?’ ‘Give it to the people to eat,’ Elisha insisted. ‘For thus says the LORD, “They shall eat and there shall be some left over.”’  And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said.” (2 Kings 4:42-44).

Т

Why did Jesus command His disciples to do what seemed impossible?: to feed such a large and hungry crowd with no adequate provisions in sight?  Jesus, no doubt, wanted to test their faith and to teach them to rely upon God for their provision.  The miraculous signs which Jesus performed, including the more than sufficient feeding of the five thousand, signified that God the Father was indeed fulfilling His promise in this man Jesus Christ as the anointed Messiah, Prophet, and King for His Jewish people.  In Jesus, God the Father was leading the Apostles to see, in Jesus Christ, the “Word” of God who would heal them physically as well as spiritually.

Т

Have you noticed that all of Jesus’ miraculous signs all started with a “Word” from Jesus?  Peter was to say later:

Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68).

So, Jesus’ taking the bread and fish, saying the blessing, breaking, and giving the fish and bread to the disciples (verse 19), brought about a miraculous occurrence; just so His words and actions here correspond to His actions over the bread at the “Last Supper” just prior to His capture, scourging, and death on the Holy Cross:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” (Matthew 26:26).

Since “fish” and “bread” were typical at any Jewish meal, this connection does not necessarily indicate a Eucharistic reference directly.  While Matthew’s silent about Jesus dividing the fish (he reports only the “breaking of the loaves”) among the people, Mark’s Gospel is perhaps more significant in this action:

“Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to (his) disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all.” (Mark 6:41).

 

Jesus’ “Words” were His blessings bringing abundance from the meager provisions found by the disciples.  In this action, Jesus offers us a “sign” of the Kingdom of Heaven He had been teaching about in His parables (from the past three Sunday’s Gospels).  A “feast” results from the smallest of portions, as recalled in the earlier parables of the “mustard seed” and the “yeast”.  In this miracle or sign, we witness an example of what Christian life and ministry truly is meant to be.  Even the smallest of offerings can produce an immense result when placed in the service of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Nothing is TOO MEAGER to help bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth when done, “In the name of Jesus”.

Т

The phrase in verse 20, “fragments left over”, seems to bring back to me Elisha’s “miracle” when food was left over after all had eaten their fill, and still there were leftovers.  Interestingly, the word “fragments” are related to the “broken bread’ of the Eucharist as reported in the Didache*:

And concerning the broken bread: We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus Your servant.  To you belongs the glory forever.  As this broken bread was scattered over the mountains, and was brought together to become one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom, for the glory and the power are yours through Jesus Christ forever.” (Didache 9:3-4).

(*)The “Didache” or “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” (“Didache” is the Greek word meaning, “The Teaching“) is a brief early Christian treatise, dated by most scholars to the late first or early 2nd century. It is the Catholic Faith’s first Catechism.  The first line of this catechism is “Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the Twelve Apostles“.

 

So, what is the significance of this miracle or sign for us today?  The miraculous feeding of such a great “crowd” points to God’s provision of the Old Testament “manna” in the wilderness for the people of Israel, then under Moses’ leadership.  For Matthew, the provision of bread and fish prefigures the “true” heavenly bread which Jesus would offer His followers during His last Passover meal.  

 Т

In summary, we find the story of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and the fish in each of the four Gospels (cf., Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:10-17; and John 6:1-13).  In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, Jesus performs this same miracle on two separate occasions (Matthew 15:32-39; and Mark 8:1-10).  The story of this miracle or sign is an anticipation of the Holy Eucharist in which we are fed by the abundantly immense grace of God Himself.  The importance of the Holy Eucharist has been a defining element of Catholic life from the very beginning, and will continue for all times and eternity.

 

To conclude, in our own life we can sometimes hear echoes of the disciples’ excuses: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”  Sometimes this echo is heard from our children (and even ourselves) bickering about the last piece of cake or about power struggles at work.  Sometimes it is made evident in our anxiety and worry about limits of personal income or possessions.  Sometimes this echo is shouted out, loudly, in our unheard complaints about the seemingly endless demands for our time, money, and attention.

Jesus understood these feelings and is teaching us, not only to see beyond our limitations, but also to yearn to serve God in His people and their needs.  Jesus shows us compassion, a reaching out to others, even when we would rather withdraw into ourselves.  Jesus teaches us about God’s blessing and compassion offered to others through His grace.  Today’s Gospel reminds us: with God there is not only enough, there is a true and awesome abundance!  (And that is truly “true”!!  So, bring your own “wicker basket”.)

 Т

Now, what are some of the stresses and demands for time and attention you might have or feel from time to time or oft times.  Acknowledge to yourself that we all have to make difficult choices about how to use our time, talents, and treasures.

Did you notice how much Jesus cared for the crowds by healing the sick, even though He, Himself, wanted to withdraw to a quiet place to rest and pray?  Did you notice how the disciples responded to Jesus’ instruction to feed the crowd by noting their limited and meager supply of food?  Jesus blessed this limited and meager supply of food; and then it was enough to feed the entire crowd of more than 5,000 people (not including women and children), and there were leftovers!  Pray for Jesus to grant you compassion like His, so you can offer your time, talent, and/or treasure to others with His same compassion and generosity.

Jesus makes a claim only God can make: He is the true bread of heaven that can satisfy the deepest hunger we experience!!  The feeding of the five thousand (plus) shows the remarkable and immense generosity of God, and His great love, kindness, and mercy towards us.  When God gives, He gives abundantly.  He gives more than we need for ourselves so we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what they need.  God takes the little we have and multiplies it, seventy times seven times, for the good of others.  Do you trust in God’s provision for you?  Do you share freely with others, especially those who need?

 

ТТТ

 

Reflection Psalm:

 

Psalm 145

The Lord provides for His people

 

“The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and abounding in love.
The LORD is good to all, compassionate to every creature.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you; you give them their food in due season.
You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
You, LORD, are just in all your ways, faithful in all your works.
You, LORD, are near to all who call upon you, to all who call upon you in truth.  Amen.”
(Psalm 145:8-9,15-18)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

ТТТ

 

 

 

New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

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

It is right and just.”

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

It is truly right and just.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

 

 

The founder of the Jesuits was on his way to military fame and fortune when a cannon ball shattered his leg.  Because there were no books of romance on hand during his convalescence, Ignatius whiled away the time reading a life of Christ and lives of the saints.  His conscience was deeply touched, and a long, painful turning to Christ began.  Having seen the Mother of God in a vision, he made a pilgrimage to her shrine at Montserrat (near Barcelona).  He remained for almost a year at nearby Manresa, sometimes with the Dominicans, sometimes in a pauper’s hospice, often in a cave in the hills praying.  After a period of great peace of mind, he went through a harrowing trial of scruples.  There was no comfort in anything—prayer, fasting, sacraments, penance.  At length, his peace of mind returned.

It was during this year of conversion that Ignatius began to write down material that later became his greatest work, the Spiritual Exercises.

He finally achieved his purpose of going to the Holy Land, but could not remain, as he planned, because of the hostility of the Turks.  He spent the next 11 years in various European universities, studying with great difficulty, beginning almost as a child.  Like many others, his orthodoxy was questioned; Ignatius was twice jailed for brief periods.

In 1534, at the age of 43, he and six others (one of whom was St. Francis Xavier) vowed to live in poverty and chastity and to go to the Holy Land.  If this became impossible, they vowed to offer themselves to the apostolic service of the pope.  The latter became the only choice. Four years later Ignatius made the association permanent.  The new Society of Jesus was approved by Paul III, and Ignatius was elected to serve as the first general.

When companions were sent on various missions by the pope, Ignatius remained in Rome, consolidating the new venture, but still finding time to found homes for orphans, catechumens and penitents.  He founded the Roman College, intended to be the model of all other colleges of the Society.

Ignatius was a true mystic.  He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of Christianity—the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist.  His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam—“for the greater glory of God.”  In his concept, obedience was to be the prominent virtue, to assure the effectiveness and mobility of his men.  All activity was to be guided by a true love of the Church and unconditional obedience to the Holy Father, for which reason all professed members took a fourth vow to go wherever the pope should send them for the salvation of souls.

Comment:

Luther nailed his theses to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517.  Seventeen years later, Ignatius founded the Society that was to play so prominent a part in the Catholic Reformation.  He was an implacable foe of Protestantism.  Yet the seeds of ecumenism may be found in his words: “Great care must be taken to show forth orthodox truth in such a way that if any heretics happen to be present they may have an example of charity and Christian moderation.  No hard words should be used nor any sort of contempt for their errors be shown.”  One of the greatest 20thh-century ecumenists was Cardinal Bea, a Jesuit.

Quote:

Ignatius recommended this prayer to penitents: “Receive, Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will, that you dispose of me.  Give me only your love and your grace.  With this I am rich enough, and I have no more to ask.”

Patron Saint of Retreats

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)

ТТТ

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

Humility

 

“Sincere love leads to humility.” Can you explain this?

Why does humility seem to be so hard for us humans to acknowledge?  

How important is true humility?

Is there a place for “just pride”?

What do you think of this description: “Humility is truth”?

 

 

ТТТ

 

 

Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order
(SFO) Rule:

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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